IB thanked the nice receptionist in the well-furnished reception before heading up the staircase. She judged an office not from its building but from the reception. The reception area of IKANEX was comforting. The decor was simple and made you feel relaxed. The central air conditioning system ensured that the room stayed cool. The waiting area had sofas arranged in a u-shape and a flat screen television was presently showing a movie on African Magic. There were also business and other magazines on a shelf in the room for those interested.
The receptionist was very friendly and had a nice smile. Ib had noticed a few closed doors downstairs, most likely offices, before she walked up the staircase. Toni – no, Iyke’s office was on the first floor of the building. She was still trying to come to terms with the fact that Iyke was a wealthy man. She had stumbled upon a picture of him in a magazine for outstanding young persons below the age of 40. He had been dressed in an expensive suit but she had recognised him as the man who had held her captive for over a month and made her fall in love with him. He was also the man whose company had taken over her father’s.
She walked past the door with the inscription ‘Board Room’ to the next door with the inscription ‘MD/CEO’. She let herself into the office.
‘Good morning, ma’am,’ Iyke’s secretary, a lady in her late twenties with tiny braids held up by a hair band over her head and dressed in a light blue skirt suit, greeted.
‘Good morning. I’m here to see Mr Ekwueme. I’m Ibitoru Davids.’
‘Please have a seat,’ the lady told Ib while she picked up the intercom.
Ib sat on the long sofa in the secretary’s office crossing her long legs at the ankle. She was dressed in a white camisole worn beneath a red fitted suit and black skirt which ended just three inches above her knees, revealing her long beautiful legs and her feet was encased in four inch black shoes with stiletto heels. She had a long red and golden weave-on neatly brushed and which ended halfway down her back. She placed her black purse on the arm rest as she waited.
Her phone rang and she looked at the screen of her blackberry phone and noted the unknown number that had been calling her for days now. She wasn’t in the mood to take calls from unknown numbers. If whoever it was really needed to talk to her, he or she would have sent a text before now.
‘Please go through that door,’ the secretary told Ib, pointing to the double doors.
Ib rose to her feet and walked to the door. She knocked once and then opened one of the doors into the really cold office. It was a large well-furnished office and the first thing that caught one’s eyes was the large painting on the wall, if one wasn’t distracted by the soft music which filled the room. Although Ibitoru didn’t have a good eye for paintings, she figured it had to be expensive. There were other paintings in the office and award plaques lined up a shelf.
She noted the glass shelves of books. She noted the large mahogany table with the desktop and printer and files. It looked really busy and the high backed black swivel chair before it was unoccupied save for the dark suit flung over it. There were three black swivel chairs in front of the table. A water dispenser was perched on the side and beside a fridge which hummed quietly. On top of the fridge was a box of biscuits. She smiled at the sight of it.
On her left a mini staircase led to a private area with leather seat arranged in a sitting room arrangement. There was a glass table and a large flat screen television currently showing the news on Al Jazeera but the volume was reduced perhaps because of the soft music.
Iyke was seated cross legged on a leather sofa facing the television, his toes curled in his dark socks, his black shoes on the soft light brown and white rug. He was working on his laptop and as she came down the three steps, he placed the laptop on the side table and rose to his feet. A smile lit up his very handsome face. His striped tie was loosened around his neck and the long sleeves of his shirt were folded up revealing muscular arms. He looked very relaxed and nothing like a CEO. She figured this was his personal zone.
‘I can’t believe you lied to me, Toni – Iyke,’ she started without responding to his greeting. ‘You let me think you were poor and what a good laugh you must have had at my expense.’
She had read in the magazine that he had spent several years in Italy before his father had returned to Nigeria and he had been quite busy while there. He had set up a mini business upon returning to Nigeria and that business had grown bigger and better with great directors.
He said nothing, the smile remaining on his face.
‘And you took over my dad’s company knowing that I was heir to it at the time you abducted me.’
‘If I didn’t take over, another company would have done so,’ he told her. ‘There were several bids and my company’s bid was the most attractive.’
‘I would have had a say if I had been there.’
‘Sorry to let you down, darl. Your presence wouldn’t have made a difference.’
