Long Branch, New Jersey
“I bet she was screwing him all along,” Faith said. “And you probably knew it too, deep down inside. Your problem was you smelled new pussy and stopped using your brain cells.”
As Kyle listened to his sister he staggered from his bedroom – where he was when Faith called and woke him up – to the second bedroom. He checked his aquariums and fed the guppies, ran his fingers over the silent keys of his electric piano, and stepped back into the hall.
“I hope you kept it wrapped up, boy, because her husband was probably getting it too, so who knows what big hairy germs they were passing back and forth?”
“I always did,” Kyle said as he headed to the living room. “And why are you calling me asking about her?”
Over the summer he had only mentioned in passing to Faith that he was seeing a girl named Gerri. Faith hadn’t shown much interest, probably because lately his relationships had had a short shelf life. For his sister to call this morning to ask after Gerri was curious, especially since that relationship had come to a crashing halt yesterday.
“I asked how things were going with her because Lawrence and I are throwing a dinner party on Saturday and you need to come. I thought it would be nice if you brought a date, but it looks like it won’t be this Gerri chick. Her husband might not approve, ha-ha! You really bought her line that she was separated?”
“You know, you can change the subject at any time.”
Kyle’s living room windows and balcony door faced east. When he opened their blinds the still rising sun fired laser beams through the tree foliage across the parking lot. The light made him squint and aggravated the dull ache in the center of his brain left courtesy of the four beers he’d consumed yesterday and last night.
“So for real, are you okay, big brother?”
“I’m good. It wasn’t that serious.”
He’d had the first beer with a sandwich while he’d been wasting his time waiting for Gerri to show up while she was probably banging her husband to celebrate their getting back together. He drank the other three after she’d called him to say adios. He hadn’t had four beers in one day since he was in college. Now his head was making him pay.
“Good,” Faith said. “Dinner is at four. Don’t be late.”
“So what’s up with this dinner; you and Lawrence trying to play Ozzie and Harriet now?”
“Can you keep a secret?” Faith asked.
“Depends.” Coffee. He needed coffee.
“If I tell you, you can’t breathe a word.”
“To anybody. We want to do this before Erica goes back to school.”
“So you’re getting married, huh?”
“You know what, Kyle? You make me sick. How’d you know?”
“You just gave it away by saying you wanted to do it before Erica leaves, so it had to be something big. So are you doing it soon or just announcing that you’re engaged?”
“We’re planning for a wedding next year in June.”
“Cool. Now you can stop being a loose woman living in sin.”
“Shut up. So do you think it’ll be weird for Mom and Dad, being there together?”
“Why would it be weird?” He turned away from the punishing sun and headed for the kitchen.
“Well, when we go to Mom’s for dinner Daddy’s not there anymore, so this will be the first time since they split up that we we’ll all be together.”
“Nah. They see each other enough. They do lunch sometimes during the week.”
“Then maybe it’ll be good for them, all of us being together as a family again.”
“How so?” He opened his refrigerator, hoping to discover something that could pass for breakfast that didn’t involve cooking, but no such luck.
“I don’t think she’s happy,” Faith said.
“About her and Daddy splitting up. About the divorce.”
“That’s all you’ve got to say about it?”
“What else can I say? It’s not like the marriage police broke into the house and made them split up. This is what she wanted.”
“Hold up; you’re blaming Mom for this? She was going through some things…”
“Which apparently had nothing to do with Dad, unless you know something I don’t.”
“Kyle, are you mad at Mom?”
“I’m not mad. I’m just not wearing blinders.”
“Meaning you can feel sorry for Mom if you want. I don’t want her to be unhappy, either. But let’s not forget that she’s not the victim. Dad is.”
There was an extended silence on the line, and Kyle knew that Faith was mulling over how she wanted to respond to his comment. He knew she wanted to argue against his point. Well, she could bring it if she wanted to.
That’s how women were when it came to relationships, he thought. No matter what went down, it was never the woman’s fault. If a happily married woman ran up on Denzel or Idris Elba and he told her that he wanted her to run away with him, if she did it she wouldn’t blame herself. She’d blame her husband for not being Denzel or Idris. That’s how women rationalized their way out of the shit they pulled. It was always the man’s fault for not meeting some real or imagined need, and never about the fucked up shit they pulled. Faith feeling sorry for Mom was proof of that.
“And what if they decided to get back together?” Faith asked, dodging the debate bullet.
“Then I’d be happy for them. But I’d be worried about Dad.”
“Because he might be wondering if what happened before might happen again. That’s a lot of stress, loving somebody and not being sure it’s real and that it’ll last.”
“Of course it’s real. I think they still love each other, and if they want to try again, they should.”
“Just like that.”
“Yes. What – you don’t think they should get back together?”
Kyle wondered how Faith would feel about their parents reconciling if their situation were reversed. What if Dad had been the one who’d said he’d needed to go find himself or whatever reason it was that Mom told her and Erica? Would Faith still be okay with it then if Dad said, “You know what? I changed my mind. I’m good now, so let’s act like I never took your mother’s heart and ground it under my heel. Let’s all be one big happy family again.” Would Faith still be okay with them getting back together if Dad had done that to Mom?
“Yeah, if it’s what they both want then I’d be happy for them.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“You sound kind of strange. Are you sure you’re okay about Gerri?”
Kyle clicked on the overhead fluorescents in his kitchen. The little bastard in his head with the sledgehammer took an extra hard swing, making him wince. “That was about sex. Period. She came over here, got naked, we did our thing and she was gone. If she was screwing her husband too it’s not my issue. Plenty of women like having their cake and eating it too.”
“Why would you want to be with someone like that?”
