I have a new feature. I’ll try and showcase a free sexy story every Friday, so you’ve got something to read at the weekend. Because too many books are never enough. 😉
This week we have Keeping Secrets which is a contemporary romance novel and available to download FREE from all the ebooks retailers. Keeping reading for a chapter one excerpt.
“Mrs. Essien, your husband is out of his coma.”
Phone pressed against one ear, the other hand reaching for the remote control, Ebony bolted upright. Her hand shook as she fumbled to mute the television news channel she’d been watching. The discarded controller clanked onto the clear, glass-topped side table.
“D…did I hear you correctly? Felix is awake?” She couldn’t hide the tremor in her voice, nor relax her tight-knuckled grip on the overstuffed arm of the upholstered cream sofa. Disbelief warred with hope, trampling all over her troubled mind.
“Yes, madam,” the nurse said at the other end of the line.
Breath rushed out of her lungs. The living room turned blurry. She lowered her lashes and slumped backwards, the velvet cushions a haven of soft comfort. A tear seeped from the corner of her eye and rolled down her cheek. She didn’t bother to wipe it. This didn’t represent sadness. No. This spelt relief—pure and simple—at prayers answered. At last.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
Eyes flickering open, she took in the bare cream walls of the living room and her gaze landed on the pile of framed wedding photographs in the far corner, overshadowed by a dark wood sculpture of a couple cinched in passion.
Since she’d taken delivery of the photos, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to put them up.
“I’m still here.” She swiped another tear with the back of her hand and cleared her throat.
“How is he? When did he wake up?” The words rushed from her lips, relief now overtaken by excitement.
Soft laughter filtered through the phone. “Take it easy, madam.”
Ebony grimaced. The respectful term for a woman only made her feel ancient; she’d prevented her household employees from using it to address her. But she didn’t tell the nurse on the phone.
“Sorry,” she said instead as she curled her lips with joy for the first time in weeks. She could forgive the woman who delivered such delightful news.
“No need to apologise. I understand, Madam,” the nurse continued in a cheerful voice. “Your husband woke a few minutes ago. The doctor is with him now and he seems okay, considering his condition. There is a request on his note to contact you as soon as he wakes up. This is the reason for my call.”
“Thank you so much, Nurse. I’ll come to the hospital straight away.” Ebony ended the call and sprang to her feet, ready to race to the bedroom to change.
Bad move. Her head swam, making her nauseated by the sudden movement, her stomach heaving like a turbulent sea.
Sinking back into the sofa, she breathed through the queasiness, head tilted slightly forward on her hands.
Oh, Lord. I hope I haven’t picked up a stomach bug.
It’ll teach her to buy street food. Last night, she’d craved Kilishi so much, she had to stop on the way home from hospital to pick up the beef jerky-style food cured and seeped in spices.
The omelette and toast she’d had for breakfast hadn’t stayed down, to the dismay of the housekeeper. The poor girl had looked appalled at the notion she may have poisoned her mistress. Hence the reason Ebony had been sitting in the living room when her phone rang, instead of being already at the hospital, her usual routine.
Perhaps, the stress of the past few weeks finally caught up with her. Long days and even longer nights, staying up worried about Felix.
Her chin dipped into her chest and her shoulders slumped as a wave of guilt hit her.
I should’ve been there when he woke up. He should’ve seen me first. Not the nurse or doctor. Me, his wife. Today of all days, too. Is it fate that he woke on Valentine’s Day?
“Aunty, are you okay?”
Ebony exhaled a sigh and lifted her head. The word ‘aunty’ gave her familial closeness to the addresser, a sense of not being alone in this mansion or dealing with faceless employees, but rather engaging with a member of the family.
Bisi, the housekeeper, stood beside her sofa twisting her hands, her anxiety plastered on her round face, her outfit—a blue check dress, white pinafore, and white sandals—creaseless and stainless, her hair plaited in neat straight cornrows, pulled into a bun at the back. The twenty-year old girl always took pride in her appearance. Living in meant Bisi became part of their household, which made her family.
