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The clinking of glassware; the murmuring voices; the sing-along tune played by the big brass band; the occasional spurts of laughter; the trickle and burble of the flowing water in the ornate marble fountain and the shudders of the leaves on trimmed shrubberies, faded into nothing. She felt the flutter of his breath on her lips. Cautiously, they brushed against hers. Then again, before he captured them in his. Familiar, yet each time breath-taking, he kissed her. Slowly, gently but she could feel his trembling control fade as it became hungry and urgent. Leila gasped when the slated floor seemed to break away beneath her. But Marco held her, his arm firmly about her. Closer, they moved into each other, wanting more as the kiss deepened.
At first they did not hear the drawn out clearing of someone’s throat. But the second time was louder and it was Marco who pulled himself away, Leila, still lost in the sensuous moment, took a fraction more of a moment to register that they had company.
Leila was dazzled by the glitter of tiny golden threads that shimmered under the light of the overhead outdoor lamp fixture. Bianca was striking in her golden dress.
“There isn’t an audience here,” she said as she shifted weight onto her other expensive heel and bobbed her head from side to side, the movement causing each golden thread to catch the light. “So why do you feel it necessary to put on a show?” She placed her hands on her hips.
Clearly, Bianca was annoyed but Leila was even more so.
“We weren’t putting on a show, as you put it!”
“Well Leila, don’t you think you’re taking the part too far? A bit too over enthusiastic, aren’t you?”
Leila imagined all manners of getting back at Bianca for that remark. Most of them physical because a verbal comeback would seem so ineffective. But before Leila could respond, Marco said, “That’s enough, Bianca.” He stepped between them. “What are you doing here? You were to come in tomorrow.”
“This is an important deal Marco. I thought we could… you know, get a head start. If we don’t secure our part in this, we can’t make the Lagos meeting.”
Leila noted that Bianca’s entire demeanour changed when she was addressing Marco. What was the nature of their business partnership? It was crystal clear that Bianca Scott did not like her. Leila was beginning to realise that she was perhaps only a pawn in this entire charade.
“I’m leaving.” Leila picked up the skirt of her dress to make a quick exit, but Marco grasped her arm.
“Wait,” he said, then softly, “Please.”
He turned to Bianca. “Leila and I have some things to discuss. If you’ll perhaps find our friends and assure them that all is well, we’ll join you soon.”
With that he dismissed her. Bianca took a moment or two to leave, ensuring first that she sent a rather unfriendly glare toward Leila. For some reason Leila actually felt sorry for her.
“I don’t know what this is Marco. But I’m clearly not ready for it.” Leila pried his fingers off her arm. “I am going back to the hotel. I think I’ve done my part, as your business associate pointed out.”
“What it is, is that we’re making the mistake of mixing business with pleasure.”
She got his meaning immediately.
“No you don’t. I can see the wheels turning in your head and I know you’re coming to the wrong conclusion.” He pursed his lips. Those very same lips that brought her to the edge of passion just minutes ago. “I should not have involved you in this.”
“Well, I am. Our marriage is nothing but a business deal, so it makes no difference.”
“You’re wrong.” He sighed as he placed his hands in his pockets and looked off into the night. “I have a lot to prove to you, Leila. I just need you to give it some time.”
“I don’t want to play your games any more Marco.”
He studied her in the glow of the lamp light, while a hypnotised moth made it final flight toward it. The curve of her face and the hang of her head were so familiar to him, yet so out of reach in that moment. It was a game they were playing, wasn’t it? She was the prize although she had no clue of it.
“No games, Leila.”
Taking her arm, he escorted her to their waiting limo, saw that she was safely ensconced within and then instructed the driver to take her back to the hotel. He wanted to kiss her again but instead settled for a light touch along the side of her face.