Merry Christmas, everyone! We shall be publishing our last entry in the “31 days of Christmas” series. This particular short story was written by the highly revered author, Kiru Taye. I had hoped we would be able to go all the way to the 31 days of December, but unfortunately, we have to draw the curtain at this juncture. Let me use this opportunity to appreciate every one who sent in their entries. You made my Christmas. Also, a big thank you to subscribers and readers of HaroldWrites. You are the reason I am here. Thank you for an amazing 2016. Here is cheers to a much more amazing 2017! Can’t wait to see
Once again, have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Don’t forget to thank God for His mercies and grace which brought you this far in 2016. If you are a Christian, I would implore you to not fail to go to church today. A Christmas miracle awaits you!
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Commissioner for Health, James Ebie to the Godson’s Christmas Ball!
The announcer’s voice is loud and eloquent, his words travelling across the grand hall above the guests murmurings. Two of them echo in my head, the reverberations of my world crumbling like shattered glass.
My past is here to haunt me.
James Ebie. My enemy.
Thick bile clogs my throat. Loathing coats my tongue with bitterness. Instinct tells me to walk back to the kitchen. My empty tray needs refilling with drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Still, I twist my neck to get a better view. The ballroom is full, every dignitary of note in Delta State present. The ladies’ glittering jewels compete with their glitzy evening dresses, their tresses of Brazilian hair extensions coifed to perfection, their hands and feet manicured to reflect every colour of the rainbow.
My clothes are much humbler. A white short-sleeved blouse and navy-blue fitted skirt, one size too big. A standard issue for domestic staff in the Inemi-Spiff household. My hair is a wash, twist and go style. Low maintenance. I can’t afford the cost of a weekly stylist or the chemicals to get it looking sleek. The payments for my lecturers’ handouts are higher on my list of needs.
As luck will have it, a gap appears providing a direct vista to my quarry, for at the moment he is the prey and I’m the hunter. The notion bolsters my courage, giving purpose to my actions.
I suck in a deep breath to quell the excited churning of my stomach, the scent of spiced apples and mulled wine mixed with more local spices fills my lungs. The hosts have spared no expense creating a traditional Christmas feast in this old British Consulate building.
Except, there are no log fires or snow. This is Africa after all, and though it hasn’t rained for a few weeks, outside, the air is humidly warm. The quiet hum of the hidden air-conditioners fills the space with cool air.
A rich sound of laughter draws me deeper into the room. There is something about it so vibrant and compelling that has me taking steps I know I shouldn’t. It’s as if the owner of the voice has corded my body with ropes and is pulling me closer to him. He calls to me in a way nothing else ever has.
Standing before Mr and Mrs Inemi-Spiff is a tall man in a black slim-fitting tuxedo. I don’t need to see his face to know that he is the new state commissioner for Health.
My breath snags in my throat as something unnameable unfurls in the depths of my belly.
Even from behind he is breathtaking—shoulder-length black locks brushed back and held together with a black band, square broad shoulders and torso that taper at the hips. The way his silk trousers cling to his backside makes me imagine tight, sinewy muscles beneath the fabric.
Despite the warmth, my body trembles. Lifting my empty hand, I rub my left upper arm covered in goose bumps.
Something makes him turn and he stares straight at me.
I swallow. Hard. The most captivating black eyes I’ve ever seen keep me enthralled, swirling in an abyss of black and gold desire. His gaze is intense as if he sees me, reads me. Knows me.
Never! Shaking my head, I lower my stare, although my cheeks heat with the fury of a gas burner.
I’m not the innocent little girl who adored him once. A long time ago. That was before everything changed. Before his family tore mine to shreds.
Angry, I swivel and walk back to the kitchen, where I should’ve been in the first place. I won’t think of him again.
For the rest of the event, I avoid any table or corner with James in it. The live band plays a mixture of jazz and highlife. The crystal chandeliers glitter immaculately, adding more sparkle to the atmosphere.
A lady in a glamorous black dress totters backwards in stilettos, crashing into me. My tray slips, sending glasses of champagne crashing onto the polished marble floor. For a moment all I can hear is the deafening crack of crystal against stone.