That’s a good question, Kyle thought. “It was just something to do.”
“Yeah well, don’t let it get you down, big bro. Get out and go do something. Today’s going to be a nice day.”
The coffee helped Kyle’s headache if not his mood. He stood on his second floor balcony, leaning on the rail as he sipped java and wondered what he was going to do with his day. Faith was right; he needed to get out and do something. Thanks to the fiasco with Gerri he hadn’t gone out at all day yesterday, so he’d blown half his weekend.
If things had gone as planned yesterday he’d intended to propose to Gerri that since they’d spent Saturday getting their mutual freaks on, they spend Sunday having sex like normal human beings. So much for that bright idea.
He looked down at the parking lot, where his Chrysler sat gleaming under the morning sun. It didn’t need washing, but it was something to do. And another coat of wax could never hurt. That and detailing the interior would eat up a few hours of the day.
Something in the back seat of his car – a black mass – caught Kyle’s attention. He leaned over the rail and focused his vision through the window glass. Then he remembered. It was his gym bag.
He’d been in a hurry after playing racquetball with cute ass Dr. Britt Chandler on Friday evening. He’d rushed home to grab a shower, and then rushed back out again to go pick up the scarves and blindfold he didn’t get to use on Gerri. In all that rushing he’d forgotten to bring his gym bag inside so that he could wash his gear.
Britt told him that she had plans for Saturday, but she hadn’t said anything about Sunday. Maybe she wasn’t busy today, so it would be cool to give her a call. He could ask her if she wanted to go to lunch one day next week and see where the conversation went from there. He figured that since she wasn’t all starry-eyed about trying to land a man she might not view hooking up for lunch as a big deal, and therefore might be more inclined to say yes.
Kyle was surprised at himself that as he dashed down to grab his gym bag he felt an excitement almost as powerful as that he’d felt yesterday while waiting for Gerri to show up so that he could tie her to his bed. He thought that that was crazy, since all he was going to do was make a phone call to some chick he barely knew and wasn’t trying to get with.
COMING MAY 2013
I am the Greatest!,March 28, 2013
Jamal is a Middleweight boxer who has big goals of dominating the game before he retires at 30. He needs to win four title belts to achieve that goal. His plan when he retires is to enjoy the fruits of his labor with those that have stuck it out with him, Pops, his trainer, Stephanie, his lawyer/manager and Tia, the love of his life…for now. But Tia’s loyalty is questioned when she is not there when Jamal wins an important match toward his goal and he comes to suspect that she is messing around with his rival Ernest Gaines. Is Tia being unfaithful or is it just a misunderstanding? This story, as suggested by the cover and synopsis, has a strong professional boxing element but readers who don’t enjoy sports or boxing can adapt by enjoying the relationship dynamics between all the characters and the plot.
I will admit to being a bit skeptical of starting this book. See, I like romance and I believe in it. In almost every book I read, no matter the genre, I look for intense intimate connections among the characters. The more intense, the better. Sometimes that is not a part of the story at all. Sometimes it is and when it is, I’m at my happiest. But just because a story has intense romantic elements to it, won’t always result in a happily ever after ending. I used to balk at that and avoid it. Why? Because I love romance. I’m repeating myself, I know.
Reading stories by The Black, has served to expand my definition of romance…a little. I still want my happily ever after or happily together for now but in his stories I’m coming to realize that the love of one’s self is greater than any romance that could be portrayed. The love and development of his characters have convinced me that if you can write a character like he does, you won’t need the happily ever after in the end. You will just be happy. And if I happen to get that ending I’m always reaching for, it will be the icing.
The Last Round:
What We Have Here…
In all good works of fiction what keeps the reader turning the pages is conflict, those things that prevent the story’s protagonist from getting what they want and thereby creating drama and interest for the reader. I think that in the Romance genre, it’s more about the author preventing the reader from getting what THEY want: that anticipated happily ever after ending. The romance
novel teases and torments as the reader wonders how the protagonists are ever going to get it together and finally get together.
In “Secret” author Nia Forrester has the teasing and tormenting down to a science. Like water boarding. Like car battery-powered electrodes attached to body parts you don’t want electrodes attached to. And it’s all because the protagonists Shayla and Trey
won’t open their mouths and talk to each other. If I were going to subtitle “Secret,” I’d used the famous line from the classic movie “Cool Hand Luke:” “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
There are reasons that Shayla and Trey, who though they live in the same house (Trey is the landlord
and Shayla is his basement apartment tenant) can’t open up to each other. They are each in their own way damaged people. And because of that damage they are both frustrating characters – frustrating to the point that if you’re like me, you often wanted to yell at Shayla, “What are you doing?” and punch Trey in his head. And then keep reading to find out what happens next.
I have to give the Shayla character a pass for her failure to speak up. She’s the one with the secret, a damaging (in more ways than one) event from her past that she’s still struggling to deal with. But my pass is a small one, because sometimes while reading I had a feeling that she enjoyed tormenting Trey by doing things to make him jealous and angry and in doing so push them farther apart. Yes, she’s going through an internal struggle that’s at the root of her actions, but she’s an intelligent woman. You can’t pull the pin on a grenade and toss it into a room, and after the big boom act like you don’t know why the room isn’t still nice and
tidy. Shayla tossed a few grenades at Trey’s manhood. But she gets that small pass because she has legitimate issues she’s struggling to overcome.
