His eyes looked at the audience directly and a hush fell on the hall, a pin would be heard if it dropped, the audience were riveted and my heart was threatening to fall out. I would lose what I’d just got tonight; Daniel would deny me and I expected nothing less, in fact I wanted him to safe him self.
I held my breath and waited, even though I expected and wanted Daniel to throw me under the bus, it still hurt extremely.
“I’m guilty as charged,” Daniel said into the mic. My heart and face fell in disappointment, yet my heart also sang slightly.
The crowd roared, some people he’d introduced me to were craning their necks to see me and they were telling other people that weren’t aware. I didn’t care, my eyes remained on Daniel, as I silently wondered what the hell he was doing.
The presenter returned the award to a stage assistant to take away, but he motioned for her to stop when Daniel spoke up again, giving me hope.
“But,” he said loudly, causing the audience to reduce their murmur. “Even in a court of law, the jury are always willing to know the motive of a crime, right?” he asked calmly, and some people in the crowd nodded; Susan frowned.
Hope, I thought.
“I’m guilty of not being able to pay my wife’s extravagant bills as of five years ago,” he began slowly. “I’m guilty of refusing to work for my ex mother in law because I wished to preserve my dignity as a man.”
“I’m guilty of receiving ridicule and rejection from several publishing houses because I had to make extra money to give my wife a high standard of living. I’m guilty of getting hit by this man’s car,” Daniel shouted at this point, his anger palpable and pointing at PJ, “…in my despair, because I came home to discover that my wife had absconded with our seven year old child,” the crowd gasped collectively.
I could feel them turn to look at Susan, their earlier opinion changing as rapidly as it had been made.
“I’m guilty of searching for them for the past five years using the police and private detectives. I’m guilty of living in anger, each year that passed because I had no hand in my child’s growth.”
“I’m guilty of hating this woman,” he points at Susan and looks really hateful, “…for stealing five years of my daughter’s love from me.”
The audience is quiet, Susan makes a move to leave the stage, but the presenter blocks her with a stern frown. I’m sobbing uncontrollably at this point and I’m very sure Debbie is doing the same, my Daniel had suffered all that time.
He slowly turned, fully to stare at Susan, who sort to cover her face in shame.
“Susan stands there innocent and I’m guilty of finding love and the hope of creating a normal and happy home for my daughter.”
Did he just say love? I gasped and turned shocked eyes on Debbie, she smiled through her tears and patted my arm, she had already known. Daniel loved me…oh God, this was happening.
“My fiancée Uwana Ukpong has been embarrassed here tonight for having a past,” then his voice turned sarcastic, “Something that obviously nobody here has ever had. She stands guilty of embracing another woman’s daughter as her own, nurturing her with love, care and discipline,” Daniel was holding the crowd spell bound.
“She went to prison, so?” Daniel asked rhetorically. “It didn’t stop her from taking care of my daughter and I like she was our grandmother; disciplining when due and loving the very next moment.”
“I don’t care what all of you think, it is only a man and a wife that know what’s between them. I love you, Wana,” he declared to my utmost shock, he was staring at the general direction of my seat.
I stood up without realizing I was going to, and I watched the love of my life, leave the stage and approach me. He held my gaze and never looked away.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the author of the year, Mr. Daniel Akpan!” the presenter announced and the crowd gave him another standing ovation.
But none of this registered, Daniel had eyes for me alone and I for him alone. I tried to control my tears but I couldn’t, he reached me and engulfed me in a hug that felt like he’d gone without it for years.
I hugged him back, shut my eyes tightly and sobbed on his shoulder. He rubbed my back comfortingly while the applause continued around us.
Since I wouldn’t stop crying, Daniel went a step further in operation mysterious, he pulled me from his shoulder, wiped my tears and proceeded to give me the toe curling, memory wiping kiss…RIGHT THERE!
The crowd went wild, but I was lost. My eyes closed and I returned his kiss; it was Debbie’s hand on my back that held us back.
