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:
Taxes can be a real buzzkill, but this weekend doesn’t have to be that way for romance lovers. Myself and five other authors have come together to bring you a Tax Weekend sale to take the sting out of the tax deadline. So finish your return, go off to Amazon Friday, April 12-Monday, April 15, 1-click and enjoy some great stories from authors you love, or new to you, authors. These are all great bargains for the price!
Discounted from $2.99 to $.99
Keisha Beale and her roommate Jada Jameson have half the money they need to start their dream business. A hookup from Jada’s well-connected father gets them a meeting with the elusive venture capitalist Tristan White. The only time slot he has available is at the close of business on a Friday afternoon when Jada has a nonrefundable ticket for a sorority week in Sin City. Keisha goes to the meeting alone and almost flubs their chance at getting the much-needed start-up capital. During this one-chance meeting Tristan White discovers he wants a little coffee in his cream. Thus begins his pursuit of Keisha Beale, the only woman who can quench his raging case of jungle fever!
Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever, the comedic run-away hit by L. V. Lewis for only $.99? Fairy Hoochie Mama and Triple-G can even afford it (but you have to read the book to find out who they are).
Discounted from $2.99 to $.99
He’s the eighteen-year-old lifeguard at the pool. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old woman babysitting for the summer, before going to grad school. He’s one step away from jailbait (his birthday was eight days ago. Yes, I checked). I’m not necessarily a cougar yet, but closer to cougar than high school girl. He’s hot, and by hot, I mean holy crap. And by holy crap, I mean, when I first saw him, I thought he was twenty-one. Minimum. But he’s not twenty-one. He’s eighteen and off limits. But he has this back and these shoulders and everything about him is yummy and I just want to touch him. Once.
Elle Insatiable: Book One
by The Black
Discounted from $4.99 to $1.99
To her employees and friends, Gabrielle Archer is the epitome of the self-made, strong black woman. With her aggressive style and razor tongue she’s made it in a man’s world with room to spare and bodies in her wake. She’ll put anyone who crosses her – especially any man – in his place, and then she’ll despise him for his weakness. No man dares challenge her…except one.
Simon Bishop knows what buttons to push – not to ignite Gabrielle’s wrath – but to strip away her emotional armor to reveal the woman within – the woman she yearns to be: Elle.
Elle has no power and no control. Elle is free to give herself over to a strong man, a man she trusts to take care of her so that she can give all to him. And what Elle has to give is a fiery passion that that knows no boundaries and no shame. Elle is the woman that every real man desires, and the woman that every other woman, deep in her heart, wants to be.
Laura’s Two Ice Cream Boys (Complete Collection)
by Mimi Strong
Discounted from $3.99 to $.99
“A smashing, gorgeous story that takes the reader on a rollercoaster, to the heights of ecstasy and the depths heartache. The series climax is one of the most original and sweet engagement proposals you’ve ever read. This is a wonderful romance, packed with moments ranging from jaw-dropping outrage (Sharise!) to happy-tears-making.”
Laura’s always been a good girl. She doesn’t speed or smoke or swear. She’s only given her body and heart to one boy. He repaid her by dumping her at the wedding altar. She threw up on her wedding dress.
Laura’s done being a good girl.
Love Under Fire ~ The Complete Set – The Tested Series
by Nikki Walker
Discounted from $2.99 to $1.50
Love Through The Fire
Marcus and Naya have been separated five years. Marcus gets injured in an accident. Naya is a physical therapist-the best in the region. After Marcus fires one therapist after another, his best friend, Trey steps in and convinces him to let Naya help him to recover from his injuries. Their past relationship is put to the test when Naya has to move with Marcus to start his rehabilitation. Can they rekindle the love they once had or has their divorce created a brick wall that cannot be knocked down?
“Been There -Done That”~ In Flames
Andrea is grieving the loss of her daughter. Det. Zane Perkins enters her life over a pick-pocket breakfast. Using her daughter’s memory to build her gift basket business, her focus is soley on her business. Andrea is convinced that she has ‘been there and done that,’ but Zane convinces her to change her mind.
Hearts On Fire
Trey is burnt out and in need of some rest and relaxation and now Sherri is run-down from her superior who wants her dead, to the one person that she feels safe with, Trey. But, how does she deal with being in such close proximity of her love crush? Trey has watched Sherri grow up, he’s always treated her with care but now he sees her for more than just a little sister. While keeping her safe from those who are trying to harm her, can he convince her that his heart belongs to her eternally?
