Picture Perfect – 16

Chapter 16

Eric wanted Victoria.

She was fun, her sense of humor fresh and surprising.  She had quirky habits that left him laughing in amusement when he was alone.  Like singing out loud to her favorite song came on.  The song wasn’t the problem, he could take a little Justin Bieber…but the off notes, full volume voice were the problem.

You see, Victoria thought she was the next Beyoncé, except no one had told her she wasn’t.  God help him if he said anything in criticism.

Victoria had a temper.

He found that out the hard way.  Visiting her house on a Saturday when she was doing general cleaning, he had gone out to check on her car engine.  When he came back upstairs, he entered still wearing his rubber shoes, into her clean pristine house and a monster was born.

She kicked him out, made him remove his shoes while she cursed like a sailor, almost calling the neighbors to witness his offenses.  He tried to take a picture of monster Victoria in action, and almost got his eyes scratched out when she grabbed the camera out of his hand.  She’d taken a year off his life when she threatened to drop his baby.  Her tirade lasted an astounding five minutes.  Then she got over the mad quickly, turning into a sweet woman who then cooked him lunch.

Scary shit.  He was sure she was a crazy woman!

He definitely loved her sweet side the most though.

Victoria in an agreeable mood was addictive, to the point of madness and obsession.  Her laugh was infectious, when she talked it was with passion on the subject, when she listened, it was as though he were the only man in the world.  Those moments, sitting close to her, kissing her, and never going beyond that…it was at those moments he worried for his sanity.

“Eric.”

Linda touched his left arm and he looked at her.  He was at the studio today working on an advertisement photo shoot.

“Are you up for another trip?” Linda asked.  “We have a request for a shoot in Dar.  Three days, do I schedule it?”

Eric sat back, his gaze on the dummy food waiting on a table.

“When?”

“This weekend,” Linda said.  “The cash is good.  They accepted our quotation without a bargain.”

Eric frowned.  For the first time in years, reluctance to leave the city filled him.  Victoria was tied up more than usual lately.  The holidays were here and the hotel events had increased.  He didn’t want to miss out on her free time.

“Can we postpone it?” he asked.

“Are you sick?” Linda asked, touching his forehead.

He winked at her.  “Let’s do it next weekend, Linda.”

“Why?  Can’t stay away from Victoria?” Linda asked.

“She’s off this weekend.  She promised to go see my house with me.  I don’t want to cancel.”

Linda waved the quotation in front of his eyes and he took it out of her hands.  Reading the total amount, he groaned.  The payout was very good.

“Damn it, I can do it mid-week,” he said, still not willing to give up this weekend.

Eric really wanted to hear what Victoria thought of the house he was building.

Linda smiled and took the quotation.

“Wednesday sounds good.  Victoria can do without you for three days, right?”

Eric smiled standing.  He picked up his camera and walked to the table full of fast food dummy products.

The problem, he thought, was that he didn’t want to do without her.

***

“Wait, taste this,” Olive said

Olive held out a spoon full of strawberry and blueberry ice cream to Victoria.  Victoria closed her eyes as the sweet treat melted in her mouth.  She sighed.

“I’m going to get fat if we continue like this.”  Victoria met Olive’s amused gaze.  “Fat, Olive.”

“I thought you didn’t care.”

“She got a man,” Grace said, swirling her straw in her passion fruit yoghurt.

Aki, Grace,” Victoria pinched her best friend’s arm.  “That’s not what I mean.  I’m saying the ice cream is really good and we keep buying more.”

“Don’t blame the ice cream,” Olive said, promptly taking a healthy bite of her ice cream.

Olive was naturally thin, no matter how much she ate, she never gained an ounce.  Victoria was a tad envious.  Staring at her apple green blend, Victoria just couldn’t find the strength not to finish the treat, so she dug in.

“So, you and Eric?” Olive asked.

Victoria looked up and Olive raised her brow.

“What?”

“Are you an item?” Olive asked.

“They better be,” Grace said.  “He keeps hugging her and kissing her around the hotel.  I’m getting jealous.”

“That was one time,” Victoria said.

“What about yesterday when he dropped you off in the morning.  He gives you a ride to work even when you have your own car,” Grace said.

“It’s called carpooling.  We are doing our part to save the earth from global warming.”

“Ah ha,” Olive said with a laugh.  “I’ll be sure to thank Eric for his eco-friendly thoughts when he shows up at your house.”

Grace laughed.

“Okay, you two, stop.” Victoria raised her spoon, using it as a wand.  “I did not tease you like this when you and Clifford were getting together.  Or you Grace, and the hubby who walks on water.”

“Did you do it yet?” Olive asked.

“I’m not answering that.”

“They haven’t,” Grace answered, winking at Olive.

“Hey,” Victoria punched Grace’s arm lightly.

“Wow, Eric is looking more and more like a saint,” Olive said, amused.  “Hasn’t it been a month?”

“Almost two,” Grace provided.

“No way,” Olive stared at Victoria.  “Is he normal?”

Victoria frowned.  “What are you on about?”

“Well,” Olive shrugged.  “Let’s be realistic.  In this day and age, relationships start out backwards.  You two not being together after two months is weird.”

“Who decided waiting is weird?” Victoria asked.  “Besides, two months is not that long.  Jeez, I’m glad Eric is not like Ronald.  If I had stopped to think with Ronald, things might not have turned out the way they did.”

“I’m just saying,” Olive said.

Victoria stared at her ice cream.  Truthfully, she knew Eric would prefer not to wait.  There were times when she was alone with him, when it felt like it would be alright to give in, but then…

She remembered that he was a man who was still in love with his best friend’s wife.

How could she—

“Vicky,” Grace squeezed her shoulder.  “It’s okay to wait.  You need to be sure, and that’s important to you.”

Taking a bite of her ice cream, Victoria shrugged.

“If it happens, it does,” she said.  “We’re both adults.  I like Eric.  He’s fun, considerate and I love spending time with him.  If it does happen—”

“Let me stop you there,” Olive said, shaking her head.  “That is a self-serving speech.  We don’t need to hear it, gal.  I totally get your insecurities with that hottie.  Eric is a wild card, and who knows how long it will last?  I get it.  No one’s judging here.”

“Could have fooled me,” Victoria sulked.  “Argghh…. can we stop talking about my lack of nookie?”

Grace burst out laughing, and almost spilled her yoghurt.  Victoria reached out to right it, and Olive grabbed napkins to wipe the little that had spilt on the table.

“Excuse me.”

They all looked up at the same time to find Anita the concierge standing a few feet away.  They were in the hotel’s second floor snack bar enjoying ice cream after a long day.  They had chosen the place because of convenience.  Olive was due at the hospital in thirty minutes.  Grace wanted to head out to meet her husband for a shopping spree.

“Yes?” Grace asked, her tone uninviting.

“Can I talk to you, Vicky?” Anita asked.

“You can talk here,” Grace said.

Victoria met Anita’s gaze and nodded.  She had no intention of being anywhere alone with Anita.

“Fine, whatever,” Anita said, taking a step closer to the table.

Thankfully, there were only two other people in the dining space.  It wasn’t rush hour yet.

“What do you want to say?” Victoria asked the younger woman.

“I want you to stop making trouble for me with Ronald.  He said he would fire me because of you.”  Anita’s expression was bitter.  “If you couldn’t make him happy, I don’t see why you have to take it out on me.”

Victoria gaped.

“Aren’t you out of line?” Grace asked.  “Victoria si sister yako, Anita.  You can’t come here to carpet her over a relationship you started on your own.”

“It’s not my fault Ronald chose me over her,” Anita snapped.  “All I’m saying is that she shouldn’t use her position to get me fired.  I have a family to support.”

“Are you implying that I’m trying to get you fired?” Victoria asked in shock.

“Yes.  I know you did this—

“Who told you?” Victoria cut in.

“Ronald,” Anita said.  “He said that my presence here annoys you.  So—,”

Victoria got up, forgetting her ice cream.

Anita froze, her expression full of fear.

Victoria sighed and moved around Grace to stand before the younger woman.

“Don’t worry about your job, Anita.”

“You don’t want me fired?”

“Why would I?” Victoria asked, shocked anyone would think of her this way.

Anita blinked.  “Aren’t you mad about me and Ronald?”

“Goodness, no,” Victoria said, realizing it then, as well.  “Anita, Ronald is a bastard.  If you want him, he is all yours.”

Turning to Grace and Olive, she smiled.  “I have to go upstairs and straighten this.  Call me?”

“Don’t punch him,” Grace said, winking at her.

“I love this hotel,” Olive said.  “You guys have way more drama than we do, and I work in a hospital.”

****

To be continued….Thank you for reading!

Previous Parts:

Picture Perfect – 15

Picture Perfect – 14

Picture Perfect 14

Chapter 14

“I heard about the kiss,” Grace said later that evening.PP

They were at Victoria’s apartment and Grace was helping her make dinner. Victoria watched Grace stir-fry a mix of vegetables with olive oil and black pepper.

“He kisses and runs off,” Victoria said, checking the time on her microwave, it was almost eight o’clock. “He said he’d call but, it’s been hours.”

“Things must be going well if you’re waiting for his calls.” Grace winked at her. “You know those first days of a relationship. Will he call, no he won’t, why isn’t he calling?”

Victoria laughed. “And the, ‘damn it he didn’t call, I won’t talk to him.”

“Then he calls,” Grace picked up the pan from the cooking range and with dramatic flair, she served the vegetables on two plates. “The heart flutters, nervous energy, walking around the house while you talk, finger twirling in your hair or weave.”“Gosh, we’re not in university, Grace.”

“But you know it’s going to happen anyway,” Grace said with a smile, placing the pan in the sink. “I cook, you clean.”

“As always,” Victoria shook her head. “What do you do at home with your husband?”

“I got a housekeeper, she cleans,” Grace said, taking their plates to a table by the window.

Victoria had already set a bowl of rice in the middle and a fruit salad. She took a jug of fresh orange juice and took it to the table.

“A housekeeper,” Victoria said with a lifted eyebrow.

The last housekeeper in Grace’s house had left amid suspicion of an affair with Grace’s husband.

“Don’t worry, I have this handled. She comes in at nine o’clock. My husband is long gone to work then, and she’s supposed to leave by three in the afternoon. Hubby comes in late in the evening.” Grace sat down and poured juice into their glasses.

