SHE WAS all set to close. The girls hadn’t come in today. She’d told them not to as it was only a Saturday and she planned on closing by two pm. It was one-forty now and she might as well start locking up. She went into the kitchen to make sure everything was as it should be and the back door was locked. Then got out the peanut butter cookies she’d made for the dinner at the mansion and walked out.
She almost screamed and dropped the tray of cookies, but she recognised the man in ash-coloured suit and managed to swallow the yelp. “Christopher, what are you doing here?” She asked, blowing out a sigh of relief.
“Sorry if I frightened you.” Christopher apologised, smiling. “But the store was open and so I came in.”
“No, no, you didn’t frighten me.” Cate denied. Then laughed and conceded. “Maybe a little. I shouldn’t be so easily frightened—customers can come in at anytime. I guess I was already focused on closing and wasn’t thinking of seeing anyone else for the day.”
“Oh, you were already closing up?”
Though he looked surprised, he didn’t quite sound it.
Cate frowned briefly, then shrugged and went around the counter, laid the tray on it and bent to retrieve her handbag and keys. “Yes, actually I was. Err, are you here for any particular reason or maybe to buy some snacks? Not that I have anything worthwhile at the moment.” She gestured with a laugh to her display glass.
Christopher chuckled and shook his head. He’d come forward and was leaning against the counter. “No. I’m not the sweets kind of man. A little sweet and my stomach reacts violently. So, I avoid them entirely.”
Hmm, something he had in common with Calvin. But that was as far as their similarities went. Christopher was sturdy and more muscularly built and also a little shorter—she put him at some three inches under Calvin’s six feet. He was also more financially affluent. But despite that, less independent of mind and confident. Yes, Calvin’s parents’ had been interfering—a little, as most parents were wont to be but he’d been assertive and didn’t appear in the least ruled by their opinions and wishes. He’d shown a clear possession of a mind of his own, had done that from the moment they’d met. It was a trait that was lacking in Christopher.
“All right. So, why are you here?” They weren’t that close and she preferred to address matters directly.
Christopher hesitated. “Well, I must confess that this was Madam Yinka’s idea.” He smiled sheepishly. “She invited me over for dinner and suggested I come pick you up.”
She wasn’t entirely surprised. The old lady was meddling as usual, and he was the good-obedient-boy type. “But how were you sure that I’d be at the store and not gone back to my home or be anywhere else for that matter?”
Another sheepish smile. “She said that your mother had told her you’ll be here till two pm.”
Aha! So, her mother was in this too? Hmm. “I see.” She eyed him frowningly. “Chris, you should have called me to verify if I needed someone to drive me down to the mansion, instead of…”
“The mansion?” He looked a little confused.
Cate chuckled. “That’s what I call the Edwin-Maurice home. Fitting, don’t you think?”
He frowned vaguely. “I guess.”
She swallowed another chuckle, of course he wouldn’t think it a mansion. He was used to impressive houses and probably lived in one. “Anyway, the thing is that I’ve already invited someone to this dinner and he is driving me down.”
“He? Oh.” He looked instantly mortified. “Oh, I wasn’t aware you were seeing… that you had a man in your life. Madam Yinka said you were… free.”
Cate sighed. “I am free… at least I’m nobody’s slave or property. But I am seeing someone presently. And I am not the kind of woman to double date, so…” she lifted her shoulders. “I’m sorry. But her ro—Madam Yinka is only playing matchmaker and well,…”
“I should have verified from you as you said.” Christopher smiled faintly. “It’s all my fault. I shouldn’t allow my mother to keep planning my life.”
“Then why do you?” Cate asked curiously.
“I don’t really know.” He looked embarrassed. “I mean, I don’t allow her to meddle and control, she just does it.” He let out a self-derisive laugh. “That is a lame excuse, stupid. It’s just that my mother is such a controlling person and my sisters and I are… well, we are used to just following her lead. For peace sake.”
Cate regarded him with a frown. She wasn’t really impressed by the excuse. It was lame, like he said. But still she felt sorry for him. Maybe because he’d driven all the way down to the Mainland for nothing.
