Amara paced the length and breadth of her office, trying to keep her brain focused on her problem. Kelvin’s kiss was really keeping her mind distracted and it certainly did not help that Kelvin’s gaze was perpetually on her as he stood immobile by her table, watching her pace restlessly. Frustrated, Amara ran her hands through the strands of her hair, remembering the way Kelvin had buried his fingers in them seconds before. She sighed again. “Tina cannot be responsible for this” she said aloud, trying to keep her brain focused. “She is a friend, besides; she has nothing to pay me back for. We have been friends for as long as I remember and even though I have been bitchy towards her lately, she never relented in her efforts to bring us back together”
There was brief silence before Kelvin responded, still watching her intently. “You never tell what makes people do what they do”
Amara stilled herself from looking at him. “Are you insinuating that Lisa wants my downfall? That she would intentionally bring these destructions to my company?” Amara shook her head vigorously. “I refuse to believe that… No! She can’t”
Kelvin sighed and walked towards her, making her halt her continuous pacing. “You can’t afford to trust anyone at this point sweetheart, it is very likely that the person who did this knows this company very well, and since the locks were not tampered with, I think you need to call your security officers to question; in fact, I am doing that now. They must have an explanation for this”
“Wait” Amara called as Kelvin made to leave. “I don’t think you should be doing this Kel, I have had no need to question the loyalty of my staff till now, I don’t want them feeling like I don’t trust them”.
Kelvin brushed his fingers against her cheeks briefly and quickly extracted his hand. “As much as I would like to disabuse that notion Ara, your office was also broken into; this means someone inside is involved in this. An insider is either an accomplice or the only perpetrator of the act” he said gently. Amara’s brain was running wild with confusion. Could someone in her company be responsible for this? Or helping Tina? Oh no! It sounded ludicrous. The downfall of Ara P would definitely affect the livelihood of her staff and since Tina was also a contractor, her finances would also be at stake if anything happened to Ara P. Could people really care less about their own loss because of their urge to bring her down? “Not many people know your house Ara” Kelvin continued. “We can’t rule out the possibility that this might be from an insider. Tina should be investigated, along with your security officers; they can’t tell me that they know nothing about this”
Amara swallowed. She admitted to herself that she had had her suspicions about her security men and had thought the same barely minutes ago. She sighed, looking at Kelvin’s face. She wished so much that everything he said did not sound so plausible but then, everything he said was totally on point. She had told Tobi to ask the staff to begin the cleaning and she could vividly hear the sounds of moving feet and tables, behind her closed doors. She stared at the bag on the chair again, which not only was Tina’s but also had some of her things inside. “Why don’t we wait until everything is back in order? When my staff is fully settled, we can call in the security men. I would also not confront Tina until they have given their statements”
Kelvin nodded, not taking his eyes off hers. “Hope nothing was destroyed Ara? I know everything was scattered and turned over but was anything destroyed? Anything that requires financial involvements” he asked intently.
Amara was about to blurt out that all her supplies have been scissored and cut into tiny pieces but she quickly held her tongue. If she knew Kelvin well, he wouldn’t rest until he replaced everything that was destroyed and she truly did not want that. “No” she said hastily. “It was a relief to see that no real damage was incurred” she lied.
His gaze became intent. “Are you sure? Why don’t I go for another round of inspection? I might find something you probably missed”
“It would be foolish to waste time doing that” Amara hurriedly put in before Kelvin turned. “My staff inspected and I did the same; there is no damage”
Kelvin hesitated, then gave in as his eyes turned to her. Amara saw the message in his eyes and her heart quickened. “Yes, there is no reason why I should waste time when I can make full use of it” he murmured, moving closer to Amara. I should step back. Men are not worth it; why can’t I just remember that? Amara wondered vaguely as Kelvin closed the distance between then, standing just a breath away. She shouldn’t crane her head back to look up at him, but she found herself doing just that, knowing that he would take that as an undeniable invitation. “I like your hair like this” Kelvin whispered as he raised his fingers to her loose hair.
