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“Did you hear what happened to my neighbours?” Chapter One - CAPTIVE (Challenge #4) #steamyromance

Hello, sweeties. Today I'm sharing the first chapter from Captive which is the 4th book in the Challenge series. This opens with Anuli feeling listless at the loss of her BFF.


Chapter One

“Did you hear what happened to my neighbours?”

Anuli couldn’t see the person speaking. She stood in a closed cubicle in the ladies’ toilet, hands on the sliding lock, ready to open it.

Pausing, she tilted her head to the side, left ear close to the wooden slab separating her from the women chatting by the sinks.

“No. What happened?” a second girl asked. Unlike the first lady, whose voice sounded nasal as if she had a cold, this one’s tone had a warm rasp to it.

“You won’t believe it.” The first girl lowered her voice. Anuli pictured her leaning close to the other girl to speak. “My neighbour’s wife reported him to the police. Apparently, he had sex with their daughter.”

“Tufiakwa!” the second woman exclaimed.

Anuli’s stomach congealed. Nausea rose, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. For a brief moment, she was that little girl with her stepfather’s weight crushing her body, his sweaty scent in her nostrils. She gulped in air, shaking her head to chase the memory away. She needed to get out of here. The ongoing conversation stopped her.

“That’s not the worst of it. The police arrested the man but sent him back home without any charges. They said it was a domestic and civil matter. So the man went back to the house to continue abusing his daughter. Can you imagine?”

“Oh my God! No!”

The sound of running water stopped with the squeak of the taps.

“Yes, o. So the woman jejely poisoned her husband to death. The police showed up and arrested her.”

“Oh no! That’s not right.”

“The police could have prevented this from happening. Now they are punishing the girl twice. She’s a victim, and now she doesn’t even have her mother because the woman is in police lock-up.”

“What nonsense. The woman needs a good lawyer.”

Heels tapped on the hard flooring. Hinges creaked.

“Yes, she does. Some of the neighbours got together and found a lawyer for her. Hopefully, she’ll be out on bail soon.”

“Good. This kind of nonsense has to stop...” The woman’s voice faded as a door slammed shut. Both ladies had left the restroom.

Anuli braced her hands against the wooden partition, gulping in breath to ease the tension in her body. Her initial repulsion against the man’s paedophilia had morphed to anger when she’d found out the man hadn’t been charged and his wife was now in jail.

The story almost mirrored what had happened to her as a child. Except her mother had died, and her abuser was still alive.

She jerked the toilet door open. It slammed against the wall as she strode up to a sink. Dumping her bag on the counter, she took tissues from the dispenser and dabbed the sweat from her forehead. Her eyes blazed with fury in the mirror.

Why did this kind of shit keep happening, and the people who should protect the vulnerable not do anything about it?

She washed her fidgety hands and switched off the tap before snatching her purse and heading for the exit. She walked into the bar. ‘Ada Ada’ by Flavour greeted her from hidden speakers, the music low enough for rumbling conversations to be overheard. The lounge had filled up since she went to the restroom.

Regina, a slim girl with dark-brown skin and close-cropped hair, moved her bag to make space for Anuli on the stool she’d vacated earlier. “You’re back.”

Nodding, Anuli waved at the bar man and climbed onto the chair. She needed a strong drink, something to wipe out the memories that had resurfaced. She tapped her fingertips on the shiny hard black surface of the counter.

“Are you okay?” Regina asked, lifting her glass to mocha lips.

Anuli looked up and forced a smile on her face. She didn’t discuss her past with people, and she certainly wouldn’t start now, although Regina was a friend. “I’m fine. I just need a drink.”

Regina’s lips curled upward at the corners. She reminded Anuli of Lupita Nyong’o. She had the same pretty grin on her oval face. When she tilted her head, the oversized silver loop earring matching her silver and black dress glinted in the light.

“What can I get you?” The barman, a twenty-something-year-old with a stud earring in the left ear, black shirt and trousers, beamed a smile at her. He’d been flirting with them since they arrived. Well, mainly with Regina. If he only knew she wasn’t interested in men. At least, not the way he expected.

