“What are you doing?” Anaya said in mid laugh as Tunde stepped over the sidewalk.
“Wait. I’m coming,” he called over his shoulder as he strode purposely toward a flower shop.
Tucking one hand in the pocket of her black jumpsuit, Anaya kept her eyes on the large window of the shop, watching as Tunde approached the vendor. It was their third date and Tunde wouldn’t tell her where they were going. Not that it surprised her since he’d managed to keep their second date, a trip to the Butterfly Exhibit in the local museum, a secret. A trip she’d never forget.
Stunned, Anaya told him she’d never met a man who openly appreciated delicate beauty, only to have him retort that she was the most delicate beauty he’d ever come across. Her cheeks warmed at the memory, having replayed his sincere words in her mind all throughout the night.
Her eyes shifted when Tunde pushed open the door and stepped out of the store, grinning from ear to ear. Her lips parted as she noticed the bouquet of white lilies in his hand. How did he know? Heart skipped two beats as he made his way across the street to meet her.
“I hope you like flowers, Ana…” He said softly, extending the bouquet to her.
Anaya blinked against her tingling eyes and mutely reached for the flowers. She ducked her head to breathe in the subtle fragrance before lifting her eyes back to his face. “Thank you…” she mouthed. Never before had anyone bought her flowers, much less her favorite kind.
Tunde nodded, a gentle smile on his lips. “It’s one of my favorite flowers… and it reminds me of you.”
She smirked at him, wondering how many women he’d given this line. Still all the same, it made her feel warm. Special. “It’s my favorite too.”
He grinned wider now. “Well, that’s good then.” He then glanced down at her feet and nodded approvingly before gesturing to his right. “Let’s walk this way. I have something else for you.”
Raising a brow at him, Anaya acquiesced and walked beside him as they made their way between the tall buildings, down a narrow alleyway. From one glance at a big-faced clock propped on one of the tall buildings, she noted it was almost six. Soon she would have to take her leave from him. Her heart twisted in protest, not wanting to end the time with this man. Without any help, her heart had already grown accustomed to having him around. In a short matter of time, Tunde Halliday had become a good friend and she genuinely enjoyed his company, even if they didn’t say a word. His self-assured presence comforted her, gave her a sense of security as if she’d made the right decision agreeing to a date and several others with him.
They rounded the corner and Anaya slowed her steps when she noticed the grassy hill in front of him. She looked up at him, frowning slightly. “Are we going for a hike?”
He chuckled and reached out for her free hand. “Relax, Ana. I’m not that bad. It’s not a long climb.” He smirked down at her even as his fingers curled around hers. “If you want, I’ll piggy-back you.”
Her cheeks warmed and she shook her head. “I can climb.”
“Too bad…” He said in teasing and tugged at her hand, pulling her beside him. “Come.”
Anaya swallowed a sigh, not sure what to make of this plan of his. She gave the hill a hairy eyeball before pushing herself up beside him.
Ten minutes later and Tunde released her hand. “Here we are!” he exclaimed, the gentle breeze carrying his voice.
Anaya clutched the bouquet and scanned the blank expanse of land before her. She could see the slanted roofs of houses, the busy streets filled with cars. The sounds of bleating cars were muffled by the chirping of birds and the croaking of bullfrogs from the lake across the field below them. “I can’t believe it…” She’d lived in this city for many years and never knew there was a place like this. “It’s so quiet.”
“Peaceful,” Tunde supplied as he settled on the grass. He patted the spot beside him, grinning up at her. “Sit. It’s about to begin.”
She raised a brow even as she settled beside him, pulling the flowers onto her lap. “What’s about to begin?”
Tunde smiled warmly at her and gestured to the sky.
Anaya dragged her gaze from his face and turned in the direction he pointed. A myriad of dusky orange and purple tones painted the sky, with splotches of gray and indigo. The shadowed pinnacles of two towers pierced the vibrant sky, emphasizing the haunting splendor of the setting sun. Anaya shook her head. How could anything be so beautiful?
“Haunting, isn’t it?” Tunde’s voice prodded her from her musing.
“Very…” she whispered, overwhelmed by the scene. Her fingers curled around the stems of her bouquet. “Beautiful.”
“To think that God does things like this on a daily basis, without fail… it puts me at ease.”
Anaya nodded mutely.
At the gentle urging in his voice, Anaya pulled her gaze from the sky and to his. Her mouth dried up at the tender look in his eyes.
Tunde had shifted his body to face her, as if he hadn’t been staring at the sunset the entire time. “Meeting you at the library doesn’t surprise God. I believe He allowed me to meet you there.” Without looking down, he placed a hand over hers. “Falling for you this quickly, this strongly, I know He’s not in the dark about it.”
Anaya couldn’t speak. She couldn’t look away.
“Maybe to other people, it might seem like I’m rushing everything with you…” His eyes caressed her face. “But the moment I met you, Ana, I knew I’d found what I was looking for.” He didn’t crack a smile but his gaze was tender, gentle. “I don’t plan on dating you for kicks. That has never been my intention with you. And in case there was ever a doubt in your mind what I was up to, let me settle that right now.” His thumb rubbed the back of her hand, gaze still steady on hers. “I want to marry you, Ana.”
Her eyes widened. Her heart slammed hard against her ribs, knocking the wind out of her. Marry?
Leeza sat up on the bed, gaping at Anaya who sat opposite her. “Marry?” she whispered fiercely, eyes wide.
Anaya bit her bottom lip as she nodded, still overwhelmed by the day’s events.
Her younger sister whooshed out a breath, shaking her head. “This guy… he’s intense.” She then smiled at Anaya. “It’s what you wanted in a man.”
She frowned at Leeza. “What do you mean?” She couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams meeting a man like Tunde Halliday. He was by far the most interesting, overwhelming man she’d ever met.
“All those other guys were never this intentional… this purposeful and bold.” Leeza nodded approvingly. “I like him.” She leaned back, resting her elbows on the folded blanket. “What did you tell him?”
Anaya lowered her head. “I didn’t know what to say. He told me that he’d wait for my answer on the next date.” Her heart skipped a beat as she pictured the patient look on Tunde’s face. He really was a good man. She didn’t need to fear whenever she was with him. But marriage… was she ready for that step?
“Have you told Papa?”
Anaya groaned, covering her face with her hands. “I’m scared… Everything is happening so fast.”
Leeza giggled. “Has Tunde kissed you yet? Maybe he needs to plant one on you to convince you of the next step.”
Her cheeks warmed at the thought of being enveloped in his arms, swept away by the passion of his kiss. “No, he hasn’t…” She frowned, halting her thoughts. Even though his eyes openly expressed his desire and admiration for her, Tunde hadn’t made a request or an attempt to kiss her.
Leeza grinned wide like a Cheshire cat holding a secret between her teeth. “And he still wants to marry you?” She raised a brow. “Sounds like a perfect man for you, Sister. Papa will like him.”
“What about Mama…?” Anaya muttered as worry settled in her heart. No doubt her mother would not look past Tunde’s heritage to the great man she’d come to care dearly for; a man who wanted her as his wife. Her heart twisted painfully, wishing for peace to push away the guilt within.