Posts tagged “siblings

Refuge: Chapter 12

Posted on 15/02/2019

If not for the gravity of the moment, Eleazar would’ve laughed. Certainly not out of humor. Darah had warned him about Nigerian parents and it seemed she wasn’t far off. Mr. Smith’s approach may have been more civil from his wife’s, but the animosity for him was veiled in logic as twisted as his wife’s. And Eleazar wouldn’t sit down and let it be; Zoey’s dad or not.

Mentally affixing Abe’s disapproving mug to this man’s face, Eleazar continued talking. “I respect that you are Zoey’s father and you want what’s best for her. I’ve got nieces, one whose already eighteen and probably making questionable choices of her own. I would give my right arm and leg to make sure none of them are hurt by some idiot with no sense. But I’m not an idiot, Mr. Smith.”

The other brow arched inquisitively.

“I really don’t know what Zoey has said or hasn’t said about me. I may have made the choice not to go to college, but it wasn’t because I was stupid.”

“Education is important, young man.”

“Education shouldn’t be limited to a classroom, sir.” His gaze didn’t waver. “I have high school classmates who went that route with some successful and some still without a job, neck-deep in debt. And for what reason? So someone can qualify a piece of paper and say you’re intelligent?”

Mr. Smith’s brows furrowed.

“Not saying going to college is a waste. My two eldest brothers went and made a name for themselves, but Junior’s a missionary and doing just fine without a college degree… I know Zoey’s a very intelligent young woman. She can do fine in college and I have no doubt that she’ll succeed in whatever she does…”

“But?”

Eleazar paused. “Why do you get the right to judge my ability as Zoey’s man just because I’m not a college degree holder?”

Mr. Smith chuckled. “That is not why I don’t want you as Zoey’s man.”

He knew it already but hearing it again felt like a punch in his gut. “Oh?” he managed.

The older man folded his arms. “Can you see yourself making a life here in Lagos? Do you think you can survive the hustle of this place?”

Eleazar frowned. “I don’t follow.”

“Zoey is going to take over the family business, which means she’s returning home after graduation. Any ties to the United States ends the minute she boards that plane.”

He couldn’t help it; his jaw dropped open. “Does… Zoey know this?”

“She knew this before leaving home.” The older man shrugged. “It’s a possibility that she may have forgotten since meeting you…”

Eleazar closed his mouth and swallowed hard. He looked away, to the street where the car was parked. He wondered what Zoey was thinking—did she have any idea what her dad was doing? Was this part of the plan all along? Did she want to break up?

“Nonetheless, young man, this is a question I already know the answer to and I’m sure you know it as well. You’re different, and you don’t belong here. Tonight proves it for you and me both. And Zoey.”

Eleazar smirked. “Sounds like a line from one of those trash soaps Darah watches.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“My bad, thinking aloud.” Eleazar dropped the toothpick on the table and scooted his chair back. “I’ve heard you, sir. And I’m ready to head back when you are.”

Mr. Smith sat in silence, staring at the young man. Then he spoke. “Has anyone mentioned how ill-mannered you can be?”

Eleazar only smiled. “Sure. They’re entitled to their opinions and so am I.”

“And what is your opinion?”

He smirked. “Yeah, don’t think you’d want to hear that.”

“Go ahead.”

Eleazar could hear Abe and Phoebe, begging him to shut up and leave it alone. “Well…” He sat up and stared the man straight in his face. “A father is bound to dislike his only daughter’s boyfriend from the jump and I was prepared for that. But from the moment you saw me, you’d judged me. Pretty much labeled me some illiterate, rude and spoiled brat from America. Well, you’re dead wrong. I was practically raised by my adopted siblings—our parents died when I was only six years old, and we fought hard to make life work for us all. And we did a great job too. Before I was even a teenager, some woman suddenly shows up saying she’s my grandma and wants to be part of my life, with no say from anyone—certainly not me. Went through unnecessary hell because of someone’s useless guilt for not being there for a grandson she didn’t really want but felt bad yet didn’t want the full responsibility of raising him. Inserting her opinion about how I was raised before she came into my life, criticizing my siblings for every little thing, putting a rift between us every chance she could get. Don’t get me wrong, she tried, I guess. But it took my siblings and me—I, years to close that gap between us.