The reasons for Trey’s relationship-stunting actions were more of a puzzle and more frustrating. Trey is a player; a ladies’ man. He has an assembly line of women in and out of his home and his bedroom. Players have an easy time communicating with women. Their words are their stock in trade, the weapon they use to con the ladies and get them between the sheets. But with Shayla, Trey is about as communicative as a gagged rock. He has feelings for her that he can’t or won’t express, and for much of the tale he allows himself to linger on the sidelines while she flitters from man to man because he won’t tell her how he feels. Initially I wanted to write off Trey’s character as being unrealistic; come on, a ladies’ man who can’t talk to a lady? But by the end I’d come to the
conclusion that he suffered from stunted growth as a man. Women had always come to him without effort on his part, but they were women he didn’t care about. And so when he met a woman who got her hands around his heart, he had no experience
to use to help him communicate his feelings.
I give “Secret” five stars because it does what good fiction is supposed to do: make you want to turn the page. And if I ever need to torture someone, I’m calling on my friend Nia Forrester to act as my advisor. If you enjoy romantic drama, grab a copy of
Buy Secret and other book by Nia Forrester here.
Excerpt from THE ROCK:
Shemya Air Force Base, Alaska
The wind outside my dorm room window is roaring. Not howling; howling is what a regular strong wind does. This wind is roaring. And it’s not even the worst it can get in the wintertime here.
I’ve got my desk chair sitting next to my bed, and I’m sitting on it with my right leg elevated up on the bed as I watch television. I press my fingertips against the side of my knee, and feel a little twinge of pain. The twinge is nowhere near as bad as it feels when I try to walk. The knee brace is on the carpet in front of my nightstand. I wonder how long I’m going to have to wear it.
I’m thinking that if she were still here, she’d take my mind off my jacked up knee.
The wind roars louder. It makes the double-paned window glass shudder in its frame. I look toward the window, as if I can see through the thick draperies to the night beyond the glass. I can’t, of course. The curtains in the dorm rooms are a solid color and extra thick to block out the sun that doesn’t set until midnight during the summer. The curtains help to fool us into thinking that it’s night so that we can sleep.
The wind roars louder and slams against the window, as if it knows I’m looking and wants to demonstrate how bad it is. And it’s not even at Phase II conditions.
At Phase II, the wind is blowing between 40 and 70 knots. During Phase II conditions it’s recommended that we only go outside if necessary and that we don’t go out alone. That way if something happens to us, somebody will know.
Phase I is more serious. When the wind is blowing at Phase I force, which is over 70 knots, the rule is more basic: Keep your ass inside. That’s not a recommendation. It’s a base regulatory mandate.
Shemya Air Force Base, Alaska is no joke.
I wish she were still here.
This romantic/erotic short story features characters from the world of The Black.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Valentine’s Day Morning
Monmouth Beach, New Jersey
Simon gave Elle a sponge bubble bath in his sunken Roman tub as she sipped non-alcoholic champagne. The real champagne would come tonight. He kissed her between sips: her lips, her neck, and her shoulders.
“Are we going out today?” she asked.
“No questions. It’s a surprise.”
The doorbell rang. He gave her a kiss and said, “Don’t move.” He went downstairs to answer the door.
He’d paid extra to have the delivery made at the time he specified. It was worth it. She was worth it.
As the delivery man placed everything according to his specifications he said, “Your lady must be a special woman.”
Simon said, “You have no idea.”
Back upstairs he dried Elle off, carried her to his bed like a baby and laid her down. He rubbed perfumed oil into her skin, taking his time and massaging every inch of her beautiful body. It took him nearly an hour to complete the process, and by the time he was done she was moaning and sighing and dying for it…aching for release. But it wasn’t time yet.
The new pink robe he’d bought for her was made of a silk and cashmere mix. Elle sighed and shivered as he slid it over her nakedness.
“This feels like sex,” she breathed.
“Soon enough,” Simon said. “We’ll have time for that later.”
He told her to follow him downstairs.
Elle stood on the stairs, gaping her surprise down at the living room, at what he’d had delivered for her.
One hundred roses: Thirty-three red; thirty-three pink; thirty-three white. One black, because that was his favorite color. A mixture of Godiva chocolates: Dark, milk and white.
Elle dashed among the roses like a bee, inhaling their fragrance as she sampled the chocolates. When she turned back to him he had the jewelry box out and open, presenting the pair of diamond earrings
She came to him, kissed him. Then she went to the coat closet. She came back with a package for him to open.
A watch by Parmigiani Fleurier.
He was blown away.
Simon looked at Elle, watched as she opened the robe and let it fall to the carpet.
“The time is now,” she said.
Simon and Elle are from the novel ELLE (INSATIABLE: BOOK ONE)
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Valentine’s Day Morning
They were at the same hotel at which three years ago they’d taken their relationship from friendship to love. Morgan smiled as Mina came out of the suite’s bathroom. He took a moment to drink in her nakedness and then held the wrapped box out to her.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Baby,” he grinned.
Mina pouted at him. “Oh Honey, your gift is at home. If I’d known you were going to surprise me by flying us here –“
“Don’t worry about it,” Morgan said. “You’re my gift…the only gift I need.”
Mina came to him and kissed him. Then she took the box and tore off the wrapping. Morgan watched and smiled as the box was revealed and Mina’s eyes grew wide.
“Oh my God Morgan, no! Not Christian Louboutin!”
“Yep. You’ve been talking about them since we were co-workers in the Air Force. I figured it was about time.”
Mina opened the box and gasped. “Oh Baby, you remembered…these are the ones I showed you…the Lynch fetish model!”
Morgan grinned at his wife’s happiness. “Yeah, no way was I going to forget these babies.”
Mina ripped a shoe out of the box and bent up a shapely leg to put it on. Morgan sat down on the hotel bed to enjoy the show. He watched Mina’s heart-shaped golden bottom as she moved over the carpet in the red-soled, five-inch heeled pumps.
