RAPTURE : A TWIN BLISS RESORT NOVEL

One

Asher

THEY WERE AFTER ME. AGAIN.

They moved in foggy shadows, causing my heart to drum louder in my ears, for fear of being caught. No matter how fast I ran, they seemed to be just behind me. No looking back man. Run!

My leg muscles ached. My lungs burned. But my steps didn’t falter. I would rather die than be caught.

I couldn’t see what laid ahead, but the moon cast eerie shadows on the forest floor, enough to illuminate my path. Twigs and thorns scratched at my skin. The scenery went past in a blur. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but I seemed to know where I was going.

Hell no!

I didn’t see it until it was too late. Shit!

Stumbling over a stone, I went in, headfirst, into a hole—a well. On my way down, I grasped for something to hold as ice gripped my heart. Grabbing at the branches of a tree growing on the wall of the well, I prayed that it held still and it did.

Glancing downward. I saw nothing but an endless abyss of darkness.

Tremors ran through me, and my heart knocked erratically against my chest. I knew it was just a dream, but I couldn’t make myself wake up.

How the hell am I going to get out of this place? I wondered as I looked around me.

I couldn’t scream for help. No one would hear me in this pit. And if I did, the echo would draw attention to me—those beings were still out there, waiting for me to come out.

Talk of being between the devil and the deep blue sea. I chuckled, a hard, bitter sound. How did I get here? Clenching my fists, I howled with pain and misery. What horrible thing have I done that’s robbing me of sleep.? Of peace of mind? I have paid my dues. I do not deserve this.

I felt it’s presence before looking and saw it hovering on the edge of the well. She appears when things are the toughest for me—whether in my dreams or reality—always. A comforting presence I’ve subconsciously come to rely on. It soothed my soul and calmed my frayed nerves.

 I couldn’t place her face, but it was familiar. It was probably my subconscious mind conjuring comforting images. And it had to be a woman. I gave a self-deprecating smile and felt a glance of reprove almost immediately.

 My mouth opened to ask her who she—it—was, but Kirabo’s voice penetrated my mind. “Wake up, Ash. Wake up. It is just a dream.”

Hands were shaking me awake.

Kirabo’s concerned voice penetrated my mind as her hands continually shook my shoulder. “Come on, Ash. It’s just a dream. Wake up.”

My eyes opened and looked straight into the white fluorescent light. I winced, closing my eyes.

“You have been thrashing around.”

Blinking my eyes open, I let out a sigh of relief. Droplets of sweat covered my arms. My night clothes, wet from perspiration. It was just a dream. I groaned, turning away from her.

“No need to be embarrassed. You were not screaming like a girl.” Her attempt at humour drew a reluctant smile from me.

“Thank God,” I mumbled, moving to seat on the edge of the bed, before cupping my head in my palms. “It is getting worse, Kira. I don’t know what to do.”  Hopelessness and helplessness washed over me.

Sitting beside me she hugged me, nestling her head on my shoulders. My thudding heart slowed down in comfort, and I closed my eyes in temporary relief.

“I miss mum.” My voice was husky with unshed tears, and I coughed to clear it.

Kirabo Fabian’s mother, Charlotte Fabian, had adopted me from the streets of Lagos. I wasn’t sure when I joined the family, but I was old enough to be in school and that was the first thing she did. She and her husband, Michael Fabian, had been married for two years without a child of their own.

Michael cared little for me. He wasn’t cruel—at least not when mother was alive—but he wasn’t fond of me either. He never hid his feelings. Levi was born two years after I joined the family and Kirabo, the baby of the family, came three years after Levi.

“I know. You are the one who was the most affected by her death.” Kirabo removed her head from my shoulders and left her arm linked around my waist.

Mother, a teacher and disciplinarian, had also been the main provider for the family, after Michael lost his job as an insurance salesperson. While he moved from one petty job to another, Mother became the pillar who held the family together, financially, physically, and spiritually.

I took a deep breath. “I miss her every day. Even after all these years, I wish she was right here with me. Things wouldn’t have gotten so bad.”

When she was diagnosed with cervical cancer—it had been a great shock to the family. How could God be so cruel? Why did such a good soul fall terminally ill without a cure in sight? It shook my faith.Even on her sick bed, she upheld my faith and chastised me not to lose faith in God. He was a God of wonder, and He only did great things.

I snorted at the memory.

It was a draining and difficult battle.. In the end, we lost her, and the family fell apart. She’d been gone for two decades, but I still miss her.

“I know. I miss her too. Though I wasn’t as close to her as you were and please don’t start blaming yourself for the things you did to keep the family together after she died. You stepped in and did your best.”

“I didn’t keep Levi alive.” I mumbled under my breath and unconsciously rubbed a spot over my chest until she captured it with her free hand.

“Ash, what is all this? Why are you taking a walk down this horrible memory lane? I can’t remember the last time you discussed or talked about Levi or Mother. What is going on? You are scaring me.” Turning to face me, she took my face in her hands and stared boldly into my eyes.

Kirabo Fabian was four years old when mother died – her memories were distant and fuzzy. I became a mother and father to her in every way that counted.

Growing up, Levi respected and feared me at a distant big-brother-to-kid brother level. But Kirabo – she knew she had me wrapped around her little finger.

I taught her to be bold—to state her mind and go for whatever she wanted. She always made me proud. She held me in high esteem, and was never scared of me, even at my darkest moment. Because she knew I would never hurt her deliberately.

“I don’t know. This dream scared me more than the rest. I don’t know why.” I laid back on the bed, my head resting on my folded arms, staring at the ceiling.

“Was the lady in the stained white wrapper and blouse in this dream too?” Her voice was tentative.

My lips curved up in a weary smile. I recently told her about my dreams and my suspicion of the soothing white presence being a lady. “Yeah, she was. She even seemed to reprove me for an unruly thought in my mind.”

“If I know you well and I do, I think I know the unruly thought that must have gone through your head.” She shook her head, amused. “I can’t believe you were thinking of such when you were in grave danger.”

“I’m a man sis.” I grinned, reaching out to tweak her nose.

“I’m sure there’s a message in that dream, Ash. Each time you ignore it, bad things happen. What message do you think they are trying to pass across?”

I sighed. “I am not sure exactly. At first, I assumed it had to do with my days on the street, but now, I think it goes far beyond that. That lady looked young and ancient at the same time.”

Closing my eyes, I struggled to bring the apparition to my mind. It was fair, slim, and was of average height. The short wrapper was always white, stained at the back with blood and the blouse was short sleeved. A long white string of pearls adorned her neck, and her black hair was weaved into the traditional Yoruba hairstyle known as sukuu.

“She is a Yoruba woman then.” Kirabo observed after I finished describing her.

“Yes, she is. I have seen her before. Long before these horrible dreams began, but… I can’t remember.”

“And she doesn’t hurt you?”

I nod.

“Then she must be there to protect you.” Her voice was firm.

“Although it pains me to agree with you, I think you are right. It seems as if she is preventing the worst from getting to me. This is becoming too weird and psychic for me.”

“Of course, I am always right.” She jabbed my side and I shook my head. “What does she want? What do they want? Ash, we need to find out to prevent future occurrences.”

“I will not spend the entire night trying to figure that out, Kira. They will tell me when they are ready, or they can go to hell for all I care. Are you sleeping in my room or going back to yours?”

Rolling to the side of the bed, my finger hovered on the switch as I glanced at her. She was chewing on her bottom lip, a sign that she was not through with the discussion.

I sighed. “Kira?”

“I’ll sleep here.” She got on the bed, taking a side and pulled the duvet up.

 After flipping the light switch, I laid on my back, arms folded, waiting for sleep.

“Ash…?”

“What is it? You need to sleep. Aren’t you going to work tomorrow?” She was a civil Engineer in a construction Company.

“Of course, I am.” The bed ruffled as she turned to her side. “I am… I am just worried about you. Who knows the disaster that will come after this?”

“I will deal with it when it does, Kira. Worrying doesn’t solve the problem. As long as lives are not lost and I don’t lose any other loved ones, I’ll deal with whatever life dishes out to me.” I shrugged in the dark.

She reached out and squeezed my hand. “I love you, Ash. You are the one who taught me how to find solutions to problems, rather than complaining over it. And… I think I have a solution.”

I felt, rather than saw, her squared shoulder and I grinned.

“What is your solution, madam know-it-all?”

“I know you don’t like religion of any kind. But my pastor is—”

“Don’t start. Go to sleep, Kira.”

The day I lost my mother was the day I lost faith in God. As far as I was concerned, He didn’t exist.

Kirabo sighed dramatically. “It is worth trying, nau. I will keep praying for you whether you like it or not. I will even pray for you. You need to get married too, so she can be the one caring for you at night.” She huffed, turning her back to me.

I was still smiling when I fell asleep, and froze when I saw the mysterious apparition, the woman, in my room.

“She is right. You need to get married soon. You aren’t getting younger.”

What’s happening here? It was the first time she was speaking to me and her voice was rich, beautiful, and accented. Where’s that accent from?

“I will when I am good and ready.” I let my admiring gaze wash over her. “You are not a bad broad yourself.” I felt a sting on my cheek.

She slapped me!

“Damn! What did you do that for? Who are you anyway?”

“Wake up.” She commanded; her face devoid of emotions. “Your worst fear has been confirmed.”

My eyes snapped open, my phone was ringing. Picking up the phone, I slid up the green button.

My clothing warehouse was on fire.

Two

Sappirah

ADEKUNLE LAWANSON, THE TRAVEL COORDINATOR of the Brewify Bottling Company, Nigeria, was calling for the hundredth time, and I tried not to groan. “Sappirah, have you seen the last list of names I sent by email?”

