southerncharms2

Anaya tucked a smile as Tunde hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her against him. Her eyes lowered coyly as he leaned in, placing a kiss at her right ear.

“Mrs. Anaya Halliday…” he whispered against her ear, his fingers splayed at her back.

Her body tingled at the sound of her new name.

“How about we get you out of these clothes?”

Eyes widened and she leaned back to peer up at him. Her heart slammed hard against her chest at the roguish look on his face and she bit her bottom lip. “Now?” she squeaked when his fingers slid up her back to her bare nape. Warm shivers skittered down her spine, her knees threatening to buckle under her.

His brows raised, amusement dancing in his black eyes. “Into something more comfortable, beautiful…” He chuckled gently and leaned forward to place a kiss on her forehead. “Do you plan on wearing this all day?”

Frankly, she couldn’t wait to slip off the heavy and itchy traditional garment but Anaya couldn’t tell him. Not when he was looking at her like that. “No…” From the corner of her eye, she noticed their change of clothes hanging over the closet door, courtesy of Felicia and Leeza.

“Good. I saw you rubbing your arm earlier,” he said matter-of-factly, smirk still in place. “Wanna sneak out to our place and get changed?”

She balked at his presumption and placed a hand on his chest to hold him still. “We have clothes here,” she gestured over his shoulder at the closet. Her heart skipped another beat when he didn’t move his head but just raised an inquisitive brow at her. “Besides, we’re supposed to be downstairs right now.”

They could both hear laughter and music underneath them as the party continued without them. Not that she minded being alone with Tunde, having dreamed this moment since she realized she loved him.

“Not right right now…” his fingers moved back to brace her hips. His eyes slowly lowered to her mouth and he started leaning in.

Anaya’s lips twitched to hold back a smile but she couldn’t help it. A soft laugh escaped her mouth just as his pressed gently over hers. She closed her eyes, loving the feel of him surrounding her. This was worth waiting for, and Anaya sighed as he pulled her deeper into his arms.

“Finally…” he muttered against her cheek, placing butterfly kisses against her skin. “You’re finally my wife.” He chuckled softly, lifting his eyes to gaze down at her. “I love you, Ana.”

Anaya’s cheeks tingled at the warm, sincere look in his eyes. Even if he didn’t say a word, she would know how he felt. Inwardly, she prayed it would always be this way for them. “I love you more,” she replied sincerely, grateful for him.

“Doubt it,” he bantered with a crooked smile. “You’re kinda a big deal to me.”

She giggled. There was no winning with him. “Let’s agree to disagree.”

“Good girl.” Tunde lowered his head again and kissed her smiling mouth. “We’re gonna do just fine.”

Anaya nodded, sliding her hands along his back and scooted closer. She tucked back a smile when he sighed against her mouth. Yep just fine, with him by her side and God guiding their way.

“It’s about time you got down here!” Silas hollered from the bottom of the stairs as the newlyweds walked downstairs, holding hands. He gave his brother an impish grin, taking in their changed clothes. “Took you long enough,” he said, slapping Tunde on the shoulder before he turned to give his new sister-in-law a gentle smile. “Good luck with him.”

Anaya grinned back. “Thank you.” Her cheeks were still tingling under her husband’s warm gaze.

“Let’s get these two some food!” Silas called across the hallway to the open kitchen where women and men alike gathered to scoop the traditional food onto their plates. Tunde grinned, recognizing his coworkers and even a few neighbors chatting among themselves. There was no frown in sight.

He raised a brow at his quiet wife beside him. “Where’s your mother?”

Anaya sighed and he immediately regretted asking. She pulled her gaze up to him. “I guess my father took her home. She’d stayed up all night to help me get ready.” Her heart twisted in pain, wishing she could have a quiet moment with Hadiza to thank her for everything and tell her she loved her.

Tunde’s arm wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her into the crook of his arm. “Don’t worry, my love. We’ll stop by there later tonight.” He placed a kiss on her temple. “For now relax…”

“Sister!”

Anaya’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of her sister’s voice across the room and her eyes scanned the parlor, seeking her sister’s welcoming face. She smiled with obvious relief as Leeza waved from the window near the backyard. Her eyes fell on her father and mother seated beside them and felt the tears well up. They hadn’t left yet.

“Go see them,” Tunde squeezed her shoulder before releasing her. With a wistful smile, he watched his wife scurry across the room to meet her family. His eyes fell on Hadiza who meekly ate and his smile waned. She still hadn’t spoken and he wondered to himself if she ever would. Shaking his head to clear the distressing thought, Tunde moved to the kitchen where Silas was instructing the women who dished out their plates.

“How pretty you look,” Leeza gushed as Anaya perched on the bench. Her eyes roamed over Anaya’s cream lace gown with the skirt skimming the top of her knees. “You look like a very content bride.”

“She is,” Aman said with his mouth full. He gave his first daughter an oily smile and Anaya had to refrain from throwing her arms around her father. To think they wouldn’t be going home together made the tears gather.

“No crying,” Leeza said sternly, pulling her sister in a hug. “I’m very happy for you.”

From where she sat in Leeza’s embrace, Anaya had nowhere to stare but her mother’s drawn face. The lump in her throat hardened and she subconsciously squeezed Leeza’s shoulder.

Leeza patted Anaya’s back as if she understood the reason for Anaya’s sadness and pulled back to gaze at her sister. “I’m very excited for your new life, Anaya. But don’t forget us, ‘kay?”

Anaya managed a smile and nudged her sister. “What a silly thought. I will never…” she bit back the sob that threatened to escape. “I won’t forget you—none of you. Thank you.” Her eyes drifted back to her mother who was now staring forlornly at the plate on her lap. “Mama…”

Aman slowed in his chewing, hearing the desperation in his daughter’s voice. He lifted his eyes to Hadiza and frowned when his wife didn’t even blink at Anaya’s plea. Clenching his teeth, he nudged Anaya. “Don’t be impolite. Go and socialize with your other guests. We’re fine here.”

“Yeah Sis, you should go back to Tunde…”

Anaya put on a brave smile and dipped her head slowly. With Leeza pulling at her wrist, she stood to her feet. “Don’t leave without saying goodbye,” she pleaded with her sister, although her heart ached for her mother.

Leeza smirked. “Don’t be a baby,” she said, reaching up to wipe at the tears dotting Anaya’s cheek. “Go.”

With another nod, Anaya glanced down at her father who winked at her. She gave him a soft smile and turned away, not wanting to feel the sting of rejection from her mother’s cold shoulder turned to her. Across the room, she saw Tunde standing with his hands shoved in the pockets of his black slacks. Her heart slammed against her ribs when he looked up at her and she took the first step toward him.

He greeted her with a kiss on her cheek and tucked her in the crook of his arm. “You okay?” he whispered against her temple.

“Hmm,” Anaya managed to say, overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions of being in his arms and away from her family.

“It’ll be alright,” he said quietly, squeezing her waist gently before leading her to the dining table where his coworkers had made space for the couple to join them.

Anaya took a deep breath to calm herself down, to push back the impending tears and put a warm smile for Tunde’s kind colleagues. Setting in her place behind him, Anaya knew she was finally home and decided to relax. The other feelings she would figure out in time, with Tunde by her side.

<<Part 16 || Part 18>>

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