Ebony curled her lips into a reassuring smile. “I’m more than okay. Stop worrying.”
She stood carefully and this time, the world stayed the right way up.
“Just tell Kola that I’ll be ready to go the hospital in thirty minutes.”
“Yes, Aunty.” The girl nodded. “I’ve packed the bag ready for you. Do you want me to skip class tonight, in case you need me?”
“No. There’s no need for you to miss your lesson.”
Ebony paid for Bisi to study Home Economics at their local college, with emphasis on Cookery after she discovered the girl’s interest in food and flavours. She should tell her Felix woke up. But after waiting so long to get some good news, she wanted confirmation with her own two eyes before announcing it to the rest of the household staff.
“Thank you for packing the bag.”
She patted the housekeeper on the shoulder and headed upstairs, bare feet slapping on cold marble. Crockery tinkled behind her as Bisi cleared up the teacup and saucer from the side table.
On the threshold of the master bedroom, she halted, taking in the space before her. The cream walls and dark wood effect reached here, too. The heavy mahogany frame of the massive bed and headboard has been specially ordered, the design bespoke. She remembered asking for the measurements for the mattress before she ordered luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets.
That had been before disaster struck. Neither one of them had slept in the bed since it arrived.
Blinking back tears, she crossed the floor, her toes curling into the velvety, beige shag-pile rug covering the hard slate.
She walked into the clothes closet and sucked in a sharp breath. Seeing the rows of Felix’s shirts and suits always triggered unhappiness. Today, she should be jumping for joy. Yet, her chest tightened and the back of her throat hurt.
“This isn’t how we planned it, Felix….” Her voice croaked.
She clutched his white shirt, inhaled deeply, and sobbed. Body racking, her legs gave way. She crumpled to the floor, the metal hook from the hanger clattering as it hit hard slate.
Could it be possible to feel intense joy and sadness all at the same time? One minute she wanted to sing her joy with a microphone. The next, she wished she could crawl into a cave a hide.
Worse, she couldn’t shake the boulder of guilt weighing down her body. This was all her fault. She’d doomed her marriage right from the start. How else could she explain that she wore a wedding band, had a marriage certificate to boot, but had never felt the warm arms of her husband around her?
“Aunty, Oga Kola is ready for you.” Bisi’s voice sounded close.
Did I leave the bedroom door open?
Standing, Ebony took one last sniff of Felix’s shirt before tossing it into the laundry basket. Though it had the crisp smell of detergent, it reminded her of the man before the accident.
“I’ll be down in five,” she said and entered the adjoining bathroom, keeping her face averted so the girl couldn’t see her from the entrance. She listened to the receding footsteps as Bisi departed.
At the sink, she stared at her face in the mirror. Her exhaustion showed, twin dark shadows beneath eyes red from lack of sleep and crying.
Cool water from the tap calmed the puffy eyes. A couple of eye drops brightened the whites, and dabs of concealer hid her sullen skin. She applied some lip-gloss and brushed out her hair, letting the tresses hang loose. It helped to cover up her fatigue.
Just like she got good at covering up everything else. She couldn’t reveal that all wasn’t well in paradise.
She slipped on her shoes, grabbed her bag, and headed out to see her husband.
Have you ever loved someone and didn’t even know it?
That’s the dilemma facing Felix Essien when he wakes from a coma to find he is married to the most beautiful and sensual woman he’s ever known. He cannot remember her or their wedding; he who had sworn never to get married or to give his heart to another. Yet, he feels an intense bond with her that he intends to explore fully.
Ebony can’t believe her good fortune when her paper husband wakes not remembering the temporary marriage arrangement with no intimacies he’d proposed, and is now the adoring husband she’s always dreamt of.
She plans to make the most of the passion blossoming between them. However, would he still feel that way when he regains his memory and realises she’s been keeping secrets and their marriage is not what he thinks it is?