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Scarlett Bride (The Scarletts Book 6)

Scarlett Bride (The Scarletts Book 6)

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Marriage was the last thing on Dr. Oliver Scarlett's mind. He was looking forward to finishing his missionary stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo and then head for home. But, there was a damsel in distress, Ashaki Azanga, who was promised to be the fourth wife of the village chief and a life of hell. According to his colleague, David Wheeler the only solution was to marry Ashaki and get her out of the country. There were several problems with this solution: Oliver was no knight in shining armor and didn't want to be. His friend, David wanted Ashaki for himself as soon as his marriage was over, and most of all, Oliver was afraid that if he got to her know her better she would end up being his Scarlett bride for real.
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She was in the missionary chapel, dressed in white and staring squarely in the face of Bekele. He was tall, dark and ugly — a monstrous man with rotting teeth. Tufts of hair gathered in patches along his head in sparse congregations of matted grayness.
His white bush jacket was ill-fitting, and he had an annoying tick at the side of his left eye. He smiled at her and wet his flabby lips, leaving behind a fine film of white spittle that spooled at the side of his mouth.
“Will you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, Ashaki Azanga?” the mission pastor, Pastor Obagi asked, blatant concern swimming in his dark eyes.
She had always liked Pastor Obagi; he was like an uncle to her. She understood the concern.
Ashaki nodded jerkily as Bekele squeezed her hands, gripping them tightly in his wet grasp, willing her to answer verbally.
“You need to speak up,” Pastor Obagi whispered. "Say, I do."
Ashaki spun around in panic. The wide chapel was filled with people from the village.
Bekele's three wives were sitting in the first row, and their many children surrounded them. Her friend Emanuela, Bekele's third wife, looked as if she was crying.
"I don't know." Her lips were trembling. "I have diamonds; I can escape! I don't need to do this. My father told me on his deathbed where to find the diamonds that he carried back from Kinshasa!"
"The correct response is I do." Bekele chuckled, squashing her fingers between his. "I found your precious diamonds yesterday and they are now mine, like you are mine."
Ashaki jerked in shock. "No, that can't be—my father gave them to me. They are my only way of escape!"
"Why would you want to escape me, sweet, sweet Ashaki? You are the only wife I will have that has any teeth left."
He leaned toward her and grinned. "The most beautiful one—let's see how long that will last, eh? After I breed you like the others. What do you say, Ashaki, a child every year?"
The wart on his nose seemed to increase in size to meet the huge pockmark under his eye as his face moved closer to hers.
"Let me go!" Her voice was weak. "Let me go. I can't marry you. You're a monster!"
Pastor Obagi stood and watched her struggling, his round face scrunched in sympathy, but then he continued as if nothing untoward was happening.
"Do you take this man, Bekele Odoah, to have and to hold till death do you part?”
Ashaki shivered. "No. God, please no!"
This wasn't happening—to have and to hold. Those were two powerful words. ‘To have’ was a double entendre of sexual proportions. ‘To hold’ didn’t just mean to grasp but it meant to stay with this person for the rest of her life.
In a few minutes she would be this man's wife. She would be expected to sleep with him, to bear his children, and be tied to him for a very long time… what was she getting into?
“No,” she croaked through chapped lips. A convulsive shaking had started somewhere in the pit of her stomach.
"No! No! Never! I'd rather die first!"


