Mofe had been trying his best to concentrate on work but couldn’t as he was still smarting from the heavy tongue lashing he had received from Ezinne earlier that evening after dinner, when she had accused him of spoiling and indulging his daughter.
He had been furious at her accusations. Where did she get off accusing him like that when goodness knew all he wanted was the best for Azora? Last time he checked, it wasn’t bad for a father to provide his kid with the best things in life, especially if he could afford it.
Did Ezinne expect him to penny pinch when he had so much? Did she expect him to hold back on caring for his daughter when she had kept him away from his child all this time? He had missed out on a huge part of his daughter’s life, all he had were pictures to fill up the memories he had missed.
It wasn’t enough and if he chose to splurge unnecessarily on his daughter, it was her fault and not his because she had kept them apart, thereby creating that need for him to make up for all the years he had missed.
Giving up on work, he pushed aside the laptop and got up from the seat, pacing the study back and forth, he ran things through his mind.
He couldn’t go on much longer like this. He had to get Azora to himself as soon as he could. He was doing a good job warming his way into her heart. Soon he would have to tell Ezinne to consider telling her the truth about him.
Azora had to know he was her father, for his plan to go through but he suspected Ezinne might not be willing to let her know the truth just yet.
His lawyers already had more evidence which he had helped with providing. Moving Ezinne’s stuff, he had found some health reports dated five years back when she had been recovering from anxiety, depression and a high blood pressure.
If he could show with a recent medical check up that she was still unstable, it could provide grounds that she was unfit to take care of Azora.
He’d recently gotten her to do a thorough medical exam with a group of top US doctors he’d personally flown into the country. They had come highly recommended and were affiliated with a big hospital in town. He was quite sure that when he received the medical doctor’s report soon, he would have what he needed to get her out of his way.
He was so irked, he felt an urgent need to teach her a good lesson. She had not only threatened to keep him away from Azora this evening but had dared to mock him. Laughing in his face that he would have to get his aunt to beg her before he would see his daughter.
Well, she would see who would beg who real soon.
He suddenly remembered he needed to check on her as he hadn’t seen her since she had sauntered out of the dining room in anger.
Rachel had been worried about Ezinnes nightmares disturbing her sleep and had suggested he stayed over to check on her. He wasn’t even sure why he had agreed, he should have known Ezinne would find a way to piss him off.
It was quite surprising that Rachel had asked it of him as she knew of the tension between he and Ezinne. They could barely stay in a room long enough before some quarrel or angry word duel would come up.
He didn’t relish sleeping over but since Ezinne had refused him hiring private nurses for her care as she had claimed she wasn’t an invalid, he had to take on the job of making sure she was fine for the night.
He told himself he would just peek quickly into her room and leave.
He couldn’t lie to himself that he wasn’t very aware of that familiar pull of energy between them when they were together. That invisible pull of attraction, just like when they had been younger.
Even though he had willed himself into not feeling anything for her, that energy was ever present and he had resigned himself into believing there was nothing he could do about it. He would just have to keep holding himself from her even if it was quite difficult.
His head told him to be closed off to her but his body wanted to pull her to himself and crush her lips against his. To feel her soft skin under his palms, to recall how sweet she had tasted all those years ago.
He sighed now as just the thought of it got him quite hard but no matter what his body wanted, he would let his head lead on this matter.
It was probably a good thing she didn’t haunt his dreams so much anymore, he didn’t wake up at night craving her or calling her name anymore. He slept quite peacefully these days. It would be a huge relief on Eve who was jealous of the other woman who stole his dreams.
But even though she wasn’t in his dreams and he tried to keep her out of his thoughts most of the time, whenever they were together, he couldn’t avoid the attraction.
If she hadn’t been blind, she would have caught his eyes on her a lot of the time, Rachel probably had. It wasn’t that he meant to stare but he found he couldn’t help it. Sometimes, he did it absent mindedly.
He needed distance between them and that was why he needed to put his plans together quickly so he could get his daughter away from her and get married to the lady he was meant to be with. Azora could be the little bride, he decided with a smile or was she too old? He wondered.
He didn’t have a head for such things. He would leave it all for Eve to plan.
