The next morning Isha dragged her lethargic body out of bed, lured by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Sunlight came through the large windows into the open plan living space, which included the dining and kitchen at one end. The interior retained the original high ceilings of the Georgian architecture although the rest of the flat had been modernised to a contemporary design.
“You finally woke up.” Amara sat on a high stool, flicking the pages of a textbook on the granite top of the breakfast bar and scribbling on a notebook with a black and gold roller-ball pen. A half-empty white porcelain mug sat on a juniper wood disc.
Isha glanced at the wall clock with matte grey edge and crisp white dial. The long metal hand was almost at ten, while the short one was close to twelve.
The late shifts at Bar Atlantic meant she had a lie-in on Saturday mornings. However, she was usually up before eleven a.m.
“Yeah,” she mumbled as she went over to cupboard and took out another mug.
The counter had been wiped down, and all the dishes put away. Amara was one of the most organised people she knew, partly why they got along. Neither had to worry about each other’s messes because they liked to keep the flat they shared spotless.
Isha poured coffee and scooped in Demerara sugar before topping it with milk from the fridge. The spoon tinkled as she stirred the drink. She dumped the spoon in the sink and swivelled to make her way back to her room.
“What happened last night?” Amara’s tone was curious.
Isha wasn’t in the mood for conversation. “Nothing.”
She just wanted to crawl back into bed, drink her coffee and wallow in self-pity.
“Nothing? That’s all you’re going to say after you messed up?” Amara wasn’t going to let this go.
Puffing out a sigh, Isha carried the drink over to the counter next to her friend. She climbed onto a stool and took a sip of coffee. Within seconds the caffeine and sugar combo boosted her. No matter the shitstorm erupting in her life, she could be guaranteed a cup of quality Java.
One of the perks of sharing this two-bed house with her bestie who happened to also be the only daughter of a Nigerian king. Yes, Amara was another royal princess. An encounter in a Swiss preparatory school had bonded them for life.
When Isha had suggested that they go incognito at university, her best friend had jumped at the chance. They had both plotted on how to convince their parents.
However, while Isha’s father still hated the idea and had restricted Isha’s access to funds as a deterrent, Amara’s parents subsidised her student life. Her friend had always been daddy’s girl.
When they’d decided the area of London they wanted to live in, Amara’s father bought the building containing their flat. The place had been refurbished and furnished for them. They lived rent-free, although they had to pay other bills and feed themselves.
Amara had found them the jobs at Bar Atlantic through her Nigerian connections.
So Isha owed her an explanation about last night, at the very least.
Her friend continued scribbling on the notepad.
Isha took another sip and returned her mug to the wooden coaster. “I messed up.”
Amara sighed, dropped her pen on the table and glanced over. “You did. You know I had to beg the boss to let you work up at the VIP Lounge, and you go and pull a stunt like that. What came over you?”
“It was that freaking woman!” All of last night’s rollercoaster emotions came crashing down on Isha.
She pushed off the stool, causing it to scuff on the marble floor. She paced to the window. Her body trembled, and she clutched her midriff, caught between wanting to scream and wanting to cry.
After her encounter with Professor Bassong in the car when he’d brought her home weeks ago, she had begged Amara to get her on the Members’ Lounge rota.
Her friend had always mentioned how she loved working there because there were fewer crowds, better tips and intriguing guests. She’d also warned Isha about the house regulations. “Nothing that happens there can be discussed outside.”
Eventually, Isha had been summoned to the owner’s office where he’d confirmed that she could work at the lounge on a trial basis.
Last night, she’d been assigned to serve a section of the bar while Amara had another section. Butterflies had fluttered in her belly when she’d seen Professor Bassong arrive. However, he’d chosen a seat in Amara’s section and Isha had to beg her friend to swap so she could serve him.
Before she delivered his drink, a female guest had wiggled her way to chat with him.
Mildly irritated, she’d served the drink to him, hoping he’d acknowledge her.
He hadn’t. Not even a smile.
They’d shared a few private moments in his car. Didn’t she deserve a ‘hello, Ruby’ or ‘how are you, Ruby’ or ‘I missed you, Ruby?’
Okay, that last one was highly improbable.
Still, her irritation had snowballed at his snub, first to disappointment and finally to rage when the Kari woman had touched the professor.
The memory made her body overheat, and she scrubbed her palms over her face.
“Unnh,” she growled and planted her head on the window pane, arms dangling.
Cold hands landed on her shoulders and massaged the knotted muscles. “Girl, take a deep breath and tell me what’s going on. Didn’t you like working at the VIP Lounge?”
She sighed, lifted her head and walked back to the stool. “I did. At first.”
After reading and signing a contract that included a non-disclosure agreement to serve drinks at the exclusive bar, she had expected weird stuff like orgies or whatever to happen last night.
However, the VIP guests had enjoyed themselves, drinking, chatting and dancing. They appeared little different from the rest of the revellers. Some exuded dark, unyielding authority, setting her pulse alight. She’d seen the total attention they’d paid their companions, and she’d wanted the same thing.
She’d been polite, deferent and had served drinks or food as ordered.
“Then, what happened?” Amara’s voice pulled her out of her reverie. “You asked me to swap places, so you could serve Mister Zain, and then afterwards you shut yourself in the ladies. And then Mister K called you in for a chat. Did he do something to you?”
“No!” She shook her head and sucked in a heavy breath before saying in a quiet voice. “He threatened to spank me.”
“Who did? Mister K?” Amara gasped.
“No. Professor Bassong.” A shiver slid down her spine as she remembered the harsh tone of his voice and his hardened expression.
“You know he is Mister Zain at Bar Atlantic. You can’t call him Professor Bassong.”