“Took a summer trip to visit my brother in Ethiopia, to serve alongside him, to realize who I am and what my purpose in life is. Didn’t need some college professors to help me figure that out when I had six teachers at home, showing me, correcting me, guiding me. Definitely won’t trade that for no stupid college degree that isn’t guaranteed to give me anything but endless loans. But you don’t know that and you don’t care.”

His body felt hot and not even the evening breeze could cool him down. “And with all due respect, Mr. Smith, I don’t really care if you approve of my existence. You and your wife weren’t there to stop my mom from dumping me in a garbage can or watch me endure multiple hospital stays so I could fight to overcome the consequences of stupid mistakes she made—mistakes a college graduate made, mind you. You weren’t there to help my brothers who left their great livelihoods to raise their younger siblings. You weren’t there when we almost lost our parents’ house or lost each other because of some–” He drew in a breath and released it. “Stop labeling people just because you don’t understand them. Stop inserting your opinions in a life you had no right to. You don’t know me and if you don’t think I’m worth having your daughter’s heart, that is your business. Zoey is grown enough to decide for herself if I’m worth it.”

He chuckled low. “And well if she agrees with you, that’s her decision to make. I don’t need any approval from you about the life I have lived, because I know I’m doing well for myself.” He arched both brows. “Is that clear enough, sir?”

The older man was quiet for a moment, scratched the side of his face and then sighed. “It sounds like you’ve had a tough life, son.”

“I didn’t tell you that for pity, sir.”

“Not at all. I understand you. More than you know. ” Then he sighed, scooting back his chair. “It’s getting late. Zoey will worry.” He stood and Eleazar did too. With one long look at the young man’s scowl that revealed his distaste for the entire evening, Mr. Smith grunted under his breath and turned toward the street.

Convinced he wouldn’t be allowed to spend the night at the Smith’s residence, Eleazar trudged after him.

Once inside the car, Mr. Smith took a moment before starting the ignition. He made no move to drive but just rested his hands on the steering wheel while the engine rumbled on. Eleazar held his breath, waiting to be told he was no longer welcome in their house. Although he’d said the truth, he’d said too much.

“You remind me of myself long ago.”

Eleazar frowned. “Huh?”

“Yes,” Mr. Smith laughed. “Hard to believe but yes. I remember when I came to see him and ask for his daugher’s hand in marriage. He finished me that day until even I almost scolded my audacity for thinking I could be worth his daughter.” He sighed. “Hearing you today, I could hear myself again… and my father-in-law. To be honest with you, I didn’t like him much, especially how he treated those that weren’t his family. How he treated my wife and her sister like they were pa…” He suddenly quieted.

Eleazar noted Mr. Smith’s hands tighten around the steering wheel.

“It would appear I owe you an apology, son. It seems you were right about me after all.”

Truth had never hurt so much. Zoey gaped at her mother. “I have an elder brother?”

Her mother averted her gaze. “It was a long time ago…”

“Mom, that doesn’t make it easier to hear. How could you do that?!”

“Don’t raise your voice at me.” It should’ve sounded like a scolding but all Zoey heard was a diminutive plea that didn’t match her mother’s fiery personality. Her head was bowed and shoulders drooped as though she was the one being scolded.

Zoey heaved a sigh. “I just don’t understand. Why…?”

“Your aunty had barely escaped our father’s wrath. He beat her so bad she almost lost the baby.” Her mother shuddered visibly and Zoey inched close, though not reaching out to hold her. “I couldn’t… not after seeing that.”

“So to escape Grandpa’s beating, you gave up your child?” Zoey grimaced, the taste of the words so bitter in her mouth. The countless times her mother pointed out Paula’s illegitimate birth was humiliating. “Mom, seriously?”

Her mother remained silent, posture limp.

“Okay, fine. We’ll talk about that later. But what does he have to do with Eli?” A scowl formed. “Wait, don’t tell me you think Eli’s your son—”

“Be quiet! I didn’t say that!”

Zoey folded her arms across her chest. “Then what is it?”

Her mother pinned her with a narrowed glare. “Don’t get sassy with me.”

“I’m sorry Mom, but you and Dad have been ragging me all night about my American boyfriend when your colossal secret is way worse—!” She reared back when her mom raised a hand.

“You’re not too big for me to spank you, Zoey. Watch your mouth.”

Zoey gritted through clenched teeth. “Sorry.”