“Well, you can’t continue to follow her lead, Chris.” She said quietly. “You are a man and you should take charge of your own life.”
“Yes, you are right. I have to take charge of my own life.” He smiled weakly and stepped back from the counter. “Ah, I apologise for dropping in on you like this. I have to go now.” He took a step back. “I don’t think I’ll be coming to the dinner after all.”
“Oh no, please don’t let me stop you from visiting the mansion.” Cate protested.
“It’s funny how you keep calling it the mansion.” He laughed a little. “No, you are not stopping me from visiting the mansion, but I don’t think I’ll be comfortable at the dinner table tonight.”
Cate was astonished. She hadn’t thought that he liked her. “Oh Chris, I am sorry. I didn’t know…”
“No, no, you shouldn’t have to apologise.” He shook his head. “This was not at all your fault. Like I said earlier, I am responsible. It’s just that this dinner was my mother’s and Madam Yinka’s way of bringing us together and since you are with someone else already… well, it is pointless, right?”
She smiled. “I guess it is.” Then she cocked her head to the side. “Sorry, but I’m curious—are you really this amenable and nice or do you just give up easily?”
He grinned. “You tell me, do I stand a fair chance if I linger and force my attention on you?”
Cate studied the smiling, yet serious face and nodded. Maybe he wouldn’t make such a bad choice after all… for some other woman.
“No, you don’t stand a fair chance.” She admitted, then added. “But I know you will find the right woman some day.”
“Yeah, some day.” Christopher laughed. “Enjoy the dinner. And I hope it works out for you and this lucky man.” He dipped his head and turned towards the door.
After he left, Cate stood staring at the door for a bit. Then recalling she was running behind schedule since she still had stuff to do at home before Calvin came for her, she shook off here woozy mind and hurried on with her locking up.
CALVIN HOPED he looked presentable enough for dinner at the Edwin-Maurice mansion. Yes, he’d been there a couple of times in the past but never to dine at their table.
He’d chosen to wear a pair of black cotton pants, a light grey long-sleeved shirt, tucked it, and the pants matching jacket. No tie. He wasn’t a tie person. And he was sure he’d choke on it tonight given his awful nervousness.
Gosh, maybe he shouldn’t have allowed Cate to talk him into coming. He hadn’t even been invited by the true owners of the house… not that that would have lessened his nervous feeling, but at least he wouldn’t have felt like he was gate crashing. Of course, Cate had assured him he wasn’t. And that she’d be calling to let them know he was coming with her.
That didn’t reassure him. He still felt edgy.
He parked the car and got out. Blew out a long breath and went through the pedestrian gate. He blew out another breath before rang her doorbell. It opened swiftly like she was already waiting in front of it.
He supposed she was when he saw she was all set, purse in one hand and a tray of some sweet-smelling snack in the other. The very sight of her banished his nervousness. She was wearing a high-necked, three-quarter sleeved brick-red bodycon dress with a pair of designer-looking heeled sandals that gave her extra height. And she looked spectacular. The dress fitted nicely to her slim build and accentuated her lovely curves.
“You look breathtaking.” He said, his eyes on her face. Her lips were painted a light pink and they tempted him. He debated roughening up the lipstick.
“Thank you.” Cate beamed. “And you are looking good yourself. And no, you are not allowed to kiss me.” She added, reading his mind. “This isn’t a kiss-proof lipstick and we are running late. So, let’s move it, Detective.”
He grinned. “Such a pity then. It would have been a nice intro to our evening.”
“Take a rain-check.” She told him, nudging him to move backward.
“I surely will.” He chuckled and took the keys from her to lock the door.
They walked outside and got into his car, chatting amicably as they filled each other in on their day. It didn’t take that long for them to arrive the Edwin-Maurice Park-View Estate home. Bosede opened the door for them and after a quick hug with Cate, allowed them in. He was feeling tense again.
“Detective Vaikosen, it was surprising when Cate called to say you were escorting her.” Yinka Edwin-Maurice said the moment they swept into the impressive living room he hadn’t quite been able to forget.