Brewify Bottling Company was one of the largest corporate accounts, handled by my company, Kamara Travel Management, Nigeria. As such we were on call twenty four seven handling the demands of their travelling staff who did not know what weekends or public holidays were.

“Yes. The flight bookings have been made and sent for approval. I am in contact with our person at Twin Bliss Resort to arrange room and board.” Increasing the volume of my hands-free device, I opened the spreadsheet containing the list. “I am also negotiating the change to the conference room, since the number of guests has increased.”

“Great job Sappirah. As agreed, it’s the prepaid basic plan we’re going for. Individuals will bear any other cost incurred outside the prepaid plan. It’s a three-day event. And if they want to stay back after the conference, they should do it from their own pocket, we’re doing enough already. Please let me know if you have other questions.”

“Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Adekunle.” Inhaling deeply, I relaxed on my revolving chair and began flicking my pen. “Airport transfers have been sorted. I’ll send the confirmation as soon as I receive it.”

When I got promoted to the position of Senior Travel Consultant -Team Lead, the Brewify Bottling account was added to the other corporate accounts I handled. Despite working with other team members—the account was delicate and complicated; the volume of transactions high—I had to be involved in handling the ever-increasing incoming requests.

At first, we handled just the local and international flight requests for the company, but because we had seamlessly handled their transactions since my team took over, the company impressed with our performance had outsourced their other travel product requests such as visas, insurance, tour packages and the likes, to us.

It earned me a merit with the Management as the Best Consultant of the year. Rumours were going round that they would soon promote me to the post of Operations Manager, but the stress of my current position had taken a toll on my health.

A new email popped on my screen, and I leaned forward, clicking on it. It was from the resort’s reservation desk. Ground transportation had been sorted. Hallelujah! I smiled, forwarding the confirmation to him.

“Thank you very much, Sappirah. I love your efficiency and the way you work. You have really made my job easier. I will be expecting your emails.”

“You are welcome, Mr. Adekunle.” I preened under his praise, even though I was tired, strung out, hungry and ready to hit my bed just right behind me. “I just sent the confirmation email.”

I could work from home most of the time. It spared me the physical stress of moving around Lagos’ crowded city. Besides, it’s been over two years since my twin brother, Lishan, and I were advised by my Cardiologist, Dr. Ahmad Saddam, to raise money for my operation and all our attempts have been in vain. Kamara Travel’s HMO plan couldn’t cover the estimated cost of the operation, so it wasn’t hard convincing management to agree to my work from home proposal.

“Oh. Alright. I’ll check it now. Thanks once again.”

“It’s my pleasure. Thank you.” I pressed the red button, giddy to call George so I could get off work.

George was the most competent and closest colleague on my team. He picked my call on the first ring.

“Hello, George.”

“Hello Sappirah. Are you alright?” His voice was deep with concern. “You sound off.”

“I am exhausted.” I smiled, knowing his concern ran deeper. “I need to take a breath before I faint. Mr. Adekunle has been calling like…”

“You need to call it a day. It’s not as if they’re travelling tomorrow.”

I envisioned him shaking his head in disapproval and my smile widened.

“Anyways, how can I assist?”

“Alright daddy bear…” I giggled.

 He laughed.

 “I have sent him the emails, and I put you in copy on all my correspondence. Kindly help me follow up and give me feedback tomorrow morning.” My fingers shook slightly, and I tightened it.

“That is alright. Do take good care of yourself and call if you need any other thing.”

Oh, George. Such a sweetheart.

Though they had met just twice, Lishan concluded George had a crush on me. I didn’t believe him then, but right now, I was suspecting he really did. George always went over and beyond to please me.

“Thank you, G. I appreciate you.” I dropped the call before he could continue and shut down my laptop.

Peeling off my clothes, I crawled into the bathroom. By the time I returned, the room’s temperature had dropped to zero. My teeth chattered as I hurried into my sleep wear. I was about to dive under the blanket when my phone rang , and I groaned in frustration as I walked to my desk .

A smile lit my face my when I saw the caller ID—Barak Adeneye, my fiancé. I snuggled into bed, sighing, then set my phone to loudspeaker.

“Hello Sweetheart. How was your day?” I closed my eyes as a wave of dizziness crashed over me.

“Are you alright, baby? Your voice sounds strained.” His obvious concern made me feel special.

“I am fine. Just need to rest. Been staring at my screen all day.” Opening my eyes, I sighed. “A group of staff from Brewify are going to a resort for their conference… They want everything that comes with it. The hotel, transportation, everything sha… Serious jollification.”

He whistled under his breath, and I smiled.

“It is plenty jollification indeed. I wish I can get a job in such a company. It will be pure bliss for us. We will just hasten up our wedding arrangements. Or can you talk to the coordinator on my behalf, Saph?” His voice was full of such hope and my stomach dropped.

I closed my eyes, rubbing the bridge of my nose.

Barak lost his job as a Teller at Sealed Safe Bank six months after we met due to a merger between Sealed Safe Bank and Metropolis Capital Bank. By the time the merger was finalised, they laid off most of the Sealed Safe Bank staff and he was among those retrenched. All efforts to secure another job had proved to be in vain.

Because I tried my best to get a placement whenever opportunities came up, his joblessness was one issue I hated discussing as it turned him into a completely different person: a bitter one.

“Sweetheart, you know that is not possible. Brewify is my company’s client. If it gets out that I did something like that, it could cost me my job.” I loved Barak endlessly, but his temper scared the hell out of me.

“It is alright, baby. I was just pulling your legs.”

My eyes popped open in surprise, and I glanced at the screen of the phone to be sure I was talking to the right person.

“Hmm… Okay then. What did you do today?” I tried to hide a yawn, but it came out louder than expected.

“Sorry, baby. Do you want me to come over and… Rub your back?” He teased.

If I consented, he would come over. That meant sex and I wasn’t in the mood. I was not in the mood to risk Lishan’s wrath if he found out Barak was in our house.

“Thank you, sweetie. I will be fine.” A slow ache had begun in front of my head.

“I need a favour from you, baby and I will appreciate you a lot if you can do it for me.” His voice dropped to that low, husky drawl.

It used to turn me on and melt my heart in the past but lately, it’s been getting on my nerves. It also churned my stomach because it meant one thing—he needed money, again.

I had been siphoning money from the joint contribution meant for my heart surgery to him each time he came up with a business idea he wanted to explore. He was the man I wanted to marry and build a family with, and I was doing everything within my capacity to support him. If Lishan found out, I would be in big trouble, but he was worth the risk.

“What is it?” I asked in a resigned voice.

“A friend recently introduced me to someone who works at the Chi group of companies. I want to register as one of their distributors. I have the perfect location for a warehouse, and baby, it’s close to Balogun Market! The best part? The former distributor in that area passed away.” He chuckled. “I’ve even introduced myself to a few potential clients and they are happy to do business with me. It is a God-made opportunity, don’t you think so, baby?” He was practically bubbling with excitement.

“Yes, it is.” I tried to infuse excitement in my voice.

It was the same cycle all over again. He would have a business idea, I pumped money into it. He stuck with it for a few months, then he would grow tired of it when the profit didn’t come as fast as he wanted and lost complete interest afterwards. The business would die a natural death.

“Baby? Are you not happy for me?”

He went on before I could respond.

“I need capital. I need to pay for the registration and to buy products. I also need to pay for the warehouse before I lose it. The company will provide a truck, but I have to provide another as well for easy distribution.”

“You are talking about millions of naira here, Barak. How much do you have in your savings?”

“Baby, you know I don’t have up to a million to my name. I am counting on you to sort me out.”

“How do you want me to do that? Where will I get that kind of money? I am just a salary earner, and you know it.” I snapped as I sat up in bed. The ache in my head had turned into heavy throbbing.

“I know all that, baby. You know what I am talking about. Lend me the money for your heart surgery. I promise to return it in tenfold and by then, it would be enough for the surgery, I promise you.”

Rolling my eyes to the ceiling, I prayed for patience. “Just listen to yourself. When was the last time you returned the other loans you took in the past? When?”

“Don’t bring yourself so low, baby. You know those businesses went down the drain and that was why I couldn’t return it!”

I winced as his words hit me. This was what I didn’t like, the back and forth.

He took a calming breath and resumed. “This one is going to thrive and grow, baby… Believe in me for once. I can feel it in my bones… I love you, baby. Don’t you want us to become man and wife as soon as possible?”

I blew out my breath in frustration. He knew my weakness and was using it shamelessly against me. “I will look for the money on one condition. You won’t use protection the next time we make love, and it will be at the height of my ovulation.”

He was silent for so long that my heart sank in disappointment. I needed a baby desperately.

“It is alright. How long will it take you to get the money?”

Yes! I pumped my hand in the air. I wasn’t sure how I would raise the money, but it was the only weapon I had over him now. “I will get back to you tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, baby. I knew I could count on you. I love you so much.”

“I love you too. Good night.” I ended the call and slid into bed, but sleep eluded me. My head was aching, my heart was pounding heavily in my chest, while tears gathered in my eyes and rolled silently down my cheek.

****

THE TROUBLE CAME EARLIER THAN I expected.

Lishan stormed into my room, threw the door open and slapped his palm on the switch. Bright light flooded the room. “Sappirah, are you awake?”

 Squeezing my eyes shut, I tried to bury my head in the blanket. I knew that tone.

“Are you alright?” His voice softening as he stared at me in concern.