A rush of heat scalds my neck and face with embarrassment. Kneeling down, I pick broken shards onto the aluminium tray. The hem of my skirt is soaked with champagne but I don’t care. My job is on the line and I can’t afford to lose it.
Anyway, if I don’t look up, I won’t see the contemptuous expressions on the faces of the guests.
“Evelyn, are you okay?”
The kind female voice has me looking up. Christy, the new mistress of Godson Villa and my boss, leans over me in her sleeveless fitted ball gown—a green silk Basque top and ruffled Ankara skirt. Her beautiful heart-shaped face is very expressive. She is truly concerned.
“I’m sorry, madam.”
She dismisses my apologetic murmur with a wave.
“Colin, bring a mop and bucket,” she says to another servant before turning back to me. “You need to be careful so you don’t cut yourself.”
“Christy, there you are. Joshua sent me to find you. It’s time for your dance.”
That voice again!
“Hi, James. I’m just trying to sort out this spill so it doesn’t cause any further accidents.”
Colin arrives and starts cleaning up.
“I’m so glad you and Joshua worked things out,” James whispers.
But my ears are attuned to his voice and I strain to capture every word even though I’m eavesdropping.
“So am I.” Christy laughed. “I’m having the best Christmas ever. Now it’s your turn to find the woman of your dreams.”
James’s deep chuckle vibrates through me. At the same time he lowers his gaze to meet mine.
I’m caught again. James’ intense expression alarms me. It is as if he’s found the woman of his dreams.
And it’s me!
Agitated, I grip the wrong end of glass. Drops of crimson coat the tray as pain shoots up my arm.
A warm hand wraps my shoulder. Another reaches for my bloody fingers.
“Let me see that.”
James stoops beside me, his scent—a mixture of cologne and male spice—rumbas around me provocatively.
“Oh no! I told you to be careful.” Christy arms enfold me as she helps me stand.
“Go and dance with your husband before he comes looking for you,” James says, his words oozing with charm. “I’ll take care of her. I’m a doctor.”
He winks at me and grabs a clean napkin to bind the cut.
“Okay. Evelyn, take the rest of the day off.”
“Madam, I can’t. I need the job,” I protest.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get paid. Come and see me tomorrow and I’ll see about assigning you something less strenuous.”
Relieved, I nod and she walks away.
I tug out of James’ hold. “Thank you, but I can take care of this.”
Somehow, walking away from him requires a lot more will power than staying. Halfway to the exit, he catches up with me and blocks my path.
“I wasn’t joking. I’m a qualified surgeon and that cut looks bad. If you don’t treat it properly, you could lose your finger.”
Blood drains from my face, my jaw slackens.
The nightmare of trying to write or type without an index finger flashes through my mind. What will become of my degree programme? I couldn’t drop out so close to the finish line.
He notices my skin’s pallor and smiles with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
“Maybe you won’t lose your finger.” He shrugs. “But it could get infected and God knows what will happen.”
“Okay. You win,” I snap. My hand throbs with acute pain. “You can treat it.”
It’ll be silly to refuse free treatment. If I went to hospital, I will have to pay even before a doctor sees me and I can’t afford such luxury.
Anyway, the cut is James’s fault. His attendance at the ball instigated my injury.
He leads me outside into the warm sunshine. The sweet scent of purple hibiscus mixes with the briny sea breeze. Pink bougainvillea hangs down white walls and trellises.
Anxious knots tighten in my stomach as we arrive at one of the holiday villas tucked in a secluded corner behind hibiscus hedges. I shouldn’t be alone with this man who elicits such jumbled emotions with his mere presence.
Inside is an open plan living area with kitchen units and a breakfast bar in the corner. The walls are off-white, the furniture brown earth tones. In another corner stands a decorated Christmas tree, tinsel and baubles glittering gold with boxes of presents underneath.
“Please, take a seat.” James waves in the direction of the sofas. “I’ll bring out the emergency kit.”
Not long after I sit down, he returns with a physician’s bag and bowl. He proceeds to clean and bandage the wound. His actions are clinical, his kindness evident from his gaze. I know then he’s an excellent doctor.
