I tapped on Dora’s door. She opened almost immediately.

“Hi dear.” She said, closing the door after me.

I sank into the chair. “I kissed Dare.”

“Whoa!” she said grinning. “Was it good?” she asked.

I sighed. “Do I sound like I am proud of it?” I asked.

“You don’t exactly have to sound proud of it to be proud of it.” She replied, applying her facial mask. She stared at me and then sighed. “Come on Darlene, it’s not like this is your first kiss.” She said and then paused. “Or not?” Since I didn’t reply, she could guess. “I can’t believe this! So you just had your first kiss in 24 years, whoa!!!” she laughed. “Seriously, how did it feel?”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Dora, this hurts more than you can imagine.”

“You must be right, because, I don’t understand where the hurt is coming from. To be honest, I always knew that Dare is going to be the next man in your life.” She replied, dancing round the room.

I shook my head in disagreement. “It was an accident.” I replied.

“ Yeah yeah… honey, it’s Dare for you!” she said laughing.

I smiled. “I’ll be in my room,” I said, grabbing my bag.

“Come on… I’ll be serious from now. Let’s talk about it, or you could just cry on my shoulder.” She said with a smile.

“Let’s talk.”

Dora smiled waiting for me to start. “How did it happen?”

“It happened so fast. We were struggling for his phone and then, I guess you can imagine the rest.”

Dora sighed. “If it’s what I am thinking, I would say he always had the intention, you are totally kissable.” She said. I smiled faintly. “Dare likes you, but I think he has an aggressive or maybe let me say, an arrogant way of loving.”

“Maybe I’ll disagree with you on that, you don’t know him.”

She nodded. “I am speculating. But, I can’t be wrong.”

“How do I handle this?”

She laughed. “Treat it as though it never happened. I know you can do it, all you have to do is show that you are stronger than it, it might be difficult, but you have to, else you are completely his.”

“It’s going to be difficult. I am going to see this guy every day.”

She nodded. “Of course, many secretaries sleep with their bosses, yet they still act as though everything were normal, this is just a kiss.”

“Not just a kiss for me, it is my first!” I said through my teeth.

Dora sighed and slipped into her bathrobe. “You claim that it was just an accident, so why is going to be difficult? Honey, you can handle this, I know you have the strength.”

Dora’s speech for the first time was largely uninspiring. “Thanks, but you are so unhelpful tonight.” I said, standing up.

“You are welcome.”

I sank into my bed. A new chapter in my life had just been opened. A high class court case around the corner and my kiss with Dare set me off into thoughts. Flashes from the kiss with Dare strayed into my thoughts as I tried to go through my books for the pending court case. If I was to put the incident with Dare behind me, I had to start from somewhere, and at the moment, preparing for my first court session seemed to be a great idea.

I rushed to join the 6am bus. You don’t want to dare Lagos city traffic. I had slowly relieved Jake of his chauffeur duties, and I seem to be doing fine joining buses and tunneling the stations with Daniel on his way to solitary in Abuja. He was also going to join a reformatory class there. Dad had arranged his movement to Abuja.

“Good morning.” I said with a smile to the security officers as I walked into the firm. I had a special smile for everyone at Ade-Cole. I greeted some with a ‘fake smile’, technically, it’s not ‘fake’, but what do you call flashing your teeth at the fifty year old counsellorat the firm? She needed the fake smile as she was always talking about everybody to somebody.

“Did you sleep well, Darlene?” Mrs. Abu asked as I headed for the elevator.

I nodded in the affirmative. “Yes ma’am.”

“Honey,” she started, stopping me from punching the elevator button. “Toni will be off duty for the rest of the week, you heard about what happened last night?”

I smirked. “Not at all.” I was about to be let in on some juicy information by Mrs. Abu.

“Oh well, you know I am not one to talk too much about people’s private matters, but when I hear something that is of priority and it needs to be told, I do my job.” She started. ‘Counselling, I suppose.’ I said to myself.

She adjusted her glasses and continued. “It so happened last night that…Oh my God, I am not sure that I should be letting you in on this information.” She said, with a grin.

“Oh come on Mrs. Abu, if it really is important and it concerns Toni, you should just say.” I replied reaching for the elevator.

She sighed. “Honey, how do I start? Okay…the thing is that Toni felt ill yesterday and Dare told her to see the doctor.”