Victoria sat down too and served the rice. “What if he comes during the day?”

“I have people who tell me what’s going on.” Grace sighed. “I trust him though. I have to, Vicky. If I didn’t, I’d end up stalking him in his office, and you know how that would look.”

“He’s a good man,” Victoria said then, needing to assure Grace, “better than most, Grace.”

“Boy don’t I know it,” Grace took a bite of the food, and paused to savor the taste. “Good, I’ll make this for him on Sunday night.”

“I’m always your guinea pig,” Victoria said taking a bite too. The stir-fry was good, the taste of pepper bursting in her mouth, it was delicious. “Does he know I taste the food before it gets cooked for him?”

Grace grinned. “Nope, he thinks I’m the best darned cook in the world.”

“He should know,” Victoria shook her head, “Why the precious dinner on Sunday?”

“His mother is coming into town tomorrow.” Grace shuddered and reached for her orange juice, taking a healthy gulp. “This is my last day of freedom until Sunday. I turn into a grumpy dragon until then. I’m the one who’ll call you with emergencies.”

Victoria sat back in her seat and studied Grace. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“I wish I could infuse my veins with alcohol until she goes, but she’ll smell it and call me a drunk. I can’t do anything right with that woman,” Grace said. “Do you know she’s coming to get money to send her last daughter to college? I’m paying half of that money, and she’s still going to be critical and mean with me.”

“What will you do when you get kids of your own?”

“Hang her,” Grace said. “I love my husband, but his mother drives me crazy. I think she feels I stole him from her.”

Victoria chuckled. “Well, you sorta did, Grace. He’s her oldest son. He prefers to live in Nairobi instead of upcountry.”

“I’d possibly divorce him if he took me to stay upcountry,” Grace shuddered. “She’d be a door away. Can you just imagine the drama that would ensue everyday? I’ll keep us in Nairobi until I die, or she dies.”

Victoria reached over and squeezed Grace’s right hand. “Stop worrying Grace. You make me glad I don’t have a mother in-law just yet.”

“You will soon,” Grace said with a wicked smile. “Then you’ll come crying to me, I can’t wait.”

“Are you my friend?” Victoria asked with a teasing smile.

“Your very best one,” Grace said just as Victoria’s phone buzzed on the coffee table. “And the owner of that mother in-law is calling right now.”

“Stop it,” Victoria shushed her and got up to answer her phone. “Hello?”

“Vicky, it’s your mother.”

Victoria swallowed the rice in her mouth in a hasty gulp.

“Yes Mum,” she said, trying to infuse the right amount of enthusiasm in her voice.

Grace’s eyes went wide and she stuck her tongue out at her.

“Are you coming home this weekend?”

“Yes, with Cliff,” Victoria said. “Is everything alright?”

“I was hoping you’d go shopping for a dress with me.”

“A dress?” Victoria asked warning bells ringing in her head.

“Remember Wanja from the farm next to ours? She’s getting married and her mother asked me to cut the cake for the couple.”

Victoria closed her eyes. “That’s lovely, Mum.”

“Yes, I promised Wanja’s mum I’d ask her the same for your wedding.”

And there it was…Victoria dropped on to the couch.

“Anyone special we should meet?” her mother asked. “Clifford has Olive, but those two are always in the hospital. Vicky?  Are you there?”

“Mum,” Victoria said. “How about I take you for lunch tomorrow? We’ll go get that dress and maybe a suit for Daddy. You two will look fabulous for Wanja’s wedding.”

“I know you’re changing the subject. I worry about you, Victoria. Living alone with no one to look after you,” her mother went on. “It’s not good.”

“I’m fine,” Victoria said. “I like living here.”

“Yes, yes, you’ve said that before,” Teresa Waina said. “Alright, what time will you pick me up? Is your car working?”

“Cliff got it fixed for me,” Victoria said. “How about noon? Don’t be late, Mum.”

“I promise,” Teresa said. “Goodnight, Vicky.”

Her mother ended the call and left her staring at her phone. She always felt so guilty after a call from her mother. She had a good job, a nice apartment; still her mother felt that she hadn’t fulfilled her goals. At twenty-nine, she was meant to have had five children and a husband.

drinksA glass of juice appeared before her, and she glanced up to find Grace smiling at her. Taking the glass, she sipped it and the taste of vodka burned down her throat.

“I figured it was time to break out the big girls’ drinks,” Grace said sitting next to her. “I know that look. Don’t worry, she’s just concerned.”

Victoria let out a sigh and sat back on the couch.

“Well, I wish the concern came with a manual to navigate the insane dating scene we face now. In her days, it was so easy. Does she know men aren’t what they seem to be now? I mean, good men are really hard to find. They’re all either married, confirmed bachelors, or bonafide players. What is a girl supposed to do?”

“Drink?” Grace asked holding up her glass for a toast.

Victoria stared at her.

Grace winked at her and she chuckled. She clinked her glass to Grace’s and took a healthy sip of her juice, appreciating the burn of vodka going down her stomach. It warmed her up.

“To mothers and mothers’ in-law,” Grace said.

“Yeah,” Victoria said. “I guess we’ll be the same when it’s our turn.”

“Probably worse,” Grace said shaking her head. “If I get a daughter, she is so not suffering under some mother in-law. If I get a son, the woman he marries will probably have to contend with me for life.”

Victoria laughed and shook her head. “And the cycle continues.”

Grace’s stomach growled and they both laughed. “I guess we should eat.”

Victoria got up and headed back to their table. “You need energy for your crazy mother in-law, and I need it to face my mother tomorrow. Argh…shopping is going to be insane.”

They ate, drunk too much, and were dancing and singing to Sura Yako when Victoria’s phone buzzed.

“Hello?” she answered watching Grace shaking her booty. She bit back a laugh.

“Victoria.”

“Eric,” Victoria said. “You finally call.”

“Yes,” Eric chuckled. “Are you drunk?”

“I wouldn’t call it drunk. Tipsy?” Victoria said dropping on to the couch. “Grace and I are having a de-stress session.

“What’s a de-stress session?” Eric asked.

“Oh, you know, act silly, get drunk, dance and sing badly to all kinds of songs.”

“Why are you stressed?”

“I’m a woman, Eric.” Victoria stated. “What other reason do you need?”

He laughed and she rolled her eyes at Grace who was miming lovey-dovey hugs.

“I’m heading to bed. I have an early start in the morning. Are you going to sleep soon?”

“I don’t know,” Victoria sighed.

“Lonely?”

“Not really, Grace is here.”

“Don’t let her drive home.”

“Never, we’ll call someone.”

“When I get back, we can talk more about these de-stress sessions. They sound interesting.”

“Can I ask you a question, Eric?”

“Shoot.”

“Which category do you fall into?”

“Huh?”

“Married, confirmed bachelor or a bonafide player? What category?”

“This is a trick question, isn’t it?”

“Choose one,” Victoria stated.

“Fine, since you’re tipsy, I guess you won’t remember my answer.”

“Just answer the question.”

“Confirmed bachelor,” Eric said.

Victoria stared at Grace who’d stopped dancing to watch her.

“That’s what I thought,” she said after a moment. “Goodnight, Eric.”

She dumped the phone on the couch.

“What did he say?” Grace asked.

She laughed.

“Confirmed bachelor,” she said.

“Jeez, you’re so in trouble.”

“I guess I’ll just become a confirmed bachelorette.”

Grace replayed Sura Yako.

“It’s not so bad. You can crush on Bien Aime with no guilt whatsoever.”

“Yeah,” Victoria lifted her glass, “to me and the legions of women who want him too.”

Grace lifted her glass and they laughed as the song restarted.

****

Victoria crawled into bed at around one in the morning. She’d called a designated driver to drive Grace and her car home. As she settled in to sleep, Victoria wondered if the problem wasn’t her. She spent so much time worrying about work, what her bosses wanted, what her mother wanted,…never what she wanted.

What did she want?

If she could define that, perhaps everything would get easier, she thought as she drifted to sleep.

***

To be continued…..Thank You for Reading. ^_^

Picture Perfect 13

Picture Perfect 12

Picture Perfect 13

Chapter 13

PP“She’s very special,” Eric said to the older woman. “Victoria, this is my aunt Rose. Auntie, this is Victoria. I’m trying to impress her. Please tell me you have a table.”

Victoria was surprised, but she managed to hide it, or she hoped she did. Clutching Eric’s hand since he wouldn’t let go, she met Aunt Rose’s curious gaze. The older woman studied her with critical appraisal.

Victoria tried not to feel like a specimen under a microscope. When Aunt Rose simply smiled and nodded, Eric grinned, while Victoria let out a soft sigh of relief.

“I always have a table for you, Eric,” Aunt Rose said leading the way into the restaurant. Instead of the main dining room, she led them to a staircase mounted in the back of the dining room.

Eric held her hand tight as they climbed up the wooden stairs to the top.

Aunt Rose opened a door and led them into a bright small dining room, with windows showing off the city.

“You’re magic,” Eric said giving Aunt Rose a one armed hug.

“Fish?” Aunt Rose asked as she let him go. Eric nodded and she laughed, patting his shoulder. “I’ll bring it in.”

Victoria watched Aunt Rose leave and turned to Eric when they were alone.

“You introduced me to your Aunt?”

“She’s my favorite,” Eric said leading her to the round table in the middle of the room. He pulled out a chair and urged. “Have a seat, Victoria. Aunt Rose makes the best fish.”

“I think you’re biased,” Victoria said sitting down. She placed her handbag on the seat beside her, while Eric chose a seat across her.

“How are you going to keep working with Ronald?”

Victoria frowned. “You don’t want to let that topic go.”

Eric leaned his elbows on the table.

“You should avoid an environment that hurts you.”

“I love my job,” Victoria stated. She loved the challenge it presented daily and meeting different people. “I worked hard to get the job, and to keep it as long as I have. I’ll endure Ronald. He won’t stop me from getting what I want.”

“You’re so stubborn,” Eric said.

No actually, she was naïve, Victoria thought.  She’d trusted a man with blind faith thinking he felt the same way she did. Her anger with Ronald would take time to fade.

Smiling at Eric, Victoria countered, “Aren’t you stubborn too?”

“Well…,” Eric studied her for a moment then asked, “Are we dating?”

“Huh?”

“You and me, are we dating?” Eric asked.

Victoria blinked.

Why did he need to define their relationship?