I pulled away and with all the emotion I was feeling present in my eyes, I said, “I love you so much, Danny. I love you so much, I don’t think I have space in my heart for any thing else,” and I had to scream this over the loud crowd.
But he heard and grinned widely, he put his mouth in my ear and growled, “You better leave some space for our children, love.”
Oh God, the man said the nicest things, the tears came again and the crowd wouldn’t quit clapping.
What happened at the award was an unusual situation.
I don’t know how we even got out and got to the car, but I’m pretty sure PJ and the suited security had herded us, together with Debbie out.
Stacey had ran to her father as we were about to step out, she was crying so heart brokenly and saying how sorry she was and that she didn’t know her mommy was going to do that.
Daniel was yet again faced with a female that wouldn’t quit crying, and we had to leave the rapidly crowding hall, so he grabbed his daughter under the armpit and pulled her to his shoulder, then still had a hand out for me to grab and we were off…totally mysterious and macho!
Being in a hall full of authors had made me realize something; they were always looking out for the next story. Right there in that hall, while I was busy blubbering tears and mucus on Daniel’s shoulder, some author had walked up and demanded that he be the one to write Daniel’s story, because he thought it was intriguing.
And my man had looked at him over my shoulder and said over the noise of the crowd, “I have pen and paper and a laptop, you know,” and I had chuckled and sobbed at his answer, he was so smart and I loved him.
So, when we got home, we both had to talk to Stacey and make her understand that what happened tonight wasn’t her fault. Since we hadn’t stayed for the reception part of the award, I fed the girl with sandwiches and juice and we didn’t leave her until she drifted off.
Daniel grabbed my waist and led me to his room; I was so tired all I could do was plop on the bed with a heavy sigh. I lay back with my feet dangling on the side while my mind went crazy recalling the whole night.
Oh my God, this night actually happened.
And Daniel was in love with me!
My eyes peeled open to stare at him; he’d gotten off his tux, bow tie and was working on pulling off his cuff links. I watched until he had off his shirt, and my heart began racing without prompting.
Finally, his gaze found mine and he smiled and crouched in front of me to pull off the red sandal he’d bought to go with my dress.
There were so many things I needed to tell him and ask him in turn, but right now, he said, “Let me take care of you, Wana…sweet heart,” he gave me a teasing look and I was afraid my stomach would turn to serious liquid and leak down my legs.
Who was this man? He was quite different from the guy I had met at that restaurant the first night, but then he was still the same. This one was more confident and wasn’t afraid to show what he was feeling.
He wasn’t afraid to declare to a crowd of people that he loved me!
“How did you know?” I asked even though I knew the answer.
He didn’t answer; he just pulled me up, turned my back to his front and dragged down my zip. Cool air caressed my back as it was bared, tingles sent goose bumps all over my body as his hand brushed my skin lightly.
“We aren’t talking now,” he said firmly and pulled my dress from my shoulders.
The man was on a mission. Slowly and tenderly, he got me totally undressed while I shivered at the unexpected caresses his hands gave me.
He did it on purpose and before long, my sighs and whispers filled the silence of the room. Oh, I wasn’t doing nothing, I gave back as much as I received and I was glad to hear his grunts and growls of pleasure mingle with mine.
Did I mention he liked to cuddle afterwards? He does and I love it!
We were in the cocoon of warmth when he told me that Debbie and himself had had quite a long conversation about me before we’d met. He said Debbie had just come out and told him about my past.
“I was shocked, no doubt, but then I was also desperate,” he said while his fingers caressed the length of my arm.
My eyes settled on him attentively while he spoke, I didn’t want to miss anything.
“Debbie was confident that you’d changed. She told me that the stealing hadn’t even been for selfish reasons in the first place, it had been to feed the poor kids at the orphanage.”
I took a deep breath to keep the tears away, for I had failed the orphanage and Big mama anyway by getting arrested. And in thinking of my arrest, my mind took me to Alero, if she hadn’t called, it meant that phantom Morgan must have helped her after all. Or maybe she was dead, my morbid mind suggested.