“I am fine. What is wrong?” Squinting at him, but I knew. How had he discovered it so fast?

Glaring at me. “What happened to the money in that account?”

“Which account?” Feigning ignorance as I gave him a wide-eyed innocent look, he wasn’t buying it.

With lips tightened into a thin line he narrowed his eyes.—he was furious.

Sighing. “I am sorry.” How did he know?

“You are sorry for what, Saph? You have been wasting money that is not enough for—on that scumbag you called a boyfriend?!”

“Watch your tongue, boy. We are talking about my man here.” My voice didn’t carry as much sting as I wanted because I was getting weak and tired.

“Why, Saph? Why are you doing this to us?” He dropped onto the bed beside me. “This money is not even enough for your surgery. You are the only one I have. I don’t want to lose you.” His voice shook with emotion… He scooped me into his arms, cuddling me.

Snuggling into his arms, I closed my eyes. “I love you, Lish. I am a fool, but not a complete one. I have plans and I know what I’m doing.” My lips curved into a smile.

He pulled back a little, frowning in confusion. “I won’t allow you touch that money again. Have you taken your medication tonight?” He opened my bedside drawer and brought out my box of pills. “Open your palm. I will bring a glass of water for you.”

Dropping a pill in my palm, he left the room and was back in seconds.

“I am sorry, Lish.” My voice slurred as the medication took effect.

“It is alright. Never forget that I love you.”

I felt his lips on my forehead and was smiling as I drifted off.

Lishan

SHE FELL ASLEEP WITHIN SECONDS. My eyes thoughtful as I looked down on her. I had visited the bank to carry out a transaction for my boss when I found out what she had been doing.

Sappirah and I had opened a joint account to enable us to gather funds for her heart surgery. We were both signatories but either of us could withdraw funds without the other person’s permission. It never occurred to me she would be such a fool in love. If I hadn’t run into our account officer, I wouldn’t have known she had been transferring money to that bastard. Well, I had rectified that error -she couldn’t make a withdrawal without my permission.

I scowled. What kind of man took advantage of a woman this way? He didn’t care that she could die at any time.

Sorrow engulfed me. I would do everything in my power to save her, including getting her away from that useless good-for-nothing idiot.

Turning off the light, I pulled the duvet over her body, and left the room.

Three

Asher

IT HAD BEEN ANOTHER TURBULENT night. The dreams were now scarier and peppered with a confusing sense of urgency. What the hell was I expected to do?

I was in a foul mood when I walked into the office that morning. The first person, I came across was Lishan Wilson, my executive assistant at the Lagos branch of Levi Transport and Automobile, which also served as the headquarters. He greeted me with a smile, even though I could sense he was deeply worried and concerned.

My heart hammered in my chest as fear skittered down my spine.

“Good morning Lishan. Bad news?”

“Yes, I am afraid. One of the shuttle buses conveying passengers to Port Harcourt had a head-on collision with an oncoming tanker truck on the Ibadan Expressway this morning. None of the passengers died, just few… wounded. But the bus is a complete write off.” His voice was almost apologetic.

My throat constricted, and my breath seized for a few precious seconds.

No death! No death! Thank goodness. I don’t want that on my conscience.

Walking into the office, I was closely followed by Lishan, who gave me an anxious look when I turned.

“I am fine, Lishan. Stop hovering like a mother hen.” I snapped at him, but there was a smile in my voice. I had to act normal so as not to scare my staff.

Taking a deep breath, he burst into a nervous laugh. “They have taken the injured passengers to the hospital, and I have sent another bus to pick the remaining passengers.”

“Thank you, Lishan, well done.” I patted his back before moving to sit behind my desk. I gestured to a seat, and he sat down.

“What should we do with the destroyed bus? It is becoming a recurrence and it could give our company a bad rep.” He sounded worried.

My gut clenched; I was scared, and the scarier part was I don’t know what to do about it…

“The PR department along with the police report will help with damage limitation. The technical crew will take care of the destroyed vehicle. It is just a property. Human lives matter most.” I was itching badly for a roll of weed.

“You are right. I am sorry for your loss.” He placed his palm solemnly over his chest.

“Thank you, Lishan. I will join you in the workshop soon. I need to get my bearings first.” Exhaling loudly, I rested my head on the chair’s headrest.

“Alright sir.” Lishan got to his feet and left my office.

****

I WAS SAVORING MY THIRD wrap of weed when the air in the office suddenly became chillier. Goosebumps popped out of my skin and the fine hair on my body stood up. The air conditioner was on, but no one had tampered with it. My heart picked up speed, and I opened my eyes.

He was sitting in the seat vacated by Lishan moments ago – a tiny man with an ageless face, clad in white dashiki and shorts. There was a row of white beads around his neck and on one wrist. I could bet my life he was barefooted. He reminded me of the lady in my room, when he spoke; it was with the same accent.

Who are you?

“They called me Baba Ifa and you can call me the same.”

He read my mind! A little smile flitted across his thin lips, and he waved the short Irukere in his hand.

He spoke in Yoruba. Yoruba was not my first language, but I understood it well. The Fabians were from Edo state. We communicated in English and Benin.

“Who are those people who called you Baba Ifa?” My voice dripped with ice, not betraying the tumultuous feelings I had inside. “I am getting sick and tired of these games you people are playing. Do I know you?”

“You may not know me, but I know you. The town of Ajelanwa needs you, and you need them. When you return to your right place, your life will return to normal, prosperity will follow you around and your wealth will grow beyond your wildest dreams.”

“I am not hearing this.” I covered my face with my palms and repeated it in my head. This is just a bad dream. I was so sure of it.

“You are not dreaming, Abioye. Heed my warning before it is too late. Obedience is better than sacrifice. If you don’t, it will get worse.” He looked sad.

“Baba Ifa, or whatever they call you, get out of my office right now.” I snapped at him.

“Of course, I will.” He got to his feet. “You also need to get married soon. Without her, you can’t achieve your ordained destiny.” That mysterious smile flitted around his thin lips again.

It grated on my nerves.

“Oh! You got a wife for me as well?” I smirked.

“It is not my calling to pick your woman for you. Someone has heard part of this conversation and whatever suggestion you are given, heed it. She is your peace.”

I looked towards the door, then back to where he sat, he was gone.

I need to see a psychiatrist. How did I get to the point where I started talking to an apparition?

Getting to my feet, I hurried out of the room. There was no one in my office, too much weed, I was hallucinating.

Lishan

THAT WAS A CLOSE CALL.

Flattening my body against the wall as my boss hurried past my hiding place. My breathing gradually returned to normal.

There was no response when I dialled his number repeatedly, his attention was needed at the workshop. I knew he was still on the premises and decided to get his attention in person, only for me to walk in on the oddest conversation I have ever heard in my life.

What was I thinking? Eavesdropping on my boss? And who was he talking to?

I frowned as the conversation replayed in my head and an idea took root in my mind. I hoped to God I wasn’t running crazy like my boss, but it was a chance worth taking.

Asher

KIRABO CAME HOME EARLIER THAN usual, barging into my study.

“Have you lost your manners again?” I asked, without looking up from the screen.

“Have you lost your mind, Ash?” She screamed at me.

“Yes, I have.” I didn’t have to look at her face to know her jaw was hanging open.

She walked round the desk, grabbed my seat, turning it to face her. I rolled my eyes, then gave her a blank stare.

“You went to see a psychiatrist. She told me.” Her eyes flashed furiously as she glared at me in accusation.

“I should have known your friend wouldn’t keep her mouth shut. I called her to give me a recommendation. What kind of doctor cannot keep confidentiality?” I snarled. “You are not her patient, so she was not obligated to keep it to herself. And she was worried for me. You are my only family for God’s sake! And she knows it.” Staring me down.

If I was in a good mood, I would have admired her courage, but I was in a foul mood and needed her out of my space.

“Women can be so dumb sometimes.” I muttered under my breath.

She slammed her hands down on the arms of the seat. “Stop this bullshit right now, Ash. I won’t take it from you.” Her voice was crisp, she deliberately pushed into my space by bringing her face close to mine.

Pushing her off me and walking out was my best bet, but I heard the hitch in her voice and saw the rapid beating of the pulse in her throat. She was close to tears, using all her will to hold it together.

“Go away, Kira. I just want to be alone.” The fight wrung out of me.

“I wish I could. You are such a blockhead and deserve to be left to rot in the gutter.”

She was still glaring at me, but the sting had left her voice. A single tear escaped from the corner of her eyes, and she used a manicured finger to flick it away.

“Don’t cry, Kira. You know I can’t stand it when you do.” I pulled her onto my lap and buried my head in her throat.

“I swear I am not crying. Something entered my eyes.” She sniffled as she hugged me.

“You could have fooled me, brat.” I chuckled as I kissed her wet cheek and she laughed.

“What made you think you are running crazy, Ash?” Her eyes were full of worry.

“One of my buses that plies the Port Harcourt route was involved in a terrible accident today and it was a complete wreck.” She slid off my lap and I stood up.

Pouring us a stiff drink, I told her about my day. She listened in silence, nursing her drink.

“I take it you had a dream today.” It was a statement, not a question, but I confirmed with a nod.

“You are not crazy. Ash. It may sound weird, but I feel a solution will surface soon.” Her eyes were twinkling when she glanced at me. “Who was the idiot at the door anyway?” Her eyes were twinkling when she glanced at me.

“I don’t know, but I am keeping my fingers crossed. I shouldn’t have gone to that shrink.” I frowned into my drink. “I walked out when his questions started getting on my nerves.” I frowned into my drink.

She burst into laughter and dropped her glass to hold her stomach.