“We’re having meals together,” she said.

“I’ve noticed,” Eric said, a slight wrinkle appearing on his forehead. “Since that salsa night, we’ve gone to the barbecue your friend had, then that evening party at your neighbor’s house, now its lunch.”

“What’s the problem?”

“I want to know if we’re dating.”

“And if we are?” Victoria asked.

“It’s good to define our relationship, Victoria.” Eric grinned. “No misconceptions allowed…”

He broke off when the door opened and Aunt Rose came in carrying a tray with two plates of fish.

“I added extra lemon juice for you,” Aunt Rose told Victoria. “No smell, just good taste. Karibu, eat.”

Victoria thanked her and watched Eric pick up his fork, eager for his meal.

“Wewe, look at you,” Aunt Rose chastised. “He doesn’t even wait to say grace. Put your fork down, Eric.”

Victoria hid a laugh when Eric did as Aunt Rose asked.

“Victoria, close your eyes. I’ll say grace,” Aunt Rose clasped her hands and said a few words to the lord, thanking him for the food. When she was done, she patted Victoria’s right shoulder.

“Let me know how you like the fish. Next time, I’ll make your favorite instead of Eric’s, okay?”

Victoria smiled, her heartbeat skipping at the words ‘next time’.

“Thank you, Aunt.”

“Eric, be good,” Aunt Rose said. She left them with a wave closing the door behind her.

“This gossip is going to explode at home,” Eric said staring at the door. “Maybe we should have gone for lunch elsewhere.”

“In hindsight,” Victoria teased with a smile.

She picked up her fork and tried the fish. Eric was right. The taste was addictive, fresh and tangy. Aunt Rose knew her marinate.

“Good?” Eric asked.

“Very. I might come back alone.”

“You’re not allowed,” Eric said pointing his fork at her. “You have to come here with me.”

“You can’t stop me. It a public place.”“Aunt Rose will sit you down in a corner and grill you ‘til you cry,” Eric threatened. “You need my protection.”

Victoria laughed then and Eric lifted his camera and snapped yet another picture.

****

Lunch was fun.

Eric liked being around Victoria. She was comfortable, undemanding. She laughed at his jokes, teased him back andTomMboyaStreet though he could tell it startled her, she tolerated his picture taking.

After lunch, they walked along Tom Mboya Street, their pace slow, lazy.

Victoria paused, her attention on a pile of key holders laid out on the pavement by a hawker.

“Want one?” she asked, bending to sort through the key holders carved out of wood. She picked a giraffe and rubbed her finger on the smooth surface. “I like this one.”

Eric inspected the collection of wild animals and chose a leopard.

“I like this one,” he said with a smile.

Victoria got two hundred shillings from her skirt pocket and started to pay for them.

He stopped her.

“Wait,” Eric got a hundred shilling note from his pocket and handed it to the hawker.

Victoria frowned when she took her change from the man.

“I was going to pay for both of them,” she said as she pocketed her hundred shillings.

“I know,” Eric said, taking the giraffe from her. He handed her the tiger.

“Keep mine for me,” he said.

“You’re doing this again?” she asked, her gaze on the tiger. “I really wanted the giraffe.”

“If you want to check on your giraffe, you’ll have to find me, Victoria.”

Eric put the giraffe in his pocket and continued walking. He turned back to find Victoria watching him.

“Are you coming?” he asked.

She shook her head and hurried toward him. They walked back to the Savon Hotel in comfortable silence. When they reached the front doors, Eric took Victoria’s hand and stopped her from entering the hotel.

“I’m heading to Nyeri tonight.”

“Work?”

“Yes,” Eric said. “Want to go with me? We can check out the national park there, spend time exploring the highlands.”

Victoria sighed. “It sounds tempting.”

Eric nodded and touched her chin, tilting her face up.  Victoria met his gaze and he read guilt in her eyes. She wanted to come along.

“One of these days, I’m going to pull you out of here,” Eric said. “We’ll go on an adventure together.”

“Not today though,” she said. “I have a business conference to prepare for, one thousand name tags to replace—

Eric kissed her then, cutting off her short tirade. It was a short kiss, meant to refocus her attention on him. He wanted more the moment the kiss ended.

She touched her lips, taking a step back from him.

“I’ll see you when I get back, Victoria,” he said.

She nodded. When he turned to leave she grabbed his arm and he stopped wishing she’d changed her mind.

“What about your equipment?” she asked instead.

Eric took her hand and squeezed. “Linda has it; I’ll meet her at the studio. I’ll call before leave.”

Victoria’s hand dropped away.

“Yeah sure,” she said. “Thanks for lunch.”

“Anytime love,” he waved and hurried down the steps.

****

Thank you for reading ^_^….

Picture Perfect 12

Picture Perfect 11

Picture Perfect 10

Picture Perfect 12

Picture Perfect 12

Working with Ronald had turned into a trial.  Victoria carried a box full of name tags into her office.  She’d spent twoimages hours arguing with Ronald. She carried one thousand pieces in the box for a conference happening in the morning.  Ronald wanted them replaced because he didn’t want the guests wearing the tags around their necks, he wanted the name tags clipped.  Why it mattered she had no idea.  The business conference organizers didn’t have a preference.  So, Ronald was just being a douche bag. 

Letting a sigh escape, Victoria dumped the box of name tags on her desk. 

“Vicky,” Grace came in behind her.  “Two things, first, I wish you’d just curse out Ronald.  You shouldn’t have to take his crap.  Two, he’s just gone out with that Anita again.  They’re heading to lunch.”

Victoria walked around her desk and slid into her chair.

“I don’t want to think about that man,” Victoria said.

Victoria rubbed her eyes and removed her shoes under her desk.

“Grace, just say it, I’m an idiot.  I should never have dated my boss.”

Grace chuckled.  “I’m not playing that game with you, gal.  Ronald is not a good guy.  You shouldn’t have to carry the backlash of your relationship when he was at fault.  You concentrate on work.”

“I am,” Victoria said pointing at the box of name tags.  “I’ll get those replaced for sure.  I’ll fix all the problems Ronald makes crop up before that business conference tomorrow.  But, it’s annoying me, Grace.”

“You’re doing great, honey,” Grace said.  “You know what, forget work then.  Let’s talk about the cute Eric.  He looks so good walking around the Savon taking photographs.”

Victoria blushed.  “He’s still here?”

“You know he is,” Grace said.  “Do you want to head to the PR wing and see if he’s there?”

Grace winked and they both laughed.

“He’s working,” Victoria said.

“I’m not actually,” Eric said startling her and Grace.

Victoria stared at Eric.  He stood leaning on the doorjamb.  Her heart beat skipped when he smiled.

“Hi,” Eric said.

“Hi,” Victoria said with a shy smile.

“And that’s my cue…,” Grace said winking at Victoria as she left the office.  “Eric, nice to see you.”

“You too, Grace,” Eric said his gaze never leaving Victoria.

Victoria put on her shoes and stood.

“Want to go out for lunch?” Eric asked.

“Are you done with-“

“Forget work,” Eric waved his hand.  “I left my camera with Linda.”

Victoria chuckled.  “That’s huge, Eric.  You left your camera.”

She got her handbag from the cupboard in the corner.  Time away sounded like a good thing.  She needed a break from work too.  Ronald tired her.

“Lunch sounds wonderful,” Victoria said with a wide smile.

Eric lifted his hand and snapped a photo with a small handheld camera.

Victoria sighed.

“It’s a tiny camera,” Eric said closing the door after they left the office.

“Left your camera,” Victoria scoffed.

Eric laughed as they walked down the corridor to the front lobby.  He took her hand when they got out in the sunshine.

“Let’s walk,” Eric said when she started toward the parking lot.

Victoria was glad she’d chosen to wear flats today.  “Where do you want to go for lunch?”

“I don’t know.  Where do you go?” Eric asked looking up and down the street.

“I eat in the staff lounge,” Victoria said.  “Do you want to go back–?”

“Nope,” Eric tightened his hold on her hand.  “I’m getting you out of work.  Let’s go find fish.”

“Fish?” Victoria wrinkled her nose.

“You don’t like fish?”

“The smell of it,” Victoria shook her head.

“We’re going to restaurant with cooked fish,” Eric pointed out.  “You’ll love it, after you taste it of course.”

“Are you forcing me to eat fish?”

“No,” Eric said.  “I’m challenging you to push your boundaries.”

“Whoa, that sounds deep,” Victoria said as they crossed the street.

Eric held her hand tight as they navigated oncoming traffic.  The last time anyone had held her hand crossing the street…she couldn’t remember.

“What?” Eric asked when they were safely on the sidewalk.

“Nothing,” Victoria said amused.

Eric lifted their clasped hands.  “I”m holding on so you don’t run away.”

Victoria laughed and Eric snapped a picture.  She was starting to get used to that about him.

“I saw you earlier,” Eric said.

“Where?” Victoria hoped it wasn’t during her argument with her supervisor.

“In the hallway, angry woman, hands at her hips,” Eric said slowing their pace.  They turned left onto a less busy street.

Victoria dropped her gaze to the pavement.

“Guess you’ve seen my lows more than my highs,” she said.

“Why was she angry?”

“She’s my supervisor,” Victoria said.  “Thanks to office gossip, she found out I was dating Ronald and that we broke up.  Her opinion of me has lowered since then.”

“Didn’t she get the memo?”

“What memo?” Victoria asked meeting Eric’s gaze.

“The ‘your-ex-is-a-douche-bag’ memo,” Eric said.  “I sent them out to every office.  Should I paper the lobby?”

Victoria stared at him, hoping to God he was joking.  He looked so serious.  Her heart skipped and she caught the slight twitch of a smile.  Relief flooded her.

“Thanks for the enthusiasm but don’t paper the lobby.”

“I can drop off incriminating pictures then.  People love looking at pictures.”

“Eric,” Victoria chided.

“I don’t like that guy,” Eric said abruptly.  “He’s taking advantage of his position.”

Victoria squeezed his fingers.  “There have been many like him.  I can handle it.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Eric said.  “I really hate that kind of guy.  Aish, it’s really bothering me.”

“Eric,” Victoria said, her tone cheerful.  “Forget Ronald.  You said you’d buy fish for me.”

“Changing the subject?” he asked.

“How am I changing the subject?  My stomach is rumbling.  I’m hungry.  You promised lunch.”

