Alarmed, I stared at him. A part of me knew this feeling of attraction, a part of me denied it.

I think he read my mind, because he stared back… deeper than I did… Fiercer, too.

What went on in his mind? Was it the waves again? Had I been found out?

I felt his firm hand as we shook, quite big, they swallowed mine. Still speechless I gathered courage to give a professional smile. He only continued to stare, his face expressionless, we stopped shaking hands but he still held on to my almost trembling one. I adjusted as if to signal I was getting bored and ready to leave. That was when he  said… “Hope to have a good working relationship with you, don’t let me down. Do have a pleasant day.’’ I started to reply, but suddenly my throat went dry. ‘Just what I needed!‘ I thought to myself rolling my eyes. ”Thank you. Have a pleasant day too.” I said loudly, almost too loudly. Then he gave a grin, I knew that grin… mischievous, almost devilish. As I walked out of his sight, I could still feel his eyes on me; I only prayed I didn’t trip.

The journey down the elevator was long, and claustrophobic. I just wanted to get some air, I wanted to get away. He had sensed my nervousness…how could my feelings have betrayed me? There was I thinking I had it all together. So much for the composed independent woman. He had been formal, as if to maintain that official outlook.

Finally, the elevator swung open and I opted out, heading to where my car was parked. My good old car! At last! Ready to get in and leave the premises… Out! Out! Out! I reached for my bag to get my keys… only that my bag wasn’t on my shoulder. I looked at my hands, only files.

Then it hit me, I left my bag on the chair, in his office.

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Just what I needed! Making a complete fool of myself, now he would think I purposely forgot my bag so I could come back.‘’Bella, very clumsy woman you are!’’ I bit my lips. Like a robot I turned back and started back to the building. Shoulders dropped; I walked to the elevator and started the journey back, only this time, I was not going into air… Not running away, but running into. I got past protocol. He opened at the first tap on the door, my bag in his hand, his eyes on mine, he smiled ‘’11 minutes!’’. I frowned… what did he mean, and why in heaven’s name was he this close? As if to read my mind, he addressed the second question and took a few steps back but not before he gave me my brown Chanel leather bag which had become heavy in my own hands. Was he dismissing me? Well, I wasn’t ready to go just yet… Not until I knew what he meant by 11 minutes!

I stepped forward, “What do you mean by 11 minutes?” He was already walking away when he turned back, walked past me and closed the door.

He came to me looked down and said, “Took you eleven minutes to get back here. I thought it would take you less than that”.

He was so close; I could feel him breathing down. He grinned again, this time fully and the grin broke into a smile. He looked deeply into my eyes and held my gaze for what seemed like forever. Right there I knew he would kiss me. My lips went dry, and I looked back at him. I didn’t smile back. I had frozen.

And so, I closed my eyes and prepared my body not to explode when he eventually kissed me. My stomach turned and I prayed silently that he won’t hear the rumblings, this moment could as well be perfect. My knees were weak, and I almost told my heart to be quiet so he won’t hear the clapping and drumming that was constituting my heartbeat…

The world stood still, I thought of nothing else, only that kiss and waited… waited… waited! Did he always take so long to prepare for a goddamn kiss?

I opened my eyes only to see him pouring himself some juice by the Thermocool fridge by his desk… “Don’t mind my Einstein mind,” he chuckled. “When I saw your bag after you left, I nudged myself to time how long it would take you to get back here. My hunch said 10, but you made it in 11, I am hardly wrong. You must have walked slowly.”

He gulped his juice. I gulped my pride.

I said nothing and stormed out. This time my bag was in my hand…

A week later………

As I watched his lips move, my stomach churned with my gaze still fixed on my 24-inch LG plasma TV which hung on my wall. It displayed the headlines in bold captions that made me realize I must have been very silly.

I threw myself on the floor and let out a laugh. It came from the depths of my belly. I didn’t stop until I’d tasted the salt that came from my own tears. Oh! I must have laughed so hard.

Here he was, on the headline news, getting famous, getting rich… getting married! I blinked.

Missy crawled up to me. My poor cat had stayed back and watched me from a distance, half-licking her paws, half contemplating. She seemed to wonder why she wasn’t invited to the little party in her owner’s world until she decided to crash it. She curled, looked into the eyes of her companion of 10 months and meowed.

“That you could think Jeremiah wasn’t involved with a woman is extremely bold!” I said to myself. I got up and headed for the fridge. Missy would be hungry by now… poor cat. I opened it to be greeted by an almost empty fridge. I needed to visit the stores. Missy wagged her tail and ran to her bowl which she trusted to be full in no time. She lapped up her milk quickly, her white fluffy body glowing in excitement. She always loved breakfast. I watched in amusement, I envied my cat. What I would give to joggle in excitement this way!