The Seduction of Dylan Acosta
Discounted from $3.99 to $1.99
When Dylan marries Mets superstar short stop Mark Acosta. Practically overnight, her life changes, and despite her best efforts, she feels herself being pulled deeper into a world of disaffected and deceitful baseball wives, designer clothes, celebrity parties and multi-million dollar homes. Though Dylan struggles to remain the simple, down-to-earth girl that Mark fell in love with, she feels the lure of the seductive trappings of her new life. The closer she is to becoming the quintessential “Baseball Wife” the farther apart she and Mark become . . .
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.
Is sleeping with your best friend having the best of both worlds, or is it a disaster waiting to happen?
Kyle and Britt are best friends. They have a lot in common. They have professional careers. They like watching classic black and white TV shows and movies, listening to music from back in the day, and submarine sandwiches on the sofa. And when they’re not seeing other people, they like sleeping with each other.
But there’s a danger in being friends with benefits: Somebody usually catches feelings. Then the problem becomes whether to keep your feelings to yourself and suffer silent longing, or express your emotions and risk losing what you have.
And that’s just the beginning.
The Black’s internet-favorite short story is now expanded to become a page-turning novella.
A CONVERSATION ON THE COUCH EXCERPT:
“So since you’re done with Marie, who’re you checking out?”
“What makes you think I’m checking somebody out?”
“Because I know you, Kyle. You don’t do more than one woman at a time, but you usually hang on to the one you’re tired of until you know you’ve got someone new waiting in the wings.”
“Nah, this was about Marie wanting to use me for her personal ATM. I had to step away before it got ugly. Nobody’s waiting on me.”
“Well you know, considering that you’re a tech guy and a gentleman, Marie probably thought you were okay with that.”
“Giving her money?”
“You know, you don’t come off as a street dude, so she probably figured she could play you a little bit.”
“Oh, so I come off as the nerd who’s so happy to be close to a female that I’ll give up my bank cards to her just because she let me touch her breast…through two sweaters and an old lady bra?”
“Not that bad!” Britt laughed, “But you are a nice guy. Women pick up on that.”
“‘A nice guy.’ Uh-huh. So I’m that dude that women pushing forty want to marry after they’ve got five kids by five baby’s daddies and used up bodies from fucking jobless thugs since they were in high school. Is that the nice guy you’re talking about?”
Britt touched her finger to her chin and frowned, feigning deep thought. “Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t check my calendar. Is this your day to be a stereotyping, judgmental asshole?”
“You’re the one who said I was a nice guy and that Marie thought she could play me.”
“All I’m saying dickhead, is that some women – some women – see a guy with a well-paying career who’s educated and soft-spoken and opens doors and pulls out chairs for her as the kind of gentleman who might also give up the bucks if she’s in a pinch.”
“So a sucker.”
“A generous man.”
“A sugar daddy.”
“A compassionate man.”
“Fuck that; I don’t pay a woman’s bills unless I call her ‘wife.’”
“You wouldn’t help out a lady friend in need?”
“Not if she thinks it’s a payback for sex. That’s what tricks do for hookers.”
“Which obviously you’re not, since now Marie is on the outside looking in. But like I said before, she’s probably missing what you put on her in bed, the way you broke her body down to her molecules.”
“How do you know?”
Britt tapped herself on her chest. “Um, duh? I’m still looking under your bed for my missing molecules.”
“Every woman is different, Britt.”
“Yeah, but you’re like Liam Neeson in Taken. You have a very particular set of skills…and a nice tool, too.”
“So there’s no one else you have your eye on?”
“Nope. And gold diggers need not apply.”
“Okay, so if I needed some money you wouldn’t help me?”
“Seriously? What do you make a year, like triple my salary?”
“That’s not the point. What if I was experiencing some kind of financial hardship and needed help. Would you loan me money if I asked?”
“Come on Britt, this is us. If I could help you out I’d just give it to you. It wouldn’t need to be a loan.”
“Because you’re my girl.”
“So you wouldn’t think I was feeling entitled to your loot because I’ve let you stick your thing in me?”
Kyle shook his head. “Nope.”
“I told you: you’re my girl.”
COMING SOON FOR THE KINDLE AND NOOK
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
Sicklerville, New Jersey
As Ali shut off his weed eater he pretended not to notice Lisa sitting on her porch across the street, sipping a tall glass of something and watching him. Whenever he did yard work she managed to find her way out onto her porch to enjoy the show. He didn’t know why her old man didn’t notice. Or maybe the dude did notice and didn’t care.