When she had heard that the CEO of the company that had taken over her dad’s company was Ikechukwu Ekwueme, she hadn’t linked him to Toni until she saw the business magazine. Without thinking, she had driven down here to confront him. She hadn’t disclosed to anyone that he had abducted her. Besides, who would believe that a man with his kind of money would stoop so low to stage an abduction?
‘So the takeover wasn’t part of your revenge plan?’
‘I didn’t bankrupt your father’s company. He did that all by himself. The situation presented itself and I took advantage of it like a good business man. A take-over is a legal process.’
‘But did it have to be you?’
‘I make no apologies for what I did, babe. It was a good business decision and not illegal.’ He told her. ‘I was about to give you another call when Furo told me you were here. Imagine my surprise.’
‘I refuse to be distracted. I am not happy with you.’ IB told him.
‘Obviously. But you look great.’
He offered her seat.
‘I don’t blame you for being mad at me but look on the bright side: you didn’t relinquish your coveted position to your brother.’
She sat on the couch.
‘Why didn’t you tell me about Damiete?’
‘It wouldn’t have been of any use,’ was his reply as he sat once more. ‘What can I offer you?’
‘Stop trying to distract me.’
‘I don’t want you to accuse me of being a terrible host,’ he laughed, drawing his eyes away from her long legs. As she sat, her skirt moved a little higher giving him a partial glimpse of her thighs. He had to fight the urge to grab her and kiss her silly.
Although she had arrived upset at him, seeing him again made it difficult for her to stay mad at him. Her arms ached to wrap themselves around his neck and let her fingers stroke the curly hair at the nape of his neck.
Blame it on love, she thought, wondering how he felt about her.
‘You should have said something when I kept on talking about daddy’s company.’
‘You thought I was poor and I didn’t think it was necessary to correct you, considering the situation we were in at the time. If I had said anything about taking over your father’s company, you would have known I was wealthy. Besides, after you made that call to your father it would have been stupid of me to let that slip.’
‘I returned to find that someone had taken over my job.’
‘Someone had to do the needful in your absence.’
‘No thanks to you.’ she glared at him.
‘If you had remained then you would have been there under a fresh contract of employment and you may not have retained your position.’ he reminded her.
He was right.
‘I hear you have a new job now.’
‘Yes, but I have to slowly climb up the success ladder.’ she replied reaching into the glass bowl of sweets on the centre table to pick one.
Iyke had considered giving her a place in his company but he had a policy – never to date an employee. She was brilliant and he could utilise her brain. He figured if her father had involved her more in several aspects of the business even as a student, he wouldn’t have been facing the financial crisis that had led to the takeover.
After the talk with his mother and sisters, he had given things a lot of thought. He had missed Ib so much that he had known without a doubt that love was involved. It had not been his intention to fall in love with her, especially with her being Davids’ daughter but over the weeks they had been together, they had developed a slow but sure friendship that had grown into love. This was a woman he had never had sex with or he would have blamed his feelings on good sex. And yet they had been very intimate: cooking together, engaging in manual labour – he almost laughed as he remembered those moments, cautioning himself.
Ib had changed for good under his care and he found himself wanting her in his life for good.
‘I missed you so much,’ he confessed.
‘Seriously. I called you a few times but you weren’t taking my calls.’
‘I didn’t see any message from you.’
‘That’s because I didn’t leave one.’ he responded. ‘I called you just before Furo informed me you were here.’
She had only received one call while here, the unknown number that had been calling her for some time. Could that have been him?
He picked his Microsoft phone from the table and dialled her number. She looked at her screen and noted that it was indeed the unknown number.
‘I was too busy thinking of how many ways to murder you that I didn’t bother to pick a call from an unknown caller.’ she confessed.
‘Perhaps you could channel all that negative energy towards making the man who loves you completely, happy for the rest of your lives,’ he suggested, a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes.’
‘And who might that be?’ she asked, not wanting to believe that he could be referring to himself.
‘I have a lot of ideas on how you can keep me happy for the rest of our lives.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘That I love you and I want us to spend the rest of our lives together – fighting, making up, arguing, kissing, loving, laughing, playing around, generally doing whatever it is that married couples that have lasted really long together do.’