Her mother sighed deeply and turned toward the balcony. “I just don’t want you to be influenced like how I was. Those boys are very wild.”

All boys without home training could be wild—even Law had his bad moments. Zoey refrained from rolling her eyes, choosing silence instead of sass.

“The way they approach girls, especially ones who are too young to know who they are, it’s scary. You won’t believe the sleepless nights I had while you were away. I even had to take something to help me sleep through the night…”

“Mom…” Zoey stared at her mother’s lonely back. “I was okay.”

“The only saving grace for me was that you were doing well in school. I thought you couldn’t possibly be doing anything with any boy while acing your classes. And you would tell me if you were… to know now that I was wrong is beyond painful.” Her mother turned around, squinting at her daughter. “Are you intimate with him?”

Zoey frowned. “No, Mom. Eli respects my boundaries as I do his.”

Her mother snorted. “Does that one have boundaries?”

“Yes he does, Mom. We haven’t done anything.” She couldn’t believe this type of questioning when her mother’s faults were grave in comparison.

“No smashing?”

Zoey choked in disbelief. “Excuse me?!”

Her mother rolled her eyes. “I’m not some illiterate village person. I know that’s what you people do in the dance clubs, pressing on each other while dancing?”

Zoey’s face burst into flames and she sputtered. “I…” An image flashed in her mind of Eli holding her against him while they slow-danced. She shook her head. “I-I already said we’re not intimate.”

“It all starts with a dance, Zoey. Always.” The knowing glint in her mother’s eyes told her everything she needed to know about her first brother’s beginning.

Zoey groaned. “Does Dad know about this…?”

“About you smashing?”

“Mom please stop… I’m talking about my brother. Does Daddy know?”

Her mother grimaced. “Can you not change the subject?”

“He’s not a passing subject like the weather. How old is he? What does he look like? Where did you leave him and who with?”

Pain flitted her mother’s features. “I don’t know anything about him.”

“Didn’t you care to know? To find him?” The silence was like a slap. “Mom, why—?”

A car horn sounded from downstairs. Both peered over the balcony to see the vehicle carrying both Zoey’s father and Eli enter past the open gates.

“We’ll talk about this later,” her mother spoke and brushed past her before she could respond. Zoey watched sorrowfully as her mother escaped the room and turned to watch her father park the car.

The taillights came on and off. The driver’s door opened and her father exited, pausing briefly before walking into the house. The passenger door remained shut.

Zoey frowned, wondering what Eli was thinking and contemplating whether to go to him. Then the door opened and he stepped out, shutting the door behind him. She lifted two fingers to her lips and blew.

Eleazar looked up, following the sound to the lit balcony where Zoey stood.

“We need to talk?” Zoey called out.

What a strange question to ask—of course they did. He nodded and she stepped away from the balcony, disappearing into the room. He released the breath he’d been holding and turned to the gate, staring out at the shadowed expanse of land behind it.

A tap on his shoulder shook him from his reverie. He turned. Zoey stood there, a shy smile on her face. “Hey…”

He didn’t return it and faced the expanse of land.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

“No need.” Eleazar faced her again. “Do you want to break up?”

<<Chapter 11 || Chapter 13>>

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Refuge: Chapter 9

Posted on 01/11/2018

A young man edged around the crowd surrounding Zoey and eventually maneuvered his way into the middle, swooping in to grab Zoey in a hug sweeping her off the ground.

Eli stiffened as Zoey squealed and the crowd erupted in laughter. As the man spun her around as if she weighed little to nothing, Eli caught a glimpse of Zoey’s delight. Still his shoulders didn’t loosen up. Not even when Nwando’s hand rested there. He certainly didn’t remove his gaze from Zoey’s bright and unrestrained smile; it was the most genuine one she’d had since they arrived in Lagos. Who was that man to invoke a smile usually reserved for him on special occasions?

“Don’t be weird, lover boy,” Nwando advised near his shoulder. “That’s Law, Zo’s only brother.”

Her words quelled the suspicion. Eli watched the siblings grin at each other as Law lowered his older sister back on her feet.

“It’s been ages since they saw each other. Those two act like twins,” Nwando continued, a smile evident in her voice. From the bright smiles all around, Eli knew that Zoey was indeed the gem of her family.

Nwando tapped his shoulder, commanding his attention. One brow was raised even as she appraised him from head to toe. “I still can’t believe you made it here…” Her gaze pinned his. “Did she explain everything?”