Making sure not to look Lisa’s way, Ali scanned his front yard, surveying his handiwork. Nice. He’d mowed it to a uniform inch and a half high, power-edged along the sidewalk and driveway, and trimmed along the sides of the house. His lawn looked like a layer of green carpet. It was too bad it had been so hot lately, and there’d been so little rain. Keeping his lawn green had damn near doubled his water bill.
Ali headed for the garage with the weed eater, and forgot himself when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked across the street, and saw that Lisa had gotten up and was standing at her front door, holding her storm door propped open with her hip. She waved at him.
This morning she was wearing a peach-colored tank top and white shorts. Even from across the street and through his safety goggles Ali thought he could see her nipples poking out her top.
To be neighborly he waved back. Lisa took a quick look up and down the street, and then with her free hand pulled the strap of her top to one side and let her big tittie fall out.
Ali almost tripped over his weed eater. Lisa flashed a big smile, stuffed her tittie back in her top and went inside her house.
Her dude must not be home. Or maybe he got off on his woman being an exhibitionist. Maybe he was inside at the window stroking himself while Lisa flashed the neighborhood. You never knew what kinds of freaks people were behind closed doors.
Inside his two-car garage Ali wiped down his lawn mower, then stepped out of his battered, grass-stained for-grass-cutting-only Nikes. He looked across the garage at his Charger, and decided that though it was only mid-morning, it was already too hot to deal with detailing it. He’d get up early again tomorrow and take care of that.
In his kitchen Ali peeled off his sweat-drenched tee-shirt, took it to the laundry enclave and tossed it into the washing machine. His cell phone was on the kitchen’s center island, and when he passed it on his way to the refrigerator to get some water he noticed its message light flashing. He looked to the wall and saw the voicemail light for his house phone flashing too.
He checked the house phone’s voicemail first. Kendra’s cheerful voice asked, “Okay, where are you so early on a Saturday? I’ll try your cell.” That call came just after 7:00 am. He was out in the yard then.
Her cell phone voicemail said, “Okay, if I’m disturbing you while you’re getting some nookie, I apologize. But if you are, give me a call back. It’s kind of important.”
Ali hung up, frowning. Why would his ex-wife want him to call her if he was getting laid?
“Hey, what’s up?” Ali asked.
“Are you alone?”
“Yeah, I was doing the yard. What’s up?”
“I’m not gonna do it,” Kendra said. “I changed my mind.”
“Not going to do what?”
“Oh. Sorry.” So this was one of those calls. Whenever Kendra was going through some shit in a relationship she called him to vent. For some reason she sometimes acted like they were the same kind of friends they were before they got involved, and before they’d been married for four years.
Kendra said, “It’s okay. We talked about it, and kind of decided together that we weren’t ready.”
What that probably really meant was that Kendra had jumped without thinking again and said “Yes” when Donald proposed, and now that she’d come back to earth she was looking at things realistically. She’d probably remembered that marriage was about more than the ceremony and the ability to say you were married. It was about work. Two people merging their lives and not killing each other as a result took work.
Kendra said, “One of his old girlfriends moved back to town and I think something’s going on. Or he’s at least thinking about it. He didn’t say that, but that’s what I think.”
Or it could be that.
“Damn. Sorry, babe.” He hadn’t meant to call her babe, but sometimes even after three years apart, muscle memory kicked in and it slipped out.
“It’s okay. Story of my life.”
It wasn’t the story when they were married. When he and Kendra were married he wouldn’t have cheated even if Beyonce had stripped naked in front of him and started singing Put a Dick in It. All any man needs is one good woman who’s a freak like him. Kendra was a freak like him.
“So why are you doing yard work in this heat?” Kendra asked. “It’s blazing out here.”
“It’s only going to get hotter later, and you know I can’t have my yard looking scraggly. How’s your weather in Connecticut?”
“It was nice when I left this morning.”
“When you left?”
“Open the door. I’m in your driveway.”
Ali opened his front door and stepped out onto his porch. Across the way Lisa was standing behind the glass in her storm door, watching. Ali ignored her and turned his attention to the car in his driveway.
The Hyundai Sonata looked new. Ali felt proud of Kendra that she was handling her business and able to get a new ride. Then she opened the driver’s door and swung her legs out, and he forgot about cars.