She couldn’t be, I silently refuted, and then pushed my face into Daniel’s throat and remained there, just his scent was enough to calm my distraught mind.
“I was scared about the risk I was taking, but then I needed to have my daughter; I had promised her. And so, when I saw you that first night, yes, you weren’t what I was expecting.”
“For an ex-convict,” I teased.
“For an ex-convict,” he confirmed, giving my bare waist a squeeze with humor in his tone.
“I think I fell in love with you that night,” he shared after a slight pause.
“Uh?” I vocalized and extricated myself from his cuddle to raise my body on my elbow and look into his eyes. So true, so sincere.
“I’m sure I did,” he said, never taking his eyes from mine. His hand curved around the apple of my cheek in a caress that made my eye flutter shut for a second.
“That’s not possible,” I whispered in disbelief.
“Believe it, Wana. I was dead to the world, maybe that’s why I and PJ succeeded in building out business. We were like robots, nothing interested me except to stand tall and to get my daughter back at whatever time that would happen.”
“Women were an abhorrent to me, none, not even the most beautiful could thaw the ice of my heart…but you did.”
Nicest thing ever!
“Your story caught my interest. The sight of you muddled my brain, all I could thing about was getting you naked,” he confessed and I laughed and rolled away, but he rolled after me laughing too. When he caught me, I snagged his eyes and knew that memory wiper was about to commence and it did.
“For real?” I asked breathlessly, my lips slightly swollen from the kiss.
“For real,” he murmured and kissed the corner of my mouth. “For once, I looked forward to conversations with a woman; you excited me, I was alive with you. Too alive, if you ask me, when we were making the agreement, I had to get up and go drink cold water to calm myself…”
My laugh interrupted him and he joined me, I clearly remembered that day.
“And it seemed you loved teasing me. The fake kisses were a torment and you wouldn’t quit doing those unexpectedly. But then, deep down, I really didn’t want you to stop the fake kisses.”
“There weren’t fake kisses,” I confessed to in a whisper.
“There weren’t? So you liked me?” he seemed surprised.
“I did, very much. That why your comment on not being paid to bring up Stacey hurt like crazy.”
“I’m sorry,” he said immediately and I smiled and nodded, he didn’t need to say that, I’d forgotten about it.
“Where were you, really, that night?”
I sighed and told him about Alero, how she’d helped me in prison, and the trouble she was in, even though I didn’t know the full story. But that I had to help her get to someone that would help her.
“Seems serious, maybe we could talk to Slay about her?” he suggested.
And I raised myself on my elbow again, looking excited and hopeful, “You would? That would really be nice, Danny,” I said, getting in his face and rubbing against him like a cat.
“And that’s why I readily suspected you had taken my money,” he said quietly, “I was just disappointed.”
We were back to my story…our story.
“I was just covering for Stacey,” I confessed and told him about his daughter and her first theft. I explained the instinctive stealing just because she’d seen it lying there.
“You sure she won’t do it again?” he looked worried.
“She won’t,” I smiled at him, “She’s just being a teenager and we have to be alert for more habits to break, she has a long way to being twenty,” I pointed out and Daniel sighed wearily.
“Don’t worry, we’ll do it together,” I encouraged, hugging his face to my soft chest. He wound his arm around me and tightened the hold.
He looked up like he’d just recalled something, “Don’t you ever, give me a fake smile again, please.”
“Fake smile…what fake smile?” I frowned.
“The one you did in the kitchen while I apologized for accusing you wrongly. You did it and something in me died, it’s a terrible feeling, Wana. Your smiles are life and excitement, that you faked one was…I don’t know, as though my heart was being squeezed out of breath,” he looked so sincere I had to apologize.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, feeling guilty as I recalled that day.
“Don’t be, it was the reason the scales tipped and I began pursuing you for real. I needed the genuine smile back because my accusations had made you retreat into this bland wall. You began behaving like an outsider, like you didn’t belong. You started taking the situation as a job.”
