Jide was almost as shocked as Florence by the words that had come out unwittingly from his mouth.I swear I didn’t sleep with her.In the secretary’s wide eyes, he recognized the surprise that was probably mirrored in his own. What had pushed him to tell her something that private? A need to justify himself before this woman who was practically a stranger? She was just an ‘ordinary secretary’, for heaven’s sake. “Um, sir… I don’t understand.” Florence stuttered, still as frozen as a cornered mouse.
Her amazement intensified as she noticed Jide also seemed at a loss for words.
What was going on with this man? “I have no idea…”“Forget I said anything.” Jide said brusquely, pushing down his embarrassment and gripping his bag tighter, long legs resuming his exit from the reception lobby of his office floor. Before he reached the corridor that led to the elevator, he paused and turned around as he decided to take the proverbial bull bythe horns and say what actually needed tobe said.If I’m going to continually make a fool of myself in front of this woman, I may as well satisfy my conscience while at it. “I actually wanted to apologise for what you overhead me say to my friends the other night.” He said stiffly. He saw her eyes flick to the fist clenched around the handle of the leather backpack he had slung over one shoulder and he forced his grip to relax. The action also smoothened the lines from his forehead and softened his tone. “Even though I had taken a bit more alcohol than I should have, it was an unfair thing to say and very unfortunate that you overhead it.” Florence struggled to react to this new surprise. Every time Jide opened his mouth, he delivered a new blow to her composure. “I… You don’t need to apologize, sir. I just took it as normal stuff guys say.” Jide raised a brow and his lips twitched in amusement. “Just like the new president of America, it was….”“…locker room talk.”
Florence completed, asmall laugh bubbling from her throat.Jide felt an intense relief at the sound of her laughter. In it lay what he had wanted so badly; understanding and forgiveness. Still, it did not excuse him. “Be that as it may, I still owe you an apology. I hope youwill be more lenient than the American media.”“Let’s just blame it on the alcohol.” Florence smiled back. Her mind screamed at her to stop being so informal with Jide, and she wiped the smile off her face. “There’s nothing to worry about, sir.” Jide gave a small nod, said a final goodbye and walked off, trying not to question why he was feeling better. When he turned the corridor, a small smile on hisface, he bumped into the last person he wanted to see. She was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest, face serious. Despite his regret about what had happened over the weekend, he felt an instant tug of physical awareness when henoticed the way her short black gown hugged the contours of her body. Her usual red lipstick stood out against her fairskin, and the contrast sent subliminal messages that awoke the memory of their passionate embrace. Jide cursed under hisbreath as his mouth went dry at the sight of her. “We need to talk.” Anita said, straighteningup from where she was standing.
“And this time, you’re not running off.”
** **Florence heard Jide walk away, the sound of the sharp clicks of Anita’s high heeled shoes on the marbled floors accompanying him. she had not planned to overhear them, but a part of her was glad she had heard what Anita said.…this time, you’re not running off…While she had no reason to believe that Jide had been lying about sleeping with Anita, the statement proved what he had claimed. Although Florence had met them kissing each other at Anita’s birthday party, it did seem that Jide had broken the embrace before it went too far.
She pushed down a feeling of relief, chiding herself silently. What did it matter if Jide had not slept with Anita? It didn’t change the fact that he was a married man and had been kissing another womanagainst the express vows he had taken at the altar. It was nothing to applaud and frankly, none of her business. He was her boss and nothing more and even though, for some reason, he felt he had to explain himself to her, she had to be careful to discourage the seeming closeness growing between them. It was inappropriate behavior with a superior; it could lead to unwelcome attention from him.And yet, after Jide had left, Florence remained at her desk, twirling her hair on the ends of her finger, eyes distant as she remembered how he had looked at her when he saw the full length of her long hair down past her shoulders. She allowedherself a moment of pride for taking care of her hair as well as she did. It was worth the admiring looks, and Jide’s in particular,left butterflies in her stomach. She could not remember the last time a man had looked at her with something that was not pure lust, but an appreciation of the understated beauty she was often told shehad.Without meaning to, Jide Babalola had struck gold in the recesses of Florence’s heart with his honesty and genuine compliments, and the foundation of his marriage grew even rockier with the unwitting invitation of Florence into his life.
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