“You are my crazy brother, nah. You should have just called me, and we will talk, then laugh over it. You just went to throw away precious money for nothing.”

“You can say that again. I am going out for dinner. Are you coming or not?” I asked, planning to head to my bedroom to freshen up.

“Have I ever turned down an invitation to eat before? Give me a few minutes to freshen up.”

“I trust you. Despite all the food you have been eating, you remain skinny like a wand.” I dodged a flying pen as I burst into laughter, then ran up the stairs to my bedroom. It felt so good to be normal again—almost normal.

Four

Sappirah

I HAD A BRIEF NAP at mid-day and caught up on the movies I downloaded on Netflix while lounging in the living room. There were messages on my WhatsApp which I ignored, including Barak’s. But when I spied one from Modupe Fajobi, a.k.a Dupe, a smiled spread over my face.

Modupe Fajobi, a reserved but friendly woman was my managing director’s niece, older—a divorcee from an abusive marriage—with no children.

Although we hadn’t met in person, we knew of each other when my boss handed over her travel request to me two years ago. We became instant friends. She was a woman discovering herself and had the money to indulge her whims.

I opened our chat. She had sent me several pictures with the caption, “See the life of a patient aunt… I feel like throttling someone.”

She had just arrived at her London apartment, and it was a mess. Thanks to her nephew who had stayed there during her absence.

Sappirah: He didn’t do the dishes before leaving?

Dupe: I will kill someone’s son with beating. And he was laughing and smiling when I called him earlier, telling me the place had been well taken care of.

I responded with a laughing emoji, even as I burst into laughter.

Sappirah: Please don’t kill someone’s son oh. Jail is real.

We bantered back and forth, which almost left me rolling on the floor with laughter.

There was a new message from Barak. I sighed, my joy dropping like an excited kid who just spilled her ice cream. I hadn’t given him the money as promised because my brother had gone behind me to turn our account into a fixed one.

Drat. The idiot!

I was pissed at Lishan for taking such drastic steps without informing me, but I couldn’t blame him. He was looking out for me. Unfortunately, it had put a strain on my relationship with Barak.

My Boo: Baby… I’m waiting please. I need to get drugs and don’t have enough.

Sappirah: I didn’t have anything yesterday which was why I didn’t respond. But I just checked, and my salary dropped around midnight. The bank is yet to take out my auto-savings. I can send some of that to you.

My Boo: You know I appreciate everything you do for me.

My Boo: For us.

I wired some funds to him, hoping Lishan wouldn’t find out.

My Boo: I love you.

Now we were back on good terms. I needed him to get a job—no matter how small the pay was—before we got married. We were still chatting when Lishan arrived from work.

“Hey, Sapphy. How was your day?” He seemed to be in a great mood tonight as he grinned at me.

“It was fine. How was yours?” Grinning back.

“It was a weird day. Have you taken dinner and your meds?” He lifted my legs and dropped them on the floor, then dropped on the seat beside me.

“No to both questions. I have been watching movies on Netflix and I totally forgot.” I gave him a sheepish smile.

“It seems you are less busy. Brewify doesn’t have your time today?” He teased as he popped to his feet again.

“They didn’t have many requests today. My team handled the little that came in while I supervised.” I frowned after his retreating form. “Where are you going?” He seemed kind of restless to me.

“I want to take a shower then get into the kitchen. My special number is coming up tonight.” He teased as he headed to his room.

Yummy… Lishan was an excellent cook, and he prepared a mean noodle. I learned how to cook proper, edible food when we left the orphanage, but he was a better cook than I was.

He came out few minutes later and headed to the kitchen. I dropped my phone on the couch, following him.

“What was so weird about your day?” I asked as I brought out a chopping board and started cutting the vegetables needed for our feast.

“One of our Port Harcourt buses had a terrible accident. No one died, but the bus was a complete write off.” He relieved me of my task, chopping the rest of the vegetables with fast movements, then turned on the cooker.

“Wow. That is terrible. What’s going on with your company? You have been recording quite a number of losses lately.” Watching as he sautéed the vegetables and broke the noodles into pieces.

He shrugged. “It’s life happening to us. I only hope it doesn’t go beyond this.”

The aroma of his cooking filled the kitchen, and I salivated as I waited impatiently for him to serve us. He didn’t keep me waiting for long. It was delicious as usual.

“Damn! What do you do differently? Your noodles are always more delicious than mine.” I felt like licking my plate and I did.

He burst out laughing.. “You can exaggerate for Africa. I will try something with spaghetti one of these days. It is just that it takes longer to cook.” A frown marred his face.

“Don’t worry. I will pre-boil it for you. That should make it faster.”

“Hmm…” He sat back, placing his fork on his plate.

I could feel a sense of seriousness around him, and it got me worried for an unknown reason.

 “How is Barak?”

“He is fine. What’s wrong with you? Are you alright?” I peered at him.

“I am fine. I am worried about you though, and you know why. Time is running out, and it burdens my heart.” I could read the concern in his eyes, and I sighed.

“I know.” Spreading my hands helplessly. “I honestly don’t know what else we can do right now.”

“Has Barak got a job yet?” There was a snarl in his voice.

My guard went up. “He will get a job. It is a matter of time.” I glared at him. “Don’t be such a judge over your fellow man.”

“Fellow man indeed.” He snorted. “A man who doesn’t care if you live or die. He is taking money that’s meant to save your life and has no qualms about it. Is he using jazz on you? I used to think you were smarter than this, but I am obviously wrong.”

“Stop it right there, Lishan. And get your nose out of my relationship. It is none of your business. I don’t interfere in your relationships.” Standing to my feet, my action made the chair screech.

He did the same, but reached for my hand. I evaded it, picking my plate to drop it in the sink.

“I am sorry, Sapphy. I am truly sorry.” He blocked my way and pulled me into his arms.

I remained stiff in his embrace, then my heart melted, knowing he cared for me. Eventually I returned his hug.

“It’s alright.” I was still angry with him, but I tried to smile at him.

“Thank you.” He went back to the living room, and I followed.

“What is the problem, Lish?” I asked when he started pacing restlessly.

“We need to get money fast.” His voice was pleading as he stopped in front of me. “Sapphy, I think I might have found a way for us to get it.”

“What is it? What do you have in mind? I hope we’re not robbing a bank.”

He gave a startled laugh. “Oh no. It is nothing as dramatic as that. Do you know my boss? Asher Fabian?”

“Who doesn’t know him? An authority in the automobile business; multiple appearances in Forbes, Africa. What about him? Do you want us to beg him for money?” Staring at him puzzled.,

His look turned thoughtful. “It would have been a great idea if he was the giving type. There was a day a woman came to our company to beg for help for her sick daughter. Asher was on the premises that day and the security man sent her to see him in the office. The woman came out, crying. The man was sacked the following day. I was just a few months in his employ then. Afterwards, I learned he disliked people coming to meet him for help and that they had laid few employees off in the past for such conduct.”

“That’s terrible and sad. He must be a wicked man.”

“He is not wicked, just a private man who doesn’t like it when people seem to take him for granted,” he murmured thoughtfully.

“What do you want us to do now? Where does he come in?”

“He needs a wife.” He looked directly at me.

I took an involuntary step backwards. “How did you know that?”

“Well, I will let you know later, but I am sure he desperately needs a wife, and you… We need money. That is where we come in.”

“You are mad. Lishan Wilson…. You are out of your mind.” I hissed as I grabbed my phone and headed for my bedroom.

“Think about it Sappirah. He solves our problem, and it doesn’t mean you have to leave your boyfriend. Women have been juggling more than one man since time immemorial.” He shouted after me like a deranged man.

“I am not hearing this. When you are back to your senses, please let me know.” I walked into my bedroom and slammed the door shut.

****

IT HAS BEEN THREE WEEKS since Lishan brought up his crazy idea. I was so mad at him that I blurted the conversation to Barak. To my amazement, Barak also thought it was a great idea. He hasn’t mentioned it again, but the idiot planted the silly idea in my head. I found myself checking out Asher Fabian’s pictures on the internet during my idle hours, imagining those dark full lips on my body.

I felt guilty for fantasizing after another man and I put the blame squarely where it belonged, at Lishan’s doorstep. He deliberately introduced the idea to my mind and left me to stew in it.

After the monthly management meeting in the head office a week later, I decided to go and check on Barak, give him a surprise visit. It had been a while since we saw each other. He was busy setting up his new business, and I had been busy with work. I missed him desperately.

Excited I booked a taxi I wasn’t expecting him to be home, but I would wait for him. After paying for the ride, I picked my backpack and alighted. I was almost in Barak’s compound when I realised the taxi driver was struggling with his ignition. The car refused to start. I rolled my eyes skyward.

Automobiles could be so unpredictable.

“What is wrong with your car?” I called out.

He smiled nervously. “I don’t know.” He muttered something under his breath, then continued. “It just refuses to come up now.”

“I am sorry to hear that. This area is safe. You can try to push it close to the compound and lock it up. There’s a mechanic just down the road.”

“Thank you, ma.”

He had alighted from the car and was locking up when I walked through the gate of Barak’s compound. Everywhere was quiet except for music coming from the back of the building.

Making my way to the last apartment in the block of flats, I was surprised to find the music was coming from his one-bedroom apartment. I knocked loudly for several seconds, but there was no response. Bringing my extra key out from my bag, I opened the door.

Barak was in his living room, but he was not alone. He was naked, busy ramming his dick into a curvy woman with a well-rounded derriere. Their moans and groans filled the room, but the loud music covered it well.