Eric pointed to a sign ahead of them.  It read ‘Chakula Tamu.’

“My favorite restaurant,” Eric said. “Best food in town.”

“So you say,” Victoria said as he led the way into the busy restaurant.

 There wasn’t a free table in sight.  Lunch hour in Nairobi city…she sighed.  She really hated sharing a table with strangers.

“Eric!”

Victoria frowned when a lady behind the counter came around, her face glowing with excitement.

“It’s really you!” the lady said.  “What a day.  I can’t believe you came.  Where have you been?”

“Away,” Eric said with a smile, his hold on Victoria’s hand tight.  He held on even when she tried to tug it out.

“Oh,” the lady’s gaze dropped to their clasped hands.  Her gaze already judging Victoria. 

“Who is this?” she asked.

Victoria glanced at Eric wondering how he’d introduce her.  This was the first time she was meeting any of Eric’s friends.

****

to be continued…thanks for reading.

Previous Chapters

 

Picture Perfect 11

Picture Perfect 11

Victoria tugged on an emerald dress and zipped it with finality. Not sparing her figure a look in the mirror, she turned to the mess on her bed. All the dresses she owned were scattered on her bed.  To think she’d ended up with the dress she’d picked first. Her phone buzzed and she jumped. Glancing at the clock, Victoria sighed when she saw the time.
It was only ten minutes to six. Eric had promised to show up at six thirty. Her phone buzzed again and she pushed dresses aside to find it on the bed.  She smiled when she saw her older brother’s name. Answering the call, she reached for a brush from her vanity table.

“What’s up?” she asked in greeting.

“Open the door,” Clifford answered.

“What?”

“I’m standing outside your door.”

Hurrying out of her bedroom, Victoria went to open the front door. Clifford stood leaning on the balcony railing, relaxed in faded blue jeans and t-shirt. He held up her car keys.

“I’m sure you’ve been dying for these,” he said with a wide smile.

Victoria returned the smile and held out her hand for the keys. “Thanks Cliff, you’re a lifesaver.”

Clifford’s fingers closed over the keys, his gaze thoughtful as he took in her dress. “Going out?”

Victoria’s smile faltered.

“Uh…yeah,” she said with a wince. She wasn’t ready to tell Clifford about Eric just yet. “Just for dinner, you know, out on the town.”

“Olive’s working tonight,” Clifford said speculatively. “Is Grace here? I’ve missed her.”

Victoria scowled. “I go out with other people too, you know.”

Clifford pushed off the railing and moved to open her apartment door. He removed his leather sandals, as he entered her living room.

“I’m thirsty, Vicky,” Clifford said as he settled on her comfortable pale green couch. He reached for the remote on the coffee table and turned on the television. “Make it cold juice, li’l sis; it’s too hot out there.”

Victoria groaned, just what she needed, an overprotective brother while she big brothergot ready for a date. She stormed into the kitchen and opened the fridge. She was quite aware of what Clifford was doing. He’d scared away most of her potential boyfriends when they’d been growing up. She almost over-filled the juice just imagining how he’d treat Eric.

Returning the carton of orange juice into the fridge, she took the glass to her brother wondering what would get him out of her apartment faster.

Clifford took the glass with a small knowing smile.

“How’s Ronald?”

“We broke up,” she said sitting in the armchair across him. She put her phone on the coffee table and continued brushing her hair. “Aren’t you working tonight?”

“Nope,” Clifford answered stretching his legs out on the couch. “I have two days off. I wanted to get your car fixed, and I need to pick-up supplies for Dad.”

“Supplies?” she asked with a frown.

“Yeah, he’s redoing the perimeter fence. He asked me to help him get sand.”

“That sounds involved,” Victoria said getting up to go clip her hair.

A knock came on the door, and her gaze flew to Clifford. He kept his gaze on the television. Rolling her eyes because it was obvious he was going to be stubborn, she went to open the door.

“Hey,” Eric said with a wide smile.

Before she could speak, Clifford grabbed the door from her and tugged it open.  Eric’s eyes widened and Victoria found herself stepping outside to take Eric’s hand.

“This is my big brother, Clifford,” she said. “He brought my car for me.”

Eric stepped back from her.

She scowled.

“Vicky, finish getting dressed,” Clifford said placing strong hands on her shoulders and pushed her back into the house.

Afraid of what he might say or do to Eric, Victoria ran to her bedroom. She grabbed the hair clip she’d set on the vanity table. Moving in fast motions, she finished with her hair, grabbed her purse. Visions of Clifford beating on his chest as if he was king-kong in the jungle had her jamming her feet into green sandals. She was in the living room when she remembered she’d left her cell phone in the bedroom. Running back with a groan, she got the phone and hurried out of the house.

Clifford and Eric had gone downstairs. Locking the house, she hurried down the stairs, only to find Clifford and Eric laughing by Eric’s car.
She stopped in surprise.

“What are you doing?” Clifford asked pushing off the car. He opened the back passenger door of Eric’s car. “You’re getting late for your date, Vicky.”

Victoria frowned when Eric opened the front passenger door for her. She slid into the car confused.  Eric and Clifford chatted about football as they drove out of the parking lot. When they hit Argwings Kodhek road, Eric stopped the car and Clifford came out.

“Vicky,” Clifford said. “See you on Sunday at the parents’?”

“Sure,” Victoria said as her brother closed the door and hurried off to the bus stop.

Victoria turned to find Eric grinning.

“What did you say to him?” Victoria asked.

Eric shrugged. “I have younger sisters too, that’s all I’ll say.”

“Come on,” Victoria scoffed. “Tell me.”

“Nope,” Eric said as he joined traffic heading toward town. “You look beautiful, Victoria. Makes me think I should take you out dancing.”

“I don’t think you can dance.”

“Now you’re just challenging me.”

Victoria laughed and settled back in her seat. “Fine, it’s a challenge.”

“What do I win if I prove you wrong?”

Victoria glanced at him, “I’ll buy dinner.”

Eric laughed this time.

He did dance…to salsa…Victoria couldn’t laugh as he managed to tag her along with him. They weren’t very good at it, but she had a good time, and he paid for dinner anyway. And so…their love story began…

To be continued….thank you for reading and your patience ^_^

Previous Chapters

Picture Perfect 10

Picture Perfect 10

Chapter 10

Eric smiled when Victoria gave a small gasp when he opened the door to reveal stairs that led to the upper floor of the building.

“You have an upstairs,” she said in awe as he led her up the short steps.

“Yes, I got the space two years ago. I use it as a gallery, office or rest area, whatever I need.”

“Intriguing,” Victoria said tightening her hold on his fingers when he got to the top of the stairs.

She hurried up the last two steps and he gave her an appreciative glance. She looked gorgeous today. Her dress accentuating her full curves, the heels made her seem taller. He loved her natural hair the most. The dark tresses framed her face, so soft he wanted to reach out and run his fingers through it.

Meeting her curious brown eyes, he read a dozen questions in her honeyed eyes. Clearing his throat, he tugged her hand and led her to a large white worktable he used to examine prints. Taking her bag from her, he placed it on a coffee table laden with magazine and old newspapers. Pulling two office chairs, he adjusted the height for her.

“Sit,” he ordered, turning on the lights over the white table. “I thought you might like to see the photographs I took on Saturday.”

She sat down and removed her heels again.

“From Beth’s wedding?” she asked.

“Some of them,” he said with a smile. “I’m still working on the ones I’m going to give to Beth and Taylor. There is no hurry since they’re going to be away for a while.”

The truth was he’d spent his afternoon yesterday working on the spontaneous photos he’d taken of her. Not wishing to reveal just how interesting he found her, he picked up the bundle of prints he’d left on the corner of the table. Pulling up the second seat, he placed the first picture on the clean white table, and watched her reaction when she saw herself.

He’d taken a picture of her at the Savon Hotel. She stood by one of the ballroom windows, the morning sun falling over her as she spoke to Taylor and Beth.

“I didn’t realize you were taking photos that day,” she said, her tone quiet. “I don’t look like myself.”

He chuckled.

“You were all business that day. Don’t you look intimidating?”

She shook her head, an embarrassed expression gracing her features. He put the one he’d gotten from the wedding photos batch before her and she gasped. He understood her reaction perfectly. The woman seated on a bench in the gazebo was different.

Happier, he thought.

He’d captured her just as she was looking back at the vibrant white bougainvillea. She was like a dark goddess overseeing her flower kingdom. Vibrant in red, her profile beautiful and mystical.

“I’m sure this isn’t me,” she said with a pleased laugh, as she bent closer to look at the picture. “You’ve doctored this.”

He shook his head.

“Not at all,” he said truthfully, and laid out the rest of the pictures he’d taken of her at the wedding. His smile widened as she oohed in awe.

“This one is my favorite,” he said pointing to the one he’d snapped when she got out of the car. Her arms stretched wide, her smile carefree, the skirts of her dress floated around her, teased by the wind.

“I like this one,” she said picking out the one of her in the gazebo where she was facing the camera, with a small mysterious smile on her lips. “Can I keep it?”

He took it from her and studied it for a moment. She looked vulnerable in the picture. He hadn’t seen that before. Her brown eyes were bright with an unknown emotion. He’d have loved to know what she was thinking at that exact moment.

“How much?” she asked still looking at the photographs on the table.

“No charge,” he said quietly, “although, you might have to pay a toll.”

“What type of toll?” she asked.

A frown creased her smooth brow when she looked at him. Her eyes stunning in the light, that slow burn in his gut filled him and he wasn’t aware of having moved. He leaned and covered her mouth with his. He kissed her, amazed by the wild burst of electric thrills that raced down his back. He broke the kiss and met her surprised gaze.
Victoria brought her hand up to touch her lips, her brown eyes wide.

He cleared his throat and smiled.

“I’ll give you the pictures,” he said and took the one she’d pointed out. “Although, I’m keeping this one you like.”

“But-, I want that picture,” she said after a moment. “Choose another one.”

“If I keep this one, it will give you a reason to come and visit me,” he said putting it aside.

He gathered the rest of the photographs and put them in a new brown envelope he got from a drawer.

“Why did you kiss me?” she asked when he held out the photographs.

“Because I like you,” he said, leaning his elbows on the table when she took the envelope. “Do you want to see more photographs?’

She hugged the envelope he’d given her and nodded. He got up and hurried to a desk he had close to the wall.

There he retrieved five bunches he’d set aside this morning.