“Damn, Baby, you make those shoes look good,” he said. “But don’t you feel like you’re walking on a tightrope?”
She turned back to him and moved his way, now adding an extra sway to her hips. “Well, these aren’t really made for walking,” she cooed.
“Oh really? Then what are they for?”
Mina stopped in front of him and looked down at him. “Get those boxers off and I’ll show you.”
Morgan did as he was told. Mina kneeled before him in her new no-bullshit fuck me pumps and took him in her mouth. After a few minutes, after she’d transformed his constant desire for her into throbbing, raging need, she rose up and pushed him onto his back.
As she climbed onto him and slid her wet, silken heat down onto his need she said, “These shoes will never touch the floor again.”
Morgan and Mina are from a yet to be released novel, untitled.
Oceanport, New Jersey
Valentine’s Day Morning
Maisha had to run out to the store, so Duncan took the opportunity to put a few finishing touches on her Valentine’s Day gift. It had taken him six months to complete, primarily because he’d redone it twice. He hadn’t been satisfied that the first two versions did her justice.
Last summer he’d taken a photograph of her sitting in the sunroom gazing out at their garden. She’d looked so beautiful in that morning light, like a goddess fallen to earth. Duncan used that photo as a reference for the oil painting he’d done as a tribute to his love for her.
He decided to take the painting downstairs so that she’d see it when she came in. He was about to do that when the house phone rang.
It was Maisha, calling from her cell phone.
“Sweetie, come outside,” she said.
When Duncan stepped out onto the porch his instincts went on alert. That always happened when he encountered something out of the ordinary. The gleaming Mercedes sedan sitting in his driveway was out of the ordinary.
Then he saw the big red ribbon strung through the Mercedes’ window, and the bow on its roof. From the corner of his eye Maisha stepped from around from the side of the house and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetie!”
Duncan stared at the car, speechless.
Maisha said, “I always thought my man was too classy to be driving around in a Charger. This car is more you, Baby.”
Duncan grabbed Maisha and pulled her to him, and before he kissed her said, “The only thing classy about me is you.”
As they went inside Duncan said to his wife, “After a Mercedes, my gift for you seems weak.”
“Nothing about you is weak, Duncan. Believe me.”
“Okay well, come up to the studio and let’s see.”
He hadn’t expected Maisha to cry. But when she saw the oil painting he’d done of her she began bawling her eyes out.
When she was able to talk she said, “Oh Honey, you made me look like a queen.”
“You are a queen, Maisha. You’re my queen. You always will be.”
As Maisha dried her eyes she said, “Let’s go break in your new car.”
“Where do you want to go?”
Maisha smiled at him. “Who said go anywhere? I’m talking about the back seat.”
© 14 February 2009
Duncan and Maisha are from the forthcoming novel THE HITMAN CHRONICLES
The West End
Long Branch, New Jersey
Valentine’s Day Evening
He thought he’d messed up. Big time. The question had come out of his mouth before he’d thought it through. But he’d seen the way the men were looking at her in the restaurant. He’d seen their unhidden desire, the raw lust in their eyes as they’d gazed at his wife. He’d seen the women too – the wives and girlfriends and lovers – glaring at Auriel with their expressions dripping bitter jealousy instead of enjoying their Valentine’s Day dinners.
Even in her overcoat his wife exuded sexuality, so everyone watched as the hostess escorted them to their table. All eyes watched her stride in her four-inch red heels. They gaped at her sensuous sway, at the curve of her strong dancer’s calves, and at the erotic arch of her feet in her heels.
They watched as he’d helped his wife out of her coat; he could have sworn that a hush came over the room. He knew some men had to shift in their chairs as their erections came to life when they saw Auriel’s beauty revealed in her black belted dress…a red belt at her waist that showed that she had no waist…at the way her round hips and bottom flared out from that non-existent waist…at the split in her skirt that opened as she sat down, showing a glimpse of the pathway to a paradise they would never know.
He’d seen them all looking, the men with longing and the women hating. But what had gotten to him…what had made him ask Auriel the question…were the men. If they looked at her this way in a restaurant, then on her night job at Shadows…
“Do they ever offer you money to do more than dance?” he’d asked as they were finishing their meal.
It was a question that had to cross the mind of most men involved with a woman who danced for other men’s pleasure. But it was a wrong question and a stupid question for him to ask. He was a man. He knew how men thought. Of course they’d offered money to the most desirable woman most of them would ever see. So the pointless question had pointed to the deeper question. That was why Auriel had answered him with a look of surprise and hurt.
He’d apologized as he drove them home. She’d said that it was okay. But he knew his wife. He knew it wasn’t okay. He’d hurt her by asking the question.
He thought he’d ruined Valentine’s Day.
When they got home she’d presented him with a bottle of wine given to them as a gift from Amarante, her employer at Shadows. The wine was a hybrid of the wine created by Auriel’s grandfather in Louisiana. Amarante had had it analyzed and modified into her own exclusive brand. The wine was called Passion’s Nectar.
Auriel had told him to sit down on the sofa as she poured glasses for them. Then she put on the music and did what she does so well.
So now Gordon sat in his living room, watching his wife dance for him to a song called The Principles of Lust by Enigma. He watched as she gave him his own private striptease.
He hadn’t seen her get dressed before they went out. So he was surprised to see that beneath her black belted dress she wore only a thin ruby chain around her hips. A red satin heart hung from the chain, covering her treasure. She danced for him in red four-inch heels and a red satin heart. It was her Valentine’s Day gift to him. But while her body whispered desire, her face still showed her hurt.
He wanted to say something to her to make things right. But the wine – that Passion’s Nectar – was so potent. His mind felt enclosed in fog. He couldn’t focus enough to come up with the right words.
