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Episode 26

For a brief heart-stopping moment, Lara was too startled to respond to Jack’s kiss. This was Jack! She was kissing Jack! Or, more accurately, Jack was kissing her. It was just a chaste touching of lips, causing her legs to tingle in her slippers. She didn’t know how to respond… kiss him back? Even though she had kissed two people before, at that moment, she experienced something akin to a partial amnesia in that department. Jack drew back slightly. Lara’s stunned eyes blinked open to see Jack watching her heatedly, looking deeply into her eyes. His eyes were aflame, blazing like she was his meal after a lifetime of hunger. There was a faint knowing smile on his face, making him look like a wicked predator. A faint tremor went down Lara’s spine, but not of fear. She felt a strange excitement that she found weird.

Jack lowered his head and kissed her upper lip softly. “Soft” he moaned out, brushing his thumb against her lower lip, causing her heart to race even faster. He kissed her lower lip, lingering a bit longer than he did earlier. “Silky soft” his breath washed over her skin, making it hard for her to draw a descent breath. The earth stood still beneath her feet, her fears vanished and all her cares faded out of existence, leaving her with a different kind of excitement – one she had no definition for. Jack’s tongue stole out of his mouth and brushed her lips, causing her to gasp in surprise, and everything changed. Taking advantage of her surprise, Jack deepened the kiss. There was no more playing around or teasing, all there was was this burning fire that could not be quenched. Lara responded passionately, kissing Jack back without the slightest thought of pulling back. Jack stole her ability to think, leaving her helplessly vulnerable to him.

Jack slanted his head, kissing her deeply and sparking the already blazing fire until liquid head started flowing in their blood streams. One of his hands disappeared into her hair while the other ran down the middle of her back slowly, pulling her even closer as he labored to get his breathing under control. Slowly, Lara’s hand stole up Jack’s neck, holding on to him as the kiss became fevered and uncontrollable. Everything became hazy. All her doubts faded, leaving her with an insatiable desire for more. Jack drew her even closer, holding her flush to his heated body as his mouth stole away from hers, kissing a path towards her earlobe.

A loud resounding knock echoed round the room, startling Lara out of the heady state she was in. For a moment, she was so dazed, not knowing what had sent her crashing back to earth, and then the knock came again. She tried to pull away but Jack would not let her, holding her firmly within his vice-like grip. He continued to kiss Lara’s ear like he hadn’t heard the knock, despite her half-hearted struggles until the knock came again, louder this time. He raised his head, breathing heavily, his mouth twisted in anger. He glared at the door.

“Let me go Jack” Lara murmured in agitation, forcing her breathing back to normal as she pushed against his chest slightly. Disappointment filled her heart; if only the knock had come a little later…

Jack turned his glare towards her and Lara wondered if she had ever seen him angrier. Was he angry at her? He seemed different as he stared at her so intently; as if he could not believe she was the person before him. His glare vanished and his grip loosened, allowing her the grace to step back. Without his support, her legs felt like jelly, it took a lot of willpower to keep them up. She looked around the room, feeling light headed. She felt the urge to escape the room; being stuck in one room with Jack didn’t seem like a good idea. “Damn it” Jack muttered under his breath.

The persistent knock came again. “Come in” Jack barked, startling Lara. Oh damn, he was really pissed off.

The door eased open and Bewaji surfaced. Lara felt her own anger building up at that. She should have known! What was it with the girl anyways? Lara had been able to sum up within the three days of her stay that the girl had a crush on Jack, so, if Jack wasn’t interested in her, couldn’t she let him be? Her constant show of jealousy was beginning to grate on Lara’s nerves. Even though Lara knew that it was a good thing they got interrupted before things got out of hand, the fact that Bewaji was the interrupter was more annoying than she could express.

Bewaji stayed at the entrance, rotating her eyes from Jack to Lara, with a bitter suspicious look on her face. Her glare finally settled on Lara, looking at her like she was a thief on a quest to stealing her birthright.