“And I knew, I knew I had destroyed your gleam. There were no fake kisses, no teasing tones, no mischief and I missed you, even though we were in the same house; I missed you terribly and decided to do something about it.”
“And you got me confused and extremely flustered,” I confessed.
“It was a good look on you,” he teased and chuckled into my neck, kissing it at the same time. I hit him on the shoulder and his body shook with laugh. The vibrations of his mirth melted everything in me, I might soon be a walking liquid person because of this man.
Suddenly his hand came out from under his pillow and he had a box and I knew what the box contained but I still stopped breathing anyway.
“Wana,” he begun solemnly, “I was shocked when you wore a ring at the judge’s office because I’d forgotten that detail, but I was glad you’d worn it. And since, I’ve stared at it and it looks good on your finger and I’ve wanted…,” he paused here like he didn’t know how to continue.
I was choking here from holding my breath, someone tell the man to continue.
“You have to breathe babe,” he said to me suddenly with a gleam of humor in his eyes, and I had no choice but to let out my breath in a whoosh.
He laughed, “I want my ring on you, Wana. I want this forever…are you game?”
Only him would come up with such a proposal, so simple and casual but feeling and extremely romantic. I had no words, so I acted.
I bulldozed him over and sat astride his waist. I could feel a bludgeon coming on in between my legs, my sitting on him had instantly caused that…good to know, I’ll get to that soon.
I bent forward, supporting my weight on my forearms, I looked into his eyes, “I love you, Danny. I’m crazy about you, I’ve been for a while now,” then I kissed him so deeply, he groaned and unconsciously arched the bludgeon upward.
“I take it that is a yes,” he said breathlessly and hurriedly shove the ring on my finger.
“So where were we?” he growl and turned me over. I giggled as I fell on my back and he on top, I welcomed him.
Who would have thought I’d be this happy? I know I didn’t, but chance did happen, and here I am, with my own personal soul mate…my own mystery man!
Kimberly, the investigative journalist, fancied himself in love with Susan. Therefore, he hadn’t been pleased at the embarrassment she’d bore at the award ceremony.
It was simple, though he hadn’t told her of his feelings yet, but her enemies automatically became his enemies. And in that vein, he sort to follow a trail that he’d forgotten about when Susan had found the diary page and her mother had discovered that Wana was an ex-convict.
The trail led to an abandoned building in the outskirt of Uyo, he really wanted to do this investigation himself, and take the results back to Susan, thereby, he’d propose his feelings to her while she was extremely happy with his results.
It was a plan, he thought, a very good plan, and it boosted his confidence to walk into the compound covered in long weed. A compound that he would never go into, if he didn’t fancy himself in love with Susan.
Kimberly was right then reconsidering that this investigation would have been better done in the afternoon, not at night. But he’d been in a hurry to please his Susan, for she suffered as she wallowed in depression.
Every sound made him jump, the house looked haunted by a ghost. What would have brought that Wana here? Why would anybody live here?
He was wondering it when he heard the growl of…he turned, the dog was so dark he could only discern its eyes. Kimberly began stepping backwards, but his back hit a hard, solid, very human wall and he whimpered like a girl.
Then his throat tightened in terror when he heard the click of a gun and the cold steel of it against his head. What had he gotten himself into? Wana was so dangerous she needed to be left alone, if she was frolicking with people that owned guns and lived in haunted houses.
“Please…don’t kill me,” he choked out.
The dog growled in front of him and he unconsciously retreated and pressed back to the gun against his head. He was between the devil and the deep blue sea.
“Make a choice, arsehole, death by the dog or the gun,” the human equally growled behind him.
Despite his fear, Kimberly vaguely wondered if he must die, but he dared not ask such an inflammatory question. He only quaked in his shoes and whimpered, “Please, don’t kill me.”
The human made an impatient sound in his throat and shoved the gun roughly in his neck. “Who the hell are you? Who sent you?”
Watch out for Alero and Morgan’s story, in DUCT 3 (Deep, Dark and Dangerous). Hope you enjoyed Chance Happened.
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