And the wine had another effect, so much more powerful than her uncle’s homemade wine. As he watched his wife dance, the thing between his legs thickened and lengthened until it felt like a throbbing shaft of concrete.
Auriel was watching him as she danced. The hurt was still in her eyes. Her sensuous mouth was turned down in a pout. Occasionally she’d move to the coffee table; take a sip from her own glass and then move back to dance some more. Gordon wondered what effect the wine was having on her, how much it was boosting her desire.
The song ended.
She stood looking at him, her luscious bare breasts heaving, her eyes blazing now, the hurt replaced by something else.
“Take it out,” she said. It wasn’t a request, but a command.
He struggled because he was so hard, but managed to release himself from the confines of his clothing. The shaft of concrete stood straight up, throbbing in the air.
“Look at me,” she said.
He was already looking.
She reached back, unfastened the chain, tossed away the red satin heart. She stepped out of her heels.
She said, “Look at this body.”
He kept looking.
“Don’t you know me?” she asked. “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know what I am?”
“I’m sorry, Baby…”
She said, “This isn’t my body, Gordon. It’s not mine to give to anyone. This body belongs to you, and any pleasure it gives or receives is at your whim.” She held up her left hand so that he could see her wedding ring. “That’s what this ring means.”
She came to him then, stepped around the coffee table and stood over him, looked down at him…at the shaft of concrete throbbing up at her. “And that belongs to me,” she said. “It’s mine and no one else’s, to do with as I will.”
He reached for her, but she moved away, out of his reach.
“Don’t ever hurt me like that again, Gordon. Don’t.”
“And don’t apologize again. Now come to bed and bring me my property. And come and claim yours.”
Auriel turned away and went to their bedroom.
Gordon got up and followed, his wife’s property leading the way.
© 15 February 2009
Gordon and Auriel are from the novel GOLDEN (INSATIABLE: BOOK TWO)
The story of the wine they were drinking is detailed in the novella PASSION’S NECTAR and other books in the PASSION series
The Writer’s Review & Support Resource Group
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Nikki Walker (Author)
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THE NEIGHBOR IS COMING…
When I bought the house, having a two-car garage seemed like a good thing. It gave me more storage space, and hey, one day I might own two vehicles. Or I might get married again, and of course she’d have her own ride. But having a two-car garage also meant having an extra wide driveway, and after the first half hour busting my back shoveling that snow I was wishing that I didn’t have a driveway or a garage at all.
After an hour I was almost finished but my back was really singing, so I took a break to let it quiet down. That’s when I noticed my neighbor across the street, shoveling her driveway too.
Her name is Gail. I met her on a Saturday morning this past September, a few days after I moved in. She came over to welcome me to the neighborhood, and gave me a nice homemade cheesecake as a housewarming gift.
I thought that was pretty cool; a very nice thing for her to do. People aren’t friendly like back in the day. These days, neighbors barely speak to each other. We can live next door to someone for years and not know their name unless we get their mail by accident. So I’d thought Gail might be an exception, that we might become friendly. I was wrong.
Since the day she brought the cheesecake over we hadn’t done more than wave at each other from across the street. So after three months in my new house I didn’t know her, or for that matter, anyone else on my street.
I figured that maybe Gail felt that I didn’t want to be bothered, because on our first meeting I’d just accepted her cheesecake, said thank you, and after a minute of chat standing at my front door, I’d let her go on her way. In retrospect I think the correct protocol would have been to invite her in for coffee to go with her cheesecake. But on that Saturday morning I’d been too busy looking at her cleavage while trying to pretend that I wasn’t to think straight.
Gail is a pretty brown-skinned sister. She looks like she’s in her mid-thirties, maybe forty. She wears her hair wavy and cut close to her scalp, a style I always took to mean that a woman had some confidence about herself. Long hair is a symbol of femininity. I don’t think most women would give it up unless they felt secure that they had other things going for them.
SHE’S COMING JANUARY 2013
What do you do when the one you choose isn’t the one you need?
Billionaire Julian St. Christopher’s Passion formula – the libido-boosting ingredient in his designer wine Passion’s Nectar and candy Passion’s Kiss – has earned him new millions. But for some people, the Passion formula has a stunning side effect. For some, the wine and candy generate a burning desire, a need that can only be relieved by the person who is the object of their yearning. The creators of the formula call the desire the Soul Mate Effect.
Julian’s scientists tell him that the only a very small percentage of people who consume the wine or candy experience the effect. They tell him that the odds of an affected person meeting their sexual soul mate are even less likely, and so his product is safe to sell.
Julian is confident that his product is safe. He drinks Passion’s Nectar. It’s a designer wine, a rich man’s hobby, and his new toy. But when he shares the wine with someone close to him, the passion is ignited, and Julian discovers that when you play with fire, you might get burned.
The flames of desire burn as hot as the sun, and Julian is drawn toward the heat. Now he’s in the battle of his life as he struggles to choose between doing what he believes is right or being with the woman he might not have the will to resist. But the flesh is weak, and it’s on fire.
In the fourth sizzling episode in the Passion Series, Julian learns that when desire becomes need, nothing and no one is off limits.
AN EXCERPT FROM PASSION’S FIRE
Excerpt from Passion’s Nectar
Julian hung up the STU III phone and downed the rest of his wine. He slouched in his easy chair. Maybe he’d stay home tonight, just eat something, chill for a while and go to bed.
Grace appeared in the doorway of his study. “Would you like more wine?” she asked.
“No thanks, Grace.” She’d taken her apron off. Julian looked at her, appreciated how her uniform dress hugged her curves.