He didn’t understand what she meant by ‘everything’ but had a feeling Zoey had barely scratched the surface about her family. The smirk that formed on Nwando’s lips confirmed his suspicion. “I guess not,” he answered glibly.

Both brows raised. “I can tell you’re not too happy to hear that–” she paused as the crowd erupted in a chorus of laughs. Her eyes redirected back to him, scanning him from head to toe. Then she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “No good. One look at you and they’ll know exactly who you are.” She glanced over his shoulder and gestured for someone behind Eli.

Eli started to ask why he had to hide who he was or be relegated to standing in the shadows with someone he’d only just met when a hand clapped over his shoulder. He whipped around.

“Whoa, men!” laughed a bearded man with sunshades. He had both hands up. “Easy, men”

“Shh!” Nwando nudged Eli’s fist. “This isn’t fight club. Dom, do me a favor.”

The man edged close to Nwando. “Sure, baby. ’Sup.”

Eli frowned as the man leaned in close to Nwando who looked anything but welcoming.

Nwando turned to the man named Dom. “How many times did I tell you not to call me that?”

“Men, stop trippin’ baby. Y’know you want me, men.”

“You stop tripping with that fake American accent.”

Eli arched a brow. That sounded absolutely nothing like–

Dom laughed and edged even closer, practically brushing his nose against Nwando’s braided up-do. “Y’know you like it, men.”

Eli grimaced out of second-hand embarrassment for the guy failing his attempt at flirting. He turned his attention back to Zoey fully occupied with her welcoming committee. It seemed she’d forgotten all about him.

A finger poked his shoulder. Eli turned back to see Nwando scowling at him while Dom held a hand over his right eye. His widened and stood alert. “Yes?”

Nwando squinted at him. “I know you came here with Zoey but you’re going to have to focus. Go it?” She lifted two fingers.

Eli flinched beside himself.

She rolled her eyes and turned it to hers. “Keep your eyes on me for tonight. You’re my guest.”

Nwando looked anything but accommodating and Eli nodded, careful not to argue or look at Dom now sporting an eye injury.

“Good,” she said. “Once Dom gets over himself, he’ll help you get fitted and then I’ll introduce you to the other guests.” She turned toward Dom. “Get him something to wear. And stop exaggerating. I barely touched you.” With that, she spun about and pushed forward to join the group greeting Zoey.

Eli finally turned to Dom who was rubbing his eye. “You okay?”

Dom snorted. “Deadly Naija babes.” He lowered his eye and re-adjusted the shades. “Come, let’s be going.” The awkward inflection in his voice was replaced with a more natural accent. Sizing Eli once from head to toe, Dom turned and walked into the shadows.

Eli refrained from looking for Zoey and followed after Dom.

The laughter and music trailed their path down the dimly-lit hallway. Pictures, paintings and tribal artifacts lined the walls on either side but Eli didn’t stop to investigate. He’d find a chance later on to tour the mansion. Dom was taller and bulkier than Eli. His long-legged pace kept him at a distance for Eli who had to pick up his feet just to catch up. At the end of the hallway, he finally did.

Dom glanced his way before facing the path around the corner to climb a flight of stairs. “So you from Brooklyn.”

Eli choked on a breathless laugh. “What? No. Houston.”

“Ah ok, Houston.” His heavy footsteps thudded loudly, echoing in the empty stairwell. “Beyonce’s hometown.”

“Yeah… you like Beyonce?”

There was a pause before Dom replied. “Tiwa’s better.”

Eli shrugged and followed Dom yet another flight of stairs. More pictures lined the walls up to the next floor and Dom took a turn instead of going up another flight of stairs. Eli blew out a breath and kept pace.

“Eh ya, Ezinne. How do you feel now that your baby has returned from America?”

The woman sitting on one of the oversized leather sofas merely crossed her arms. She eyed Zoey from head to toe and kissed her teeth. “It’s not her first time leaving me. I’m used to it.”

Aunty Nneoma snorted, sitting on the opposite end of the couch. “Stop forming, Zine. We all know how you get when Zobo’s away.”

Ezinne Smith glared at her sister. “Did anyone ask you?”

The ladies tittered in response, all accustomed to the daily feuding between the sisters. They watched in amusement as the two glared at each other over their wine glasses.