Anuli’s smile bloomed at the thought, and she winked at him. “Jack Daniels and a splash of Coke.”

The bartender’s grin widened. “Coming right up.”

He took her money, dropped it in the till and gave her change. Reaching for the liquor bottle standing on a shelf against the mirrored wall, he swivelled and poured a shot into a clean glass filled with ice before topping it off with Coke. He slid the filled glass as well as the bottle of Coke across to her.

“Do you want some?” Anuli asked the girl sitting next to her.

Regina wrinkled her nose. “No. You know I don’t drink alcohol.”

Shrugging, Anuli downed her drink in successive gulps. Warmth slid down her throat and across her chest. The alcoholic buzz kicked in, taking her tension away. She poured some of the remaining Coke into the glass with the tinkling ice and topped off Regina’s drink with the rest.

“I’m just heading outside for a smoke,” Regina said as she got off the barstool. The girl never got drunk, but she smoked cigarettes. Go figure that one out.

Anuli would own up to three vices—booze, nicotine and sex. Why the hell not? She wasn’t looking to live to a grand old age. Just wanted to get through life the best way she could.

“I’ll come with you.” She stepped down as someone brushed past her, distracting her. She caught a whiff of bergamot and spices. The scent cut straight to the bone. She froze, her gaze darting around, trying to find the source.

A thrill of excitement and a shiver of terror shimmied down her spine simultaneously. The bar was full of people, sweat and smoke being the primary smells in the warm air. So why did this particular fragrance get her attention?

Just as quickly as she’d sniffed it, the scent was gone. She couldn’t recapture it no matter how she tried.

“Anuli, are you coming?” Regina grabbed her attention again as she dragged two top fingers back and forth in front of her pouted lips as if she was taking a drag on a cigarette. “Smokes.”

“Yes,” she replied and grabbed her purse as she followed. They headed towards the exit.

The two of them had been friends for a while, but they’d started hanging out together recently. The girl was bold, beautiful. Daring. She didn’t have the same hang-ups as her BFF.

Mind you, she wasn’t Tessa. No one could replace Tessa. What she’d shared with her best friend was remarkable. Tessa had moved on to better things with Peter. Anuli was pleased for her.

But she couldn’t sit around moping about the loss of her confidante and lover. She had to move on.

Regina was the next best thing. She wasn’t much of a talker, though.

That was one thing Anuli missed about Tessa’s absence.

Tessa had been talkative. From the first day they’d met as kids, Anuli had been attracted to the smart girl with big words that had been Tessa. She’d been bookish and nerdy, always having something to say. Tessa hid her pain behind her sassy mouth.

Anuli didn’t really know all that much about Regina. She knew the girl liked to party. They shared the same vices. For now, that was enough. She didn’t need the same level of deep, dark secrets that she’d shared with Tessa.

Tessa hated that Anuli smoked. With Regina, she didn’t have to worry about anyone nagging her about the hazards of cigarettes.

They pushed through the boisterous revellers. A young man staggered out of the way when she tapped his shoulder, giving her a leering smile. Another clutched a glass of blue drink precariously and would perhaps spill it on the next unsuspecting partygoer if not careful.

Her platform high heels tapped on the hard flooring as she avoided a man whose roving hand groped her bum. She caught the scent again and stiffened, gaze sweeping the space.

It could have come from anyone. Perhaps it was the beautiful girl in a short red dress whose curly braids bounced as she walked or the man wearing dark sunglasses in a dimly lit bar.

Anuli snorted. Why did people do that? She had the mind to tell him those things were called ‘sunshades’ for a reason.

But her heart stuttered because she’d found the source of the scent. Knew it as soon as her gaze fell upon the brick wall of a man in dark trousers and T-shirt standing close to the exit. Yes, she recognised the shiny bald head, full lips, powerful chin and a trimmed beard.

Even more telling, the heat from his eyes, as black as pitch, threatened to scorch her skin as he tracked her movement. His piercing gaze undressed her and covered her up at the same time.

Tope Balogun, head of security at Park Hotels.

Shit. Her mouth dried out, and she swallowed. She’d pictured those large, strong hands holding her down while he fucked her so hard, the bed rattled and disturbed the neighbours.