“The staff is relieved for the night,” she said. “There’s grilled salmon with lemon-hazelnut sauce in the warmer if you get hungry. Is there anything else you need before I leave?”
Grace was truly amazing. She knew he’d be hungry. She always knew what he needed before he did. And she looked so good right now, in that dress. Her body made even a simple work dress look sexy. Julian wondered what she might look like without it.
She stood in the study doorway, watching him watching her. She’s very attractive, Julian thought, even without makeup.
Julian tried to ignore his body’s reaction to the wine. But he couldn’t push away the question of what Grace’s curvy brown body might look like…might feel like in his arms.
She looked at him, looking at her.
She stepped into the room, reaching and pulling the pin out of the bun in her hair as she came across the carpet.
Grace shook her head and the bun came loose. Her hair fell over her shoulders.
She stood over him, took his glass and poured more Passion’s Nectar.
Gazing down at him, she took a sip.
She always knew what he needed.
Newark, New Jersey
Twenty-Six Years Ago
Julius St. Christopher stood in front of the ninth grade class, scanning the student’s faces. Most of them looked away when his eyes found theirs. A couple of boys in the back of the room who sported matching Jheri curls slouched in their chairs and gave him hard, challenging glares; boys wanting to be men while not having a clue.
No one raised their hand. Not a single student.
Julius looked over at the teacher and the guidance counselor, who stood on the other side of the teacher’s desk. The teacher gave him a weak, apologetic smile, as if to say, I don’t have any luck, either.
He felt bad for her, that she took it as a personal indictment that not even one of her students was willing to take advantage of this opportunity.
Julius looked down at his nine-year-old son Julian, who he’d kept out of his own school today so that he could experience this life lesson on giving to those not as fortunate as he. He could read the question in his son’s eyes: Why don’t they want to go to college?
“I’m so sorry,” the teacher said when they were out in the hall. “Most of these kids, they come from difficult home situations. They don’t see higher education as a part of their existence, not in the neighborhoods they come from. Many won’t even finish high school.”
“It’s a shame,” Julius said. “It seems that hope has died for many of us in less than a couple of decades. But I’m not giving up. This is a new endeavor for me. I’ll work on improving my presentation, and then I’ll come back. You can count on that –”
From the classroom came the sound of one of the students singing the gospel hymn Amazing Grace. Julius heard other kids start snickering. A girl’s mocking voice said, “Why don’t you ask him to buy you a straightening comb or some S-Curl?” and the class broke out in laughter.
A girl stepped out of the classroom into the corridor. She spotted them and headed their way.
She was a sepia-complexioned young lady wearing frayed cornrows. Julius noticed that her skirt and blouse were a bit snug on her stout frame, as if they were hand-me-downs or clothing that she’d outgrown.
When the girl reached them the teacher asked, “What is it, Grace?”
The girl didn’t acknowledge the teacher. She looked up at Julius, directly into his eyes. She didn’t smile, but she didn’t look hostile or hesitant, either. Looking at her, Julius felt that her eyes were those of someone much more mature than her fourteen or fifteen years. And he noted that in spite of the fact that she wore the trappings of poverty, there was nothing pitiable about her carriage. Rather, there was a dignity in the girl’s bearing.
She said, “Mr. St. Christopher…Sir, may I ask you a question?”
“Are there colleges that teach cooking?”
“Yes, there are many schools that offer courses in culinary arts. In fact there’s one not far from here, right across the bridge in New York.”
“If I do what you say, sir – if I maintain a B in every class – will you send me to a school like that?”
Julius noted that the girl spoke with a slight accent. If he’d had to guess he’d say she was originally from the West Indies. “So you want to be a cook, young lady?”
The teacher said, “Grace, you do understand that the grade requirement isn’t for a semester or a year, don’t you? You have to maintain no less than a B in every class until you graduate high school.”
Now the girl looked at her teacher. Still unsmiling she said, “I understand.” She looked back up at Julius. “No sir, Mr. St. Christopher. I don’t want to be a cook. I can cook now. I want to be a chef. A master chef.”
He smiled at the girl. She didn’t smile back. He said, “I see. Well Grace, if you fulfill the terms of the contract and hold up your end of the bargain, then I’ll hold up mine. I’ll pay for your education at the culinary school of your choice.” He held out his hand. “Do we have a deal?”
Grace took his hand and shook it. “Yes sir.”
“Good. It’s very nice to meet you, Grace.”
“It’s nice to meet you, sir.”
“Oh, and this is my son, Julian. Julian, say hello to Miss Grace…I’m sorry, what’s your last name?”
Julius said, “Julian, say hello to Miss Grace Trouillot.”
His son held out his hand, the way Julius taught him to do when meeting someone formally. He said, “Hello, Miss Trouillot.”
The girl looked down at him. Now, for the first time, she smiled. She took nine-year-old Julian’s hand, shook it and said, “Hello, Mr. St. Christopher.”
Don’t forget to check out the first three episodes in the Passion Series:
Mapleton, North Carolina, 1955
Joshua walked up the dirt road, his aching feet dragging, his battered work boots kicking up dust. The dust didn’t matter. He was already so dirty and sweaty that it was going to take three baths before he felt anywhere close to being clean again.
His legs and thighs ached, but that ache was nothing compared to the agony in his back and shoulders. He wiped his brow with the back of his arm and gazed toward the heavens. The summer sun was low in the sky, but still the late day heat was stifling.
Lord, give me strength…
This was his first day on the job – twelve hours breaking his back in the tobacco fields under the sweltering sun. Every muscle in his body cried out for him not to go back tomorrow, to find some easier way to earn a living. But there was no other way. And he was thankful just to have the job.