They spent the next two hours going through the photos he’d taken on his different assignments during the week. She exclaimed over a designer’s creativity when he showed her dress designs he’d taken the week before. She fell in love with photographs he’d taken on his trip to Marsabit, and Samburu. She loved the landscapes, huge rocks and the acacia trees he’d captured in the sunset.

When she got tired of the office seats, he tugged her to a couch by the window. She sat on one corner of the couch, and he took the other. When she stretched her feet on the cushions, he moved them onto his lap and massaged them while they talked about his trips around the country.

“I’ve never gone beyond Nyeri,” she confessed at some point. “Compared to you, I think I’d be considered unpatriotic. I’ve only visited one National Park in my adult life.”

“Not many people visit these places,” he soothed running a firm thumb over the elegant curve of her in-step.

Her feet were so soft; he could feel them through the thin layer of stockings she wore. He wished he could see her toenails and find out what color they were today.

“If you were given a chance, where would you like to visit? Somewhere within the country, but don’t say the Coast.”

She frowned throwing a round pillow at him. “How did you now I was going to say Mombasa?”Lake Nakuru

“Everyone wants to visit the beach,” he said with a matter of fact tone.

“Fine, I’d go to Lake Nakuru,” she said. “I’d go see the flamingos.”

“That’s an exciting place to go,” he nodded in approval. “When can we go?”

“What?” she asked in surprise.

“Let’s go to Lake Nakuru,” he said.

Victoria gave him a skeptical glance. “Eric, just like that?”

“Yes,” he said with a short nod. “I’m taking in my Jeep for service tomorrow. Once it’s done, we can fuel it; get some tunes, water and snacks. We’ll be good to go.”

She shook her head. “I can’t just take off and go to Lake Nakuru with you. My schedule is full. I have-”

“Life is pretty short, Victoria,” he said squeezing her foot gently. “Next year, next month, next week, you’re still going to have a full schedule and no time for yourself.”

She studied him for a moment before she shifted on the couch and moved her feet off his lap.

“Eric-,” she started as she sat up.

“What?” he asked.

“My life is not like yours.”

“What does that mean?”

“You run around taking photographs, taking trips to far off places. I’m tied up at the Savon-”

“Take time off,” he cut in to her little tirade.

“Even if I do, we only met last week,” she said, giving him an incredulous expression.

“We’re getting to know each other,” he said with a smile. “A trip to Lake Nakuru will definitely bring us closer.”

She stared at him, and then bit back a yawn. Glancing at her watch, she frowned.

“Jeez, it’s almost ten o’clock at night. I have to go.”

He sighed; disappointed when she stood up and went to get her shoes. He wanted more time, always more time.

“I still want an answer,” he insisted as he watched her wear her shoes.

“Thanks for the massage, my feet are incredibly happy,” she said with a small smile. “Are you headed home?”

He got up and nodded. “I’ll drop you off. Will you go to Lake Nakuru with me?”

“I’ll think about it,” she said.

“How about we make a deal?”

She picked up her handbag from the chair.

“If I agree to do your Savon Hotel PR project, you have to promise to take that trip with me.”

She frowned. “How long will it take you to do the photos?”

“That depends on what your team wants. It could be a day or two, a week at the most, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the proposal,” he said with a negligent shrug.

She studied him, and then nodded, “Fine, but I have a demand of my own.”

“Tell me,” he said moving closer to her.

“I get to bring Olive or Grace, whoever is available,” she said. “Feel free to invite whoever.”

Wicked woman, he thought as she turned smartly and headed for the stairs. She knew he wanted to spend time with her, and only her. When he didn’t move to follow her, she paused at the stairs.

“Are you coming?” she asked.

He chuckled when she continued down the stairs, charmed by her ability to draw him in so completely, he felt lost when she walked away from him. He turned off the lights over the table, and followed her downstairs. Linda had left the hallway light on. He reached for Victoria’s left hand when she started walking out toward the reception area.

“This way, we have a back door,” he said lacing their fingers.

At the end of the hallway in the opposite direction, he unlocked the back door with his keys. He got out first to make sure no one was waiting for them. She followed him, and he switched off the hallway light and set the alarm. Locking the backdoor, he turned to find Victoria rubbing her upper arms in the cool air.

He removed his light jacket and placed it over her shoulders. He rubbed her arms through the fabric.

“Better?” he asked.

“Much,” she nodded.

He pressed a kiss on her forehead and led her to his Jeep parked on one of the two spots behind his building.

“So you’ll only go with me to Lake Nakuru if you can bring Olive or Grace along,” he resumed their conversation when he drove out of the parking lot.

“Yes,” she said tugging his jacket closer. He joined traffic on the Argwings Kodhek road.

“What if I want to spend time alone with you?”

She gave him a blank look as he turned on to her street.

“Well, I guess we’d have to make time to meet in social places.”

He laughed.

“You’re just avoiding me,” he accused. “Fine, if that’s the way of it, make time for me tomorrow evening.”

“Tomorrow?”

He stopped the Jeep at the black gates outside her apartments.

“Yes, we’re going for dinner. A proper one this time since I made you work tonight.”

Victoria removed his jacket and placed it nicely on the back seat. “It better be a nice place.”

He chuckled. “I’ll do my best.”

She reached for the door lock. “Thanks for the ride.”

She glanced at him with a small smile and he leaned in to capture that smile in a kiss. She froze for a moment, then her lips merged with his, softening as she met him. Bursts of heat ran through his body, and he cupped her cheek, wanting to haul her against him and kiss her harder.

But it was too soon, too fast, he ended the kiss to find her eyes closed.

He ran his index finger over her soft left cheek, a soft caress.

“Goodnight, Victoria.”

“Goodnight, Eric. Drive safe,” she murmured and got out of his car without another word.

****

To be continued….Thank you for reading ~_~!!

Previous Chapters

Picture Perfect 9

Chapter 9

Monday was filled with meetings. Victoria spent most of her day moving from one conference room to another, crunching numbers and working with the various sales department heads planning events in the Savon Hotel. The holiday season was around the corner, not to mention the end of year parties. The hotel was booked up for three months straight, which was great for revenue, but it meant more work for the staff.

“Vicky,” Bernard from the PR department caught up with her after a meeting with the business-travel sales manager.
She bit back a groan because she’d been hoping to hide out in her office for thirty minutes. It was only three o’clock but she was ready to call it quits and head home.

“What’s going on Bernard?” she asked, giving him a tired smile.

“I need your help,” he said walking with her to her office. “I heard you know Eric Kabuto.”

She was careful not to show a reaction as she entered her office. Taking the files she held to her desk, she faced Bernard with all the professionalism she could muster.

“Are you looking for Mr. Kabuto?” she asked.

“His studio took shots for the Talua Resorts in Samburu a couple months ago. They look so good; I can’t even begin to explain. I called them to ask for his contact, but when I tried to get a hold of him, it turned out he was busy. We need to take new pictures for our website, and brochures, considering we’re gearing up for the holiday season. I was hoping you’d talk him into taking the assignment.”

She hadn’t heard from Eric since Saturday night after he’d dropped her off. She’d hoped he’d text her, or even call, but he hadn’t done either. Yesterday, when visiting her parents, she’d kept her cell phone close hoping he’d call.

“If he’s unavailable, why can’t you choose another photographer?” she asked, walking around her desk to her chair.

Her feet were killing her; she’d made the mistake of wearing new heels today. Her toes weren’t going to thank her this evening.

“Eric is the best in the business,” Bernard insisted. “I have a second choice but since you spent time with Eric on Saturday, I was hoping you’d meet with him and give him our proposal.”

Bernard held out a Savon Hotel folder and she took it with a slight frown.

“His studio is in Hurlingham,” Bernard said with a hopeful tone. “I’ll forever love you if you get him on board.”

“Fine, I’ll give it a try,” she said. “I’m not promising anything.”

She chuckled as Bernard thanked her and hurried out. Opening the folder, she read the proposal absently. Her thoughts centered on Eric, she wondered why he hadn’t contacted her. Had she read too much into the kiss on her cheek? He’d acted as though he wanted to see her again. She frowned. Then, maybe he was still nursing his heart after Beth’s wedding.

Letting a sigh escape, she removed her shoes under the table and swiveled her chair around to stare out the windows. The sunny afternoon looked enticing, her thoughts instantly strayed to the gazebo she and Eric had seen on Saturday. She wondered if Eric would ever go back to that place. He probably would, visiting Taylor’s aunt, maybe with Beth and Taylor. The stab of jealousy wasn’t new, she’d been having repeated pangs all day yesterday. She wished they’d go away. She and Eric might never happen in this lifetime.

Shaking her head, she turned her chair back to her desk and decided to concentrate on work. Arranging files and event schedules, her gaze returned to the folder Bernard had given her more than once.

Thirty minutes later, she gave in to the burning curiosity.

Putting on her shoes, she grabbed her handbag and Bernard’s folder. She locked her office and headed out of the hotel. She boarded a bus to Hurlingham ten minutes later, determined to find Eric’s studio.

****

Victoria had no trouble finding the studio. It was quite visible once she walked behind the supermarket at Hurlingham. She rubbed her hand over her stomach, hoping to settle the butterflies dancing inside. She stood outside the studio staring at her reflection in the tinted windows analyzing her appearance. She was having a serious case of panic and maybe a loss of confidence. Gods, why did she have such a typical pear shape. Small upper body, fuller hips and thighs than she liked. She’d always felt a bit self-conscious that she couldn’t be considered skinny and petite like Grace or Olive. Not to mention her height, she grimaced thankful she was wearing her heels.

How could she compare to Beth, the paragon of virtue and beauty?

Running a hand down the form fitting cream dress she wore, she suddenly wished she’d gone home. Her clothes looked too formal to visit such a hip looking place.

What was wrong with her?

She smacked her forehead and took in a deep breath.

This wasn’t a social visit. She was here on hotel business. She had no time for self-pity parties. Adjusting her handbag on her shoulder, she tugged open the studio doors and entered the cool reception. Music filled the room, giving it a laid-back atmosphere. The interior designer had glossy photographs of Nairobi mounted on the walls. A logo that read, ‘E.K. Studio’ graced the wall behind the receptionist’s desk. A wide counter that fit horizontally from wall to wall kept customers out of the corridor behind the reception desk.

A young woman appeared at the end of the corridor and she came up to the desk with a wide smile. “How can I help you?”