His fingers disappeared in the fullness of her strands, causing his breath to catch slightly in his throat. “I can stare at you all day” he breathed as he bent to kiss her neck. “I have waited so long… I have wanted to do this for so long, my love” he kissed her earlobe and Amara almost let out a sharp gasp but biting it back. Amara felt Kelvin’s smile before she saw it, as he brought his eyes back to hers. She avoided his eyes, looking at his face instead. Kelvin brought his smiling mouth to her cheek and placed a small kiss very close to her lips, bathing her cheeks with his breath. “Sweet Ara” he moaned. He raised his eyes and held hers captive. “I want to kiss you Ara” he whispered breathlessly. Amara gasped as her brain processed this particular information. Is he asking for my permission? Her heart raced wildly. “Let me kiss you honey”. He breathed, kissing the corner of mouth so softly, it felt like a whisper.
Here is your chance Amara! Say no! Say ‘no, thank you’ and he would quietly step back. Amara opened her mouth to form those words, but she found that she couldn’t. He was just too close for comfort; his lips, so close to hers was more than enough temptation. “Yes” she heard herself whisper. Pure male satisfaction shone in his eyes as he finally bringing his mouth to hers, not waiting a second longer.
The kiss was different from the previous one; slower and deeper; like a wordless heart to heart communication. Amara’s hands involuntarily travelled to his neck, holding him closer still. Kissing him felt like the most natural thing to do and Kelvin couldn’t stop himself from pulling her even closer, like he wanted to glued them together permanently. Sensing his vanishing self-control, Kelvin quickly brought the kiss to an end. He tried to bring his labored breathing to an halt as he opened his eyes, watching as Amara’s lashes slowly fluttered open seconds later. The look on her face as she tried to regulate her breathing was like an invisible punch. He cradled her cheeks with shaky hands. “Ara… I-”
A knock on the door interrupted him and Amara suddenly jumped away, leaving his arms painfully empty. She hurried to the back of her polished desk, finger-brushing her terribly disheveled hair. Kelvin’s face broke into a smug smile as he stared at her struggle.
“I think you are just making it worse, I personally don’t have a problem with it though” he said grinning.
“Shut up” she shot back and she ran her hands over her hair again. “Sit down over there Kelvin. I don’t know what came over me” she murmured the latter part more to herself.
His grin grew. “I really love what came over you sweetheart.”
Amara glared at him as the knock was repeated again. Kelvin spared her the trouble and raised his hands in defeat, walking to the chair and lowering himself onto the piece of work.
Amara cleared her throat and Kelvin couldn’t hold back the amused smile that crept to his face. “Come in” she said.
Tega walked in and Amara frowned. Since when did Tega start knocking before entering. She stared at the knowing smile on her secretary’s face and her face turned red with embarrassment, but being the boss, she adjusted her posture on the chair and raised her chin. “I am sorry to interrupt you boss” Tega said, smiling slightly.
Amara frowned at her. “You weren’t interrupting Tega” Kelvin cleared his throat unnaturally and Amara shot him a stern glare. “What did you want Tega?” Amara said resignedly.
“Actually, we already have everything in order and we all are waiting for your instruction”
Amara jumped out of her chair instantly.
“Tell them all to resume their usual duties Tega, your boss would… meet them when she is done here” Kelvin cut in. Amara turned to glare at him but the audacious man did not even glance at her. How dare he! Amara boiled with rage. As she opened her mouth to lash out at his audacity, but he continued. “I would be glad if you could call in the two security men” he said with a smile enough to turn over any woman. Amara watched Tega melt before her very eyes and her anger towards Kelvin increased. Tega shifted her amused eyes between them, then finally, when Amara couldn’t open her stiff mouth to utter anything, she nodded and left the office.
“How dare you Kelvin?” Amara burst out. “This is my company, I won’t have you giving my staff orders”
“Calm down sweetheart, I fully aware that this is your company”
“I don’t think you do, this is not ‘Reliance’; and DON’T call me sweetheart” she spat out angrily.
He stared calmly at her furious face, not bothering to reply her outburst and this definitely doubled Amara’s anger, making her tap her leg furiously against the tiled floor. As she stared angrily at Kelvin, she wondered why on earth she had kissed him so eagerly. The man probably thinks I am a weak-willed puppet now, she thought angrily.
Alex opened the door to the room his ex-mum had booked for herself in the same hotel as he. He knew his dad was also there in the hotel, but definitely in a totally different room. Alex still couldn’t come to terms with the fact that he had been birthed by a poor cleaner and still couldn’t stand the sight of her, avoiding her at every given opportunity. He entered the dark room cautiously, looked around and saw Mrs Bello sitting in a lifeless state on the floor at the foot of the large hotel bed. The curtains were drawn, plunging the room into darkness which was only relieved by the bright white paint used to the walls.