I stood still and watched, without really seeing. Snapping out of my daze, I moved like a zombie to the stereo and turned it off. The deafening silence registered in their lust filled minds and Barak turned his face towards the door. Lust cleared from his eyes immediately.

Seeing him remove his cum-covered dick from the creamy hole would have been amusing, if my heart wasn’t aching so much. I had to look at my chest to make sure it wasn’t bleeding or something.

“Sappirah, I can explain…” He began as he shielded his dick with his palm, looking around the room, obviously searching for his clothes.

The lady sat on her haunches, and gave me a dirty look. I had no business with her. My business was with the cheating and betraying penis I called a fiancé.

I opened my mouth to speak, but my heart took that moment to seize, and my mind went blank. Clutching my chest, I backed out of the room in slow motion, making sure I did not fall or cry.

“Sappirah? Are you alright? Please wait! Let me help you…”

I heard his frantic voice, but I didn’t answer as I hurried as fast as my legs could carry me.

My hands were shaking as I pulled out my bottle of pills, after several attempts I opened it and dry-swallowed a pill. The tightness in my chest eased a little, but I knew I was still in danger.

Damn it! I will not die because of a whore-man, a community penis.

Tears filled my eyes as I emerged from the building onto the street. The taxi guy was just pulling into the road, and I waved an arm frantically, trying to catch his attention. He saw me in the back-view mirror and reversed in record time. Jumping out, he practically carried me into the car.

“Where are we going? Can you hold on?” Worry creased his face as he got into the driver’s seat.

“Hospital. Athenity Care Cardiology Consultants Hospital in Ikoyi.” I gasped out as I reclined on the back seat.

“Please relax. I’ll take you there.” He drove the car into the road after one final worried glance at me.

My heartbeat was almost normal, and I was already dozing when he pulled up into the parking space of the hospital. Turning off the ignition key he turned to look at me.

“Thank you very much.” My voice came out in a croak, and I coughed to clear it. “How much is my fare?” I dialed my doctor’s number, and he picked on the first ring.

Dr. Ahmad Saddam was a slim, Hausa man in his early fifties, but he could speak Yoruba like a native. He was more than a physician to me—he was a friend and a father-figure. We met four years ago when the government hospital referred me and it was an instant hit for both of us.

“Sappirah, I am just about to leave the office. How are you doing?” His cheerful voice was a balm to my gaping wound.

“I am on the hospital premises. I will see you in a few minutes.”

“Are you alright? Should I send a nurse to bring you in?” Concern coloured his voice instantly.

“No, I will be fine. I can get to your office without falling on my face.” I chuckled weakly and ended the call.

“Are you sure you can make it into the hospital, ma?” The taxi driver asked with concern as he showed me the amount on the ended trip.

“I will be fine. Thanks a lot for your help today.” I glanced at it and made a transfer of double the amount into his account.

“Thank you, ma. God bless you.” He beamed as I got down from the car.

I waved his thanks away as I trod towards the hospital entrance.

Dr. Ahmad Saddam was waiting for me at the entrance. He was smiling, but there was concern in his eyes. Putting his arm around my waist, he took on much of my weight.

“How are you, Pappy?” I teased as we entered his office.

“I should be asking you that question. Lie down, young woman.” He ordered as he pulled on his lab-coat and removed a hand-held transducer from his drawer.

Dropping my bag on a chair, I pulled off my blouse and laid on the examination bed. I knew the procedure and was weary of it. Closing my eyes, I floated away to my dream land. A land that had no pain, heartbreak or betrayal.

How could he? After all I had done? Hot tears rolled out from the corner of my eyes, I sniffled. I wanted to topple over and never return. Be done with it all.

“Sappirah, come back here. Don’t dare leave your brother behind.” Dr. Ahmad’s no-nonsense voice penetrated the fog in my mind and pulled me from the edge.

My eyes slowly opened , as I struggled to bring him into focus. “You want to spank a big girl like me?” I smiled.

“I am glad you have not lost your sense of humour. Who did this to you?” He removed his gloves and dropped them in the bin.

“The snake! He was fucking a woman in his living room. The living room I decorated with my hard-earned money.” My anger came back in a rush as I turned flashing eyes towards him.

He nodded with approval and gave me an indulging smile. “That is more like the Sappirah I know. I don’t like the dead woman who walked into this room hours ago. Dress up and let’s talk.” He went to sit down.

“It’s hours already?” I echoed in disbelief as I buttoned my blouse, looking around for a wall clock.

“Your ECG is high. You went away and nearly gave me a heart attack. I don’t like it at all. Stay away from any idiot that makes you feel like giving up. That is an order, not advice.” He glared at me.

I grinned. “Come and marry me and take care of me, Pappy.” I teased as I sat across from him.

“My religion allows it, Sappirah. I will marry you if I think you mean it.” He paused as he studied my face. “You are not out of the woods yet. I will increase the dose of your medication and advise that you relax your mind. Watch some… All those romantic comedies… Those movies. Watch them and stay away from that boy. He is not good for your health. I mean it.”

“Thank you, Pappy.”

The door swung open and Lishan rushed in, looking frantic. I turned to my doctor with accusing eyes, and he raised an eyebrow.

“You honestly think I will allow you go home on your own?” He chuckled as he typed on the system.

I sighed, resigned. “I should have known both of you will gang up against me.” Turning to Lishan, I glared at him, but he ignored me and faced the doctor.

“Thank you, Dr. Ahmad. I will pick up the medication at the pharmacy.” Lishan stretched out his hand in a handshake and the older man returned it firmly.

“Take her home and make sure she has a good night’s rest.”

“Thank you, sir.” Lishan hurried out of the office.

Thirty minutes later, we were on our way home.

****

IT WAS SATURDAY. THE DELICIOUS aroma of fried rice and chicken roused me from deep sleep, and I followed my nostrils towards the kitchen.

“One woman will be lucky one day. What is cooking, baby? How did you learn to cook fried rice so well?” I sat down at the kitchen table, saliva pooling in my mouth.

“Too many questions. That is a good sign.” Lishan grinned at me. “Are you ready to eat?”

“What a silly question!” I jumped off the kitchen stool and got plates and cutlery. After serving myself, I went to sit in the dining room and he joined me moments later.

“Thank you for a beautiful meal, Lish. I enjoyed it.”

“You are welcome. You look much better this morning. The past few days have been a nightmare.” He confessed wearily.

“I am sorry for scaring you that way. I am not going to die right now.” I grinned at him.

He smiled at me, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Are you not going to work today? How is your handsome boss?” I teased, trying desperately to take his mind off my ill-health.

“No, I took the day off. I want to take you to the movies. It has been a long time since we spent quality time together.” He ignored the latter part of my question.

“Wow. That is great. I will love it.” I turned to look him in the eyes. “How is Asher Fabian?”

“He is fine. Why are you asking?” His voice wary.

“Don’t you think it is the right time you introduced us and see where it goes.” I winked at him, shrugging. “Who knows?”

He winced. “Err… I don’t think that is such a good idea any longer. I thought over it and realised it was a crazy idea.” He paused. “Sappirah, I don’t like that glint in your eyes.”

“I love crazy ideas, Lish.” A plan was forming in my head, and no one could put a stop to it, not even my twin brother but I knew better than to push him. He was just like me. The more you pushed him, the more he dug in his heels.

I got to my feet. “It’s okay if you don’t want me to meet him. We have some new tour packages at work, and we have been given sales targets. I thought it would be great idea to sell some to him. That is if you think so too.”

Taking our plates to the kitchen, I washed and dried them before heading to my room. I had thrown the hook and was almost sure he would bite it. Afterall, he did the same to me.

I wanted Asher Fabian but for a different reason.

Lishan

SAPPIRAH WAS UP TO SOMETHING, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. I regretted presenting that crazy idea to her. Unfortunately, the moment she decided on something, nothing could stop her.

I wasn’t sure we could make money out of my cold boss, but if that was the way he would be useful to us, then so be it. After what that dickhead did to her, I didn’t want to refuse her anything. Killing him would be sweet-revenge, but he wasn’t worth going to jail for. Which would mean leaving my sister at the mercy of this wicked world—all alone.

She came out an hour later, looking exotic in a short sundress with a handbag slung across her body.

“Hey. Do I look good?” She turned round in a circle.

“Of course, you do. You wouldn’t have come out of that room otherwise.”

“Zombie!” She gave me a smack on my back and pulled me to my feet.

“I will talk to my boss about your package and give you feedback.” I checked my wallet as we left the house.

“Thank you. I know I can count on you.” She smiled coyly.

That was fishy—Sappirah didn’t have a shy bone in her body. I hoped I wouldn’t regret my decision.

Five

Asher

I WAS JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS of fire. Even though the fire didn’t burn me, I could feel the searing heat poking through every pore in my body, and it filled me with icy anger. The shadows kept on their relentless pursuit behind me, undeterred by any obstacles.

Bursting into a clearing, I came to a stop—I was done running. It was time to stay and damn the consequences—whatever it was.

I looked around the clearing in curiosity. It was as though a burning had taken place there. Green grasses formed an almost perfect circle around the brown soil and there were huge, flat rocks scattered on the grass.

An unbidden image of a young girl being tied to a rock, followed by men dancing around it took shape in my mind. I was already mixing my occult days with this nightmare. Days of murder, robbery, and mayhem. It overwhelmed and weighed me to the ground. My knees gave out, and I crumbled to the floor. My eyes smarted, my throat burned.

I deserved this. I knew I did, but I had paid. I had paid for my sins! How long would I continue paying?

