Excerpt from Desert Jewel by Natalina Reis
Romantic Fantasy (with paranormal elements)
Knocking was unnecessary since the front door stood ajar, but she still rapped her knuckles on it as a polite warning that she had arrived. From inside, she heard that gentle modulated voice that made her skin go all bumpy and triggered chaos with her matangazos.
“Come inside. The door is open.”
Hand on her ibhayi to make sure it was in place and not showing her unkempt hair, Milenda stepped inside, feeling her legs shaking beneath her. Why was she so nervous? It was not like they had never met before. They had been together just yesterday in the jungle. So, why all the jitters inside of her now?
Jaali did not give her too long to ponder. He took two giant steps and, before she could react, he was standing right in front of her, holding her small hands in his and drowning her eyes in the crystal lakes of his. “Msichana,” His gentle voice dropped an octave, and for a second she wasn’t even sure he had spoken.
Afraid that she would lose herself in his eyes, Milenda dropped her gaze to his full lips to confirm he had indeed spoken. They were moving again, but this time not in speech. He was going to kiss her.
A princess cannot allow a boy, of lowly or high birth, to kiss her. The old traditional directive came to her as a scream inside her head, making her wince and involuntarily step away from him, their hands yanked apart.
Jaali looked disconcerted, confused. There was a question in his eyes that she couldn’t answer. That kiss was so desired by her heart and by her lips, but a lifetime of etiquette brainwashing had taken its toll. It was too soon for her, no matter how much her body yearned for it. She dropped her eyes to her feet, which she belatedly noticed to be bare. What would her tutors say? Barefoot and alone in a boy’s house. Fodder for scandal, she was certain.
His hand, which had been raised slightly, fell like a deflated balloon along with his whole demeanor. “Nasikitika,” he whispered, “I shouldn’t have…”
Her hand shot up to grab his wrist and pull him closer to her. “No, I am sorry Jaali,” she said, her eyes pleadingly raised to his. “I have these voices in my head telling me what I should and should not do.” His peering eyes danced with amusement. “Well, not voices literally. That would be crazy.” She giggled and his face opened up in a smile.
With a gentle tug, he twisted his wrist in her hand and held it, palm against palm, fingers interlaced. Their bodies mere inches from touching, and his eyes glittering with excitement. “And what are those voices telling you not to do?” he asked, his voice low and meaningful. He tugged her closer to him, their linked hands now resting between them.
The strange hot/cold feeling she always felt when her matangazos were glowing spread from her face to her shoulder, as the heat from Jaali’s body seeped into her skin underneath her kanga. With a shiver, she lifted her head to meet his eyes. He was taller than her by at least a foot, and as they came closer to each other he had to bend down in order to look at her face and mouth.
Jaali’s head dipped lower and his lips touched hers. They lingered there as if asking for permission to go any further. Milenda reveled in the feeling, but was too afraid to move.
“Is it all right?”
She felt his lips move over hers and losing all control, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him even closer. She had never kissed a boy before, but she found she knew how—or rather her body did. Instinct seemed to have taken over, and her lips latched on to his with a passion she didn’t know she had. Under her touch, Jaali’s lips opened, welcoming her exploration. Her legs gave up under her and she braced herself against him.