Her footsteps faltered, and she grabbed Regina, stopping her forward motion.

There was only one way out of here, and it stood right next to him. She couldn’t walk out without him noticing her, even though he seemed in conversation with another man standing next to him.

Her breath locked tight in her chest, and she forced air into her lungs with a slow inhale.

“What’s the matter?” Regina asked, turning her head to look at Anuli.

“Is there another way out of here?” Anuli asked in a low voice but still loud enough to be heard with the music.

“None, aside from the emergency exit. Touching that will get us arrested.”

“True.” She had no business getting the police involved. Anyway, what was likely to happen to her here? She was in a busy bar. And he wouldn’t dare cause trouble.

If he wanted to look at her, that was his headache, not hers.

“It’s okay. Let’s go.” She nudged Regina.

Just as she sashayed past the man, spicy fragrance filled her nostrils—a warm, firm palm wrapped around her wrist.

Her pulse thundered. She tugged, turned and glared at him.

He didn’t release her as he stepped through the open door into the quiet hallway. The smile on his face didn’t waver as he lowered his head, bringing his face close to hers. Warm air from his breath whispered on her cheek.

She shivered as heat settled between her legs and her knees weakened. She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t speak.

He stood close enough to kiss, and if he closed the space between them, she wouldn’t resist his lips on hers.

“You haven’t been to work at Park Hotel for a few weeks,” he said in a voice tinged with a Yoruba accent.

“I took time off for my exams.” It was a lame excuse as exams finished weeks ago, but she stuck to it. Anyway, what did he care if she went to work or not? He wasn’t her boss.

“Your exams ended a while ago. Your school is on break,” he replied in the deep voice that sent her pulse skittering.

She sucked a sharp breath, unable to look away from his dark eyes hooded under the slash of thick brows defining his proportioned features.

“How do you know?”

“I know.” His gaze didn’t waver.

Her stomach did a somersault as an arc of energy tightened between them like a stretched rubber band ready to snap. Just as it had the first day she’d met him.

“Why is it your business? You don’t own the hotel.” She needed to get a grip. She wasn’t a swooning virgin, for goodness’ sake.

His full lips curled in a smirk before he grazed the lobe of her ear with his lips, sending her pulse rate through the roof. “I don’t own Park Hotel, but I’m going to own your beautiful behind if you don’t get back to work there.”

Fingers grazed her right bum cheek as if for emphasis.

Her breath hitched, and her mouth dropped open. She tried to ignore the pulsing core at the images his words conjured. At the liberties he took. “What?”

“You heard me.” He winked at her and let go of her hand. “See you soon, Tiger.”

She glared at him some more and staggered out of the building into the warm breezy night, clutching her tingling wrist.

He’d just threatened her. The hard-ass, delicious-looking chief of security for Park Hotel had just threatened to own her ass.

And why did the idea make her body flush with heat and her insides clench tight?

An image of his smirking face loomed in her mind.

Damn him! Damn the sexy bastard.

She gulped in air as she stomped over to where Regina leaned against the wall, a lit cigarette between her lips. She pulled the cig from the girl’s mouth, placed it to her lips and took a long drag. Tilting her head to the side, she blew out smoke from the corner of her mouth. Smoke curled around them and dissipated into the humid night.

Instead of giving Regina back the fag, she leaned forward and covered her lips in a kiss. Regina was soft and sweet. She let out a small moan as Anuli moved close and brought their bodies together, deepening the smooch.

What Anuli really wanted was a big, strong body holding her down and screwing her to oblivion. She could go back into the bar, guaranteed she’d been walking away with a man of her choice.

But Tope was still in there, and she didn’t want to see his smirking face again if she could help it.

She couldn’t forget the first day she’d met him in Peter Oranye’s penthouse when she’d been ordered to work in the housekeeping department of the Park Hotel. Peter had instructed her to be locked in the guardhouse if she failed to comply with his instructions. Tope had stood over her like a sentry, ensuring she obeyed the order. Throughout the day, he’d been close by, watching her although he hadn’t said anything to her.

In the few days that she’d worked there, they hadn’t said much to each other. But there had been moments when he’d caught her staring at his body. He’d smirked at her much like he’d done tonight.