There’d been some news today that there might be trouble coming. Some woman down in Alabama had refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, and she’d been locked up for her trouble. Folks were worried that just to make sure nobody starting getting any such ideas here in Hertford County, the nightriders might make an example out of somebody. So everybody in the fields today was nervous. And nobody slacked off on the job.
He’d been walking for over two hours, and finally his little house came into view up ahead. It wasn’t much – just two rooms and an outhouse – but it was home. Their first home. He’d rented the place from the same man in whose fields he’d spent this day breaking his back.
Even looking at their home from a distance Joshua was reminded that the place needed some work, starting off with patching the hole in the tin roof before the next rain. He figured he’d get to that tonight after supper.
Lord, I’m so tired.
Now that home was in sight his aching body felt as if it wanted to give up. He felt like he could just fall out right here, lay his head in the dirt and sleep his life away.
But he kept walking.
He thought about how hard this day had been, and that all he had to look forward to was more days and weeks and months and years like this one, days in which he worked his body until he had nothing left. He thought about getting up tomorrow and the next morning, six days a week, to do it all over again. That’s how his father had lived his life, and his father before him. And that was what he had to look forward to.
He was a man, but the thought made Joshua blink back tears of despair.
Lord, why have you made my life so hard?
As he limped into his front yard the aroma of skillet fried pork chops, collard greens seasoned with fatback and fresh hot cornbread greeted him. His stomach rumbled a return call.
The front door was open, and as he reached the house she stepped out onto the creaky wooden porch. His heart jumped in his chest, and his despair rinsed away like sand in a rainstorm
Rose – his wife, his love – wore a faded hand-me-down calico dress under a worn apron on which she wiped her hands. Her coal black hair was pulled back from her beautiful brown face, which glistened with perspiration. She’d probably been cooking all afternoon on that wood-burning stove. Joshua figured it had to be hot in that house, as hot in there for her as it had been for him out in the fields. Still, when their eyes met she greeted him with a smile.
In spite of his sore feet and legs his stride lengthened and quickened, and in two steps he was on the porch and sweeping her up into his arms.
As he hugged and kissed his new bride he forgot his exhaustion and the ache in his muscles. He forgot his despair. If he had to toil for the rest of his days in fields of fire in the pit of hell it was worth it.
It was worth it because she was worth it.
ABOUT LOVE II
Long Branch, New Jersey
“Look Rosie, it’s starting to snow!” Mrs. Porter exclaimed. She was so excited that for a moment she took her hands off the steering wheel.
Rose tensed in the passenger seat and mentally prayed that this fool wouldn’t kill them. She didn’t want to die, especially right before Christmas.
It had been five years since Joshua brought them up from North Carolina to New Jersey, and in those five years she’d ridden in more cars than she had in her entire twenty-one years of life previously. But Rose still couldn’t get used to Mrs. Porter’s crazy driving. It was a wonder they gave the woman a driver’s license.
To Rose’s great relief Mrs. Porter grabbed the wheel and stopped the car just before they reached the red light at the corner of Third Avenue and Broadway. Another foot and they would have been in the boot of that big old Chrysler Imperial in front of them.
“It will be so nice to have snow this Christmas,” Mrs. Porter said. “Did you have much snow at Christmas in North Carolina?”
“No, not too much,” Rose said. She was proud that she’d remembered not to stick a “ma’am” at the end of her answer. She’d noticed that up here in New Jersey colored folks didn’t call white folks “sir” and “ma’am” just because they were white.
They turned off Third Avenue onto downtown Broadway. It was evening, and the street was lit up with Christmas lights. Decorations hung on the lamp posts. Shoppers hurried up and down and across the street amidst the gently falling snowflakes, skittering in and out of stores like bees buzzing around their hives.
To Rose the scene looked like something out of one of those nice old holiday movies. The spirit of Christmas swelled within her breast.
She hoped that Joshua would be home in time to celebrate Christmas with her and the children. If he wasn’t back from his trip in time it would be the first Christmas in their eight years of marriage that they’d be apart.
“This is so lovely,” Mrs. Porter sighed. “Lord knows we need something cheerful in our lives after all that’s happened lately. Can you believe it’s been a month since they killed the President in Dallas?”
“It seems like it happened yesterday,” Rose said. She answered her employer but her mind was on her husband, who was on the road for his company, delivering aluminum doors and windows.
They turned off Broadway onto Liberty Street, and two blocks later onto Monmouth Avenue. Rose gathered up her things as they neared her house. As Mrs. Porter pulled to a stop at the curb Rose said, “Thank you for the ride, Mrs. Porter.”
Even though they’d taken this same ride five days a week for the last four years, Rose didn’t think it hurt to show appreciation. She still remembered how Joshua walked for miles to and from the fields every day when they lived in North Carolina. Old Mr. Jenkins would never have thought to give any colored worker a ride home.
“It’s my pleasure Rosie,” Mrs. Porter said. “I really appreciate all you’ve done for me. “In fact, Mr. Porter and I have decided that we really ought to show our appreciation for all your hard work by giving you a Christmas bonus this year.”
From her purse she extracted a crisp fifty dollar bill and handed it to Rose.
Rose stared in shock at the money. This was twice as much as she made in a week cooking and cleaning for the Porter family.
This year for Christmas she and Joshua had bought a new set of cap pistols for Little Josh and a doll for baby Carol. There were still two days to go before Christmas. With this money she could buy them more toys, and get something nice for Joshua, who worked so hard to support them.
Rose fought to contain her emotions. “Mrs. Porter, thank you. We all thank you so much,” she said.
Mrs. Porter patted her hand. “Think nothing of it, dear. As I said, we really do appreciate all you do for us. And that’s something else, Rosie. I do wish you would call me Ruth. After all, I consider us friends.”