‘You do recall that I am Sotonye Davids’ daughter?’
‘A wise woman told me that I should never judge a daughter by her father. So are you ready to take on a man like me for the rest of your life?’
‘Are you proposing to me?’
‘I may be half Italian but I don’t know about getting down on one knee to make a proposal,’ he laughed. ‘If I had my way, I would most likely just kiss you until you screamed yes or ‘Si!’ ‘Si!’”
‘You’re just not a serious person.’ she laughed.
”You haven’t given me an answer,’ he reminded her.
‘You haven’t asked a question,’ she returned.
He shook his head, chuckling with amusement.
‘Will you marry me, Ibitoru Elizabeth Davids?’
She pretended to give it a thought. ‘Well, it’s not how I imagined my dream proposal would be?’
‘Okay, what’s your dream proposal? And please don’t tell me I have to go on one knee to do it,’ he told her, looking pained even as he headed for his table to get something out of one of the drawers. ‘I lost a bit of weight from missing you and had this trouser reshaped. However, the tailor made it so tight that any attempt to go down on my knees will cause a rip and leave some really sensitive vital parts revealed.’
‘Oh my God!’ she gasped almost choking on her laugh. He actually sounded so serious it took everything within her power not to look at the front of his trousers. His laugh told her he was just pulling her legs and she punched his arm.
‘Ouch!’ he cried out and she was worried that she had punched too hard especially when he winced while rubbing at that arm.
‘Oh my God, I am so sorry…’ she began to apologise before he grabbed her waist with that same arm and pulled her into his embrace.
‘I missed this,’ he said, breathing in the scent of her perfume.
‘I prefer Iyke. I love the way you call it, so romantic.’
‘You’re not serious. How can you joke like that? I actually thought I had hurt you.’
‘I am hurt, babe. Literally. You have neither accepted my proposal nor confessed your undying love to me.’
With him holding her so close, how could she say no to him?
She wrapped her arms around his neck.
‘Ask me again?’
‘And your dream proposal?’
‘Would probably require a gondola ride in the moonlight with a bottle of champagne. And I cannot wait until we get to your maternal home for that. So ask me again.’
‘Will you marry me, Ibitoru Elizabeth Davids, and make my house a home? Be my friend, my companion, my lover, my partner and the mother of my children?’
‘I love you so much Ikechukwu Ekwueme. And it shall give me great pleasure to be your wife.’
When he would have kissed her, she placed a finger on his lips stopping him. ‘You do know that you will be having my father as your father-in-law?’
‘For your sake I’ll be civil with him,’ he told her. ‘And he knows better than to reject my offer for your hand.’
Ib laughed, then asked seriously, ‘And Judith? How would she feel about it?’
‘I have already had a serious discussion with her about you and she has no problem with it just as long as I keep him away from her during the wedding.’
‘You’ve already spoken to her about me!’
‘Yes. I didn’t come up with the idea just now,’ he smiled. ‘Or I wouldn’t have had this handy.’
He extricated himself loosely from her arms and presented a velvet box. Ib gushed. When she came here, she intended to just tell him what she had in mind and leave. She didn’t expect him to confess his love for her let alone propose. He lifted the lid of the little box to reveal a diamond ring. As her eyes widened, he gently pushed the ring on the engagement finger on her left hand. Perfect fit.
Her lips parted but before the words could escape, his lips closed around hers in a long kiss that had her holding onto his shirt.
‘And don’t worry about my family accepting you,’ he murmured against her lips. ‘They are responsible for me coming to my senses about you.’
Ib smiled. ‘Out of curiosity, was that a real or toy gun you used when you abducted me? On second thoughts I don’t think I want to know.’
Iyke laughed. ‘You are yet to acknowledge and pledge your undying love to me.’
‘I love you so so much, my dearest Iyke.’
‘And I love you more!’ he responded, kissing her once more.
Neither of them noticed Furo come into the office and drop a file on his table, smiling as she left the office.
Her boss didn’t entertain females in the office so this one had to be special and would make good office gossip.
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