Glancing at his wristwatch, he found that it was two a.m already. He needed to get some sleep.
Snapping his laptop shut, he decided to check on Ezinne before retiring to the guest room beside hers.
Leaving his computer behind, he walked down the hall to her room, recalling that she had not even bothered with a word of thanks since she’d moved into the place.
Anyway, she would say she never begged him to move her somewhere else after all.
Asides the house, he’d gotten more international charity organisations to partner with the centre. That should have at least earned him a little thanks but no way, she would probably swallow her own tongue before she thanked him.
He didn’t need her gratitude anyway, he was perfectly alright without it. He did it all for his daughter, she was the mother of his child after all, he couldn’t take care of his daughter and ignore her mother, could he?
Opening the door to her room quietly, he looked into the room and what he saw was instantly unsettling.
It was dark with only the dim light from the bedside lamp for illumination but he could see her silhouette quite clearly.
There was Ezinne, seriously thrashing in bed, her arms waving, as if trying to ward off something or someone.
He stepped into the room quickly, closing the door behind him.
“Ezinne.” He called approaching her bed.
Her eyes were firmly closed but her hands thrashed about. He took hold of them, calling more insistently “Ezinne, wake up.”
The urgency in his words got to her and her eyes snapped open.
“Mofe?” She whispered questioningly, the pupils of her eyes were dilated and she was still sleepy. “What are you doing here?”
She asked him like she’d forgotten he was spending the night in the house.
The next thing she did caught him by surprise. Releasing a hand from his grip, she snaked it up blindly and found his face. She moved her hands over his face, as if touching his face could help conjure his image in her mind.
Mofe let her run her hands over his face and shoulders, as he wasn’t sure why she was doing that.
“Did you come back for me, Mofe?” she asked and he realised she was probably still in deep sleep. He was probably now part of her dream…her eyes were open but she didn’t see him.
“Ezinne, wake up.” He said to her.
“Mofe…” She whispered moving her hands behind his neck and pulling him to her.
He knew what she was urging him to do and he couldn’t seem to stop himself.
His lips met her soft, full ones and once they met,he realised he shouldn’t have. Memories of years past came crashing in, he recalled painfully how good she had felt against him and lacked the power to move away.
He brushed his lips over hers as she did the same to his, her breath fanning gently against his face. Unable to stop, he claimed her lips with his.
Soft and sweet, light jolts of electricity sparked through him. She must have felt it also because her hands on the sides of his face grasped him tighter, holding him to her.
Parting her lips a little, his tongue found hers, twirling, teasing hers. She moaned deep in her throat with pleasure
Mofe knew he should stop, this had gone far but he could not bring himself to end it. He wanted more as more memories came flooding in and his breathing became heavy. He wanted to grab her and pull her to himself and as if knowing his thought, she loosened her grip on him and stopped kissing him.
Pulling back from him, she suddenly asked, “who is this?”
“What do you mean?” Mofe asked confused, just a few minutes back she had called his name, so why was she acting like she suddenly didn’t know who she had been kissing.
“Mofe!” She exclaimed sharply pulling away from him and he straightened up also perplexed at her strange attitude.
“What are you doing in my room?” She asked anxiously, the sudden fear evident in her unfocused eyes as she shuffled to the other end of the bed. Without waiting for him to get an explanation together she continued. “Is this your sinister plan Mofe, to take advantage of me?”
“What? Take what advantage of you?”
“Why, for crying out loud are you in my room? Kissing and touching me while I’m asleep? I don’t know what you might call that but you were definitely taking advantage of me.” She accused hotly.
“Wait, slow down. I was checking up on you and saw you thrashing about in your bed, tried to wake you up and next thing,you called my name and began kissing me.”
She frowned. “I did? I was….I was still asleep.. I thought it was a dream… but just because I kissed you didn’t mean you had to kiss me back..”
Mofe grunted, like that could have been possible, but she had a point.
He gave in and apologised. “Okay, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me…I shouldn’t have kissed you but honestly I thought you were awake. I will leave now.”
He was just at the door when she called him back.
“Now that you are here, would you mind staying with me tonight? It helps if someone is around, I sleep better that way.” She asked quietly still clutching the sheets to her chin.