A howl escaped from my mouth. The earth beneath my feet shook, and I looked up. My blood ran cold when I realised the shadows had surrounded me. Getting to my feet, I stood with my head held high. I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. As the shadows morphed into beings, I felt myself being pulled out of the dream. I really wanted to end this now, but the pull was stronger than my will.

Opening my eyes, I let loose a string of oaths. My phone was ringing, but I refused to pick it. A sense of dread went through me.

Glancing at the bedside clock, it read 6:00 AM.

Walking out of the room I went to check on the most precious person in my life right now. Arriving her door, I raised my hand to knock but realised she was already awake and talking to someone on her phone. I was walking away when the door swung open. She didn’t look too surprised to see me on her doorstep, she looked worried.

“Why aren’t you picking your calls?” Her eyes were round with worry.

Brushing a hand over my face, I asked the inevitable. “What is the news this time around?”

“Your cars at sea…” Her voice wavered, “the ship sank in a storm…” She dissolved into tears.

I pulled her into my arms, hugging her. “Any lives lost?” I asked in a strangled whisper.

“It is a cargo ship. I am sure you already know that, but I do not know the number of lives lost.” She raised a tear-stained face to me. “I am sorry, Ash… So sorry…”

“I am sorry too, baby girl. Life keeps happening. Come on, dress up and prepare for work.” I reached out to open her door and turned her towards it. I needed to be alone to lick my wounds.

More lives lost? Not again.

My stomach churned in distress.

“Don’t shut me out, Ash, please. You don’t deserve this.” She clung to my arms as tears ran unhindered down her face.

“I am not sure about that. See you later, Kira.” I untangled her hand from my arm and turned to walk down to my room. I heard her heavy sigh.

“It was Lishan who called me.”

“I know. He is the only one who has your number just in case.” I flung over my shoulder.

“In case of what, you idiot?” She screamed at me.

I didn’t bother to answer her. I opened my bedroom door and went in, then turned to lock it just in case she got it into her head to come after me.

Turning around I froze when I saw the old man standing by my bed. The hair on my body stood up, and my heart missed a beat as I stared unflinchingly at him. He inclined his head at me in a sort of greeting, but I didn’t reciprocate. Anger filled me and I made no attempt to hide it.

“What games are you playing with my life?” I spat out. “And those innocent lives?” I flung at him.

“I am not the one.” He spread his hands to show his innocence. “It is the gods. They are desperate and want you back. I am here to help you find your way.”

“I don’t give a fuck about the gods, whoever they are.” I snarled at him. “They can go to hell for all I care! I really don’t want to have anything to do with gods who have no regard for human lives.”

A frisson of alarm went down my spine when I felt a tremble beneath my feet and a flash of lightning in my room.

What the fuck! I looked around frantically.

“Be careful, young man. Don’t incur their wrath.”

His crisp voice drew my attention back to him.

“Your ancestors weren’t much different. Bunch of idiots.” He mumbled under his breath, but I heard him.

“Did you just mention my ancestors? What do you know about them?” Just call me crazy. I am talking to ghosts, asking them about my origins. This was really happening.

“Don’t be in haste to judge the gods. You are as vindictive as they are. Your past says it all.” He pinned me with a reproving stare and I struggled not to squirm under it.

“My past is none of your business, old man. Why are you here?”

“No one lost their lives at sea. There were few on the ship and they will find their way home soon.”

A wave of relief swept through me and nearly pulled me to the floor.

“And my goods?” I saw the regret in his eyes as he looked at me but said nothing.

Arrghh… I caved in, sinking into the only sofa in my room. Closing my eyes, grief for my lost property swept through me. I worked honestly for everything I owned today. Why? Why? Why!

“The battle is almost over. Meet your destiny and everything will fall into place.”

“Destiny?” I echoed, opening my eyes to ask him what he meant, but he was gone. I swore ripely and loudly, before I realised my phone was ringing again and Kiara was banging furiously on my door.

Sappirah

“SAPPIRAH, HOW ARE YOU?”

“Hey Dupe, I am fine. How was your trip?” She’d just returned from a trip to Twin Bliss Resort on Gobota Island. Being the first person, I sold the Twin Bliss vacation package to, I was looking forward to her feedback.

“It was terrific. Gosh! We need to see. I have plenty gist for you. Are you free for lunch? Please say yes… Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease.” Her excitement was contagious.

“Give me a minute.” I put my phone on the desk and scrolled through my emails – nothing urgent. I chatted with George via email and he agreed to handle any urgent requests that came in during my absence. “I am free. When do you want to meet and where?”

“You’re an angel. I’ll send over the details in a moment. See you soon, babe.” I was laughing when I got off the phone.

Running into the bathroom I prepared to enjoy our first lunch date.

Dupe was easy to recognise when I walked into the pizza parlour. She was sliding into a booth when I sneaked up and grabbed her bag. Squeaking in fright she looked up, then grabbed me in an exuberant hug.

“Look at you, you are so beautiful in person.” Stepping back and staring at me with admiration.

“You are making me blush.” I grinned and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You look great, too. I love your gown. It fits your figure.” She was a tall, willowy woman and the short flowery gown she wore made her look like a model.

“Thank you, Sapphy.” She grinned as she sat down and dropped her handbag beside her.

I sat opposite her, and she dropped an enormous shopping bag beside me with the Twin Bliss emblem carved on the side. I peeped in and my eyes bulged with surprise.

‘Wow,’ I mumbled.

She waved dismissively at me.

Our pizza arrived with glasses of Chapman.

“So how was your trip?” I sat back with a slice of pizza dripping with cheese and bit in.

“It was interesting. Have you heard about the Marula legend at Twin Bliss resort?” Sitting back and wiping her mouth with a napkin.

“I became aware of  it when I was reading up about the resort, mostly marketing stuff.” I gave a nonchalant shrug.

“Most of that shit is real, Sapphy.” She leaned forward.

I swallowed the piece of pizza in my mouth and stared at her. “Are you for real!”

“Yes girl!” She brushed my arm. “The legend of the Marula is for real.” Sitting back with a dramatic flair, her expression piqued my interest.

“I want to believe you have a reason for saying so. Gist me, please.” I cupped my chin in my palms and gave her my full attention.

“You know I am a divorcee, right?”

I nodded and offered no comment.

“The first thing that caused the drift in my marriage was sex. My husband had a high libido for sex while my own was non-existent. It was a difficult time for us.”

“I am sorry about that.” I began.

She waved it away, showing she wanted to move on with her story.

“There’s this young guy I just started dating. His name is Wole. We used to be friends before I got married. I didn’t know he had feelings for me until my divorce came through and he confessed before he lost me to someone else again, according to him. I told him about my sexual issues, and he promised to work through it with me. Men will tell you anything when they want to get into your pants.” She raised an eyebrow and we both laughed.

“So, you went to Gobota Island together?” I prompted.

“That’s right. He is the adventurous type and loves asking questions. On our second night when we were dining under the sky, I was scared and jumpy because I knew what was coming.” She sighed.

I scowled at her. “Dupe, please don’t put me in suspense.”

“You like aproko.” She laughed heartily and sobered. “He told the server to bring a special drink for us. I can’t remember the name, but I am sure there is Marula in the name. It was sweet, and I drank it like water. Oh my gosh!” She lowered her voice. “My body started misbehaving.”

“Are you talking about Marula beer or the fire water?” I sat back with renewed interest.

“Girl, I don’t know ooo. My nipples started tingling and my honeypot was flooding big time. I am not sure how we got back to our villa. It was the beginning of the best sex of my life.”

“Oga Wole turned you into an insatiable sex freak!”

 We burst into uncontrollable laughter that attracted a few amused glances.

The afternoon passed leisurely as she entertained me with her adventures at Twin Bliss and sex escapades with her lover, till we finished with our snacks. We left the pizza parlour and went to catch a movie before we parted late in the night.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. Her tales kept me awake. The tale of the legendary fruit, Marula, to be specific. I was not a believer in magic, but it had started a fire of hope in my chest.

I was a desperate woman who needed any kind of assistance to make my dream come true. Desperate times require desperate measures.

Turning on my phone, I started browsing the internet. I got a pen and notebook and jotted down notes. If there was any truth to the legend, I was ready to explore it.

Among the goodies that Modupe bought for me was a bottle of Marula oil. It was just a souvenir, but it would set my plan into motion and determine my next plan of action.

Time was fast running out. I had nothing to lose if I tried it and everything to lose if I didn’t.

Lishan

ASHER STEPPED ONTO THE OFFICE floor as I was wrapping up, preparing to leave. He looked tired and stressed out. Even though he was a tough man with a cruel streak, he was a fair boss and had respect for his employees.

I felt like a fraud as I approached him with a smile—but I had promised Sappirah, and I was going to deliver. She may decide to take matters into her own hands if I didn’t act fast. Why did I tell her that silly idea? I hope I don’t lose my job for it.

“Good evening, Asher.”

“How are you, Lishan? What was the feedback from the Port Director?” He asked, walking into his office.

“It was the same story. He was positive they could rescue the goods from the sea but don’t know how long it will take. And I have spoken to our insurance brokers, they are working on it.”

“Of course, they will take their sweet time to investigate and do all their nonsense before we get settled.” He gave a heavy sigh as he rubbed a weary hand over his face, then dropped into his seat.

I gave a sheepish smile. It was time to set my plan into motion—I blurted it out before I developed cold feet. “You need a vacation.”

He gave me a blank look. “What?”

Pulling out a seat I sat across the table from him. Gathering my thoughts, I picked my words carefully. “You need a vacation, Asher.”

“And… You think I should take a vacation in the middle of this crisis?” He scoffed.