“Yes?” Jack barked at Bewaji. Obviously, the interruption was still having its effects on his nerves.

Bewaji drew her eyes away from Lara to stare at Jack. The poor girl, Lara thought. She looked on the verge of tears, like she had just caught a loved one betraying her.

“Her friends are waiting for her in the sitting room” she murmured, turned instantly and left, closing the door with a slight bang.

“Now, what is with her?” Jack grumbled to himself, raking his fingers over his hair in frustration.

Lara chuckled slightly. “Isn’t it obvious that the girl is in love with you? How many hearts have you unknowingly broken in your lifetime?” she would never understand men! Even when they don’t mean to, they end up breaking hearts.

Jack snorted, walking towards the window, as though he was trying to get as far away from her as possible. “She is not in love, she probably has a crush on me” he murmured, running his fingers through his hair again. “She is still a child, whatever she feels would fade overtime” he said, staring at the window.

Lara stared at his back. Would she ever understand his mood swings? One minute he was kissing her like his life depended on it, and now, he was standing with his back to her like he could not bear to see her face. She did not know why his actions hurt but it did. Her instincts were telling her that the interruption had got him angry, but then, she had a different feeling. Why did she feel that the main reason for his anger was because he had kissed her? Did he regret kissing her? She had just kissed him for the first time! If they were going to get married like he claimed to want, wouldn’t they share this fundamental intimacy?

Lara was confused. She stared at his rigid back wondering if he still remembered that she was there. “I’ll be outside with my friends” she murmured, hoping that he would ask her to stay. As much as she felt that she needed to respect her mother’s demise by being sober, she wanted to be in his arms again. That brief moment in his arms had driven away her pain and left her feeling alive again, something that she hadn’t felt for a long while. But as Jack slowly nodded, dismissing her, she felt something very close to heartbreak. Surely, it was not because she wasn’t in love with him, right?

Swallowing deeply, she walked away, exiting the room hastily. She took deep cleansing breaths as she closed the door of his room. For the second time, she felt it! Jack had closed himself to love. If kissing her was what got him angry, then, maybe there was a different theory. Maybe he was afraid of developing feelings for her! She had seen it! The void emotionless state of his room. Jack seemed to be trying really hard to keep feelings at bay. His bedroom was cold, giving no definition to the kind of person which inhabited it. But then, maybe Jack’s bedroom was not an attempt to ward off affections… maybe he was indeed without affection! Maybe he was every bit as cold and bitter as his room portrayed.

Still… how would she explain his numerous kindnesses towards her? He had stood by her in her time of need, and within these days, Lara had grown affectionate towards him. Apart from her friends and mother who had always been there for her, Lara had never had someone who sacrificed for her. Someone who sought after her happiness even when he had nothing to gain from it. All the men who had come into her life had always wanted one thing or the other from her, being with her for their own personal benefits. But Jack had it all, money, power and name; surely there was nothing she had that he did not have.

Why was he opposed to love? More importantly, why would he be marrying her if he wouldn’t be putting his heart to it? She had felt it then in the garden when she had asked for his love. Something had hurt him… something was responsible for his aversion towards love! She could feel it. Her mind went to the picture in his bedroom. That must be the key! That woman; the one he deemed fit to grace the wall of his void bedroom, she would be the answer to this puzzle, but who was she?

*****
*****
Jack pocketed his fisted arms, feeling the incredible urge to punch sense back to himself. He should never have done this! He should never have kissed Lara! Even though seducing her and gaining her undivided loyalty was the plan before, things have changed!

The plan initially when he began his revenge was to use Lara to destroy the governor, gaining her trust with the promise of a marriage that would never hold. He was going to use her to bring down her father by extorting every information about him from her, and then, when the governor was down to nothing, he would finish him up by completely destroying Lara; doing to her exactly what the governor did to his mother. But now, everything had changed. Sewa had died! Jack extracted his fists from his pockets and ran his fingers through his hair again.