Mofe knew he should refuse, it was the right thing to do as when he was around her, he temporarily lost his common sense.
“We don’t even have to touch, the bed is big enough for the both of us, we can stay on either sides….. I promise I won’t do anything inappropriate. “
He was tempted to smile, if only she knew that the bed wasn’t wide enough to keep her away from him if he decided to act on the desire he felt for her.
“And what about me, you trust me enough to be in the same bed with you?”
“Yes, I do… I know you wouldn’t do anything I don’t want you to do.” She said quietly.
Mofe really wasn’t sure he had that kind of strength, especially after the kiss they had just shared. It would be safer for them both if he were far away, he didn’t trust he could lie in that bed without instinctively reaching over for her.
“You know what? Just forget I asked I will manage on my own.” she changed her mind, she had probably sensed his reluctance.
He sighed making his decision, recalling how restless she had been when he had come in, deep in sleep and fighting against nothing. He couldn’t leave her like that all night.
“Scoot.” He told her, urging her to shift to the other side of the bed.
“ Are you sure?” she asked moving to the extreme opposite from where he was.
“Sure, why not?” He said, plumping a pillow before sitting down. “This is why Rachel asked me to stay over after all.”
Laying back on the pillow, he pulled the sheets up over his legs thankful the room had been furnished with this king sized bed that could take his length. He wouldn’t have to add a short uncomfortable bed to the discomfort in some parts of his body that he already felt being so close to her.
Stealing a glance at her, she was now lying on her side, looking away from him, so he couldn’t see her face. He could tell she was still awake from the rigid set of her shoulders.
She spoke up suddenly, “I’m sorry if I annoyed you earlier at dinner…it wasn’t my intention, it’s just that Azora is changing and it bothers me.”
He frowned not sure he had heard right. Was she actually apologising to him? Wow, hell might have surely frozen over.
“We had a deal but you don’t seem obliged to keep to it.” She said quietly.
Getting over the shock of her apology, he realised this was the part he said something. Clearing his throat, he spoke up. “I’m sorry for not checking in with you… But you have to understand, You kept me out of her life for ten years….it’s only normal that I go a bit overboard in the way I treat her but from now on I promise I will seek your agreement before taking any decisions concerning her.”
“Thankyou.” She said quietly before they settled into a few minutes of silence.
He couldn’t help the nagging curiosity bugging him. He knew it would be better if he didn’t pry directly into her affairs but he felt he needed some answers. Who knew, he might also get some information to help the case he was building against her.
He might have apologised to her but he sure as hell hadn’t changed his mind about taking his daughter from her.
“Ezinne,” he called softly.
“Your nightmares, what triggers them?”
She didn’t reply immediately. She was quiet and he guessed she was probably deciding if she should tell him or not.
“You really shouldn’t worry about my nightmares, they will stop in due time.”
“Ezinne.” He continued undeterred, “from what I saw when I came into your room,it looked pretty serious.”
“What do you care?” She asked him
“I care because ….,” he paused deciding to be honest. “I care because I care for my daughter… our daughter, and since I care for her wellbeing, it’s only normal I would want to know if she is in the right environment.”
Ezinne turned now to face him and he turned on his side to look at her. The sheet had lowered to her waist and his breath caught as his gaze dropped on the black camisole she wore. The neckline was cut so low, her full breasts swelled over the top.
Her unfocused pupils regarded him firmly as she told him, “What is that supposed to mean, that I’m not right in the head or something? That I’m an unfit parent just because I don’t sleep smoothly?”
He sat up, “I didn’t mean it like that Ezinne, calm down.”
“It sounded like you were asking if I was mentally unfit to be a parent? What is the right environment supposed to mean?”
“Ezinne!” Mofe couldn’t help but place his hand on her shoulder innocently, in a bid to get her to stop her agitation. “Calm down…I didn’t mean to upset you,please.”
Her skin was smooth, soft, just like he remembered all those years back. He was reluctant to take his hands off her but willed himself to, that familiar tingly feeling had started again and he didn’t want it to go too far before he wouldn’t be able to control himself.
“Please just… just talk to me. Just..maybe I can help, I don’t know.”