He was thinking of an apt response when Anna got up and started towards them. “But it was a pleasant surprise.” She smiled warmly.
Calvin took the hand she held out, grateful for her warmness. She looked so lovely and happy. “Evening, ma’am.” He dipped his head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you again.”
“It is nice seeing you again, Detective.” Anna beamed.
“Calvin.” She repeated, smiling. “You are welcome again to our home.” She turned to her daughter. “Hello, darling. You look amazing. Oh, I love that dress.”
Calvin left them, hugging and cooing over each other and walked forward to where the lady of the manor was seated, watching him with keen eyes.
“Good evening, ma’am.” He dipped his head respectfully. “I do sincerely hope I am not intruding. It’s just that Cate offered the invitation and I couldn’t resist a chance to see your elegant home again… and to see you all, of course.”
Yinka Edwin-Maurice regarded him through narrowed eyes for a moment, then smiled. “Of course you are not intruding, Detective Vaikosen. We were only surprised because we didn’t know you and Cate were now friends.” He didn’t miss the emphasis. “And besides, we were expecting her to come with another man. A dear friend of the family.”
“Oh.” He hadn’t known of another man. Who was he?
“I am sure that Christopher called to let you know that he couldn’t make it.” Cate said, coming forward to give the old lady a hug. “Evening, mother.”
“How are you, dear?” Yinka Edwin-Maurice smiled warmly.
The easy affection in her eyes surprised Calvin despite the fact that he’d heard from Cate how they were getting along now. That look of fondness for a girl she’d so vehemently accused a few months ago wasn’t just something he’d expected. It was a good surprise and he appreciated it for Cate’s and Anna’s sake.
“Yes, Christopher did call to apologise that he had other plans. He didn’t seem to earlier though.” Yinka Edwin-Maurice frowned delicately.
Cate shrugged, settling beside her. “No, he didn’t. Not until I explained about Calvin.”
“Is that so? Well, we’ll like to hear that explanation too.” Her step-grandmother said crisply.
“Oh, it’s simple really—” Cate flashed a smile. “Calvin and I are dating.”
“Really?” Temitope exclaimed coming into the room.
He was dressed casually in a pair of dark grey pants and short-sleeved chequered shirt. Calvin guessed he didn’t believe in dressing up for dinner at his home. It didn’t surprise him. Temitope Edwin-Maurice wasn’t the affected sort.
“Hello, Calvin.” He came over to him. Then as if recollecting himself added. “I can call you Calvin, right?”
Calvin smiled and shook the hand he offered. “Of course you can, sir.”
“Oh my goodness, you and Calvin are dating? Seriously?” Anna was obviously delighted with the news. She looked at her daughter, eyes sparkling. “How lovely! When did it all begin? You’ve been keeping secrets from your mother, little girl.” She chided playfully.
Cate laughed. “No, really I haven’t. We are still just getting to know each other.” She turned to him and smiled gently.
Though he smiled back, his attention was really on the Yinka Edwin-Maurice and the crease on her forehead.
“You are dating Detective Vaikosen?” There was a certain amount of shock in her tone. “And when exactly did this alliance begin?”
Calvin choked back a laugh at the profound word. But Cate wasn’t so tactful. She laughed out loud.
“Alliance? What a word! Seriously mother, you are something.” She grinned cheekily. “Anyway, like I said, it’s all still new and we are getting to know each other.”
“And though it might be presumptuous of me to think I can take care of Cate, ma’am, but I do care a great deal about her and would never treat her cavalierly.” Calvin said quietly, looking at all of them.
“Mmm.” Yinka Edwin-Maurice sounded, saying nothing. Though the frown on her forehead had let up, she still didn’t look entirely in approval.
But Anna smiled warmly. “So long as you know she is a very special woman and precious to me… to us.”
“I, for one, wish you luck trying to win over my step-daughter… she can be very headstrong, you know.” Temitope wriggled his brows at Cate and laughed. “But if you treat her bad, I am coming after you, mister, Police officer or not.”
