*** She placed a light kiss on my mouth, then her thumb replaced her lips, tracing the outline of my mouth with a light, feathery touch. I held her hand tightly to me, our eyes locked on each other, unwillingly to let go, momentarily forgetting that she was my brother's fiancé, that she belonged to someone else... Then Flora coughed and the spell was broken. "What's this? A love triangle? With you Ibiere in the middle of two brothers? Can you cope with both of them?" she asked teasingly. Ibiere laughed and taking my hand led me outside to the balcony of the flat. It was on the third floor of the apartment block. We stood gazing at the garden below where two children were playing on the slides there. "I wish I had met you before him," she said, turning to me. I looked at her, puzzled. "Meaning?" "Then we won't be in this mess. You like me and I like you too. We want to be together. What are we going to do about it, Val?" she asked plaintively. Frankly, I did not know. All I knew was that I wanted her like I had never wanted any lady in my life; to be with her, love and be loved by her, spend my days and nights with her... We sat and she told me how she met Vinny. "We were on the same flight from Calabar," she said. "I had gone for the wedding of Nse, my old school mate in secondary school in Port Harcourt. We got chatting and when we landed in Lagos, we took a cab and he dropped me at home. "That was how we became friends before it developed further. I won't lie. I like your brother, but I don't love him." "Then why the engagement?" I queried. "Opportunity," she replied promptly. "I'm not getting younger and most of my friends and school mates are settling down. Why should I be different? Besides, Flora had explicitly told my parents she was not ready for marriage, to be 'caged' and tied down to one man yet. So, the pressure has shifted to me, to get a husband before I turned 30 in a few years time. When Vinny said he loved me and wanted me as his wife, I saw it as the chance to get married this year. "Though, I have other suitors, none is as suitable as your brother. Now, I regret accepting his proposal. Perhaps, If I had just waited a little bit, I might have met you and..." she said, pausing. She was silent for a while, then said: "Maybe, I should break it off?" "What?" I asked. "The engagement. I can't go ahead with this, feeling the way I do about you," she said firmly. My first instinct was to encourage her to go ahead with the plan. If she left my brother, I reasoned, then she would be all mine. On the other hand, my brother loved her so much, such a move would leave him devastated. And cause bad blood and a fight between us. Did I want to be the cause of that? My brother and I had always been close, growing up the only males among five girls. We have always looked out for each other, throughout our childhood and young adult life as university students in the same school. We had never fought over a girl as our tastes in women were quite different. That was until Ibiere came on the scene. Now both of us loved her, wanted her. What were we going to do? *** Six weeks later... It was a nice day for a visit to the resort on the outskirts of Lagos. Being a Saturday, traffic was light and we arrived the place shortly before noon. Ibiere and I were at the resort to spend the Easter break together. It was not planned, just something we decided to do some days before. "Let's leave town, to get away from all the stress here," she had said. I had not argued with her as it was also what I wanted- to be alone with her, have her to myself. Luckily, we were able to get a reservation at such short notice considering it was a holiday period. After checking into our room, we took a stroll down to the beach nearby. Standing under the tall coconut trees, the breeze from the ocean whistling through them, the sun beating down warmly and above all, Ibiere standing besides me, her hand in mine, taking in the awesome scenery of the place, made me feel like the luckiest guy in the world. We were in a little world of our own, cut off from the outside world and all its trials and tribulations, of loving each other but unable to be together... "He wants us to fix a date for the wedding," Ibiere announced, bringing me back to reality. I turned to gaze at her. "So soon? And what did you tell him?" I asked. She shrugged. "Nothing much. I said any day he picks is fine with me," she said. Then drawing me down on the sand, she added: "We have to tell him, Val! How long shall we keep up this charade? It's killing me! I can't continue to pretend any longer! Let's confess, so we can be free to be together instead of all this sneaking around behind his back. I can't do this anymore!" she said hotly, a small frown creasing her brow. We had been on this issue for the past few weeks; she wanting Vinny to know how we felt about each other and me pleading patience. "Let's don't rush things. We'll tell him when the time's right," I usually told her. But she was getting impatient recently, leading to arguments between us. I turned her face to me. "Baby, you know I love you and want to be with you more than anything in this world," I said. "But we need to handle this situation with care. My brother's the one involved here, remember? Any other guy and I won't think twice about taking you away from him. But Vinny? It's different." "So, you want me to go ahead and marry him?" she asked, looking sad suddenly. "No!" I quickly said. "You can't do that! I can't live without you!" She smiled slowly, her eyes lightening up, chasing away the sadness in them. "Me too, Val. You are my life now," she said, drawing my head to hers. We laid on the sand, my jacket placed on the ground under her head for protection. I gazed fondly at her then I kissed her soft mouth, luxuriating in the feel of her in my arms, the soft sand like nature's own bed. "I've never done it with him," she whispered against my mouth. "Done what?" "Slept with Vinny. He wanted to but I told him we should wait. Till after we married. Perhaps, I was waiting for you," she said softly. I kissed her again, a warm feeling washing over me as her hands caressed my shoulders, then slipped under my shirt. I got up and taking her by the hand, we walked towards our room... *** Some days later, Vinny came over to the house. It was shortly after I had returned from work. "You look relaxed and happy. Your Easter break must have been great," he said sometime later in my room. I walked over to the wardrobe to hang my work clothes. "It wasn't bad. Some friends and I went to the beach," I told him. It was a lie of course. I was with Ibiere all the time. And it was the most wonderful weekend of my life. "Some friends?" he said in a sarcastic manner. "When did Ibiere become 'some friends'?" I looked at him quickly, noting the anger and look of betrayal in his eyes and my heart sank. "How could you Val? You, my own brother sleeping with my bride-to-be? What kind of evil brother are you?" he demanded angrily. As he spoke, he walked menacingly towards me, his right hand raised and balled up in a tight fist... What happened between Val and Vinny that night? Watch out for the rest of the series coming out soon!