She came up for air, breaking the kiss.

“Let’s go back to mine,” she said to Regina. She needed to channel this desire coursing in her veins.

“Sure,” the girl replied and pushed off the wall, slinging the strap of her bag over her left shoulder.

Anuli passed her hand through Regina’s arm, and they sashayed to the pavement to hail a taxi. It wasn’t too late in the evening, and one stopped after only a few minutes.

They got inside and sat in the back together. Anuli held onto Regina, stroking her arms. Regina leaned back against her, leaning her head on Anuli’s shoulder.

Anuli didn’t want to attract attention from the cab driver; otherwise, she would have pulled Regina closer for another kiss. But she didn’t want to risk being kicked out of the cab.

Nigerians had enough problems with public displays of affection without adding two women kissing into the mix.

For her, it was no biggie. She loved the softness of a woman’s curves as much as she loved the hardness of a man’s body. Yes, she was bisexual. It wasn’t about choosing one over the other. Or that she hated men, which was what some people thought. It was just the way she was made.

She was tactile and felt at ease when she had physical contact with others. Perhaps that was why she enjoyed sex so much as opposed to Tessa, who only used to do it out of necessity. To survive.

That had been before Peter. He’d given Tessa her first orgasm by a man, and Tessa hadn’t looked back since.

Anuli had a consolation, though. She’d been Tessa’s only female lover.

Anuli, on the other hand, wasn’t ashamed to admit that she enjoyed sex. Got a kick out of it. She’d always wanted more. The next orgasm. The next high. Of course, if the men wanted to pay to fuck her, even better. That way, she wouldn’t have to put up with another man who would enslave her like Uncle Joe had done.

Her body stiffened as it always did when she thought about that motherfucker. Anger boiled in her veins. The man deserved to be carved up and left to the vultures.

She hadn’t thought about him for a long time. Mainly because she hadn’t wanted to upset Tessa. But now, Tessa was okay, under Peter’s care; she didn’t have to worry about her friend anymore.

The conversations she’d overheard in the restrooms, describing what had happened to the abused girl and her family, had resurrected old emotions Anuli had kept under wraps for years. Now Anuli was left to imagine all the possible things she could do to the man who had been her tormentor if she ever got her hands on him again.

“Nuli, come on,” Regina’s voice roused her from her churning thoughts.

She’d been so engrossed, she hadn’t realised the taxi had stopped in front of the gates of the compound that housed her rented room.

Regina pushed open the door and stepped out. Anuli followed as her friend paid the driver. She walked up to the side gate and tapped on it. She heard the cab drive off as Regina came to stand beside her. The orange light of the street lamp gave her friend an ethereal glow.

Desire sparked again in Anuli’s belly, rising to mix with the ebbing fury in her veins. She grabbed Regina’s wrist and shoved her against the wall, pushing her knee between the girl’s thighs, forcing them apart as her skirt rode up her hips.

Regina gasped, her eyes glazing over, her mouth falling open.

Anuli took advantage and thrust her tongue inside the warm mouth just as she grabbed her nape, pulling them together. Her right hand grabbed Regina’s left breast and squeezed.

Anuli was aggressive. Rough. But Regina didn’t seem to mind as a moan spilled out and her body bowed off the wall. She humped Anuli’s thigh wedged between hers.

Heat and dampness seeped from Regina’s panties onto her bare skin.

Shuffling footsteps sounded on the other side of the wall, followed by a grating sound as a metal bolt was pulled back.

Anuli broke the kiss, panting as she whispered, “I want to fuck you tonight.”

They’d kissed before, but they’d never gone all the way. Regina had been with a woman before. She’d had a girlfriend, but they’d recently broken up.

A big smile curled Regina’s lips before she responded. “About time.”

“Aunty, you don come back,” the gateman’s voice stopped Anuli from responding.

“Oga gateman, thank you.” She took her friend’s hand, pulling her through the open archway.

“You no bring anything for me?” the man asked as she walked past him.

They had an arrangement for him to open the gates for her when she came back late in the evenings. But she couldn’t stop right now to rummage through her purse for some cash for him.

