(Continued from Predators III)
Alice’s heart is pounding as Albert leads him to the waiting car, a Mercedes Benz. He opens the front passenger door for her and goes around to the driver’s seat.
“Have you ever been in a car like this one before?” he asks. Alice does not respond. He may have coerced her into having lunch with him, but he cannot force her to be nice to him. She will ignore him until heavens come. She fastens her seatbelt and stares out of the window as the car rolls out of the compound. She is grateful that the car’s windows are tinted because she otherwise wouldn’t have wanted the guards to see her with this man. The good thing about the design of Tegeta Industries is that the parking lot is away from the administration block, so except for a few people who may have been sitting in their cars, very few people have seen her enter this crook’s car. And the only people who can afford cars at Tegeta are senior management, so none of the people she interacts with on a day-to-day basis could have seen her.
They drive through the streets which Alice initially recognizes, but she loses her sense of direction when they get into more exclusive neighborhoods. Albert drives into a hotel that is in a wooded area. The name of the hotel is foreign to Alice. It could be French, Spanish, Portuguese or some other exotic European language. The hotel itself is a series of cottages that have an ancient, European design. There is one building that has a modern design, a glass and steel structure that Alice assumes is the administration block.
A uniformed man welcomes them to the hotel. He seems to know Albert quite well.
“Welcome Sir Albert,” he says warmly. “It is always a pleasure hosting you at our facility. Madam, do feel most welcome.”
“Thank you, Sam. It is always a pleasure to come here. No hotel offers a better culinary experience than your facility here. It is always a pleasure to be back.”
“I am glad to hear that sir. Please follow me. Your cottage has been prepared for your use.”
From the conversation, it is clear that Albert had called ahead. Alice wondered why they would need a cottage to themselves for lunch, but she pushes that thought away. Her mind is already ringing alarm bells, and she is struggling for sanity. Maybe everyone dines in a cottage, she tells herself. She is not familiar with the ways of the rich, she convinces herself. She is just used to low-end restaurants and cafes where social distance is a problem.
They are led to one of the cottages, where other uniformed members of staff are moving in and out. Sam, the man who picked them up at the parking lot, leads them to a dining room that has a dining table set for two. There is a cook in the kitchen, and another uniformed staff member is standing by the table.
“I will hand you over to Nickson,” Sam tells them as he nods to his colleague. “He will take care of your needs. Enjoy your lunch.”
The presence of staff members at the cottage has calmed down Alice somewhat. First, it has confirmed to her that this is just about lunch, just as Sam has stated as he handed them over. Second, she is convinced that Albert cannot try anything fishy with staff members hovering around the cottage. But she is shocked at the power of money. They have staff members of what appears to be a luxury hotel dedicated purely to their lunch. She wonders how much Albert will pay for this lunch, and how often he brings women here. For him to enjoy this kind of treatment regularly, he must be making an insane amount of money.
Albert pulls a seat for her before sitting himself. Almost immediately, Nickson takes a step forward.
“Lunch is ready sir, as you had requested. Would you like the full course?”
“No, Nick. Today I am in a rush, so we will just take the main course. But perhaps we can take drinks first, then eat. What do you have for us? White wine perhaps?”
“I don’t take alcohol,” Alice says curtly.
“Okay, sweetheart. Nick, get us fresh juice. I will take mango, you can offer her passion.”
Alice wants to protest against the juice as well, but she keeps her mouth shut. She takes out her phone and starts browsing. She knows it is rude, but she doesn’t care. Nickson brings two tumblers of fruit juice and then disappears into the kitchen to give them privacy. They sip their juice as Albert tells her useless stories about his achievements in life. When they are done with the juice, Nickson materializes with sizzling meat on a wooden platter. They eat in the same style, Albert talking and Alice ignoring him. When they are done eating, Albert orders yoghurt without consulting her. He takes the vanilla flavor and pushes strawberry in her direction. Alice, after eating to her fill, has gone back to browsing on her phone. She had at first thought about ignoring the food, but she was hungry, and she figured that since she had come anyway, she might just as well eat. It might be the best food she is getting in a long while.
“You know, Alice, you can be rude to me if you want,” Albert says after taking the first sip of his yoghurt. “It is within your rights. But you should think hard about your future as you do so. I know you stayed three years without a job, and you don’t want to become jobless again. But with one simple phone call, I can send you to poverty again.”
He pauses to take another sip and to let that sink in. Alice’s mind is spinning. How did he know such a personal detail about her?
“I am sure you have seen how your bosses have been fleeing from me. They owe me money, and I am sure they will be eager to accede to any request I make. As a matter of fact, they found me waiting for you at the reception and invited me to a meeting this afternoon to discuss that loan. I know they don’t have money, otherwise they would have paid a long time ago. I could walk there this afternoon and say that as a condition of having talks I want you and your little boyfriend Joab fired. Let’s see what he will use to pay your dowry and what you will be eating after you get married.”
Alice is shocked. How did this man get to know such intimate details about her life? Nobody at her workplace knows any of the things he is talking about. What she doesn’t know is that Albert has had someone follow her around since last week. He even paid a hacker to get into her phone and mine information. All that was done for less than a hundred thousand shillings.
It was a worthwhile expense. Albert is confident that the information will help him get Alice to bed, and that in itself will be a fantastic victory. But there is an added advantage. He has learned that Nancy had been sleeping with that boy Joab, who is Alice’s boyfriend. He intends to use that card on Alice as a last resort, if everything else fails. But if she agrees to sleep with him without him disclosing it, he will keep it to himself and use it to blackmail Nancy. Albert likes young girls, but he generally stays away from his employees, to avoid sexual harassment charges. Sexual harassment is the card he will use to blackmail Nancy.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Alice asks tears running down her cheeks. “What did I ever do to you? I am a Christian, and I love my fiancé. I want to keep myself pure for my wedding night. Why should you punish me for that?”
She is sobbing now.
Albert is touched, but instead of backing away, since he is the source of her sorrow, he is even more drawn to her. He rises from his seat and kneels next to her.
“It is not a punishment, sweetheart. It is love. I want to take care of you because I love you. I can make your life way better than it is right now. Just give me a chance.”
“You are married, aren’t you?” Alice asks, tears still flowing down her cheeks.
“My wife and I are separated. We sleep in separate bedrooms. You are the one I love. If you give me a chance, I will officially divorce her and marry you. I know how to fight for love. I know I said I can make your life hell, and it is true, but the other side is that I can make it heaven if you give me a chance. I love you so much that it drives me crazy.”
Alice knows he doesn’t love her. Nobody who truly loves you threatens you if you reject him. What he wants is her body. And she knows he is speaking the truth when he says that he can make her and Joab suffer; it is not an idle threat. So when he leans forward and kisses her on the lips, she does not resist. But tears are still flowing down her cheeks.
As Albert carries her to a bedroom in the cottage, Alice asks God and Joab to forgive her. She says that in her heart though, because her lips are still locked to his.
(This is the last free chapter of this story. To find out what became of Alice and Joab, kindly follow the instructions below to grab your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100.)
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