“Hi, I’m Victoria Waina. I was hoping to see-,”

“Oh,” the young woman moved to the left corner of the counter and opened a door. “Eric has been waiting for you. I’m Rulisha. I’m the receptionist here.”

She waited for Victoria to pass, before she returned the door making it a full counter again.

“I love your dress,” Rulisha said giving her a once over. “And your shoes, they’re fabulous.”

Victoria instantly liked Rulisha. Glancing down at the green heels she’d bought a while back but never won. “They’re new, but they are killing my toes.”

“I can’t tell.” Rulisha said looking at her hair. “I love your natural hair too, wow its long. Who did your hair?”

Victoria touched the soft tresses with a smile. She’d removed her weave last night and stopped at the salon at seven this morning. “There’s a little place two streets from here. Across Chaka place-,”

“I know it, Gugu’s Hairdressers. They do good work.” Rulisha touched her own short hair. “They cut and dyed my hair for me. You like?”

Rulisha had cut her hair and dyed the top of it a dirty blond. She had a delicate, youthful face and the short hair made her look like a pixie.

“I love, you wear short hair very well,” Victoria said as she followed Rulisha. Dressed in slim black jeans and a gray t-shirt, Rulisha looked like she’d left high school a year ago.

Rulisha led her to a sealed black door that opened into a large white room. “Eric, she’s here,” Rulisha said in a singsong voice.

Victoria closed the door behind her awed by the sight around her. The walls of the studio were a pristine white, no windows anywhere. Fans in the corners of the walls circulated the air, keeping the room cool. There were three umbrella lights currently arranged around a setting of lotion products arranged on the floor. Eric stood on a ladder, focusing his lens on the products below.

“Victoria, what took you so long?” Eric demanded not breaking his concentration. “I was starting to think I’d have to go to your house to get you.”

“I didn’t realize you were waiting,” she said looking around the busy room.

Linda was at one of the desks set by the wall working on a computer there. An industrial photo printer whirled to life beside her. Rulisha took an empty box from the floor and filled it with Velo shampoo bottles on a table close to Eric, before she carried it to Linda’s table.

“Hi, Linda,” Victoria said.

Linda glanced up and smiled at her. “It’s nice to see you again, Vicky.”

Eric straightened up on the ladder to look at her. His camera went up again and before she could protest, he took a picture of her.

“Hi,” he said grinning wide.

“Hi,” she said shyly.

“Put your bag down, get comfortable,” Eric said waving around the room. “Lisha, will you call for coffee, and food. I’m starving.”

“Sure,” Rulisha said and handed Victoria a box filled with lotion bottles. “Will you take this to the table next to Linda? How do you like your coffee?”

“Lots of milk, no sugar,” Victoria said as Rulisha left the room. She took the box to the table next to Linda. Placing her handbag beside the box, she pulled out a chair. “What’s going on?”

“We have a deadline,” Linda said. “He’s hoping to get this done today.”

Victoria watched Linda print out pictures, study them for a moment, then hand them to her.

“Trim those for me,” Linda said pointing to a paper guillotine mounted on the edge of the table. “Sorry to put you to work.”

Victoria got up and took the photos to the guillotine. She looked at Eric and wasn’t surprised to find his attention back on the products below him. She spent the next hour working with Linda, trimming pictures of Velo shampoo, conditioner, bar soaps, and lotions into different sizes.

Linda made fun of Eric when he lost his temper and yelled at the two men assisting him with the lighting. Eric would make a face and turn to Victoria for support. She loved their camaraderie.

Rulisha appeared at around five-thirty carrying bags of food. The scent filled the room making her stomach growl.

“What took you so long?” Eric demanded as he got off the ladder.

“You’re so grumpy when you’re hungry,” Rulisha retorted. “I have all the food here, time to eat.”

Eric grinned and patted her head.

“Such an obedient receptionist,” he said.

“Such a grumpy boss,” Rulisha answered taking Linda her food.

“Victoria, do you see what I have to deal with daily?” Eric asked as he handed his camera to Linda.

He took her hand when she finished cutting a set of shampoo bottles and placed them on the pile Linda was stacking together. “Thank you for helping.”

“I’m going to ask for a salary,” Victoria said.

He laughed and led her to a black storage container. They sat down and she slipped off her heels. She wiggled her toes with a sigh.

“I should have known I was coming to work,” she said leaning back against the wall. “Then I would have worn flat shoes.”

“Coffee for you,” Rulisha handed her a steaming black mug, “lots of milk, no sugar.”

Victoria took the mug with an appreciative moan. “This smells so good.”

“Coffee just became my favorite food,” Eric murmured into her ear.

She jabbed his ribs with her elbow and sipped her coffee. “Find this guy some food, Rulisha. His brain cells are dying slowly.”

Rulisha chuckled and held out a plastic container filled with Rice Pilau and beef stew to Eric. He took the food with a wicked grin. He opened the container and took a healthy bite of rice. He too gave an appreciative moan and winked at her when she stared at him.

“Why didn’t you call me yesterday?” he asked when Rulisha handed her a container of food too. “I waited.”

“Why didn’t you call me?” she asked him putting her coffee cup on the floor.

“You were with your parents and your brother,” he said with a shrug. “I figured if I called when they were close, you’d have a hard time explaining who I am.”

“I’m over eighteen, you know,” she said. “I can answer calls as they come without anyone asking.”

“Yeah well, I wanted you to call me,” he said with a sulking tone.

She took a bite of the rice and felt her mouth water. Rulisha had found a great restaurant. The food was delicious. They ate in silence for a few minutes, listening to Rulisha, Linda and the two assistants talk about the movies.

“Want to go?” Eric asked suddenly.

She shifted to look at him. “Go where?”

“To the movies,” he asked refusing to look at her.

“Why?”

“Because,” he said chewing slowly.

“Because what?” she asked.

He looked at her with an exasperated expression. “That’s what people who like each other do.”images (1)

Hiding a smile, she took a bite of her rice and ignored him for a moment. When he didn’t look away, she lifted her brow in question.

“Do we like each other?”

“I thought-,” he broke off when she laughed at the surprised expression on his face. “Jeez, you’re impossible.”

“You should have seen your face,” she said pointing at him with her plastic spoon. “I thought you were going to start crying.”

“Cry? Me cry?” Eric asked her with a narrowed gaze.

He looked so scary she froze for a moment. When he smiled, she poked his arm with her index finger and scowled.

“Stop wearing such a scary expression if you don’t want me to run away,” she said. “Eat your food before you burst a vein. What kind of movies do you like anyway?”

“The ones that have people mindlessly blowing up things,” he said.

“Oh come on, that’s so boring,” she frowned. “That just means we’ll argue if we go to the movie theater. We’ll have to go to separate movies and meet afterwards.”

“Does that mean you like the ones people cry?” he asked.

“How did you know?”

He scoffed. “Hopeless romantic, I bet you believe in true love too.”

“And why not?” she asked taking a bite of her food. “This world would be a lot happier if a few more people believed in true love too.”

“I think it would mean more sad people.”

“Why?”

“Because,” he said, “not everyone gets to meet their true love, Victoria. Sometimes, it’s just not possible.”

Thinking about him and Beth, she held her tongue and reached for her coffee. She took a healthy sip and another one. She reminded her heart not to get too fond of him. He wasn’t the type to stop caring for a woman just because she was now married. Moreover, even though Beth was out of his reach, she frowned; he’d probably compare every other woman to her.

“No comeback?” he asked, bumping her shoulder.

She looked up to find him watching her. “You might be right, why should I argue?”

“I like hearing you argue with me,” he said. “I love your hair by the way. You changed it.”

Her hand went up to her hair automatically. “I got it done this morning,” she mumbled out.

“It suits you.” He finished his food and put the container on the floor. He picked up the coffee Rulisha had brought to him earlier and took a sip. “I feel so much better now. I hadn’t eaten anything all day.”

She pointed to the set up of products. “Are you finished now? Linda said you had a deadline?”

“Yes, we are done. Velo is creating a brochure for their products. They wanted us to do it on Saturday, but I had the wedding.” Eric rubbed the back of his neck to ease tension. “This morning, I had models from a fashion house over, that job took forever. I didn’t want to disappoint Velo, so we agreed to do it today.”

She nodded and closed her container. Putting it on the floor, she reclaimed her coffee. “I actually came to talk business with you.”

“What kind of business?” he asked leaning back on the wall too.

“The hotel’s PR team needs a photographer. We want to update our brochures and websites,” she started to reach for her handbag but he stopped her.

“Did you come here specifically for that? For the hotel?” he asked.

She held his gaze with a shrug, but didn’t answer. He put his mug on the floor. Squeezing her hand, he asked again.

“Is that the only reason why you came?”

“What do you want me to say?” she asked him quietly.

“That you came to see me,” he said.

She dropped her gaze away from his. She would have answered him, but Rulisha chose that moment to get their dishes.

“I hope you’re feeling better, boss,” Rulisha said. “Victoria, it was nice to meet you.”

“It was nice to meet you too,” she said with a smile. “Are you leaving?”

“Yes, after I get this cleaned out.”

Victoria nodded, wore her shoes and stood up.

“I should get going too,” she said reaching for her handbag from the table.

Eric stood as well. “Linda, will you take care of things here. I’ll be upstairs.”

“Sure,” Linda said. “Thanks Victoria, for helping me.”

“No problem,” Victoria said.

“I want to show you something, Victoria,” Eric said grabbing keys from the table where Linda worked.

Not giving her a chance to protest, Eric took her hand and led her out of the large studio. When they were in the hallway, he stopped at a door she hadn’t noticed and unlocked it.

***

To be continued…..Thank you for reading ^_^

Previous Chapters

Picture Perfect 8

Chapter 8

“I’m the manager in this hotel.” He sneered at her, his face turned into a hateful mass of lines that froze her in place. “You can scream, but there’s nothing they’re going to do for you, Vicky.”

“I suggest you do as the lady asks,” Eric said making Victoria glance up to find him standing a few feet away. “I don’t care who you are. If you don’t let go of her, I’m going to break your fingers.”

“This is none of your business,” Ronald said still holding on to her arm. “Why don’t you walk away?”

Afraid the scene would escalate, Victoria stepped into Ronald’s personal space. Surprised by her abrupt move, shoesRonald didn’t get time to react when she stabbed the tip of her right heel into his toes. She used all the force she could master, digging her heel into the expensive leather.