She lay back on her pillow and seeming to realise the sheets were down, pulled it back up to her chin, covering up the very seductive view of her breasts.
“You can’t help… it’s triggered by anxiety and worry. It comes up when I’m unsettled about something.”
“So you are worried?” He asked. “About what exactly?”
“What else…? You ofcourse! My life was fine until you showed up with all your deception, lies, threats, displacing me from my home and trying to turn my own daughter against me.”
Mofe was appalled at the sudden accusations. “I am the cause of your… After all I’ve done? I exposed your thieving lover manager.. Aside my company sponsoring the Centre, I recently got more organisations to partner with you…I got you out of that collapsing pile of wreck you call a house and for the last time, it was never my aim to turn Azora against you… I only did anything a man deprived of his kid for years would do.” He spat, not done yet he continued, “ I don’t get it Ezinne, I have done so much already… Without any gratitude from you, not like I need it anyway but I won’t accept you heaping blame on me when all I’m doing is to help you and Azora… you can be ungrateful, fine but don’t make it look like I’m the cause of anything because so far, all I’ve done is help.”
His words must have gotten to her because her face softened, she seemed to agree that he was right.
“Thankyou.” She said quietly and he wasn’t sure he heard her.
“What?” He asked not sure he had heard clearly.
“I said thankyou, thankyou for everything, I….I appreciate it. It’s not like I mean to be ungrateful… the problem here is I can’t trust you. Not after the deception you pulled on me earlier…the Moji Stevens thing, I just can’t help but feel like you are up to no good.
It just seems like you’re distracting me with all this, this big house with the swimming pool, the sudden influx of money and equipments into the Centre….it all seems like a cover up for what you really plan on doing.”
Mofe stiffened, shocked for a bit that she was on to him. For a blind woman, she was really perceptive or had his actions been so easy to see through?
“Since I lost my sight, I rely heavily on instinct among other things and with you, I feel it’s not alright. That you have something sinister planned…. I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but I can’t take it anymore Mofe. I need to know, is it your ultimate plan to take Zora from me?”
“You are being paranoid, I’m not planning anything.” He said dismissively not sure if he sounded convincing.
“Yeah right, like you are going to tell me.” She said and was turning back on her side, away from him when he held back her arm, stopping her.
“Ezinne, everything I have done and will do is in the best interest of my daughter, I give you my word.” He said.
It wasn’t exactly a lie, if Ezinne was found incapable of taking care of her daughter, he would be doing both Ezinne and Azora a favour if he took her off Ezinne’s hands.
“Can you tell me something?” She asked.
“ Why did you have to deceive me for all that time? Why did you pretend to be Moji Stevens?”
He sighed, it was confession time and he had to come clean.
Moji Stevens hadn’t really been a bright idea, he hadn’t planned to take the charade so far.
“I really hadn’t planned on deceiving you, when I came looking for you, I hadn’t known you were blind. I’d given Maureen a wrong name because I’d wanted to see the shock on your face when you saw it was me… but instead….I’d been the shocked one.” He said recalling that day when he had seen her blind. “I’d planned on telling you the truth the next time I was at your office but then I overheard a conversation you were having with someone and you suspected it was me and you said something like if it was me, you would pack up and leave.
I decided that couldn’t happen, at least not until I had some answers…so I carried on the charade for a while. I really didn’t want to but I had to knowing you would be more forthcoming with the answers I needed if you didn’t know who I really was.”
“That was quite low of you anyway…. Not the sort of thing I would have expected from you.” She said quietly.
She wasn’t insulting him, she was just baring her honest thoughts and he agreed with her. It was quite unlike him, but with her he found himself behaving in ways he normally wouldn’t. She brought out the worst in him…..there was a time when it had been the opposite, when she brought out only the best feelings in him.
“Yeah well, we’ve both changed… we aren’t the people we used to be.” He told her.
She shrugged, “I guess you’re right.”
Can I ask my own question now?” he asked.
“Yeah….?” She asked warily.
He turned to lie on his back against a pillow, like she was, staring up at the intricately designed, burgundy and white ceiling. He asked something that had been bugging him since the day Eric had given him the news years ago.
“Why in the world did you marry that monster? You knew what he was and you still went ahead and married him knowing you were pregnant for me. Did you hate me so much that you preferred passing off my child as his instead of trying to reach me?”