"Ashaki!" A firm voice interrupted the ceremony. "Ashaki!"
"Huh?" Ashaki blinked twice and focused on the face in front of her. It wasn't Bekele's but David Wheeler's.
She had fallen asleep in the kitchenette of the clinic. The hand that she had dreamt was being squeezed by Bekele was actually being squashed against the blue mug she had placed in the corner earlier after drinking chamomile ginger tea.
She rubbed her hand absently and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was eleven o'clock in the morning.
No wonder she had dozed off. She had been up most of the night helping the nurses with their unusually high caseload of patients that descended on the clinic. The nurses had welcomed the help, and she was more than happy to escape her hut in the village and the thoughts of her upcoming marriage to Bekele.
David snapped his fingers before her face. "Hey!"
"Sorry, Dr. David," Ashaki sighed. "It was a tough night."
"Just David, please. Remember we have gone past the formalities, or at least I thought we had." David sat across from her. "That was some nightmare you were having. I heard you screaming ‘No, No, Never.’"
"I have to stop talking in my sleep." Her neck was stiff. She twisted it right and then left and right again. "I was dreaming that I was marrying Bekele."
"Again?" David frowned. "That's the third time now I have caught you having one of these episodes."
Ashaki flushed and lowered her eyes. The first time she had been so distraught she had poured out her heart and told David that she was dreading the marriage to Bekele. They had never really talked like that before. Though she knew that David watched her with more than a friendly regard, he had more or less kept his distance, sticking to the formalities and lending her his textbooks if she asked him.
But now, he was right. She had told him a lot more than she had ever told anyone about herself, even Dr. Oliver, and she considered him her closest friend in the compound. Dr. Oliver was easy to talk to, but she had not been brave enough to breach this topic of her rising panic at the thought of marrying Bekele.
She had bottled up the fear to the point where it was spilling over into her dreams. Her subconscious was nervous. Her very being was nervous. She had been praying to God for deliverance, but the answer was not forthcoming. Bekele, who had been in a boating accident some weeks ago, was getting better.
"Healing nicely," one of the nurses had reported to her with a pleased smile on her face.
Ashaki wished he would take a whole decade to heal.
"I can help you with this." David leaned toward her and lowered his voice.
"How?" Ashaki whispered back, looking at him skeptically. And why would he even want to?
"I could marry you myself," David murmured. "It would be my pleasure."
Ashaki laughed and then slapped the table hard.
"I am serious." David wasn't joining in her mirth; in fact, he wasn't even cracking a smile. "Listen, I have given this much thought and you marrying someone else is the only way out."
"But you are already married,, David," Ashaki pointed out slowly as if David was retarded.
She had overheard two of the female nurses who were both from Dr. Wheeler's country gossiping about the handsome doctors and who was available or not.
David's name had come up, and one nurse had said, "David is married, very married. I went to school with his wife, Miranda, and let me tell you, he is not getting the divorce that easily. Miranda does not believe in divorce. Her parents hate each other and are still married."
And the other nurse had sighed dramatically. "Oh well, there is always Dr. Oliver Scarlett. Now, that is a good, solid alternative."
The other nurse had giggled, "You think? I made the moves on him a long time ago and was soundly rebuffed."
"Me too," the other nurse muttered, "but I was very subtle. I think he is not into our gender."
"Maybe," the other nurse said, "but how can you even be sure? He treats everyone the same."
"Ashaki!" David said urgently, breaking into her thoughts once more. "Focus here; we need a plan to get you out of this mess."
"Yes, sorry." Ashaki cleared her throat and looked at him.
He was drumming his fingers on the table as if he had now zoned out.
She zoned out too going back to the conversation she had overheard many months ago and her feelings when she had heard it.
To be honest, she had a secret crush on Dr. Oliver that would not die. It continued to fester months after she had heard the conversation, and she considered herself quite restrained for not asking him whether he liked women or not. She had asked him all sorts of questions and he had answered easily. Maybe he would answer that one, but it never came up.
She sighed and looked down at her hands. She had bigger problems to worry about than a silly crush on a missionary doctor who would never return her feelings.
David bounced back from his contemplation and gathered her hands in his. "I am in the process of a divorce that will not be final until September. Five months from now."
She nodded. "It's okay."
David looked at her piercingly. "Where I am from, having more than one wife at the same time is frowned upon."
Ashaki nodded. "I know, David."
"Oh yes, I forget sometimes—you are very smart."
Ashaki chose not to be insulted by this statement.
David cleared his throat. "I have a plan for you though. My plan is stupendously simple."
"It is?" Ashaki perked up. His excitement was infectious, and he was squeezing her hands with vigor.
"In order to get you out of here, you have to marry Oliver," David said in a rush.
"As in Doctor Oliver?" Ashaki widened her eyes. "But...but he is gay."
"He is not." David frowned. "But I don't know. Maybe he could be. All I know is he is a good guy — one of the best. He would be only one willing and able to help you out now. After my divorce is finalized, you guys can get an annulment and I'll marry you myself."
Ashaki inhaled. "Dr. Oliver will not agree to this, and marrying you afterward is kind of extreme."
David brought her hands up to his lips and kissed them. "I am a far better option than Bekele." He jiggled his eyebrows. "Can you honestly tell me that you would prefer the old chief to me?"
Ashaki swallowed looking at him. He had sandy blond hair and green eyes, but besides that, he was light years ahead of Bekele in the looks department. He was proposing a way of escape from Kidogo, from the Congo. She would agree to anything to escape from here.
"Oh Ashaki, you have no idea the things you are missing out on, trapped in this place with one conflict after another, the constant quest for survival, devoid of even basic human rights. Listen, I could carry you to restaurants and plays. We could explore nature together and have carefree fun. You could be anything you want to be; at this juncture in your life, the world is your oyster.
Ashaki nodded eagerly. Her father had told her the same things. The world is your oyster when you find the diamonds.
In his delirium, he had told her that they were buried safely in the hut, but her nightly diggings had yielded nothing.
She didn't need to marry anyone if she could find the diamonds.
Ashaki was on the verge of saying that all she needed was to find the diamonds. But as much as she liked David and he was looking at her like he would give her the moon, she didn't quite trust him.
If she were going to tell anybody about the diamonds, it would more than likely be Oliver.
"Don't you worry." David closed his hands over hers once more. "Oliver will rescue you for me."