I turned off the TV. I cannot control seeing Jeremiah Young at board meetings or conferences, but I can control not seeing his face on my own TV! The young celebrity can go right ahead and enjoy all the attention in the world. I would enjoy the comfort of my own duvet. After all, I had stayed up working all night to get his job done because he needed it in the mail as dawn broke. A Sunday morning! Who does that?

I woke up to the sound of my ring tone. I had hoped the caller would give up at the second ring, however on the third, I reached out for it “This had better be good!!” I said under my breath, frowning until I saw the caller ID. My heart raced, swallowing, I picked up Jeremiah’s call.

He didn’t wait for a hello… “Isabella, my apologies for calling at this time, my fiancee’s family is organizing an engagement party this evening. Word got out to some of my associates who will be attending. I just got informed that an investor will be in attendance. He is looking at the possibility of investing in the SMG Project which you have been actively involved in. I believe he isn’t coming to socialize or congratulate me but to observe the competence of me and my team even under the influence of wine. Anyway, you are my legal counsel and a member of my team in whose opinion I trust. I expect you to be in attendance… I want you to meet with him.”

Is this a dream? Scratch that… is this a nightmare? Jeremiah Young was inviting me to his engagement party! Just a couple of hours ago, my TV informed he just got engaged and now I am asked to attend his engagement party. I opted to pinch myself to confirm if all these was real but Missy did me the honour of licking my nose… finally I found my voice. “Jeremiah, surely we could set up a meeting with this new investor at a more convenient time. This is impromptu and I have plans for this evening. I apologize, I won’t be available to attend”. I prayed my lie wasn’t detected, thankful that he couldn’t hear my heart beating twice as fast. My best friend always said I was a terrible liar. Even right now, I could have sworn I heard Missy clear her throat at my lie. Cats don’t clear their throats, do they?

‘’Mr. Rodriquez isn’t from around here. Rumor has it he will be leaving for his country in three days. A member of my board invited him to my engagement party knowing very well he may not be available in this country in the next two months. He is willing to continue the association when he returns to Spain if he is impressed. It wasn’t easy getting him to honour this invitation as this man is a hard nut to crack. There was too much work done getting him to agree to attend. This is too risky, I need this deal and I won’t lose it simply because you have pllaannsss.”

He dragged the ‘plans’ in sarcasm. Was he mocking me? He continued sardonically “Well attend to your plans, that’s why I have got backup legal counsel, I’d ask one to call you for briefing”. He hung up.

I blinked. Did he just fire me? Is he out of his goddamn mind? Should I not have my life simply because Jeremiah Young owned the world? As if to agree, Missy licked my nose again.

I closed my eyes; I can’t afford to be fired because of baseless ego and pride. Truth be told, Jeremiah was one of my major clients and I was not prepared to lose this opportunity. So if Jeremiah young wants me to come face to face with his fiancée, smile and crack a business deal that would cost millions and fetch me a fair share, why not?

I picked up my phone, dialed his number… He picked at the first ring as if he was waiting by the phone. “I can cancel my plans, if this investor would be at your engagement party tonight, why shouldn’t I?”

He seemed to chuckle, I sensed the triumph in his voice “I thought you’d say that, contact my PA for the invite, be there at seven.” He hung up.

“Proud arrogant bastard,” Missy looked at me disapprovingly.

What?! I said, defensively. Sometimes Missy acted as though she were my accountability partner. I frowned. I had no idea what to wear.

Two hours later found me searching through my closet, throwing everything I had all out. By now, my room was in a state of limbo. Who was I trying to impress by wanting to look nice? Certainly not Jeremiah. Maybe Mr. Rodriquez. I laughed at the thought. I kept digging and thought I heard the door bell. Well, everyone should be in church, shouldn’t they? I immediately felt guilty, shouldn’t I too?

Well, whoever was there should have called; I wasn’t in the mood to entertain even Donald Trump himself. I expected that after a while the person would give up and leave but my unexpected guest continued as if to know I was home. Does his or her life depend on this? I gave up and decided to satisfy my curiosity.

“Curiosity kills the cat, Missy.” I laughed at Missy as she followed my trail. As if to hear me, she frowned and continued to catwalk, her strides more deliberate, making a curve with her tail. Shaking my head, I wondered who was more proud, she or Jeremiah Young.

It was a delivery for me.

After my persistent delivery man had left, I looked into the note enclosed in an envelope. “Isabella, look like this!” it read. I could recognize the handwriting in my dreams. I looked at the package placed on my table and looked at the note again.

Jeremiah Young had sent me an outfit.

And I was about to give him the shocker of his life.

To be continued…

Written By:

Oluwatoyosi Adesuyi

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Mysteries of Bella Episode 2