“Are you going to continue sulking?” Alex said without preamble. Mrs Bello might as well have been a dumb mute because she neither spoke nor looked up to acknowledge his presence.
“Your state is so embarrassing, you look nothing like a Senator’s wife” he spat out. “Who could have imagined that the famous sharp-mouthed Mrs Bello could suddenly turn into a mute”
Mrs Bello did not shake, only the blinking of her eyes showed that she was still alive.
Alex sighed. “Anyways, I am here because I have a proposal for you” he said, exaggerating the ‘proposal’. He went on when his words did not even shake the woman. “I know where your daughter is”
Mrs Bello’s head snapped up instantly, inciting a smile from Alex. Her eyes transformed from lifeless to anxious and she gripped her skirt in a strange way, making Alex wonder if his ex-mother probably needed to visit a psychiatric hospital.
“I know exactly where she is, and I can take you to her”
Mrs Bello stood up instantly, displaying more strength than Alex thought she had. “Please…” She croaked out. “Please take me to my daughter Alex, please” she pleaded, moving closer to him with unsteady legs. Lines of dried tears showed on her face and the slight stink Alex perceived indicated that Mrs Bello had probably not had a descent bath.
Alex wrinkled his nose and held out his hand to halt her approach. “Stay where you are, you might give me indigestion” he said. “I would take you to her on one condition”
Mrs Bello’s eyes watered at Alex’s insult but she swallowed the pain that engulfed her. “Anything! I would do anything, please take me to her… Please”
Alex smiled. “First, you would tell her that you are not my mother, then…” He paused slightly, then continued. “… you would convince her to marry me”
“What?” Mrs Bello gasped out weakly. “Marry you? You already have a wife and a daughter. Even though I am not your biological mother, I raised you, it would be like having my two children married. You would hurt my daughter again and -”
“I am not your son” Alex cut in sharply. “And when did you start caring about your daughter’s feelings, it is rather late for that, don’t you think?”
Mrs Bello ignored the biting remark. “Why would you want to marry Amara? You have a family already”
“I don’t love Lisa, she has given me nothing but hell right from the start” he yelled. “But I… love Amara”
Mrs Bello hissed. “Love? Don’t give me that crap, I wasn’t born yesterday”
“Neither was I” Alex returned. “Listen, that is the only condition available to you. You must convince her that I am the best person for her and not that male model I saw with her”
“And what makes you think she would obey whatever I tell her? She has sworn never to forgive me”
“She will. Knowing that she isn’t my sister would help ease her anger towards you a bit, the rest is up to you. She is your daughter, you should know how to ease your way into the heart of your child”
“Since I was unsuccessful with you, I don’t see that happening with her” she said drily.
“Since I am not your child, I am not a perfect experiment” he returned.
“What if I refuse? She is my daughter and I won’t watch you hurt her again”
“I would find another way to make her mine and you would lose on both accounts because i would have her and you still won’t get to see her” he smiled smugly. “You taught me well, remember?” Mrs Bello knew that he was right, and that knowledge was the most painful of all. She had filled him with negative thoughts not knowing that a day like this would come when the tables would be turned. “What would it be mum?”
Mrs Bello’s head snapped up. It had been years since he had called her ‘mum’. She had yearned to hear it so much, and even now, after hearing that he isn’t really her child, she was stunned to realise that she still longed to hear him call her ‘mum’.
“I know I have been shitty towards you for the past few years, I just couldn’t forgive you for all you did; however” he paused. “You can make it right now. You can have my forgiveness and have your two children together with you and we would all be happy together.” He said, seeing the effects his words were having with satisfaction. “What do you say mum? Yes?”
A knock interrupted the silence in the office. “Come in” Amara snapped. The two security officers walked in, closing the door firmly behind them. Amara opened her mouth to talk and Kelvin shot her a quick glance. Despite her fury, Amara strangely felt compelled to obey him. She snapped her mouth shut again, trying to contain her anger. Her staff hadn’t seen her anything but composed and Kelvin wouldn’t be the reason why that would change.
“”You sent for us ma’am” one of them said.
“Actually, I sent for you” Kelvin said instantly, sounding different to Amara. She guessed this was the tone he used with his staff, a compelling tone which brooked no argument. “I understand this company was broken into, can you please explain how that happened?”