Kendra had been spending time in the sun, because her legs were baked to the hue of Vanilla Wafer cookies. She popped out of the car, smiling at him from behind dark sunglasses as she clicked her remote door lock.
Kendra’s sundress was lemony yellow, with a tube type top. Her bare shoulders were as bronzed as her legs. Ali thought that either she’d either lost some weight or gotten taller because even in her flat sandals her legs looked longer than he remembered. Or maybe it was because her sundress was damned near a mini.
Ali watched her as she came up his walkway. Vanilla Wafer skin. Yellow dress. He thought about banana pudding. Sweet. He pushed the thought away.
He held the door open for her, and as she stepped in he stole a glance across the street. Lisa was gone. Her front door was closed. Ha!
Ali closed his front door and turned in his foyer to face Kendra. She took off her sunglasses and looked him up and down like he was a piece of meat, grinned and said, “Dag, boy! You’ve been working out!”
Oh yeah. He was hot and sweaty and was only wearing basketball shorts.
She said, “I’d hug you, but I didn’t bring anything to change into.”
Ali shot a quick glance at Kendra’s bare shoulders and at the hint of cleavage peeking above the top of her tube. Once upon a time he would have joked and told her to take off her dress if she was worried about messing it up. But that was once upon a time. They hadn’t sexed each other since she was between boyfriends – before Donald and after the other dude she thought she was going to marry. Ali couldn’t remember his name. But that was once upon a time. He didn’t know where Kendra’s head was now.
“Come on in,” he said, and led her into the living room.
Kendra looked around before sitting down. She said, “I see you finally got your black leather furniture.” She looked through the archway that opened onto the dining room and said, “And a new dining room set. Nice.”
Her comments reminded Ali that she hadn’t been here in a while, almost two years. The last time she visited he was still using the family room furniture left over from their marriage for his living room set. “I got some nice bonuses last year,” he said. “I guess you’re doing all right too, with that new ride.”
“Oh, Daddy said it was time for a new car,” Kendra said. “He said I needed something safe for my commute.” Kendra commuted from Connecticut into Manhattan to work.
“Tom is right,” Ali said. “I still think you should take the train.”
“You know I like being behind the wheel.”
That was true. When they were together sometimes they’d almost get into arguments about who was going to drive wherever they were going.
Kendra sank onto his sofa and crossed her legs. She slid her palms over the black leather and cooed, “Ooh…nice…soft…”
Ali figured that knowing Kendra, if she was going to vent about her now former fiancé it was going to take up the next several hours, so he’d might as well be cleaned up and comfortable. He said, “I need to grab a shower. Can I get you anything before I go up?”
Kendra looked him up and down again and let her gaze come to rest on his shorts. She said, “I know where everything is,” and bit into her plump bottom lip.
Ali said, “Oh, you’ve got jokes,” and escaped upstairs.
Ali was halfway through his shower when he had a Psycho movie moment. His master bathroom door was open, and through the dimpled glass in the sliding shower door he saw the murky figure enter. Even though he knew it was Kendra and that everything was cool, his imagination had her snatching the shower door open and raising the French knife she’d pilfered from his kitchen, ready to try to hack him to bloody bits.
Instead of trying to kill him she closed the toilet lid and sat down on it. She asked, “So are you seeing anybody?”
She should have asked that question before she hit the road and drove down from Connecticut. But planning ahead never was Kendra’s style. For her, planning ahead usually took the form of vague daydreaming about something that was almost impossible to happen in reality. Almost everything else she did happened on impulse, at the spur of the moment. Like getting engaged twice since they’d split up. Maybe them splitting up, too.
As for whether he was seeing anyone, he was. Sort of. He’d met Coleen at the Burlington Mall a couple of months ago, when she bumped into him and almost spilled her soda on him in the food court. After three dates Colleen confessed that the bump wasn’t an accident.
Colleen was nice enough and pretty enough. She was a thirty-six year-old divorcee with a nine year-old daughter and six year-old son. They got along okay. No real issues. No unnecessary drama. He was going to have to stop seeing her soon, however.
Colleen was a “good girl.” She had a hard four-months-before-sex rule. That was cool. He respected a woman who had standards and wasn’t so desperate to get a man that she used her body as a sacrificial offering. But he could tell that she was getting anxious for the four months to be over.
He needed to stop seeing her before then.