He howled and let go of her arm. She jumped away from him and Eric tugged her out of Ronald’s reach. She was pleasantly surprised when Eric used his own body to shield her in case Ronald retaliated. Eric took her right arm and studied her skin searching for bruises.

“Are you okay?” Eric asked meeting her gaze with concerned eyes.

“I’m fine,” she said giving him a small smile. “I’m not sure Ronald is though.”

“You did good,” he said stroking his thumb over her arm. “Just stay here for a moment, okay?”

She nodded and he smiled. “Good.”

Eric turned to Ronald and in a split second, he had Ronald pressed against the wall. She gasped as Eric tugged Ronald’s tie, tying it around his fist and pulling it until it was choking Ronald.

“I hate men who treat women like you do,” Eric said with disgust. “You listen to me, if Victoria ever complains about you again, even if it’s because of a paper cut, I’m going to find you and you won’t like what happens. Do you understand?”

Ronald choked and nodded his head.

“I didn’t hear you,” Eric hissed in anger.

“I u-understand,” Ronald managed.

Eric tightened his hold on the tie for a second then let go. Ronald collapsed against the wall gulping in air with deep heaves, as he tugged at his tie to release his neck.

“You-, get out of this hotel-, you-”

“Remember what I said,” Eric warned, pointing a finger at him. He turned away from a wheezing Ronald and smiled at her. “Come on, Victoria. I’ll get you home.”

She allowed Eric to lead her away from the alcove and they headed to the stairs. She was conscious of Eric’s hand on her left elbow as they went down the stairs. Once they got to the lobby, she stopped and turned to him.

“I’m fine now,” she said pointing in the direction of the ballroom. “You should go back.”

“Will you stop chasing me away,” Eric said glaring at her. “I just choked a guy for you.”

“I didn’t ask you to do that,” she said glaring at him. “You did that all on your own. Thank you for helping me. Now, go back to the wedding party.”

“I don’t want to be at the wedding party,” Eric said with a stubborn tone. He took her elbow and led her toward the front door. “I promised Olive I’d get you home. That’s what I’m going to do, even if I have to carry you to the car. Cooperate, Victoria.”

She chuckled as the front doors slid open and they stepped out into the cool night air. When they got to his black Jeep, he opened the passenger door for her and waited until she settled to close the door.

When he slid into the driver’s seat, she asked, “Why did you follow me?”

“You’re my date,” he said, starting the car. “How could I let some weird guy steal you away without a fight?”

She smiled at him. “You didn’t have to follow me, you know.”

Eric spared her a glance before he asked. “Is that guy the reason you were crying that day we bumped into each other?”

Her smile faded away as fast as it had come. Remembering that day, all the reasons why she now hated Ronald Mutoko returned and she was suddenly glad that Eric had threatened him. She looked out the window at the city lights, and the vehicles passing them.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she murmured.

“He hurt you,” Eric said quietly. “It matters.”

“Not if I don’t want it to matter,” she replied firmly. “I don’t want to dwell on that guy anymore. You have no idea what it has been like since I found out what he did. I don’t want to think about him.”

“Fine,” Eric said.

When she turned to look at him, he looked away.

“I won’t ask again, as long as you admit something,” he said.

“What?”

“You thought I was pretty cool back there.”

She scoffed. “Please, I had already rescued myself. You were just trying to be macho man.”

“Come on, I was the warrior with his spear defending his woman. You were impressed.”

“Warrior with his spear?” Victoria laughed. “What do you think this is? A movie?”

10000BC“Hello, I’m sure my grandfather was the clan chief in the past. I’d have been the one leading battles against the wild animals in the village. I won the fight today, so that means you’re my reward. Haven’t you watched 10,000 B.C.?”

“You really are insane,” Victoria said with amusement. “I’m not a thing to be won.”

“No, you’re not,” Eric said quietly as he sped up the hill on Valley Road. “I’m hoping you won’t have trouble with that Ronald. I need you to promise that you’ll call me if you do, Victoria.”

She dropped her gaze. “He won’t bother with me anymore.”

“Promise anyway,” Eric insisted as he joined Argwings Kodhek road. “It will make me feel better.”

“Fine, I promise,” she said, welcoming the warmth that flooded her at the thought of having someone other than her big brother to call on for help. She concentrated on giving him directions to her apartment building, which was off Argwings Kodhek in Hurlingham. When he found her residential street and turned on to it, he slowed down.

“This is very close to the shopping center. Maybe you can come visit my studio tomorrow.”

“It’s Sunday,” she said with a sigh. “My brother is picking me up. We’re going to visit our parents in Kinoo.”

“Are you going to be there all day?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with a sigh. “Things just end up going nuts on days like tomorrow. It will depend with what’s happening.”

“Oh,” Eric said in disappointment. He stopped the car before the black gates outside her apartment building. “So, when will I see you again?”

She looked at him. “Do you want to see me again?”

“Give me your phone,” he said holding out his hand.

She got the phone from her purse and handed it over. She watched him type in his number and save it. He called his number and handed her phone back when his rang.

“Come see my studio on Monday,” he said when she put her phone away.

“After work,” he said when she started to protest.

“I might work late,” she said with a frown.

“Come on, make time” he cajoled. “I’ll even feed you.”

She reached for the door handle. “I’ll think about it.”

“Just think about it?” he asked when she opened the door.

“A lot, I’ll think about it a lot,” she said with a small grin.

When she started to get out, he placed a hand on her right hand to stop her.

“Victoria,” he said.

She turned to look at him and he smiled. “Thank you for being my date today.”

Before she could answer, he leaned over and pressed a kiss on her cheek.

“Sleep well,” he murmured.

“Good night,” she managed and slid out of the car.

She closed the passenger door, waved at him and waited for him to drive away. He didn’t.

“Go on in,” he said leaning out the window.

She frowned but did as he asked. Greeting the guard on the other side, she closed the gate and grinned when she heard Eric honk once and drive off.

****

To be continued……Thank you for reading, “_”

Previous Chapter

Picture Perfect 7

Picture Perfect 7

“What’s wrong with your car?” Eric asked when he settled in his seat.

“I don’t know,” Victoria said with a shrug. “My brother towed it to a garage a few days ago. I’m hoping he no cargets it back to me soon. I miss the freedom of my car.”

She sipped her drink and stared into the glass in silence.

He cleared his throat and asked, “What did I do earlier?”

She lifted her head to look at him.

“What do you mean?”

“When we were in Upper hill this afternoon,” he said quietly. “We were talking nicely; you were having a good time. When I finished taking Beth’s photos and came to find you at the gazebo, you changed. What did I say?”

“Nothing,” she said her gaze sliding away from him. “It was foolish.”

“Your feelings aren’t foolish, Victoria.” He touched her shoulder, marveling at how soft her skin was.  “Please just tell me.”

She closed her eyes. “Why?”

“Because, I want to know,” Eric said.

She met his gaze again. “I saw you with her. How she made you smile, you light up when you’re around her.”

“Victoria,” he started shocked by how deeply she saw inside him.

“You must love her very much,” she said quietly. “How can you stand it?”

He dropped his hand away from her shoulder and reached for his beer. Taking a healthy sip, he shrugged.

“I stayed away. It was easier.”

“Hence the dangerous excursions to all kinds of places,” Victoria said studying him. “Did it help?”

“Yes,” he said with a small smile, “until I came back for the wedding. I’m glad you went to the church, you distracted me and the day has ended without me noticing.”

“What about the rest of your life?” Victoria asked. “Are you going to avoid them?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

He’d thought about immersing himself in work again, taking on more out-of-town assignments. Now–

He glanced at Victoria…maybe she could be the distraction he needed.

“What?” she asked.

I like you“Nothing,” He smiled and leaned on the counter to study her. “You’re very beautiful. I don’t know if I’ve told you that.”

Victoria laughed and pushed her drink away.

“No, you’re not going to use me as a distraction.”

“I’m just giving you a compliment,” Eric said, noting the small laugh lines that appeared at the corner of her lips. “I’m stating a fact here.”

“You’re not flirting?” she asked giving him a skeptical look.

“No,” he shook his head even though he didn’t quite manage to hide his grin.

She punched his left arm lightly.

“You can’t even lie with a straight face.”

“You’re the one who wants me to lie. I’m happy telling you the truth.”

“Let’s discuss something else,” she said shifting in her seat to look at him.

Dark hair fell over her right eye and he reached out to push it back. She sat still as he stroked a finger over funher soft brown cheek. When he dropped his hand away, she met his gaze. He read fear, and uncertainty. She looked like she wanted to bolt for the doors, but wouldn’t.

“Vicky,” a gruff voice interrupted the moment and he turned to find a tall man standing a few feet away in an impeccable suit. He was looking at Victoria expectantly and giving Eric an irritated glance. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”

Eric turned to find Victoria staring at the man with a mutinous gaze. He started to send the unwelcome man away, but she stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Give me a second, Ronald,” she said with a cold tone. She slipped off her chair and turned to him. “Eric, I can get myself home.”

“No way,” he protested taking her hand. “I promised Olive.”

“There is no need to drag you away from the party going on downstairs. Beth and Taylor’s families need you there. Please, don’t worry about me. I’ll take a taxi home. I had a very good time today. Thank you,” she said leaning to press a chaste kiss on his jaw. “Let’s meet again.”

She let go of his hand and turned to the man standing a few feet away. Roland or Donald, whatever his name was, slipped an arm around her shoulders and he felt an ugly surge of jealousy sweep through him.
Who was this guy holding on to her like he owned her? It didn’t help when the bastard turned and gave him a smirk. Reaching for his beer, Eric took a healthy sip and wondered if he could get away with punching the smug bastard. He sighed and turned away to keep from running after Victoria.

****

“Who is that guy?” Ronald Mutoko asked Victoria when they were in a private alcove around the corner from the Tropical Isle bar. “Why was he touching you?”

Victoria folded her arms against her chest and studied him. She’d found his impeccable taste in suits attractive once. Now, the tailored garb seemed too much like a costume Ronald was using to hide his rotten nature.

“What does it matter?” she asked meeting his dark gaze. “Why should it matter to you who touches me?”

Ronald’s forehead creased.

“Vicky, why are you acting like this? If it’s about that new concierge, you don’t have to worry about her. I’ll fire her and you’ll never have to see her again.”