Rose went up the walk to the house blinking tears from her eyes. The Lord sure was good to them. After all their struggles in the south He’d seen His way to guide them up north to a better way of life. Now if only He could find a way to bring Joshua home before Christmas.
Nessie Thompson lived in the upstairs half of the house they rented. Nessie watched the children while she and Joshua were at work. Rose decided that she’d go into her own house and take off her coat and rest her feet for a minute before she went up to get the children. But when she opened the door to her living room Joshua was standing right there in front of the Christmas tree, holding Little Josh and Carol in each of his strong arms. He was grinning at her from ear to ear.
“Merry Christmas, Baby,” he beamed.
She didn’t remember running across the room to her family, and didn’t know how Joshua managed to hug her while still holding their babies. But Joshua had always managed to take care of his family, whether it was suffering in the sun in the tobacco and cotton fields, or finding a way to move them north to a better life. So she wasn’t surprised at anything he managed to accomplish for them.
“How did you get home?” she said into his chest.
“By driving that danged truck like I was in the Pony Express,” he said. “The boss was surprised to see me back so soon. I told him don’t get used to it, but ain’t no way I’m gonna be away from my woman and my babies for Christmas.”
Unable to speak through her emotion, Rose just hugged her man tighter.
Joshua said, “And guess what, Baby? The boss appreciated me working so hard and fast, so he gave me a fifty dollar bonus on top of my pay. Now don’t that beat all?”
“Yes Honey, that’s just about beats all,” she said. “Now come on and sit down. I’m gonna make some pork chops and collards and corn bread.”
Joshua smiled even harder. “Just like the old days, huh Baby?”
Rose handed him the fifty dollar bill given to her by Mrs. Porter. “No Husband, nothing is like the old days. I want to thank you for that – for giving us a better life.”
Joshua looked down at his wife. He remembered that hot summer day eight years ago when he’d felt so tired and helpless thinking about the future. He remembered Rose coming out onto the porch, sweating from her day over the stove.
“No, I’m the one who ought to thank you,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for wanting a better life for you, I’d still be working in the fields just like my daddy and granddaddy did. Love is what got us a better way of life. And love will always keep us.”
Rose couldn’t find the words to respond. So she held onto her man and leaked tears onto his shirt. The Lord sure is good to us, she thought again.
Joshua said, “Baby, it’s a little cold out, but do you feel like taking a walk? I don’t want you cooking tonight. Let’s go downtown and have us a nice eat out dinner. You deserve it. Nessie already said she’d watch the kids and feed them.”
They walked up Monmouth Avenue with their arms around each other. Big feathery flakes of snow flurried around them, and they walked with their heads bowed against the chill December night. But they really didn’t feel the cold. Love warmed their hearts and their spirits.
As they turned up Liberty Street and then neared Broadway, they heard the voices of carolers filling the night with holiday cheer. They stopped on the sidewalk and listened to the beautiful lyrics of Silent Night.
“Oh Joshua, do you feel it?” Rose asked her husband as they enjoyed the carolers.
“Feel what Baby?”
“God. God is out here tonight. I feel him all through my bones!”
Joshua smiled down at his wife. “He’s always out here, Baby. It’s just that sometimes, when everything seems like it’s going wrong, we forget that He’s right there, waiting for us to use His strength to get us through. Look at where we’ve been, and where we are now. That ain’t nothing but the Lord moving us with His blessings.”
“Then let’s keep moving,” Rose said. “I can’t wait till we get there!”
“You that hungry, Baby?”
“No husband,” Rose said. “I can’t wait to get to the next wonderful thing God has planned for us.”
COUGARS, INC. II: A CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT
That’s not the case for Trent’s boss, forty-two year-old Audrey Mendes. She knows who she is. She knows what she desires. She’s not afraid to act on her desires.
When Audrey learns about the problems in Trent and Meri’s relationship she decides to find out for herself if Trent has a price, if he can be bought, and if accepting the price will allow him to unleash the passion he keeps hidden inside.
In “Condition of Employment,” The Black brings you a new episode in the Cougars, Inc. series, one that will make you question your own values. How far are you willing to go for the sake of your relationship? Can you be bought, and at what price?
TALES OF EROTIC HORROR AND SUSPENSE
She’s beautiful, and he wants her desperately. But when she whispers the words, “I, Desire,” he learns that her hunger for him might not be what he expects.
In “I Miss You,” Oscar yearns to find again the one true love of his life. But due to his terrible headaches, he can’t even remember her name, much less how to contact her. All he remembers is that he met her before he married a woman he can’t stand. How far is Oscar willing to go to escape his miserable life and be with the one he loves again?
After being in his family for generations, old Abraham’s shoe store is going out of business. He hasn’t sold a pair of shoes in a month. But when he hires a young man to help him close his store, he discovers that when it comes to salesmanship, the young “Shoe Clerk” has the magic touch.
Driving on a desolate south Jersey highway in the middle of the night, Curtis is dog-tired. After nodding off and almost running off the road he sees a grisly sight that makes in wonder: Are there wolves in New Jersey? Is there something worse lurking out there in the darkness? Maybe the “Troopers” pulling him over know the answer.
Thanksgiving is a time for families to reunite, to catch up, and to relive pleasant memories. In “Over the River,” Jarvis hadn’t been to his grandmother’s home for his family’s holiday dinner in six years. There’s a memory there that he doesn’t want to relive, a memory that still haunts him.
Carlos’ cousin T.J. is in “Trouble.” Less than two weeks after moving into his new home, T.J. is having an affair with his next door neighbor, a married woman. She says that her husband doesn’t pay attention to her. Maybe her husband has a reason.