What I would’ve given to have someone like him treat my mother when she was ill? Tears prickle the back of my eyes and I shut them tight, drawing in a slow, calming breath.
“Here, have these.”
I lift my lashes and behold a welcome sachet of painkillers. Popping two in my mouth, I accept the glass of water he holds out.
He clears up and returns to sit beside me on the sofa. I shift as far away as I can.
“So what do you do?” he asks, his hands braced against his knees, his gaze fixed on me.
“I’m a final year law student.” Though there’s space between us, his warmth wraps me in an encompassing cocoon. I shrug off the intoxicating effect and stand. “Thank you for your help but I have to go.”
The tendril of his gentle plea reaches within me, turning my hard resolve to liquid compliance.
“There’s something about you that reminds me of a girl I used to know long ago.”
My heart stops…and thuds away with the ferocity of jungle drums. I stare at him, mesmerised, the urge to leave dissipating. He isn’t looking at me, but someplace beyond the large windows.
“Your beautiful, intelligent, brown eyes remind me of someone whose mother used to take care of my family home. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just my imagination.”
His shoulders lift and the sigh that leaves his lips is one of resignation.
“You can go. You don’t have to listen to me live through my past.”
Something dark and tortured floats in his eyes. Instantly, I recognise the lost soul within, as tormented as mine.
Without thinking, I reach for him. “Tell me about this girl.”
His black gaze searches my face.
“Her name was Evelyn Dokubo. Her parents used to work for us, her dad as our gateman, her mother as the housekeeper. She was a lot younger than I was, much closer to my sister’s age. They played together sometimes.”
Memories flood back, overwhelming me with powerful emotions. Playing with Jemima, and helping my mother run errands in the large Ebie mansion. Good times, lost forever. I suck in a shuddering breath.
“Something terrible happened. There was a robbery at our house resulting in my sister getting shot.”
I squeeze my eyes shut as I know he’ll see my anguish otherwise. But I can still hear agony in his voice as he continues.
“Her father was implicated as an inside man and sent to jail. The rest of her family were sent away and I never heard from them again.”
He lets out a ragged sigh.
“Now my father is a sick man filled with regrets. He admits he was too harsh for letting a little girl and her mother pay for her father’s crimes. Now he wants to find her and pay restitution. I too have regrets for not changing my father’s mind before it was too late. Now I’ve lost the only woman I ever loved and I’m left half the man I could be. I just wish that wherever she is, she can forgive my family.”
Just hearing him speak the words of remorse is like someone turning on the faucet. I let go of all my bottled-up emotions. Tears flow unrestrained.
“My mother died not long after that. I guess the shame of what my father did and the destitution we faced broke her.” I force the words through a clogged throat.
He stands rock still, staring at me with expectation.
“I don’t want your father’s money but I’ll take your love.”
Kneeling before me, he palms my face. In his eyes, his love and desire burn bright. The young man I loved once stares at me. The man I love now.
“Joshua knew I was searching for you. So when he told me you worked for him, I had to come here.” His Adam’s apple bobs as he paused. “I need you.”
He seals our lips together. Passion erupts. Clothes fly. We’re flesh to flesh in his bed. Our loving is fervent, just the way I always imagined it.
Later, he recovers a box from beneath the tree, and kisses the back of my hand, sending tingles down my spine. “Marry me, my love. Make me whole again.”
“Yes,” I squeal with delight, even more awed as I stare at the sapphire engagement ring.
As we make love again ‘Locked Out Of Paradise’ by Bruno Mars plays on the radio.
Serendipity is an awesome thing. My past will frame my future.
My enemy is now my lover.
Copyright Kiru Taye 2012
Christmas with the Enemy is a short story spin off from Bound to Passion (Bound series #3) by Kiru Taye.
About Kiru Taye
Kiru Taye is the award-winning author of His Treasure and the 2015 Romance Writer of the Year at the Nigerian Writers Awards. She is a founding member of Romance Writers of West Africa and has written 20 romance books so far. Her stories are sensual and steamy. Born in Nigeria, she currently lives in the UK with husband and three children.
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