“How does staying around prevent whatever crisis is going to happen? Life happens and it will continue to happen whether you are there or not. You employ competent hands to handle problems, and… I can always contact you via phone if the need arises.”

His look turned thoughtful as he sat back, staring at the ceiling.

“I can’t remember the last time you went on a trip solely to rest.”

“The last time I was in China I rested,” he mumbled, but his lips twitched in amusement.

I raised an eyebrow at that, and he laughed, the corner of his eyes crinkling.

“So, where do you have in mind? I believe I am truly overdue for a vacation.”

“I have no idea, but I know someone who is in the best position to suggest places for you. A packaged and affordable one.” I felt as if his senses went on alert, but his expression didn’t change.

“Who is it? If any travel agent scams me, I will hold you responsible.” He was smiling, but I knew he wasn’t joking.

“The travel consultant is my sister, and she is very good at her job.” Sappirah was great at what she does, and I could vouch for her.

“Hmm. If you say so. Tell her to contact me and we will talk.” His voice was dismissive as he glanced at his wristwatch. “There isn’t much I can do here, anyway. Are the engineers done assembling those minivans for the farms?”

“They are almost done. We had a few mechanical issues at the plant, but we sorted it this evening. I am sure they will be done by noon tomorrow.”

“That is good. You are due for a car too, Lishan. Let me know your preference so that I can start removing my money from your salary.” He grinned at the amazement on my face.

“Thank you, sir.” I wanted to prostrate, but he grabbed my hand and scowled.

‘It is a business deal, man. Stop behaving like a novice.” He got to his feet. “Let’s relax with some beer before we head home.”

“Okay, sir. I will… log out and join you in a moment.” I was walking on air as I left his office.

“My name is still Asher, by the way.” He shouted after me and I laughed, giddy with excitement.

Six

Asher

WHY WAS LISHAN TRYING TO introduce his sister to me? Was he trying to hook us up? What’s the back story? A lot had happened in the past few months that had turned me into a suspicious man with a superstitious mind.

“You are just being unnecessarily paranoid. The man was finding a way to ease the stress on your life and his sister happens to be in the best position to assist. Come off your high horse, big brother.” Kiara had chided me as she flaunted out of my room last night.

“Silly female.” I mumbled under my breath as I pulled up in the parking space and reached for my laptop bag.

One of the security men, Felix, opened the driver’s door with a smile, and I stepped out as I slung my bag over my shoulder.

“Good morning, sir.” He said, collecting the car key.

“Morning, Felix. How are you?”

“I am fine, sir.” He bowed his head slightly.

“Please take care of it. You know what to do, right?” I paused to be sure he knew what I meant. There was a car wash slot at the back of the building for newly assembled cars. All I needed him to do was to take the car there, have it washed, and bring it back to the parking lot.

“Yes sir. I know what you mean.”

I turned away and started walking towards the office building.

Lishan was around already. I could count the number of times I didn’t meet him in the office. He was a punctual and responsible employee. His office door was ajar, and I pushed it open without knocking.

“Good morning, Lishan. Are we still having that meeting with the downstream oil and gas company…” My voice trailed off as I stared into the most striking eyes I have ever come across.

She was sitting on the two-seater love seat in Lishan’s office, facing the door. Her laptop on her lap while she was bent over it, typing furiously. Hearing my voice, she looked up and our eyes met in the distance. Taking an involuntary step backwards, she was almost a doppelganger for the ancient-young woman in my dream I couldn’t stop staring at her.

Obviously, a young girl in her late twenties with a promising dimple waiting to show up when she moved those luscious lips. Her steady gaze unnerved me. And at the same time, I felt peace I have never felt since my mother was alive.

Weird. She wasn’t my kind of woman, but the tug of attraction was heavy. It was like looking at my destiny.

Destiny? Are you insane, Ash? Where did that come from?

The thought went through my mind, and I felt disgusted but couldn’t shake the feeling, no matter how much I tried.

She put her laptop on the space beside her and got to her feet in one fluid movement I couldn’t help but admire. Her lips curved, and the dimples winked to life as she smiled at me. It lit her face and sent a lance of lust straight to my loin.

Oh mine! This is trouble with a capital T.

I nearly groaned out loud and beat the impulse to step away from her again as she approached.

“Good morning, sir. You must be Mr. Asher Fabian. I am Sappirah, Lishan’s twin sister.” She held out her hand, and I had no choice but to shake it.

Her handshake was strong, full of confidence. My admiration went up another notch, and I struggled not to scowl.

“Good morning, Miss Sappirah. It is my pleasure to meet you.” Dropping her hand as soon as it was safe to do so. “Please call me Asher. I am not that old.”

She laughed. It was a full belly laugh that did something funny to my stomach and lifted my mood.

“In that case, please call me Sappirah.” She grinned.

“Are you really Lishan’s sister, though? Someone might have dropped you beside him by mistake. You do not look alike.” I observed, only half-joking.

“Nothing is impossible. Unfortunately, we are stuck together.” She nodded solemnly, but her eyes were twinkling in amusement. She had beautiful eyes.

“What a pity.” I glanced at my wristwatch, ready to bolt. “Where is Lishan? We have a meeting in the next one hour.”

“He said he was going to the Service Department.”

Before I could respond to her, the shrill noise of the fire alarm filled the air and my heart picked up speed. Grabbing her arm I propelled her out of her brother’s office. She looked towards her laptop and belongings longingly before she went along with me.

Other members of staff were hurrying out of the premises towards the assembly ground for the head count. Most of them greeted me once they realised I was in their midst, but my mind was rioting.

Was there a real fire outbreak in the building? What was it this time around?

I snagged the arm of an engineer who was rushing past. He was about to shake my hand off when he looked at my face and came to a startling stop.

“Good morning, sir.” Panting, trying to catch his breath.

“What’s happening?”

“One of the new interns walked past with a can of aerosol when welding was going on, on a car part. He tripped and the flammable liquid spread instantly. The car exploded.” We both winced at the image, and I felt my stomach muscles churn.

This is not good at all. I don’t want this, dear God.

My mind was in turmoil, but I had my voice under control when I spoke. “Anyone injured or dead?”

“Yes, those in the immediate vicinity were injured and the first aid team is at work while we try to put out the fire. Lishan told me to call the fire service before it spread further.” Fidgeting with impatience

I waved him away. He bolted.

The name obviously caught Sappirah’s attention. She had been looking around the compound and people with a kind of fascination I couldn’t help but admire. Her hand was still in mine, and I felt it tighten as she turned her attention on me.

“Which Lishan?” Her eyes spoke volumes. She had been listening to our conversation.

“We have only one Lishan in my company,” I responded, dragging her along as I made my way to the Service department.

“My Lishan? My brother? Is he safe? Where is he?” Her fingers tightened around mine as her voice rose in panic.

“I am going to find out right now. But I am sure he will be fine.” The reassurance was for both of us as I put my arm around her shoulder and squeezed gently.

She nodded.

Briskly picking pace and she followed, squeezing my hand from time to time.

If anything happened to that young man I would never forgive myself.

Sappirah

ASHER WAS A KNOCKOUT. NONE of his pictures did him justice, not even the one on the front page of African Forbes. The well-shaped low-cut hairstyle fit his skull perfectly and the well-tended, neat, cropped beard accentuated his full dark lips. Dark lips I couldn’t help but admire in those pictures, looked firm as he stared or scowled. Were they natural or dark from exposure to the sun? Or smoking? What made his dark lips unique was the bright contrasting pink centre when his lips were closed. His skin—a browned caramel shade—called to me like a magnet.

There was an aura of danger around him. He wasn’t a simple man and the little I had read about him spoke of a past marred by dark, dirty secrets the media were eager to unveil. It wasn’t something that should attract a well-bred lady.

Well, I wasn’t one. I made myself into one when it suited me, and it did not surprise me to find myself attracted to the dark part of him. It beckoned to me like light in the dark and I couldn’t help but heed the call.

My plans were half-formed, but now that we had met, I was convinced he was the perfect candidate for my plan. The way he stared at me—as though he’d seen a ghost—should have creeped me out, but it sent thrills of awareness down my spine. I had applied some marula oil before leaving the house and I was hoping it would do the job. If it didn’t, I hadn’t come this far in life to give up, not at this crucial moment of my life.

The fire alarm shrilled, and he grabbed me.

The last time I visited Lishan’s workplace was when he joined the company—about five years ago. It wasn’t as big as it was now. Lishan’s love for electronics and automobiles had grown since he joined the company. He was studying an online degree course in Automobile Engineering.

I looked around the compound again with curiosity and awe. The building was now several floors higher; and the protocols for entering the building were tighter. It was part of the reason I hadn’t visited for a long time. The automobile company had grown, with branches in three major cities.

Asher was talking to a man in a blue lab-coat when they had mentioned Lishan’s name. Turning my full attention on both men I realised my brother was in the building where the fire had started. The cold fingers of panic sneaked down my spine and my heartbeat picked up speed in an erratic manner.

Death was my destiny. Lishan wasn’t supposed to die now. His duty was to uphold our lineage and make sure it didn’t end with us. No, he couldn’t die now. Flashes of memory from our childhood came unbidden to my mind.

I had always been the troublesome one between us. My brother, my hero protected me from many well-deserved punishments, and I got away with a lot—because of my heart condition. He never hesitated to take the fall for whatever crime I committed. One particular memory stood out in my crowded my mind.

****

THE DIRECTOR OF OUR ORPHANAGE, Reverend Michael Idehen, lived in the building behind the orphanage with his family. A fence separated his compound from that of the orphanage home and he usually came in through the pedestrian gate embedded inside the fence.