Another woman, this one sitting closer to Zoey, nudged her arm. “Do something about your mama. She’s been sulking all day!”

“Sorry Auntie,” Zoey answered, winking at her mother who only rolled her eyes. “Only my dad can appease her. Where is my dad anyway?”

“Settling bride price,” Aunty Nneoma answered, examining her nails.

“Still?!” a young woman dressed more formally than everyone else stepped into the circle. “When will they finish?”

The women erupted in laughter. Aunty Nneoma gestured for the scowling girl. “Paula, my dear, come and sit first. You know as the eldest of Late Chief Nnamdi’s grandchildren, this is our customary tradition. Your aunty Ezinne had the same and you must as well, even if our father is long gone. It is your way of honoring him and us, so relax.”

The sulking bride sat in a slump between her mother and aunt. Then she flung a glare at Zoey. “Lucky you.”

Zoey held up both hands in surrender. “Ah, what did I do?”

Paula rolled their eyes. Aunty Nneoma cooed at her daughter, pulling her into her arms. “Pele, my baby.”

The women tittered again, some working to coax a smile out of the bride.

Forcing to hold a smile that made her cheeks hurt, Zoey turned to look for her friends. Nwando walked past the back of the couch and she grabbed her arm. “Where’s Eli?” she whispered, glancing around for her boyfriend.

“Who?” Nwando blinked at Zoey. “Shh. Eli’s not your friend.”

“Excuse me?”

“What’s going on, Zoey?” her mother’s voice sounded behind her.

“Nothing.” Zoey frowned at Nwando, silently demanding an explanation for her strange behavior.

Nwando sighed heavily and turned her hand to grab Zoey. “Come here.” She smiled over at Ezinne. “We’ll be right back.” tugged on Zoey’s arm, pulling her away from the group and to one corner near the doorway. “Here’s the deal.”

“Yeah, what’s the deal?” A frowning Zoey folded her arms across her chest.

“Your parents and everyone in this room has their eyes on you. Maybe that’s why Paula’s ready to fight you, but imagine when their eyes land on Eli. They’ll be ready to tear him to pieces.”

Zoey grimaced. There were a few women in the room whose bite was as painful as their barks. Aunty Nneoma was one, and her mother was another. She shuddered.

“So here’s the plan.” Nwando glanced around once and then leaned in close. “Eli is Dom’s Internet buddy touring Lagos for the week. He’s a creative.”

“Huh–mmmff!” Zoey scowled, yanking Nwando’s hand off her mouth. “I can’t believe you–”

“Stop making a scene. Your mom is looking this way,” Nwando entreated softly, lowering her hand to her side.

Zoey dared not glance over her shoulder–her mother could read faces too well.

“Their guards will be down because he’s Dom’s friend.”

“Who happens to be Law’s friend. So how do you explain Law not knowing Eli?”

Nwando frowned and Zoey mirrored her expression. “You hadn’t considered it?”

“Wait… is Paula pregnant?”

“What–” Zoey glanced over her shoulder to catch her cousin fidgeting in her seat. “Why would you say that?”

“Think about it. She’s increasingly cranky, her courtship was so short, and even the wedding festivities are rushed. Not to talk of her boobs looking gigantic.”

“Crazy girl.” Zoey kissed her teeth in annoyance. “They’ve been dating for ages, Nwando.”

“Hence the pregnancy. I’m surprised at your Aunty though, throwing a big party when her daughter is–”

“My God, Nwando, focus!”

Nwando flinched. “Cool down, girl.”

“Focus,” Zoey gritted through clenched teeth. “Where. is. Eli?”

“I told you, he’s upstairs with Dom. Don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry?” Zoey echoed, gaping at her friend. “This is the same dude you swear is a biggest creep in all of Lagos. And you entrusted my guy with him? Are you okay in your head?”

“Relax. He’s only a creep with girls. Eli’s fine.”

“How comforting.” Zoey folded her arms across her chest. “Doesn’t explain how we get Law onboard.”

“Get Law onboard about what?” her only brother’s voice sounded from the shadows, and he stepped out, holding a bottle of Coke in one hand and a beef kebab in the other. His gaze moved over Nwando and landed on Zoey’s face. He chuckled. “Oh right. You need my help covering for your American boyfriend?”

He snorted in full laughter and pointed at them with the kebab stick. “You should see your faces.”