“Me and you go talk for morning, eh. No vex,” she said and carried on walking.

“Okay. Good night.” The sound of the man locking the gates followed her.

Anuli hurried down the side of the main two-level, cream-coloured building, where the landlord and his family lived. She needed to reach her room so she could get her hands fully on Regina without interruptions.

Stepping onto the veranda, she reached into the side of her purse and pulled out her jingling keys. Then she opened the brown wooden door. She flicked on the switch on the wall, grateful that there wasn’t a power cut. Bright white light filled the room, making her squint after the gloom of the outdoors.

Regina strode past her and slumped on the low bed, pulling off her shoes.

Anuli walked over to the small reading table and flicked on the desk lamp before switching off the overhead light. She preferred the intimate feel of the dimly lit room.

Regina was already stripping off, not waiting for Anuli’s instruction. The girl was beautiful, no doubt about it. She was a slim girl with dark chocolate skin and a very short afro.

Warmth spread over Anuli’s skin as she watched. Anticipation made her rush to remove her clothes too. She opened the wardrobe and rummaged in one bag under the hanging clothes before pulling out the item she wanted. It was a black, double-ended silicone dildo with a leather strap-on belt. Both ends were ridged and veined like erect dicks but with one side longer than the other.

“Have you ever used this before?” she asked.

Regina’s smile only widened as she spread herself on the bed, flawless dark skin on display. “Not exactly like that but similar.”

“Good.” Anuli climbed onto the bed. Just seeing Regina naked and waiting had her body curling tight from all the banked up desire.

Soon, she was caressing and stroking the woman’s body, fingers in her wet pussy, mouth clamped around her firm breast.

“Ohhh,” Regina cried out and bucked as she climaxed, her channel contracting around Anuli’s digits.

Anuli couldn’t wait any longer. Her body was primed. She inserted the short end of the dildo into her already soaked sex and gasped as it filled her. Then she clasped the belt over her hips. Kneeling between Regina’s legs, she leaned over her as she thrust in with the dildo.

“Oh...oh.” Regina gasped as she lifted her hips to meet Anuli’s thrusts. Soon, their hips were slapping together, their bodies sliding over each other as sweat slicked their skins.

Pleasure zinged through Anuli. She found that she loved being in charge of someone else’s pleasure like this. The rapt expression on Regina’s face with her lowered lids, glazed eyes, and a slightly opened mouth showed the woman was rushing towards another orgasm.

So was Anuli. Her body curled tight as she deepened the thrusts.

“Ah,” they both cried as wave after wave of pleasure hit her, her body trembling.

She slumped on the bed beside Regina, panting.

Regina rolled to her side and placed her hand over Anuli’s breast in what seemed like a possessive gesture.

A memory returned—of Uncle Joe doing the same thing after he’d had his way with her.

Anuli stiffened and sat up, pushing off the bed.

“What’s the matter?” Regina sounded concerned.

The girl had no business being concerned about her. She didn’t want her getting attached, especially since Regina was on the rebound from a broken relationship.

Anuli couldn’t let anyone close to her again. Not Regina. Not anyone. She’d been through the heartache of losing Tessa to Peter. She wouldn’t put herself through the pain again.

Taking a deep breath, she forced a smile on her face. “It’s nothing. I just want a cigarette.”

She grabbed the pack and lighter from her purse on the table.

“I’ll have one then.” Regina extended her hand, and Anuli gave her a stick before taking one for herself. She grabbed the ashtray and got back into bed.

The two of them smoked silently, Anuli engrossed in her thoughts as she made plans.

She was going to find Uncle Joe and lay his ghost to rest. Permanently.


About Captive (Challenge series #4)

With her BFF and ex-lover now happily engaged to the man of her dreams, Anuli Okoro is left to her own devices. She's accepted that there can never be a fairy tale ending for her. She's too damaged to ever fit with anyone else.

Until she pushes too far and lands herself in hot water with Tope Balogun, an annoyingly sexy man who sees the darkness inside her and isn't fazed by it. Fighting him doesn't work because he seems to know her too well.

She has plans to deal with her dark past, and the only option is to escape before Tope totally consumes her.

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