“I know.” She didn’t care. He would always be Professor Bassong to her. Her professor. The man who had taken up nightly residence in her dreams. The man she’d set her heart on.
Until last night.
Her lungs constricted, making it hard to breathe.
“Why did he want to punish you?” Amara probed.
Isha swallowed hard and tipped her head back. “I may have been rude to his companion—” She flapped her hand “—Ms Karidja or whatever her name was.”
“That attitude would get you a spanking.” Her flatmate commented as she lifted both brows, body jerking.
“She had no right to touch him.” Her fury returned, seeping into her voice.
“It is a night club. Men and women go there to hook up.”
“Hang on a minute. Are you having an affair with Professor Bassong?”
“No, I’m not having an affair with him. That’s the point. He’s doing it with the Kates, Karens and Karidjas that turn up at Bar Atlantic instead.”
She tossed her arms in the air, hopped off the stool and stalked to the window again.
She hadn’t known it would hurt so much to find out that the lecturer was dating other women. Seeing him with that woman had broken something inside Isha last night, no matter how irrational it seemed.
Her chest felt tight. She fought not to crumble and clutched her arms around her midriff.
Amara didn’t say anything for a few minutes, probably shocked by Isha’s outburst.
Then she joined her by the window and spoke in a soft voice. “You’re in love with him?”
Isha swallowed but still couldn’t speak without breaking down. She glanced at her friend as tears filled her eyes and nodded.
“Oh, sweetie. I’m so sorry.” Amara wrapped her arms around Isha’s shoulders and hugged her. “I didn’t know.”
She stepped back to wipe her face with her palms. “I didn’t know how much I wanted him until I saw him with that woman. The way she touched him just blew a fuse in my head.”
She turned back to the window but not really seeing outside. Instead, her view was of the bar, Professor Bassong and the woman sitting side by side, talking intimately.
“Why her? Why not me? Is it because she is skinny, and I’m not?”
The self-recrimination had started last night. Perhaps she needed to sign up for a gym membership like Amara, who was there at least twice a week.
“Don’t say that. You’re gorgeous,” her friend enthused.
Isha shrugged. “Or maybe it’s because she’s older and more experienced. She freaking knows how to seduce a man a whole lot better than I do.”
She’d failed in her attempt to woo the professor, abysmally.
“Or it could be simply because he is your lecturer and you’re his student. Anything else would be inappropriate,” her friend tried to be the voice of reason.
“But the other day, he drove me home when it was raining. He walked me to the door.” She pointed in the direction. “Doesn’t that count for something?”
“He was just nice. We both have enough older brothers to know how overprotective they can get. It doesn’t mean they want to date us.”
“Well, I thought he cared about me. A man who cares wouldn’t shove another woman in your face.”
“That’s a little unfair. Don’t you think? He didn’t know you were going to be there.”
“Okay. Maybe he didn’t know. Still...” She rubbed her palms over her face and took a deep breath. “I wish I hadn’t asked to work at the Members’ Lounge. I really wish I didn’t know he was having sex with other women because now everything is ruined.”
“Sweetie.” Amara placed her hand on Isha’s shoulder. “I think it is better that you found out. At least, now you know you can get over the crush and move on.”
“You’re right. It’s time to move on,” Isha said even though she didn’t believe it. She turned away, picked up her cold coffee and dumped the liquid into the sink. Then she washed out the mug and placed it on the drainer.
Bad enough when she would have to sit through his seminars for the rest of the year. On the upside, she didn’t have to face him in class for another few weeks as they were on Easter break.
She’d taken the job at the VIP lounge to make the professor fall in love with her just as she was in love with him. He hadn’t even given her a chance. He’d broken her heart. What would be the point in punishing herself more?
“I told Mister K that I wanted to go back to my old rota. He said I could,” she spoke in a matter of fact tone.
“Well, that’s good. At least you still have a job. I thought he would’ve fired you.”
“I thought so too. But there’s something about last night that I can’t seem to get out of my mind.”
“What is it?”
“At that moment when Prof—Mister Zain was threatening to spank me and demanding an apology, it was as if I had a connection with him. As if he saw me. It was a brief moment. But he acknowledged me. My pulse thumped, my heart soared while my belly did flip-flops. It was amazing and scary at the same time.”
“Wow.” Amara looked at her with amazement.
“I know. I want to experience that feeling again.”
“Not with Mister Zain, though.”
“Of course not. That ship has sailed.” Her chest tightened again.
“I’ll be forced to take you across my knees and spank you arse here and now.” She replayed the professor’s words as her stomach muscles contracted and her clit pulsed.
“Another question.” She leaned against the counter. “Have any of the VIP guests ever spanked you?”
Amara laughed. “Of course not. Then again, I don’t go looking for their trouble. I behave myself.”
“But what if you get into trouble and one of them spanks you?”
Amara shrugged. “If it happens, it happens.”
“You don’t mind? I mean, my father never spanked us as children. Why would I want to get spanked as a grown adult?”
“Because it is sexy,” Amara answered with a wink.
Isha’s mouth dropped open.
“Don’t look so surprised.” Her friend giggled. “The thrill of the possibilities is the reason I work there. Maybe when I find my own hot, sexy Dominant I can misbehave so he can spank me.”
“You’re not serious.” Isha gaped at her friend.
“I so am. In the meantime we’ll both keep away from the forbidden men. They are bad news.”
“What do you mean ‘forbidden men’?” She moved close to Amara. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“It’s nothing.” Her flatmate went back to scribbling on the notepad.
She grabbed Amara’s textbook. “I told you my secret. You have to tell me yours.”
“Okay. Okay. Give me back the textbook and I’ll tell you.”