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EPISODE 20

After Jack announced that he was definitely not the person Sewa assumed him to be, the governor’s wife still stared at him with a deep frown on her face, looking as pale as the death.

“Yes mum” Lara said into the silence. “His name is not Pascal, this is Jack Andrews.” She said, staring at Jack vaguely. Even she did not believe what she had just said. She had seen Jack’s reaction to that name earlier; he had literarily turned into a statue at the mention of the name. “I’ll bet he doesn’t even know anyone by that name, do you Jack?” she raised her eyebrow at him.

Jack stared at Lara, his all-seeing eyes giving nothing away. A small smile touched his lips without breaking eye contact with Lara. “Actually, I do” he said and Lara felt her mother stiffen beside her.

“You do?” Sewa gasped out.

Jack’s features sobered a bit. “Yeah. I had a dog with that name three years ago but he is dead now. I was so attached to him, that name always reminds me of him”

Sewa released a shaky breath, trying to put a dry dismissing smile on her face. “Oh… sorry about that” she murmured shakily. “You just… have a striking resemblance with someone I know” she said, still looking at Jack so intently.

Jack on the other hand, stared back at Sewa, with his expression completely guarded and unreadable. The explanation Jack gave seemed plausible to Lara but some part of her still called it to question. Why did he always have an answer to everything? Maybe Bola was right after all, there was something hidden about Jack and Lara knew she couldn’t trust him completely. Everything felt so awkward but the only person who seemed not to notice the awkwardness was the governor who had gone back to his seat at the back of the desk, probably trying to present the intimidating front of a governor before Jack. The tight features of his face showed that he was still brooding over the incidents of the last few minutes; he didn’t seem to be paying attention to the current exchange. Lara swallowed. She wasn’t even sure she had gotten it all sorted out in her own brain yet, she could just imagine what it would be like for her father who was just finding out that his wife had orchestrated his daughter’s kidnap, just to extort money from him. But then, he was the architect of his own downfall.

“I need to do some things” Sewa said, casting a nervous glance in her husband’s direction. “Excuse me” she murmured and hastily left the office, avoiding Jack like a plague. Lara swallowed and took a deep breath. She should be with her mother now and not stuck in this office with two weird men. Her father felt like a total stranger and Jack who was more or less a stranger was becoming a mystery with each passing minute.

Jack turned his head towards the governor with his eyes as cold as a refrigerator’s steam. He inclined his head. “It is an honour to see you this morning sir. I hope I am not intruding”

Tunji Banks smiled tightly. “Of course not. You are welcome here anytime, besides, you would be family soon”

Lara looked at her father sharply but the man was not even looking in her direction, he was smiling softly at Jack. Jack on the other hand was looking as cool as the open lagoon, with his eyes staring listlessly. Jack smiled softly at her father’s declaration and turned to Lara. Lara, on the other hand, glared at him. Why couldn’t he have waited until she went to him? Isn’t that what he wanted? Was he so desperate that he would force out an answer from her?

Jack ignored the glare on her face. “I was wondering if you would love to have breakfast with me” his inquiring smile made Lara’s glare look childishly foolish and it upset the hell out of her.

“Of course she would” the governor interjected, getting another sharp glance from Lara. He raised an eyebrow in warning, subtly telling Lara the danger in refusing Jack.

Lara took a deep breath and raised her eyes back to Jack who still stood several steps away. “I have had breakfast” she answered. And she truly have!

Disappointment flashed through Jack’s features briefly, making Lara regret her statement. She swallowed, not bothering to glance at her father because she needed no one to tell her that he would be stewing in his seat now. “Okay. What about a walk? You have a lovely flower garden” He asked, not relenting.

Lara stared for some minutes before nodding. “Alright, a walk”

*****
*****
Jack walked with Lara by his side, his eyes on the flowers surrounding them. They looked fascinating but his mind wasn’t thinking about flowers at the moment; in fact, his brain was scattered in various directions. On one hand was Lara’s mother who still remained a puzzle to him, the puzzle was so scattered, he was having trouble wrapping his mind around it. On another hand was Lara! She just walked beside him as mute as a fish. He wished he wasn’t concerned but he was. If Lara was set on refusing his proposal, he would look for another way to get back at the governor without using his beloved daughter.

“I thought you said I could take as much time as I need” Lara finally said as they walked on. “I don’t like being pressurized”

“I didn’t come here to get your response”

Lara cast him a sideways glance. “You didn’t?” He heard the vague disappointment in her voice and almost smiled. He would never fully understand the female gender. She seemed upset that he wasn’t keeping to his word but when she found out that he was, she was disappointed.

He met her gaze for what seemed like a stretched second, then he turned his focus back to the path. “Not entirely. When I didn’t get your response after two days, I assumed you already made your decision.” He glanced at her. “Unless you want to disabuse that belief”

Lara swallowed. “So… why did you come” she asked, brushing her fingers against a few flowers.

