This week I'm continuing with my teasers from the Men of Valor historical romance series, with the story that started it all.
His Treasure was my first story to be signed by a publisher and was released in December 2011. Adaku's and Obinna's story hold a very special place in my heart.
Enjoy the teaser.
South Eastern Nigeria, pre-colonization.
Stubborn pride was a foolish thing.
Adaku knew that now. It was a shame she hadn’t realized it early enough; when it’d mattered. It would have saved her a lot of headache. Her current troubles wouldn’t have existed. As it was, she was lost down this track of foolish pride she’d chosen. She couldn’t go back and change things. Yet she moved forward with a heavy burden on her shoulders. It was her path. She would walk it with dignity, regardless.
Taking a deep breath, she let out the air slowly, loosening her clenched grip on the basket of farm produce under her arm. The early morning chill had not dissipated, though the sun had ascended. Yet she felt hot like she had a fever. If she didn’t relax, her friend walking with her to the market square would start asking questions Adaku couldn’t answer.
Today, she needed to barter the items in her basket for some game meat. While she raised her own poultry at home, she liked the variety of game meat occasionally. The earliness of the day would assure the variety. The extra bag of cowries in her basket would guarantee she acquired the best on offer.
“I have some news to share.” Ifeoma had a full girly grin on her face when she leaned in to whisper to Adaku.
Ifeoma was her lifelong friend. The only one who still sought her company since Adaku's unfortunate fall from grace. It had been an eye-opener to find out how quickly one could lose friends when one was no longer favored. Still, she had enough to be grateful for. Things could be a lot worse.
However, her friend had a penchant for drama and gossip. Each time they met up, these days it was mostly during the Oye market day, Ifeoma filled her in on the latest news from the village. Oye was the busiest market day in the region. It attracted traders from afar. Occasionally, among them would be the nomadic Fulani tribesmen from the north. They brought with them varied ware including some of the most beautiful fabrics and leather. She was hoping to find a fabric for the New Yam festival to be held in a few weeks.
“Come on then. Let’s hear it. Whose father is taking another wife? Or who was caught under the udara fruit tree with whom?” Adaku attempted a laugh, but it sounded hollow even to her ears. The truth was she was getting tired of hearing stories about other people’s lives. She had problems of her own.
Ifeoma giggled merrily. “Oh, it’s nothing like that this time. Look at me. Do you notice anything different about me?”
Adaku gave her a quick glance and shrugged. Although Ifeoma was a head shorter than her, she had the full bust and round hips that meant she never lacked the gazes of male admirers. Adaku sometimes felt inadequate in her tall, slender frame. She used to feel boyish when she was younger. Thankfully, her breasts and hips had finally flared out, albeit later than her age mates. She couldn’t see any difference in her friend’s appearance except the new fabric she was wearing. It was a pink-and-blue-print sarong, wrapped from her chest and stopping mid-calf. It skimmed her body, showing off her curves.
“Is the outfit new? I haven’t seen it on you before.”
“Yes it’s new but that’s not it. Come on, look closer,” Ifeoma urged her, standing with her hands akimbo and a sheepish smile.
Adaku stopped walking and turned fully to face her friend. Ifeoma wasn’t a classic beauty, but she had very good skin tone—the color of dark wood. Looking closer, Adaku noticed her skin seemed to glow and her eyes glittered. It seemed married life suited Ifeoma well. Though her husband was from a humbler background, she always seemed happy.
As she watched her friend’s eyes sparkle with barely contained amusement, it hit her. “You are pregnant!” The statement slipped out and she had to lower her voice at the last word. She took a quick glance around to ensure she hadn’t been overheard. Though the footpath was busy with people going or coming from the market, there was no one close enough to overhear their conversation.
“Yes!” Ifeoma squealed in laughter as she hugged her friend. “How did you know?”
“I just guessed it.” She pulled back and stared at her friend’s still-flat stomach. As much as she was happy for Ifeoma, she couldn’t help feel the sliver of dread creeping down her back. “I’m so pleased for you. Afam must be overjoyed.”
Afam was Ifeoma’s husband. As the only son of his parents, it was his responsibility to raise heirs to keep the family line alive.
As it is your husband’s duty.
Adaku fingers tightened on her basket again. She mentally shook her head to dismiss the taunting voice whispering in her mind.
“He’s. He bought me this new fabric as a gift. He has promised plenty more gifts and a huge celebration when I deliver the baby.”
Ifeoma danced around on the spot, showing off her new clothes. Adaku was pleased for her friend. Ifeoma deserved the good news after losing her parents as a young girl.
“Very soon, it’ll be your turn, if you’re not already.” Ifeoma winked at her as they resumed walking. “Your husband is so virile. He’s bound to give you twins.”
Adaku nearly choked at her friends words as heat washed over her body. Her husband, Obinna, was virile all right. The best wrestler of the village, he had a body and agility crafted by gods for gods. Still, they were a long way from twins anytime soon.
She forced a bright smile on her face and kept walking.
“If the gods wish it.” She chose to be philosophical rather than share the dark secrets of her married life.
Her marriage was not all it seemed. They had both been bound to their husbands in the same season many moons ago just after the last New Yam festival. Afam had wooed and courted Ifeoma before the marriage rites were finally performed. Adaku had several suitors at the time, but had refused all of them. She’d held out, waiting for the prince to formally propose as he’d promised.
When someone had discovered them together without chaperones, her father had insisted she had to get bound immediately. He’d practically given her away to the next suitor to ask for her hand. All her pleading and tears had fallen on her father’s deaf ears. She would either marry Obinna, a man she barely knew, or be disowned. Her mother, the second of three wives, could not have borne the disgrace that would have brought to her. Adaku had no choice but to cave in to her parents. But she’d sworn she would never give herself willingly to her husband. Her heart and her body belonged to the prince.
That was almost a year ago. Now her friend, Ifeoma, was pregnant, as were most of the other maidens who had wed at the same time as them. A few had given birth already. Children were a sign of fertility and prosperity. Soon it’d be another New Yam festival; a festival to celebrate fertility and prosperity. And what did she have to celebrate?
Still she couldn’t blame anyone else. She’d sealed her fate with her stubbornness. This was her life. Her pride wouldn’t let her admit to anyone it was far from perfect.
Keeping her chin up, she walked into the already bustling market square.
If you enjoyed the excerpt, you can read His Treasure in paperback or eBook in the Men of Valor box set.
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