Though it was jovially said, Calvin sensed he meant it and took it as such. “I wouldn’t dare, sir.” He promised.
“Dinner is set.” Bosede announced.
“Thank you, Bosede.” Yinka Edwin-Maurice gave a regal nod. Then turned to them. “Let’s go dine, then.” She rose to her feet and led the way.
Calvin angled his hand. “If you will allow me escort you, pretty lady?”
Cate gurgled. “But of course, dear sir.” She slipped her hand through his and walked beside him to the exquisitely furnished dining room.
IT WAS a few minutes past ten by the time they walked through Cate’s door.
“So, her royal majesty was already matchmaking you and this Christopher, huh?”
“How come with all the stories I told you on the drive back, that’s the only one that stuck in your head?” Cate teased, slipping off her sandals and paddling across the rug. She dropped into the couch.
“Because a wise man has got to be wary of his competition.” He took off his own shoes and joined her on the couch. “And this competition obviously has her royal majesty’s seal of approval.”
“It is my seal of approval you should be worrying about, Detective.” She chuckled.
“Is that right?” He grinned. Then turned serious. “So, it wouldn’t matter what people say about you dating a Police Officer? What your family and friends think?”
“I didn’t know there was something wrong with Police officers.” She said lightly.
“They are not exactly most folk’s favourite kind of people.” He shrugged, for the first time worried about his chosen profession. “This part of the world, they are not exactly reputable.”
“But you are.” Cate said quietly, looking him in the eye. “You are a good Police officer and there are others that are too, I’m sure.” She took his hand. “Besides, I’m interested in you not the entire Nigerian Police Force.”
Something swelled inside of him. “That’s good to know, Miss Makinde.” He squeezed her hand and dragged her up with him. “And it’s such a pity that now I should be around to convince you that you aren’t making a mistake, I’ve been sent on another assignment.”
“You are travelling?”
He sighed. “Yeah, ten days or so. A case at Kaduna.”
“Oh my God! The North?”
He laughed a little. “Yes. But I’ll be okay. It’s just a sensitive larceny case and they need someone discreet and…”
“Trustworthy.” Cate completed, grinning. “You see, I told you you were a good Police officer. Even the Force recognises that.”
He chuckled. “I’ll call, text, chat with you… whenever I can. And before you know it, I’ll be back here, stalking you.”
She chuckled. “I’ll take that as a promise.” She drew closer, so they were only inches apart, then reached up to her toes and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Hmm, I seem to remember promising you a kiss.” She grinned and grabbed his jacket to pull him down.
It was just a gentle stroke. A light touch that was hesitant and shy. But it sent a quiver through him.
He groaned and wrapped his arms about her. “Cate.” He murmured against her. When she moaned in response, he groaned again and plunged in, prying her lips open and kissing her like he’d be dying to all night. He explored every inch of her mouth—tasting and drinking her in. With his mouth, his tongue, his very breath. She pressed against him and the feel of the soft mound of her breasts sent a thrill through him, setting him on fire.
Her hands were beginning to move underneath his clothing and much as he wanted to enjoy the exploration and let himself loose in her, he knew he had to stop.
“You are amazing, you know that?” He murmured against her mouth.
It took a moment before her eyes fluttered open. “You bet I am.” She drawled.
Her voice was a throaty whisper and it sent a fresh desire coursing through him. He groaned again and kissed her. Closing his eyes to enjoy her warmness one last time, then stepped back. “I’ll call you first thing before I leave tomorrow.” He promised. “Believe me when I say these are going to be the most difficult days of my life.”
“They’d better be, Detective.” She grinned cheekily. “Don’t forget to bring something back for your girl.”
“My girl… I like the sound of that. And I won’t.” He bent to kiss her again and then stepped away from her.
If he didn’t now, he wouldn’t be able to leave. And he’d promised slow and no pressure and that was the way it was going to be.
“Sleep tight, pretty lady.” He winked and marched out of the rugged area. Slipped on his shoes and blew her a kiss before walking out into the night.
**Hopefully we can make it Tuesday. Have a great weekend, y’all.**