Jack dipped his hand into his pocket and extracted her wristwatch. “I think this belongs to you”

Lara looked at his hand as they came to a stop. Her eyes widened slightly. “My watch. I didn’t even realize that I didn’t have it”

Jack smiled softly. “Of course” she stretched her hand for it but he took it out of her reach. “Let me” Jack gently opened the band of the watch and moved closer to her.

*****
*****
Lara’s breath caught in her chest as Jack drew closer. The air around them cracked and tensed. He had only been this close on two occasions and both times, she had been breathless. That time he had stormed into her bedroom unannounced and the other time in his apartment, when he had leaned close to kiss her cheek. This was the first time he was standing so close to her in the open and still, she was breathless. His subtle masculine perfume drifted to her nostrils, making her itch with the desire to lean in closer. He raised the watch slowly and placed it around her wrist. His fingers brushed her skin and she gasped audibly as a tiny thrill went up her spine. Their eyes met and held and for a space of time, everything around them melted away. The circumstances bringing them together, the various puzzles hovering over the man named Jack… everything melted away and for the first time, Lara was brain-dead. Jack’s eyes strayed and rested on her lips. Lara’s breath came out forcefully as she anticipated his next move. Suddenly, her lips felt too dry and she became overcome with the great desire to wet them with her tongue.

“There” Jack suddenly said, moving back slightly.

Lara blinked. “Uhn?” what had just happened.

He ran his thumb over the back of her palm tentatively, making Lara lose concentration again. “I have your watch where it belongs” he whispered.

With great effort, Lara looked down to where Jack’s hand was still holding hers and saw that the watch was firmly secure around her wrist. She swallowed. Maybe Teresa was right, this time. She took a deep breath as her decision became sealed. “I have made my decision”

She felt Jack tense slightly as he released her hand. Her hand felt cold without his and she rubbed her palms together to drive away the weird chill.

Jack closed off totally and the tiny vulnerable she had noticed some seconds back vanished, making her wonder if she had imagined it in the first place. Jack did not seem like someone who possessed a vulnerable bone in his body.

“I see…” he said, nonchalantly. “What have you decided?”

Somehow, Jack’s nervous state pleased Lara. What woman would want to be married to a man who was indifferent towards her? She swallowed and prayed for the umpteenth time that she was making the right decision. “I accept your proposal. I will marry you”

Jack’s shoulders sagged visibly as relief washed over him.

Lara laughed for the first time, her voice ringing out in the garden. “You act as though a judge has just ruled in your favour” she said.

Jack smiled back. “It feels that way. You won’t regret the decision, I promise you”

This wasn’t the scenario she had imagined when she envisaged herself accepting a man and Lara did not like it. she was the romantic freek. She had imagined her prospective husband twirling her in the air and kissing her till they were breathless but instead, she stood facing Jack like someone discussing the terms of a sales contract.

“But I have conditions” she declared.

Jack tensed again. “What conditions?”

“We would not get married soon. I need to know you better, I cannot get married to a complete stranger. I know you are offering me my dreams and freedom, everything I have ever wanted but… I want… I want more… I need more than that”

Jack stared at her blankly, a small frown coating his face. “I don’t understand”

Lara looked around, at the different species of flower, trying to gather her will. Finally, she took a deep breath and looked into Jack’s eyes, hoping that Teresa’s lecture was as effective as she had boasted. She took two steps closer, eliminating the space between them. Jack seemed to grow more rigid than ever. Lara’s heart raced wildly in her chest. She raised her slim palm and placed it against Jack’s chest, directly against his heart region.

“I want more” she repeated again, her meaning ringing loud and clear. Initially, Lara was not sure if the thumping against her hand was from his heart because her own heart was beating loud and clear in her chest, she was having trouble hearing other things; but as she looked up at Jack, his face only inches away, she realized that the thumping was coming from his chest. The scent of his cologne was really making her mind reel, or was it the scent of the man himself?

Lara swallowed as Jack’s eyes drifted to her lips for the second time that evening as desire shone bright, darkening his heated gaze. His hand came up to the small of her back, pressing her closer until her chest was pressed flush to his rigid wall-like chest.

“I want love” Lara said. Jack became rigid beneath her hand. Within the space of a nanosecond, the look of desire in his eyes vanished; replaced firmly with a look Lara had seen before. He seemed angry all of a sudden. The change was so sudden, stunning Lara. She pulled away, taking a few steps back. She swallowed, willing away the dryness in her throat. Now, she had seen what the puzzle was all about! He had given up on love. How hadn’t she figured it out in the first place? Compassion filled her soul. What had turned a nice man rigid? If he was willing to give her what she had always wanted, then she would definitely give him something in return, and what better gift could rival the gift of love? “That is my condition” she said, clearing her throat slightly. She wasn’t about to go through the same merry-go-round her parents went through. She knew her friends had asked her to be discreet, and maybe she should have been, secretly trying to win over his heart but after listening to her parents today, she decided against it. “Now, it is your turn to make a decision Jack. Are you willing to give me your love?”

PS: We sincerely apologise for the missed ‘Clueless’ episode yesterday. Episode 5 of Clueless would be up 12pm tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience guys

#MaimedSoul

Thoughts are Real!
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