southerncharms2

May 1987

Someone was following her. She could feel it all the way to the hairs standing on her neck and a cold shiver skittered up her spine. Biting her bottom lip, Anaya crossed the pavement and picked up her feet, quickly making her way toward the parking lot.

“Wait! Hold on!” a voice called from behind her.

Anaya swallowed a whimper and quickened her pace, cursing her senses for being right this time. Too bad they weren’t as acute to help her find the blue Honda hidden in the sea of cars.

“Wait a minute, Miss!” the male voice insisted, feet slapping on pavement approaching her.

The urgency in the man’s voice inadvertently caused Anaya to slow down. It was still daytime and she could spot a few stragglers in the lot. Maybe he wouldn’t dare accost her in public. Reluctantly, she turned around to face him and almost swallowed her tongue.

Broad shoulders, lean physique and dark chocolate skin that rivaled those of the men from her home country. She jerked her eyes to the man’s face and wanted to bury herself under the pothole she stood on. His almost-black eyes danced with amusement as he caught her ogling him. Her cheeks warmed but she clenched her jaw, annoyed by the inconvenience of this handsome stranger.

“Yes,” she said in a stern voice.

The lopsided grin was equally devastating. Did the man have any flaws? “I’ve been trying to get your attention since you left the library, Miss.” He held up a thick book and Anaya’s cheeks warmed even more. As she reached for it, he moved the book toward him, his smile widening.

Anaya scowled with her face on fire at being the brunt of his smile. She jerked her hand down to her side and frowned up at the whole 6’3” length of him. “What do you want?”

His brows raised and Anaya swallowed the gasp that almost escaped her throat. Those dark eyes were the most expressive eyes she’d ever seen, as if she could literally see every thought in his mind. Shivering, Anaya took a step back and spun on her heels, continuing her urgent dash to find her car.

“Hey wait!” he said in mid laugh, his long legs striding to close the distance between them. “Okay, okay, here…” he extended the book in front of her, forcing her to stop. Smile tucked in two dimples on either side of his face, the man waited.

With a little hesitance, Anaya slowly reached for the book and tugged at it. Her scowl deepened when he didn’t let go and she glared up at him. “Stop it.”

He chuckled and released the book, watching with a smile as she jerked it from his loosened grasp. “Come out on a date with me.”

Anaya blinked up at him, her lips parting in surprise. “Pardon?”

His devastatingly-bright smile reappeared, eyes dancing. “You heard me but I’ll repeat it again. You, me, a date.” He tilted his head to study her.

She shook her head, pressing the book in front of her like a shield. “You don’t even know me,” she said, completely stunned.

He had the audacity to nod, his smile still in place. “That’s true. What’s your name?”

Anaya wanted to laugh, disbelieving the nerve of this stranger. “Look, I don’t have time for this.”

“Me neither. I have a meeting in an hour. So make it easy for both of us and tell me your name.”

There was his flaw, flashing obnoxiously like bright circus lights. Audacious pride. She almost wanted to lie and walk away. He wouldn’t know the difference anyway. But something about those eyes staring intently at her compelled her otherwise. “Anaya…” she replied, staring up at him.

He glanced down at her mouth before lifting back to her eyes, his smile turning to a full-blown grin that almost rocked her over her heels. She looked down. “Anaya… I like it.”

She swallowed a retort that it didn’t matter whether he liked it or not but her face warmed under his casual praise. Forcing her head up, she stared hard at him. “What’s your name?”

He chuckled softly at her slight bravado. “Tunde. Tunde Halliday.”

Her brow furrowed visibly. “You’re Nigerian.”

Tunde laughed openly, nodding. “That I am.” He cocked his head to the side, his black eyes scanning her face, making her face warm even more so. Thankfully her dark skin could hide her response of his open perusal. “What about you?”

“Fulani.”

His eyes widened, brows lifting up in utter surprise. He let out a short laugh. “Wow… I don’t think I’ve ever met any Fulani before.”

“Well, now you have,” she answered curtly, gripping the ends of the book. Something about that laugh warned her to step away and run. Her feet wouldn’t move.

“What subgroup?”

Her scowl deepened. Again her senses had proved right. “Goodbye Tunde.” She turned on her heels and walked away. Rather, fled as fast as she could down the aisle, thankfully spotting her dusty blue car at the end of the row.

Tunde watched the young woman scuttle away, her long braids flying behind her as she did. He smiled to himself and turned toward the entrance of the library. “Anaya…” he said under his breath, pushing open the door to be greeted by the cool air wafting from the open vents.

Osike?” Silas Halliday said, looking up from the polish sponge in his hand. “Sorry, repeat what you just said. I obviously heard you wrong.” He frowned at his older brother who leaned against the garage door.

Tunde grinned, folding his arms across his chest. “You heard me. I’ve found the woman I’m going to marry.”

Silas eyed him warily. “What’s her name?”

“Anaya. I’m yet to find out her last name.” Tunde nodded, taking a note of his next step of action. “She’s Fulani, although I’m yet to find out what part, or where she’s from.”

“Still you’re going to marry her…” Silas droned, narrowing his eyes at him.

Tunde shrugged his shoulders. “Once I get her to stop running away, yeah.”

“Have you at least asked her out on a date?”

“Tried to before she ran off. When I see her next at the library, I’ll ask again.” He pushed off the garage door and approached Silas and the motorcycle he was dutifully polishing. Tracing a hand on the gleaming metal dashboard, he smirked before looking at the man, staring at him curiously. “What?”

Silas shook his head. “You’re certifiably intense.”

Tunde laughed. “You say that every day.”

“I mean it. Who sees a girl one time and decides then and there to marry her?” He scoffed aloud. “I can’t even get Felicia to sit in one place and we’ve been together for almost three years.”

“Oh right. How is she? I don’t see her around.”

Silas raised a brow at him. “You’ve never seen her around. She’s too busy with her residency and stuff.” He snorted under his breath, returning the polish sponge over the leather seat of his bike.

“What was that?” Tunde frowned at Silas whose head was lowered to the motorcycle.

“She broke up with me.”

Tunde merely blinked at his younger brother. “Why?”

Silas shrugged his shoulders. “What else is new? She thinks I’m not a serious individual.”

Tunde shook his head, moving around the bike to the work bench where Silas’ tools were spread out meticulously in rows and columns. “Serious about what? Your mechanic business or her?” He turned back to look at his brother.

“Her.” Silas rolled his eyes. “And Mom isn’t making it easier. She’s still tripping over Felicia not being Nigerian by any stretch of the imagination.” Glancing up at his brother, his scowl darkened. “And you’ll make it worse by trying to bring a Fulani girl home. She won’t let me live anything down.”

Tunde heaved a sigh. “Calm down. This isn’t the first time you two have broken up.” He shoved his hands in his dress pants. “Maybe she’s just waiting for you to choose her.”

“Over Mom?” Silas raised both brows, having not considered that option. “Really?”

The two brothers fell into a contemplative silence as they thought of their outspoken, stubborn mother who didn’t keep her thoughts quiet about what type of women she wanted as daughter-in-laws. Her list was definitely longer than theirs and more intensive in content. No doubt she intended on pulling out every last bullet point once her sons presented their prospective girlfriends for her open scrutiny.

Both Silas and Tunde groaned audibly, imagining the trouble brewing at what Mrs. Josephine Halliday would say about her sons’ choices for marriage.

Part 2 >>

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