“Shh!” Nwando roughly grabbed his hand, attempting to put him in a choke-hold.

He easily stepped out of it and bit into the meat. “I never thought I’d see the day you’d bring a white boy home. Didn’t think you had it in you really.”

The warm welcome he’d just given her faded away and Zoey wanted nothing more than to wipe that smug look on his face. She squinted at him. “I didn’t think you’d be this close-minded. And he’s not white.”

“Who cares? He’s not African and you know what happened with Aunty Nneoma.”

Nwando scowled. “Stop Lawrence.”

“Keep calling me that and I’ll squeal.” He smacked his lips loud. “I can just imagine Mom’s face. Man, Dad will freak.”

Zoey swallowed hard. “Law, please.”

His face suddenly changed at her soft plea. “Please what?”

The two siblings stared at each other, both knowing what they’d have to do. Zoey hating every second that stretched between them. Law wouldn’t budge first and she hated giving in to him so easily.

“We’re back,” Dom announced behind them.

Zoey lifted her eyes, taking in the sight of Eli dressed in native attire that fit him perfectly. She gasped inwardly. The perfectly-fitted outfit was one of Law’s favorites!

Law started to turn.

“Fine!” she answered. “I’ll do anything you want.”

She could feel Nwando’s stare at her but didn’t shift her gaze. Law turned to her, his widened slightly.

“Anything?”

Zoey could only imagine what his thoughts conjured up and bravely nodded. Her gaze flickered once to Eli eying her curiously. She tamped a sigh and faced Law squarely. “Keep your promise.”

“It doesn’t matter, we’ll discuss my request later,” he answered, a devilish glint in his eye. “Sure, I’ll pretend your boyfriend is my friend visiting Lagos for a week.”

“Actually, he’s Dom’s–”

“Shut up Nwando,” Zoey snapped, annoyed she had to bargain in the first place. “And if Mom and Dad ask you anything?” She couldn’t afford to look at Eli right now or Law would find another weak point to prod and manipulate.

Law shrugged. “You know they won’t. They don’t care about my friends like they do yours. Point in case, Dom.”

“Enh? What does that mean?”

“Shut up, Dom.”

Zoey sighed, the tension in her shoulders loosening. “Okay. Deal.” She extended a hand to her brother.

“American tin,” he laughed before holding her hand in a firm grip.

“Keep your word,” Zoey prodded, tightening hers.

“You got it,” he squeezed her hand.

“When I see my children shaking hands, something tells me there’s trouble brewing,” a deep and hoarse voice sounded behind Zoey.

Zoey whipped around and flung herself into her father’s arms. He laughed and enveloped her in a hug.

Law grinned cavalierly. “Ah c’mon Dad, we’re just conversing.”

“Deals are made in the banks not at your cousin’s door-knocking ceremony.” He sounded cross in his reply but his hold about Zoey was gentle. Drawing back, he smiled gently. “My princess.”

“Hi Daddy,” Zoey smiled back, scanning her father’s weathered features and snow-white beard. “You shaved your head?”

A smile resembling Law’s but warmer formed on her father’s lips. “Why hold on to hair that isn’t holding onto me?”

Zoey and Nwando laughed nervously. Law snorted. “The bald look is trendy, Dad.”

“Of course it is. Welcome home.” He kissed her forehead and his eyes zeroed in on the quiet one beside Dom. “And who’s this? Haven’t seen him before.”

Zoey stiffened, breath baited. She peeked once at Eli who was watching her and quickly looked away, cheeks aflame. No doubt he’d rip her one later. But right now, she needed her brother to make good on his word. Her eyes pierced his face.

Law cleared his throat. “This is EJ from Brooklyn. He’s my friend, Dad.”

Their father was quiet for a moment and then nodded. “You are welcome, EJ.”

Dom nudged Eli in the side and to Zoey’s relief, Eli nodded. “Thank you.”

Then the elder returned his focus to Zoey. “Have you eaten?”

Zoey managed a smile, suddenly feeling light-headed. “Uh, not yet.”

He slung an arm around her shoulders and drew her into his side. “Then let’s get something. We’ve decided on your cousin’s bride price.”

“Ooh, is it high?” Law asked, walking on the other side of their father.

Feeling the burn of Eli’s gaze on her, Zoey swallowed the dread in her throat and let herself be dragged back to the party.

<<Chapter 8 || Chapter 10>>

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