“She’s not my worry, Ronald.” How had she never seen this horrible side of Ronald? “And leave that poor girl’s job alone. You’re the one in the wrong here. I trusted you and instead you,” she broke off and looked away from him. “You turned me into an idiot. That’s never going to happen again.”

“What if I apologize?” he asked touching her arm.

She shrugged his hand away. “You can apologize. It won’t mend us.”

“Vicky-,” Ronald said quietly.

“How many have there been?” she asked abruptly. “These past two years, while I blindly trusted you, thinking we were building a relationship, how many women have there been?”

He took a step back and shook his head. “You can’t ask me a question like that.”

“Why not?” Victoria asked her voice rising unintentionally.  Jeez, he was such a bastard.  “You felt you have the right to ask about the guy I was just having a drink with. Why shouldn’t I ask you about the women you’ve slept with behind my back?”

“Don’t talk so loudly.” Ronald looked around the hallway, making sure no one was around.

She was disappointed there wasn’t anyone in sight.  Not because she liked drama, but she wished others would see this Ronald.  This sleazy, unscrupulous side of him.  God, she was getting bitter.

“I already apologized,” he said returning his gaze to her. “Let it go, and let’s start over. I promise I will never do it again, Vicky.”

let goGoodness did she have stupid stamped on her forehead? She scoffed and stepped away from him.

“I hope your next girlfriend believes you. We’re over, Ronald. We’re going to keep up a professional relationship, that’s it. If you have any questions about the hotel sales, I’ll be happy to answer them. On a personal note, you’re nothing to me.”

“You can’t do this,” Ronald said glaring at her.

“Yes I can,” she said narrowing her gaze. “I should have done it a long time ago, but I’ve been too scared of the future to face the truth. Thank you for opening my eyes.”

“Vicky,” he grabbed her upper arm tightly when she turned to leave. “You have no right to do this.”

“Let go of my arm, Ronald.” His fingers were digging into her skin and it hurt.

“Who do you think you are to judge me?”  His fingers tightened around her arm. “Aren’t you also just as vulgar? Look at you, slathering on red lipstick, dressing in a provocative dress, and having drinks with strangers. Weren’t you asking for attention from that guy I just dragged you away from?”

“Let go of me, Ronald.”

She winced when he tightened his hold and tugged her closer to him. His cologne made her want to gag. It was unbelievable as she’d once found it enticing.

“You still want me.” His leering tone made her skin crawl. “You want it, you’re just angry with me for choosing another woman. So you’re trying to make me jealous by going after strangers.”

“I’m not even going to address that comment. Let me go before I start screaming.”

“I’m the manager in this hotel.” He sneered at her, his face turned into a hateful mass of lines that froze her in place. “You can scream, but there’s nothing they’re going to do for you, Vicky…”

****

To be continued… Thank you for reading >_<

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Picture Perfect 6

Chapter 6

index2“Victoria, you ran off,” Eric accused when he reached them. “How can you leave me to my own devices?”

“You were getting along quite fine.” She sipped her drink and glanced at Olive. “This is my best friend, Olive. She’s a doctor at the Nairobi hospital. If you ever need a check-up, she’s the one to call.”

Olive held out her hand to Eric with a dazzling smile. “Nice to meet you and you are?”

“Eric Kabuto, photographer,” he said. “Victoria is supposed to be my date but she keeps leaving me alone.”

Olive chuckled. “Why don’t you join us? Grace told me to keep Vicky up here.”

Eric ordered a beer from the bartender and moved closer to Victoria.

“This is why you should have listened to me. Nagging Grace will just get her irritated with you. Is that why you ran up here?”

“No, I was running away from you,” Victoria answered looking at him. “Did you abandon your job again?”

“You keep forgetting Linda is here with me,” he said thanking the bartender when his beer arrived. “Olive, is it just Olive or should I call you, Dr. Olive?”

“I should make you call me Dr. Olive.”

“What do you call her?” Eric asked nudging Victoria’s shoulder. “I’ll call her the same.”

“Olive, but that’s because we know each other. You’re a stranger.”

“I’m a stranger?” he asked pressing a hand against his chest feigning pain. “After we had such a good time earlier, how can I be a stranger?”

Olive laughed. “Just how close did you two get at the photo shoot?”

“She knows my biggest secret,” Eric said with a serious tone. “I’m amazed that she guessed it so easily too. So you can imagine we’re close.”

Victoria shook her head. “Your secret is so obvious, Eric. I’m surprised no one else knows.”

“Olive doesn’t know.” Eric sipped his beer. “Olive, tell me something I don’t know about Victoria.”

“What would you like to know?” Olive asked. “Me and this chick, we went to college together. I even know her eating habits.”

Eric glanced at Victoria and winked. “What should I ask first?”

“Don’t tell him anything,” Victoria said to Olive.

“Eric, I think I have to turn this against you,” Olive said then. “She’s my best friend. I can’t tell you anything when she tells me not to. Why don’t you tell me about you instead?”

Eric shrugged.

“Ask anything,” he said.

“Where did you go to high school?” Olive asked. “You look like a Dagoretti Boys student.”dagoretti

“Do we have some kind of stamp on our foreheads?” he asked with a laugh.

“It’s the way you act,” Olive said. “Comfortable, like nothing scares you anymore.”

“A lot of things scare me,” Eric said with a small smile. “Like Victoria here, when I first saw her, she wouldn’t even crack a smile.”

Olive chuckled. “She has that effect on people when she doesn’t want to talk.”

“Hey, I’m sitting right here,” Victoria complained. “And this is supposed to be about Eric answering questions.”

Olive turned to him with a small grin. “The craziest thing you’ve ever done.”

Eric sipped his beer and answered. “You won’t believe me.”

“What is it?” Victoria asked shifting her chair so that she could see him.

Mara“I went to the Maasai Mara once for an assignment. My guide and I ended up in a situation where we had to stay inside a vehicle for a day and a half waiting out a hungry lion.”

Olive burst out laughing. “That only happens when you provoke the wild animals. What did you do?”

“I needed to pee.” Eric confessed in a matter of fact tone. “My guide stopped the car near a bush and I got out to do my business. The next thing I know, I was running to the car because a huge lioness had appeared and she wanted me for lunch.”

“You could have died, or lost vital equipment you idiot,” Victoria said glaring at him.

“Again with the name calling,” Eric complained.

Olive laughed. “That’s insane and untrue. Tell us another one; something that’s actually happened this time.”

****

Eric took in the frown on Victoria’s forehead and couldn’t help hoping it was concern. He wanted it to be, because then he’d know she’d at least noticed him. He’d spent the afternoon watching her and decided that she was worth getting to know better. She had this ability to slip in and out of his thoughts. She’d even managed to distract him from Beth and Taylor’s wedding.

Clearing his throat, he turned to Olive.

“My buddies and I took a trip to the Marsabit National Reserve weeks ago to take landscape pictures. The paradisedrive there is tough, our car would go for an hour, and a tire would blow. I swear we had fifteen tire punctures. We spent the day taking pictures of the wild, so raw, and untouched. You can imagine our return trip was on four flat tires. We drove fast over rough terrain. The car bounced up and down,” he chuckled just remembering it. “It was exhilarating.”

“Why do you do it?” Victoria asked him. “I mean, you could easily just take a simple assignment. Why travel to such places?”

“Why not?” he asked meeting her gaze. “Those pictures we took in Marsabit were accepted by National Geographic. I shared a part of our country with so many people. Don’t you think it’s worth the trouble?”

“So you do it for patriotism?” Victoria asked with a frown.

“I had a lot of fun with my friends on that road trip. I can show you the pictures if you visit my studio.”

“Where do you live?” Olive asked then.

“I have a half-acre piece of land on Ndwaru Road near Riruta. I’ve been developing the property slowly for the past few years. Every time I get money, I build.”

“Do you build rental houses?” Victoria asked.

“I have a few rental houses,” he said with a small nod, “but also my own house that’s been under construction for what seems like years. I just finished plastering the walls, now I just need to paint.”

“That’s good,” Olive said with a nod. “You at least have something solid. It’s getting hard to buy land anywhere close to Nairobi lately. I’m half-afraid I’m going to rent my whole life.”

“What about you, Victoria?” he asked.

“I rent too,” she said. “I live in Hurlingham; it’s close to town and my job. Although, I’ve been saving money for a project I want to start at home.”

“Home?” Eric asked.

“She’s from Kinoo,” Olive provided finishing her drink. “Her father owns land that he’s going to share between her and her older brother.”

“What kind of project are you planning?” Eric asked signaling the bartender for more drinks. He tugged a high chair between Victoria and Olive and sat down.

“I like to farm,” Victoria declared with a tilt of her chin. “My dad has green houses where he grows different vegetables. I figured I’d start a green house project of my own. I love strawberries, so I want to grow them.”

“She has a few growing in containers on the kitchen veranda at her apartment,” Olive said. “I steal them when I go visit her. I can’t wait until she has a full greenhouse…all those strawberries.”

“The kind of farming you’re talking about requires planning,” Eric said impressed.

images23“Yes, I have one green house planned so far. I want to get started by next year in February,” Victoria said with a pleased smile. “I’ve talked to a few people in the hotel industry who are ready to buy the fruits. Strawberries have a market as fruit, garnish or for making jellies, so I have a wide market. I just need to make sure that I have the right seed otherwise all my plans fail.”

“You will make it work, don’t worry. Our Victoria was born with a green thumb,” Olive said with pride.

“Unlike you,” Victoria said taking Olive’s hand. “I gave her a small mint plant for her kitchen and found it dried two weeks after I gave it to her.”

“I’m never at home,” Olive said with a sigh. “I did try to look after it when I could.”

Olive’s phone buzzed and she reached for it with a frown. One glance at the caller ID and she shook her head. “I have to go. This is the story of my life, just when I’m starting to have fun.”

“Another patient?” Victoria asked with a frown.

“No, same one from the other day,” Olive said as she got up. “Eric, can I leave my friend in your care? I was going to give her a ride home later.”

“I can do that,” he said quickly. “Don’t worry.”

“Thank you,” Olive said turning to Victoria. “Thanks for the drinks, my dear. Call me tomorrow.”

Victoria accepted a short hug from Olive before she left. Eric returned his chair back to its place and took Olive’s seat.

****

To be continued….Thank you for reading! ~_~

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5