southerncharms2

Anaya sighed, trying to calm her racing heart. Clumsiness aside, something had almost happened between them. She bit her bottom lip, hobbling toward the door where Tunde was now waiting. Since he didn’t want to be near her, she’d have to find her own way to his car.

Hearing the squeaking metal of a garage door, Anaya groaned inwardly at the searing pain tearing relentlessly at her right ankle. Deciding to put pride aside, she lifted that leg and hopped towards the door. She gritted her teeth against her hot face under Tunde’s hooded gaze. He still had made no move to help her with his hands glued to his side. She ignored him and stepped over the threshold.

Still she couldn’t help but breathe out a sigh of relief when he stepped around her to open the car door. Anaya reluctantly admitted that the feel of his strong hands bracing her back was a welcome feeling as he situated her into the car.

Tunde quietly stepped away and rounded to the other side of the car. It wasn’t until he’d strapped on his seatbelt that he then turned to face her.

Anaya blinked at the warmth in his eyes and immediately frowned, confused by it.

He cocked an expectant brow at her silence. “Directions?”

Her face flamed instantly. “Uh yeah,” she answered dumbly, straightening her spine. With his eyes on her stinging face, she related the directions to her house and once he turned to face the front of the car, Anaya released a breath.

The entire way to her house, Tunde didn’t even look at her much less start up a conversation. Anaya clenched her jaw, realizing she’d practically given this perfect stranger full permission to her home.

Risking a peek, Anaya discreetly watched the man keep his eyes dutifully on the road, taking in his high forehead, straight nose, full lips and strong, now clenched jaw. His face wasn’t anything different from other men she’d seen before—though handsome in his own right, that wasn’t the most striking part of him. His smile. She couldn’t help a sigh and bit the inside of her mouth.

Cocky, audacious but gentle mixed in one devastating grin that reached his black eyes, causing her foolish heart to flutter wildly like it did even now when he wasn’t even smiling. His jaw was clenched and his eyes stubbornly facing the front as if to avoid her. Even now, Anaya thought he was the most interesting man she’d ever met. Realizing her stray thoughts, Anaya tore her eyes away to face the window, for fear that he might have read her thoughts.

Minutes later, Tunde pulled into a driveway of a brick and slate townhouse. Anaya’s shoulders relaxed visibly, grateful for the short trip.

Tunde turned off the ignition and made his way over to the other side but Anaya had already pushed open the door and was slowly letting herself slide out of the car. Slowing to a stop, Tunde watched quietly as Anaya balanced herself on her good foot before he extended a hand to her. At her visible hesitance, Tunde sighed and reached for her hand, tucking it under his arm. Then he slid the other around her waist.

She bit her bottom lip to hold back the surprised intake of breath.  Her eyes darted quickly at the two houses sitting beside hers, knowing vigilant eyes were watching her. Anaya ducked her head as they silently walked towards the front door of the house. Then Anaya lifted her head, swallowing another gasp when she saw that his eyes had returned to her face. She cleared her throat and kept her gaze steady even if he was looking down at her mouth. Again. “Thank you for the ride and the first aid…”

“No problem,” Tunde replied in a tentative voice and Anaya turned, perturbed by his intent stare. He released a heavy sigh, “Look, Ana—Anaya, I think I overstepped my boundaries back there … I shouldn’t have done that.”

Anaya shook her head, “No really, there’s nothing to be sorry for, Tunde… Nothing happened.”

“You’re right,” he said hesitantly with a wry smile in place. “Nothing happened.” To her utter surprise, Tunde didn’t hesitate from bending down to place a kiss on her forehead where the Frisbee had left a mark. “Get salve for that, alright?”

Anaya gaped at him, dumbfounded by his sudden proximity or his unexpected action.

Seconds dragged into hours as Tunde stared down at her and she held her breath as he leaned forward again. Her heart skipped a beat or two as he suddenly reached behind her to ring the doorbell. Frowning at the feeling of relief mixed with slight disappointment, Anaya turned away from him and faced the door, waiting for someone to answer.

Footsteps rushed to the door and it suddenly flung open, a petite girl with a colorful scarf draped over her shoulders standing on the other side. She blinked up at the tall man standing beside her sister before dragging her confused expression over to Anaya. Tilting her head, her eyes widened at the sight of Anaya’s wrapped leg. “What happened?” a concerned frown marked her shiny forehead.

Anaya opened her mouth to talk but Tunde spoke instead, “A Frisbee attacked her in the park…”

“Who are you?” her sister raised a speculative brow at him, still not opening the door wider.

Tunde smiled patiently, “I’m a friend of your sister. Can you let her in? She needs to put her foot up.”

The girl reluctantly pulled away from the door and held it open, her curious attention now focused on her mute older sister.

The house was dimly lit as if it wasn’t already twelve in the afternoon and a delicious aroma sifted from the kitchen. Tunde breathed in the heavenly scent, smiling like a Cheshire cat, “What is that wonderful smell?” he couldn’t help but ask, his eyes sweeping over the living room before looking back at Anaya.

“Millet and goat meat,” Both Anaya and her sister said together. “It’s a native dish,” Anaya recited quietly, staring back at Tunde.

“I like goat meat,” Tunde said sincerely, his eyes holding hers.

“Do you want to try some, friend of my sister…?”

“Sure,” Tunde said, shifting his attention to Anaya’s sister. “And call me Tunde.”

Anaya cleared her throat to bring Tunde’s eyes back to her, “It’s more of a lunch food and is still being prepared… And I thought you had cinnamon buns at your house…” she trailed off when she felt her sister’s eyes on her.

Tunde smiled, shrugging, “Yeah but—”

“You’ve been to his house?” her sister inquired with her eyes wide. Then with a short laugh, she shook her head only to pause when Anaya glared down at her.

Noting the tension in Anaya’s glare directed at her sister, Tunde realized it was time to take his leave.  He cleared his throat, forcing the girls’ attention back to him. “I better go. I hope you’ll be alright, Ana. Do you mind if I check on you sometime this week?”

“That’s not necessary—” Anaya protested, realizing she didn’t like the obligatory tone in his voice.

“Do you have her number?” the sister asked at the same time and the sisters glared at each other again.

Tunde bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing aloud and then strode towards the door. “Don’t worry about that. Take care, Anaya.”

“Thanks again,” Anaya said softly, attempting to shuffle toward the door.

Tunde held up a hand. “Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out. Nice meeting you, little sister.”

“Come see us again,” Anaya’s sister, Leeza, said with clear amusement in her voice and smiled widely as Tunde saluted her in jest. Then as he hurried out the door, she turned to her older sister who was now glaring at her. “Relax, Ana. Now who is that man and why does he look ready to take you home as his bride?”

Anaya felt her cheeks warm under her sister’s probing gaze. “Stop. He’s just being friendly,” she mumbled to herself, trying to squelch down the stirring in her as she recalled Tunde’s request to take her out on a date.

“Friendly, my little toe,” Leeza shot back as she watched Anaya start for the stairs. “That man doesn’t just want to be your friend, sister!”

Anaya’s heart skipped violently at the thoughts that crossed her mind. She shook her head and focused her mind on the seemingly never-ending stairs ahead. There were more important things that Tunde’s intentions and confusing behavior. Right now, she had better things to do and Tunde was not one of them. Apparently her mind wasn’t as convinced since Tunde’s breathtaking smile played on like a broken record.

<< Part 2 || Part 4 >>

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