If only she hadn’t died… if only she hadn’t asked him to take care of her child on her deathbed… if only he could disregard her request and go on with his revenge plans… but he couldn’t! He had seen the pain Lara went through! He had seen himself in her. Lara had experienced every bit of the pain he experienced as an infant. She had experienced the betrayals of her father, she had witnessed the brutal death of her mother; she had felt the pain and passed through the rigors of loneliness. How could he go ahead and hurt someone who would very well understand the pain he had passed through many years ago? More importantly, how could he hurt someone who had unknowingly given him the power to feel again?

Jack swallowed. It had been years! Years of blank coldness! Years of feeling nothing but spiteful bitterness and a need for revenge. He had been too young to be plunged into that kind of sorrow. He had watched people die without feeling the slightest compassion. While struggling, he had gone from being a cabin boy to a member of the crew and even to the state of a captain and all along, he had seen his colleagues die painfully, during stormy nights when the risks were high and even when they least expected it. But he had never felt a thing! Every time he stood a risk of becoming attached to someone or something, he ran. Just like he abandoned his only friend; the one person who had stuck to him even when he tried to push him away.

But here, he didn’t even have the grace of running away. Lara sneaked up behind him, going round his quest for revenge to give him something he had unknowingly been searching for. Jack released a shaky breath. How would Lara feel if she found out that she had been his pawn all along? Would she be able to forgive the fact that he had not only been involved in her kidnap but that he had actually engineered it all? What would she do if she were to hear exactly what he would do to her? Would she understand his reasons for revenge if he told her? But more importantly, would he be able to set asides his quest for revenge?

Jack swallowed and walked to the picture frame of his mother hanging on the wall, feeling anxiety eating away at him. Why did it feel like he was betraying his mother? A parent for a child! He had said this to his mother’s corpse years back! Could he break his promise to his mother for Lara? Could he honour the request of Lara’s deceased mother above his promise to his own mother? But then, could he go ahead with his plan, destroying someone as innocent as Lara in the process?

*****
*****
“You sure took a long time to come out” Teresa teased as Lara approached them.

Bola eyed Teresa. “Be more sensitive” she hissed out, standing up to go and hug Lara. “How are you sweetie?”

Lara smiled. The displays of her friends would definitely make every sour day go bright. “I’m fine Bola, don’t worry too much about me, you might develop wrinkles too fast” she answered smiling.

Teresa laughed slightly. “That is what I tell her every time, but then, would she listen to me?”

“You both have been disagreeing too much lately, I don’t know what’s up with you” Lara had been noticing their constant disagreements, and now, it was becoming more puzzling, but then, they were always so prone to arguments, so it was not so strange.

“Don’t mind her” Teresa said, going up to hug Lara. “She has been trying to get me out of her life but it is not working” she winked at Lara. “It is pissing her off”

Bola snorted in an unladylike manner. “Maybe you are one strain in the neck that I cannot straighten” Bola muttered.

Lara smiled and shook her head.

Teresa sobered. “How are you sweetheart? You look so lean, I’ll force-feed you today if I have to” she warned.

Lara extracted herself from Teresa. “I’m okay” she said, feeling exasperated. “I can honestly do without you two babying me all day. Walk with me, there is something i need to you both”

Teresa grinned. “I knew it!” She declared, “you already hit it off with Jack!”

Lara blinked, her cheeks going aflame. Teresa’s accuracy always alarmed her. “Uhmm… No!”

Teresa smiled cynically, giving her a knowing suspicious look. Bola hissed taking Lara’s hand and leading her out. “You are a piece of work” she muttered at Teresa. Despite the fact that Bola and Teresa seemed to be at odds, the love was still visible and probably their disagreements were the glueing bond, sealing up their friendship.