Her breath caught as if she had not expected the question, this was probably still quite difficult for her to talk about. “I… I told you, Eric said…..”
He turned to look at her, cutting her off, he said, “Forget about Eric! This is between me, you and the right thing to do. You knew he was unstable, what did you think he would do to you and the baby?…. He didn’t know you were pregnant, did he? Because I seriously doubt he would have married you knowing you carried someone else’s child.”
She closed her eyes and he saw the hurt from the painful memories haunt her features.
“Mofe please don’t ask me these things. You won’t understand, things are not just black and white… I was young and naive at the time and I paid for it, as you can see.”
She tried to turn away from him but he held her back. His questions brought back hurtful memories but he needed answers also.
“It was your father, wasn’t it? He found out you were pregnant and forced you to marry Ekene and pass it off as his?”
“Please….please don’t ask me.” she begged, eyes closed tightly.
“Ezinne please, I also need answers… I need closure… I need to know everything.” He told her.
She nodded then and he left her arm as she sat up, resting her back on the headboard. He also did the same. They sat side by side as she began to speak.
“Yes, my dad found out I was pregnant…. The pregnancy hit me hard right from the start, throwing up, nausea and I couldn’t hide it from the staff, one of the maids told him. He threatened to disown and kick me out for bringing shame to him except I married Ekene.
I was weak then, I was scared also and I did what he ordered.
In two months Ekene and I were married but of course he knew something was wrong. At first he was disappointed that I wasn’t a virgin anymore, that got him quite mad…..and when I told him it was you, he lost it…. He beat me till I was unconscious on our wedding night. I was lucky I didn’t lose the baby… later he found out about the pregnancy because I was almost always feeling sick. He suspected it wasn’t his and beat me up into revealing the truth…
It became the norm, beating me up… he hated me, I begged him for a divorce, I left the house many times but he always found me and brought me back…..”
“And your father just let it go on? You didn’t report to the police, anyone?”
“My father half heartedly tried talking with him but Ekene was also angry with him for tricking him into marrying me when I had been with someone else’s baby which …ofcourse, my father vehemently denied knowing. His business partnership with Ekene’s parents was shaky at the time. So he denied any knowledge of it, saying I had deceived him also.”
Mofe shut his eyes, not even able to imagine the nightmare she must have gone through. It seared his heart trying to think about it.
“I resigned myself to being his punching bag, and then one day he held Azora roughly…I think she was about two years then…. I warned him vehemently not to touch my daughter or I would kill him myself. He must have seen something in me that day because he had never touched Azora again.
It became the norm, he drank, cheated, beat me, embarrassed me in public…. It just became normal and I came to expect it…. Until fate took him out of my life but I didn’t escape unscathed as you can see.
It wasn’t easy for me to come to terms with the loss of my vision…I had wanted to take the easy way out and end my life but Azora gave me strength. I was all she had, someone referred me to the centre and thanks to Rachel, her mom and my friends, I was able to pull through.
Of course the business partnership between Ekene’s family and my dad crumbled after Ekene’s death and I haven’t seen or spoken to my dad since the funeral. He has tried to contact me but I’m not interested in anything he has to say.”
She sniffed as he finally opened his eyes, turning to her just as she wiped a lone tear that had escaped her eye.
Her voice had been so cold and devoid of emotion that he hadn’t imagined she still hurt really bad.
He gave into his feelings, abandoned whatever resentment he felt towards her and grabbed her in a hug to himself, placing a kiss on her forehead. She had been lucky, many women didn’t leave abusive marriages with their lives but she had.
It hurt him to think what she had endured under that bastard. If Ekene wasn’t dead, Mofe would have killed him but he would console himself with dealing with her father and he would relish dealing with the old bastard.
The bastard who had orchestrated it all.
“I’m so sorry.” He said. “I’m so damn sorry. You didn’t deserve to go through all that…. I’m so sorry I left abruptly….. I should never have.”
Now would have been the best time to confess the deal he had entered into with her father but he couldn’t bring himself to.
He told himself he didn’t want to add to the hurt she was presently feeling.