I drew a dry hiss and punched the elevator door hard. “Thanks.” I said, not without a frown.

I bumped into Dare as soon as I stepped out of the elevator. My heart skipped a beat. “Good morning.” I said.

He smiled without saying a word and stepped into the elevator. ‘Exactly the Dare I know!’

“Good morning Bola.” I said, approaching my office door

She stood up courteously. “Good morning Darlene. You have a meeting with the board of directors later this afternoon.” She said, handing me an envelope.

“What’s the subject?” I asked, collecting the envelope.

She glanced through her file. “The case against Chidi Obi”

“Okay, thanks.”

The case against Chidi Obi seemed to be gathering momentum. The ‘Masses Advocate’ a popular daily journal read, “CAN DARLENE WILLIAMS LAND CHIDI OBI BEHIND BARS?” I inhaled deeply and went through the article. It had news on my personal record from law school at Harvard, but it was nothing compared to Subomi Bankole’s gigantic profile which had several conquests in them. My father’s loss to Subomi Bankole was mentioned in the concluding paragraph and I could bet a million that it would break my father’s heart if he saw that journal. I stashed it away in my cabinet and fetched my laptop.

I fetched my phone and dialed Toni but the answering machine answered it. Toni couldn’t come to the phone; I dropped a ‘get well soon’ wish for her and promised to call in the evening. I dropped my phone on the table and turned on my laptop. Just then, my phone buzzed, It wasn’t Toni returning the call, it was Jake calling.

“Hi Jake.”

“Hi babes. I got news for you, I am going over to you house with some guys to start the decorations for Dora’s event.”

I smiled. “Thanks a lot Jake.”

“Never mind.” He replied, and hung up.

I designed a ‘get well soon’ card on my laptop and sent it to Toni’s email. I had acquired Photoshop skills from my days at high school when it was made a compulsory course for us. I took the course serious and it has become an advantage to me.

Toni replied my mail almost immediately with the address to her house. I anticipated lunch time as the meeting with the board was fixed for noon.

“I hear you are challenging Subomi Bankole, how are you preparing for it?” Femi Ade-Cole asked.

The board room was filled with the top officials except for Ayo Ade-Cole; Femi Ade-Cole had taken the stand-in position for his brother pending the time of his arrival. Femi Ade-Cole didn’t give me much room to breathe when we first met. He stared at me from an acute angle. “Relax kid.” He said, trying to ease my nervousness.

“I am coming along well; it’s a matter of time before I take on Subomi.”

He smiled. “How do you fancy your chances?”

“That’s a tough one to answer.” I replied with a smile. Dare shifted in his seat and I guess he felt uneasy with my response.

Dare scoffed. “Make it easy for us Ms. Williams, there is a firm fee of six million, and a personal fee of four million if you win, so I hope you know that there is a lot at stake.” He said carelessly.

I stared at him with a bit of fury in my eyes. ‘Business or Personal?’ I thought. “Do you have a problem with my response, Mr. Ade-Cole?”

“Of course not.” He replied, straightening his jacket. “I am only concerned about the lethargy shown towards this case from your end.” he added.

I shot my eyes in fury. “Where is this coming from Mr. Ade-Cole?”

“Save the attitude, Dare. Money comes second here!” Femi Ade-Cole added.

Dare hissed.

I stared at the other board members and smiled. “I am a professional, this might be my first case, but I will not be bossed by anyone here.”

“Ms. Williams, I understand your frustration,” Mr. Femi started. “If I will have two-third votes, I will like Dare Ade-Cole to excuse us for the rest of the meeting.”

Dare stared at his uncle. “Are you throwing me out of the meeting?”

“Two-third votes, and Dare leaves” he re-affirmed.

It wasn’t difficult to get the votes. Dare grabbed his file and stepped out.

“Now Ms. Williams, I know you are good, but I want you to know that Bankole has been in this game forever, he will be hoping to take advantage of your first, so I hope you won’t crack.”

I nodded my head. “I will try my best.”

“That’s all that’s needed from you at this stage, but you have to understand that Tunji Davis trusts you to recover his oil rig from Chidi Obi, and we all are banking on you to put one of the city’s worst crooks behind bars.”

The board room was filled a lot of hopefuls and it seemed as though hopes hinged on my beating Subomi Bankole.

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