They walked out of the building and Lara led them through the flowery compound, glad to have such beauty around her to drive away the nagging pain she still felt. She was trying to be strong and drive away her pain with enough distractions but it was still there.

“Okay, spill it girl, what is it?” Bola murmured as Teresa pulled in line with them, walking beside Lara.

Lara took a deep breath. “Remember I mentioned something about m…” She paused slightly, swallowing. “…about mum calling Jack someone else – Pascal…”

Teresa’s interest became pricked. She turned her head to Lara as they walked on. “Did you find out anything?”

“Maybe Jack is an imposter” Bola declared, showing her doubts about Jack.

Teresa hissed, rolling her eyes. “Don’t be stupid Bollywood, run a Google search on Jack Andrews; unless that guy in there went to do a plastic surgery to weirdly make him look like Jack, he is Jack Andrews.”

Lara sighed, “Teresa is right! He is Jack Andrews” she said. “But he lied! He knows someone that bears Pascal!”

Teresa stopped altogether, forcing her friends to stop as well. “Hold on! This Pascal is not Jack’s father, is he?”

Lara frowned. “Yes! How do you know that?”

“It is simple logic” she frowned too. “I can’t believe I never thought of it! The only way your mother could have known someone with Jack’s looks several years back is if she knew an older version of Jack” she said, looking thoughtful. “I’ll bet Jack’s father looks exactly the way Jack does now, some twenty-something years ago”

Lara stared at Teresa. “I wonder how you ended up as a bank manager, with such a brain, you should be a psychologist or something”

Teresa snorted.

Bola was frowning at them. “Pascal is Jack’s father? Hold on guys, do you know the evil thought that popped into my head?”

Teresa rolled her eyes. “You have nothing but evil thoughts floating around your head, you need deliverance”

“Shut up and listen. This might seem all Nollywood to you guys but what if Mrs Banks had an affair with Jack’s father?”

“Are you crazy?” Teresa mouthed as Lara went pale. She cast a worried look at Lara. “Do you have any idea what you are insinuating?”

Bola shifted, looking apologetically at Lara. “I’m so sorry, but think about it. You said your mother mentioned that this Pascal was her rock, or something like that. I know my thought line is weird and seems more like a Nollywood movie but what if, through some mistake the governor is not your real father?” Teresa and Lara were now staring at her like she had gone insane, but it was making more sense to Bola by the minute. “Listen! You also said that your mum mentioned something about a tape, that you would be ashamed of her if it got out. The Governor obviously used the tape to threaten her. What if the tape carried the evidence that you are not the Governor’s child? It would explain why the Governor is so selfish, thinking only about himself and giving out his own ‘daughter’ for monetary gains…”

Teresa shook her head and looked away from the two of them, at the flower ahead in a thoughtful mode. “As stupid as this sounds…” She stared back at a frozen Lara. “It is not an impossibility” she said, frowning deeply.

“And what does that make me? Jack’s step sister?” Lara asked as her blood ran cold as ice.

*****
*****

Jack paced his bedroom with his phone against his ear. “Sword! I haven’t heard anything from you” he muttered, his frustration showing in his voice.

“I was going to contact you today sir, I found out something” Sword replied.

“It’s about time” he grated out. “We wouldn’t meet at the usual location again, we might begin to draw attention. I’ll text you an address, meet me there tonight; the usual time.”

Without waiting for a response, he hung up. He needed to know the relationship Sewa had with his father, he had an uncomfortable feeling about it all.

As he raked his brain, trying to determine the most discreet place to meet Sword, a call came in. He stared at his phone and a cynical smile crept up his face. Well, it’s about time!

He picked up and put it against his ear. “Hello Governor”

“Hello Jack, you have been too distant. Why don’t you meet me at the government house? I believe we have a lot to discuss” the Governor said.

Jack smiled bitterly. “Absolutely sir!”

#MaimedSoul

Thoughts are Real!
Follow on Twitter: @nissi_adeola @inspysworld

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