The men frowned, looking uneasy as they stared at Kelvin. They glanced at Amara and then back at Kelvin. Amara fought the urge to come to the rescue of her staff and stared at the scene before her with keen interest. Kelvin’s face was passive; not frowning, yet not smiling as he gazed at the two men with deep concentration. He looked different. He looked… like a man used to being in charge. It was no surprise that Paul and Hazzan squirmed beneath his intense gaze.
“I… don’t understand sir” Amara heard Hazzan say.
“I asked a straight-forward question. I understand you both are always on watch, you must have witnessed what happened right? What I want you to tell me is how it happened” Kelvin demanded.
The men shifted nervously, then Paul quickly spoke up. “I was out of the company for some hours yesterday” he quickly said. “Miss Ara asked me to drop off her car at home. When I got back I didn’t feel that anything was amiss, until… this morning”
“So you are suggesting that this happened while you were away?” Kelvin asked quietly with a slight raise of his brow.
“I am not saying that”
“Nothing happened while he was away” Hazzan quickly snapped, glaring angrily at Paul.
Amara didn’t even know what to make of what she was seeing. “So, you someone sneaked in and sneaked out right under your noses without your knowledge? What are you guarding this place for?” Amara asked angrily.
”Ok, even if they got past you at the gate, how did they get in? I suppose this place is always locked, isn’t it? And as security, you must have the keys, right?”
“What are you insinuating sir?” Hazzan asked pale-faced.
“We didn’t do this sir” Paul said, stunned. “How can we seek the destruction of our company?” He looked at Amara, seeking her support but finding none; Amara was too confused to even think clearly.
“But you could have aided someone right?” They both turned pale and Kelvin stood up, drawing himself to his full height. Though, not huge, he looked as imposing as a rock and his gaze became intense and penetrating. He pushed his hands into his pockets. “If the locks were not tampered with, the person who broke in must have used keys, mind you, this office was also entered because we found something odd here. So tell me, who else holds the keys to the company asides you and your boss?”
Complete silence greeted his speech, doused a little by the continuous humming sound of the air conditioner. Then Hazzan raised his chin in the air. “We are not the only ones with the keys”
“What?” Amara bursted out.
“Yes ma. Tega also has a spare key, she asked for it recently, because she often comes too early and I got tired of always opening the door before time.”
Amara’s eyes widened. “Why did you never tell me this?”
“I always wanted to tell you but it skipped my mind ma, I am sorry” he answered. “And I am sure you gave her the spare key to your office” he said, then faced Kelvin. “We don’t have the key to Miss Ara’s office. Tega might be able to give a better explanation”
Amara almost laughed. This was the most ridiculous thing she had heard so far. Tega? No! It definitely isn’t possible. She could believe anything, but not this!
“Ok, you may go for now” Kelvin said and the two men virtually vanished instantly.
“This is totally impossible Kelvin” she burst out immediately the door closed behind the men. “Tega is the last person I would point a finger at. For goodness’ sake, is it not enough that Tina’s bag was found here?” She raised her hands in bewilderment. “No! I trust Tega! She can never do this”
Kelvin almost said something but seemed to change his mind, then, he said. “Why don’t we call Tina now? We might get a bit of explanation”
“I would call” Amara said instantly. “I won’t have you accusing her”. Kelvin came over to put his palm comfortingly on her shoulder, squeezing slightly. Amara took a deep breath as she dialed Tina’s number. Tina doesn’t deserve this, she reminded herself. But then, she could explain what her bag is doing here, right?
“Hello” she heard suddenly, causing her heart to skip. The voice didn’t sound like Tina’s and she paused. This voice sounded tinier and more high-pitched.
“Tina?” She questioned, looking at the number again to be sure she had dialed correctly.
“No, this isn’t Miss Tina ma’am, this is Aisha” the voice returned.
Amara remembered Tina mentioning that name as one of her staff. “What are you doing with Tina’s phone?” She asked with a frown.
“Miss Tina is in the hospital ma’am, she has been for days”
“What?” Amara jumped up. The ache in her head increased drastically. “What is wrong with her?”
“She… Oh, she would kill me for telling you this” the girl responded.
“Spill it this minute” Amara ordered. “What is wrong with Tina?”
“She has… She needs a kidney transplant”
…to be continued