“It’s one of those mansions on the hill,” Candice said, as the road they were travelling climbed, the Mpumalanga capital spread out below them, a blaze of lights in the darkness. “My aunt says a lot of the rich and famous and their lawyers live up here.”

“I’m going to feel so out of place,” Lereko admitted, her nervousness growing.

“Don’t think like that,” Candice advised. “We’re as good as any of them.”

Clearly that opinion wasn’t shared by the security guard who let them drive through the property gates only after phoning through to someone in the house, where every light was on throughout its two-and-a-half storeys.

“Did you see how he sneered at the bakkie?” Candice was giggling as they parked.

Lereko looked down at her skirt and strappy top as they entered the house. Was she even dressed appropriately?

“Lereko.” It was as if Xikosi had been keeping watch for her, greeting her and laying a warm hand on her bare arm. “You look great…Hi Candice. Ikhutse, show her where the drinks are. I need to talk to Lereko.”

And suddenly everything was all right — except for the small, troubling thought that he was clearly completely at ease in Rhandzeka’s family home, almost taking the role of host.

“What is it?” Lereko asked, as he drew her outside again, along a prettily lit patio covered in a vine with pale flowers that filled the night air with their scent.

“We were interrupted earlier.” Xikosi’s eyes gleamed. “I wanted you to know — it meant something to me, Lereko, that moment we shared.”

She gazed back at him, with a sensation of dissolving in a storm of emotion, soft and sweet yet fierce and fiery at the same time.

“It meant something to me too.” She didn’t even feel shy confessing it. “A whole lot.”

Then their earlier shared moment was repeated, and again, in ways that woke all her senses and reached down into her deepest being.

This time the interruption came from a group of loud-voiced young men.

“Heita, farmer boy!” one of them called out. “Long time, come catch us up on your news, shake the mud off your boots.”

“Fools from my old school,” Xikosi told Lereko. “I’ll go share a quick drink with them, or they won’t leave me alone, but first let’s find Ikhutse and Candice.”

Like he knew she would only really be comfortable with those two. She liked that he was so sensitive and understanding.

“Think anyone will notice if I stuff my pockets with some of these snacks?” Ikhutse joked, helping himself to a fistful of chilli poppers as Xikosi left them.

“Lereko?” It was Rhandzeka, throwing Ikhutse a disgusted look as he crammed his mouth. “Come with me a moment. I need to talk to you.”

“You’re the second person tonight,” Lereko laughed, still floating on waves of happiness.

“I wasn’t going to interfere, but it’s gone too far. I can’t stand by and watch another girl being made a fool of. No one thought Xikosi would take that bet seriously.”

Tell us: What bet can Rhandzeka be talking about, and how will it affect Lereko’s new happiness?