The gate was always locked, and the key was among the bunch of keys tied around the sash at his waist. His compound was full of lush abundant mango and guava trees. The fence didn’t stop the orphanage kids from trying to get into his compound to climb the trees and steal the fruit. If caught, the punishment was three days without food and locked up in what we kids called ‘the guard room’ overnight. It was a scary experience, but the kids still risked it.

That was before a beehive was discovered on one of the trees and they completely forbade us from the compound. Of course, forbidden fruit always tastes the sweetest. I had cajoled, pleaded, and persuaded Lishan to go with me to Reverend Michael’s compound to get the juicy mangoes, but he refused and begged me not to try it. I called him chicken-head and went ahead and planned the mission with my two recalcitrant friends – Lucasand Sarah.

We sneaked out of our dormitory at mid-night and headed for the Reverend’s house. We got into the compound easily and had even plucked some plump, juicy mangoes when Lucas mistakenly hit the beehive with his stick.

The air went still for a few startling seconds before the buzzing began. I was on the lowest rung of the tree. I wasn’t sure where the wisdom to drop flat on the ground came from, but I did that and escaped the angry bees. The bees stung and chased Lucas and Sarah. They ran screaming into the Reverend’s house. I waited until the coast was clear and crept back to my dormitory.

Lishan was waiting for me at the entrance. I would never forget the despair and impotent anger in his eyes that night. But he sneaked me back into bed and covered me in bed as if I had never left the bed.

My friends shrieks woke up the entire orphanage. He waited for the worst to come, and it did. Of course, Lucas and Sarah spilled the beans, confessing to the furious Reverend. They came for me, but Lishan stood up and took my place.

They flogged Lishan, Lucas, and Sarah publicly until their backs were bloody. Then threw them into the guard room. I wept my heart out as I watched my brother weep and bleed for me. I shared my food with the trio for the three days they were in the ‘dungeon’.

It was an incident I would never forget in my life.

****

LISHAN CAN’T DIE!

He was our hope!

My hand tightened around Asher’s as I followed his lead, muttering prayers under my breath. The last time we went to church was when we were still living at the orphanage . The monotonous Sunday service was like a punishment to us, and we abhorred church after we left, but now, I prayed to a God I didn’t believe in.

Men trooped out of the Service Department, coughing, but none of them looked like Lishan. Dark smoke was coming out of the entrance and my heart knocked erratically in my ribcage with panic.

I ran past Asher, but he pulled me back, looking into my eyes.

“Calm down, Phirah. Nothing will happen to your brother, I promise.” His hands went up and down my arms in soothing motion. “I will go in now and see what is happening.”

No one had ever called me ‘Phirah’ but I was too distressed to comment on it.

I struggled to regulate my breathing. “He is still in there, Asher.” I pointed out the obvious,

He nodded. “He will come out. I am sure he is the one pushing others out of the department and making sure everyone is out safely. He sent someone to inform the Fire Department as well.”

That sounded like my brother—his sense of responsibility could be overwhelming. Arrgggh!

Something exploded in the Service Department causing smoke to belch out through the entrance. I stared at the entrance in a trance, willing my brother to come out of that hellhole alive. I felt a movement beside me and realised it was Asher, heading into the areat. He was on a call with the Fire Department as well. I ran and tackled him from the back.

He stumbled and then turned round to glare at me. “Are you mad? Are you a fire expert? What manner of idiot are you? You want to run into a burning fire for what?”

Tears welled in my eyes, streaming down my face.

“I need to get him out of that place alive. I don’t want his death on my conscience.” His voice was cold and emotionless.

I looked into his eyes and saw despair, barely disguised by anger, but I knew he would reject any empathy or sympathy from me.

“Well, I don’t want your death on my conscience, either. Lishan is a grown man and fully responsible for his actions. Get away from there and let the experts do their job.”

I could hear the faint sound of the fire truck from the distance and could only hope they wouldn’t be too late.

At that moment, a figure covered in soot staggered out of the building’s entrance, gasping for air. It was… Lishan!

We ran forward, pulling him from the building’s vicinity. The roof exploded a few seconds later.

“You are alive, you idiot.” I clung to his neck as I cried, laughing at the same time.

Asher supported his body while he signalled to the paramedics to get him to the hospital.

The Fire Department was around and already at work when we left for the hospital. He was barely conscious on the way to the hospital. I sat beside him, holding his hand, and kept talking to him.

Just as the ambulance pulled up at the hospital’s entrance, he opened his eyes and said with a grimace. “Is your mouth not hurting? You’ve not kept quiet since we left the office.”

Wanting to glare at him I ended up laughing and was still laughing when they wheeled him into the hospital.

“He will be alright, Miss. We just want to make sure he is not suffering from shock and check other hidden ailments.” The young doctor in charge told me with a smile before he turned and walked away.

Closing my eyes, I waited until Lishan’s soot covered image faded from my mind. My body began to tremble, I needed to sit down as I locked my legs in place.

Not now, dear God, not now. I can’t afford to break down now.

Turning in a circle in the waiting room I saw Asher coming towards me his long legs closing the distance between us. I wanted to smile, but my smile must have looked wobbly at the edges because he simply opened his arms, beckoning to me.

“Come here, Phirah.” He mumbled against the side of my head, rocking me from side to side. “It’s been a long morning.”

Nodding, unable to say a word, I locked my arms around him,—I trembled like a leaf in the wind.

He led me to a seat, then placed his arm around my shoulder. “Do you want me to call the doctor?” He asked in concern.

“No, I will be fine. I just need to get this out of my system.” I mumbled, under my breath, then inhaled and exhaled.

It worked.

“I spoke to Dr. Emeka on my way to the hospital and he told me Lishan is doing well.” His voice was conversational.

I was most grateful. “Thank you, Asher.” I leaned away from him with a smile.

“You are welcome.” He studied my face for a few seconds and nodded. “You look much better now. You should get something to eat though.”

“I will as soon as I am sure Lishan is fine.”

Sitting back and closing his eyes, a deep sigh escaped his lips. “God! I need a long vacation.” He muttered under his breath.

His words juggled my memory and reminded me of the reason for my visit.

“Arranging seamless vacations is my job. Tell me where you want to go and I will get you there hassle free, within your budget.” Grinning at him.

“I see.” His hard lips curved up in a semblance of a smile and I imagined it curving round certain parts of my body… It was a struggle reining in my thoughts.

This was the opportunity I needed, and I couldn’t waste it, my gut was telling me it might be the only one I ever had.

Asher

SAPPIRAH WAS A FEISTY YOUNG woman. The way she lit into me when I wanted to act like Jet Li—running into the fire to rescue her brother—increased my respect for her. She was no push-over, and she knew her mind.

Despite the chaos of the day, her presence gave me a sense of calm I couldn’t explain. I wasn’t sure what that meant, and I didn’t want to find out. If it made me a coward, so be it. Unfortunately, it seemed fate had another plan for us.

“Where would you suggest I go?” I watched her through hooded eyes. A twinkling smile lit her eyes as she turned towards me—she was passionate about her job.

“Cape Verde is known for its warm climate throughout most of the year, the mountain scenery is impressive, and the hotels are beautiful.” She began with a smile. “They also have talented musicians and songs that will make your heart sing.”

I grimaced, and she laughed.

“I have been there before, though, for business purposes. You are right, but I don’t want music that will put me to bed.” I waved her suggestion away.

“Have you been to Twin Bliss Resort on Gobota Island?”

This was the first time I’d heard about the island, something in her voice piqued my interest. I gave her my complete attention. “What’s so special about this island?”

“It’s surrounded by water and popular for its special fruit called Marula. According to legend, there is magic on the island, and it works according to your faith.”

“Is that a professional or personal belief?” I raised an eyebrow. Do I really want to get involved with anything that has to do with magic, either real or make-believe?

“Both. I love the mystery and would love to explore it. It is a beautiful island with lots of secrets. The hotels are affordable and none of my clients had any complaints. You will have a great and adventurous time… Exploring the charming town… Catching boat cruises, you can even make that a private boat cruise.”

“Will I learn about the legendary marula fruit or tree?” I murmured as I studied her face. There was something about her that kept drawing me, even though I wanted to run in the opposite direction. There was a tiny black birthmark beside her left eyebrow, and I had the oddest urge to trace it with my finger or tongue.

She squirmed lightly under my steady gaze but didn’t break eye contact. “Yes. That is part of the allure. The change of environment will do you lots of good too.”

“Have you been there? When was the last time you went on a vacation?”

“No, I have not been there.” She paused and seemed to choose her words carefully before she continued. “It will be my first option when I am going on vacation. Thing is… I have always worked from home, so I really don’t need a vacation in the real sense.” She smiled, but for the first time, the smile didn’t light up her eyes.

There was a hidden story somewhere and I wanted to know it.

Was I tripping? I couldn’t remember the last time a woman pulled me like this. “Everyone needs a complete vacation from work once in a while.”

“I agree.”

I sat up, leaning into her space. “I will go on one condition.”

“What is the condition?” She arched an eyebrow.

“Give me a package that will suit both of us and send the cost to my email.”

“What is the condition?” She repeated as she held my gaze, a knowing smile on her lips.

“I will pay for the package if you come on vacation with me.”

The door to the private ward opened and Dr. Emeka came out.

RAPTURE Can be read online on Amazon KU, Bambooks, Pabpub and Selar. Paperbacks are available on Amazon and Pabpub.

https://selar.co/01v499

https://linktr.ee/molanrewaju

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