It was no wonder she had such deep nightmares, enduring all that pain and fear could definitely tip one over the edge of sanity.
“I should have been wiser, stronger… I should have stood up to my dad… I should have defied him.” She said regretfully. “I should never have married him… For a long time I wondered why he didn’t just divorce me but it seemed in his twisted way, he couldn’t let me go…. He hated me but he just couldn’t let me go.”
Mofe held her tight to him, cradling her head against his chest as he slowly stroked her back… marvelling how velvety soft she was.
“He was a psycho, a sadist psychopath, that’s what he was.”
She had gone through so much already, lost so much, did he want to take Azora from her and finally make her lose everything? He wondered.
She might not survive it. She might have done some wickedness to him but did she really deserve to be paid back?
He remembered a time when he had loved her so much…..maybe still did. He had made promises to her which he’d never kept to. Promises of forever and for always, promises of never hurting her or leaving her.
He was a fraud, he decided. Here was a chance to redeem himself but all he wanted to do was hurt her some more but was it his fault when she always threatened to keep him away from his daughter?
He was presently fighting a battle with himself in his head. Did he want to hurt her, or did he want to make this awkward joint custody thing work between them?
He wasn’t sure at the moment about that but one thing he was certainly sure of was the way, she made him feel being so close to her.
Placing his hand under her chin, he tipped her head up. Her light brown pupils stared up at him. He knew she couldn’t see him but he saw something in their depths.The light from the bedside lamp cast its glow across her face and to him, she was still the most beautiful woman in the world.
In that moment he forgot about the past, the lies, betrayal, everything. He gave into his deeply suppressed emotions and kissed her.
He kissed with everything he felt, the hurt, the pain, his disappointment at breaking all his promises. His disappointment at himself for selling out his feelings for her and giving in to her father.
“I’m so sorry.” He murmured against her ear breaking off the kiss.
“For what?” She asked
It was at the tip of his tongue to confess the deal but instead he said. “For leaving you.”
Her hands found his face again and pulled him back as her lips found his, brushing over his and sending familiar jolts of pleasure through him.
His arms wrapped around her as he pulled her gently under the sheets, her body was fuller and softer than he remembered.
His body covered hers, lips teased hers as his hand roved to cup one full breast through her camisole. Kneading gently, she moaned against his mouth.
He couldn’t stop now, as pleasure raked through his body, he was hard and aching pleasurably against her.
Her hands ran over his back, her lips opened up to his teasing mouth and she accepted his probing tongue. They tasted each other and Mofe revelled in the feeling.
He hadn’t felt like this in years, nothing compared to this, not even kissing Eve… He paused as he recalled his fiancée.
For a moment there he had actually forgotten all about the woman he was engaged to. The woman he wanted to surprise with a wedding date.
With a shaky, resigned sigh, he got up, giving Ezinne some space.
“Are you alright, Mofe?” She asked from where she lay.
He sighed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have I..we can’t do that… that was a mistake.”
He saw the hurt cross her face and he kicked himself for calling their brief, sizzling encounter a mistake. “I.. I don’t mean it like that… it’s just…I am engaged to be married soon. I have a fiancée back home.”
“Oh…. Okay.” She said again.
There was an awkward feeling in the air and Mofe felt he had to clear it up.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” He said.
“No, it’s okay… I should apologise for kissing you… I..it was a brief lapse in my control, I guess….” She said nervously. “It’s been quite a while after all.” She joked with a little nervous laughter.
Mofe smiled but he felt sad within him and he wasn’t sure why. What he really wanted to do was hold her to himself and tell her everything was going to be fine but he couldn’t.
He couldn’t promise her what he couldn’t offer her. He might still have feelings for her, but he was betrothed to another. He wasn’t here to stay, he was just passing through, he was only here for his daughter.
“Goodnight.” She said turning to her other side, away from him and he watched her.
“Goodnight.” He said knowing what needed to be done. He needed to distance himself from her or she would make him fall for her all over again and he couldn’t do this. Not when he had Eve who was looking up to him.
If he could turn back the hands of time, he knew what he would have done differently but he couldn’t. Their lives had moved on and now there was someone else.
There and then he decided to put his wedding plans in motion before Ezinne stole his heart once again.