He’d told Colleen from the jump that though he was cool with being in a monogamous relationship, he wasn’t particularly interested in getting married anytime soon. Colleen said she understood, and that that was fine. Yeah, right.
After two months he knew that for Colleen, sex was going to mean serious commitment. And to her way of thinking, if you were going to seriously commit, you had might as well be thinking about marriage. He’d seen the marriage glow in her eyes on the day he’d made the mistake of taking her and her kids to Six Flags. It was that glow that said, He’ll make a good husband and father. Looking at that glow in Colleen’s eyes was scarier than looking into the eyes of a hungry panther.
So not no, but hell no. Marriage wasn’t going to happen. He’d been there and done that. The proof was sitting right outside his shower, wearing a yellow sundress.
To answer Kendra’s question he said, “I’m dating.”
“Is it serious?”
Kendra reached and slid the shower door open, looked in and gave him that smile. It was a smile he knew so well. He used to think that she must have smiled that same way when she was a little girl and was about to stick her hand in the cookie jar when she wasn’t supposed to. It was the smile that meant she was thinking about doing something bad.
Bad, as in sometimes very good.
Kendra stood next to his bed and let him pull the top of her sundress down off her plump breasts while they kissed. She let him push the dress down over the swell of her hips, and let it drop and pool around her ankles. As he kissed his way down her body she stepped out of the dress and kicked her sandals off.
Ali kneeled in front of her and kissed her belly as he peeled her panties down. Her panties were white with yellow sunflowers on them. Pretty. What was under her panties was prettier.
Ali straightened up, took a step back and looked at the woman he used to be married to the way she’d looked at him down in the foyer, and then again when he’d come dripping wet out of the shower.
38-D, 30, 42. Five-foot-five. About 160 pounds of tight-packed hourglass curves.
She was looking at him, too. Her eyes were on his rock hard desire for her as she said, “I don’t think I can get married again. I think eventually I’d end up cheating on him with you.”
Ali wanted to tell Kendra that she was wrong or crazy or whatever. But he couldn’t, because he felt the same way.
Ali stepped back to his ex-wife. He took her soft, warm nakedness in his arms. He kissed her.
It was like coming home.
Kendra broke their kiss and asked, “Have you done it yet on your new sofa?”
“Then let’s go christen it.”
“You’re going to look good naked on black leather.”
Kendra gave him her hand in the cookie jar smile and said, “Then bring your camera.”
© 18 July 2012
The Last Round is available for the Kindle and Nook. Here’s some info and an excerpt:
For The Title.
Middleweight boxer Jamal Jefferson’s goal is to become the undisputed Middleweight Champion of the World. He wants to win all four title belts, defend them, and retire undefeated at age thirty. Jamal is determined to reach his goal, so he trains hard and fights harder. He’s certain that with his trainer Pops, his manager Stephanie Rhodes and his fiancée Tia Fuentes in his corner, nothing can stop him.
But on the night that Jamal wins the first of four Middleweight titles, Tia isn’t with him. Instead of being by his side, she’s with his primary rival for the claim of best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, WBC Middleweight Champion Ernest “The Gunslinger” Gaines.
Tia and Gaines have a history. Tia says it’s a bad history. But actions speak louder than words, and Jamal wonders if she’s telling the truth, or if there’s something going on between her and Gaines. Is the girl he loves really in his corner?
When Jamal finally steps into the ring to fight Gaines, he’ll be fighting for more than the undisputed championship. He’ll be fighting for his pride and his dignity. And he’ll be fighting to make sure that after the last round is fought, one of them will leave the ring with everything – the undisputed championship, and perhaps the undisputed claim to the woman they both want.
Las Vegas, Nevada
“Is it a cut?” Jamal asked as Pops rubbed something into his brow, either Vaseline or a coagulant. “He butted me.”
“Nah, you’re all right,” Pops said. “Now look, I think you hurt him good with that right to the body; maybe busted a rib. Keep going back there. Tenderize that motherfucker on that side. If he tries to cover it up, go up top and knock his ass back into the Disco era.”
Jamal leaned to look around Pops to see what was going on in Delgado’s corner. The ring girl, who was holding up the card signifying that the fourth round was coming up, thought he was leaning to look at her. She paused in mid-step, broadened her smile, and gave him a wink. Jamal ignored her. If the chick knew what was good for her she’d keep it moving, because Tia was not above jumping from the front row and over the ropes to give her a worse beat down than he was trying to give Delgado. The girl moved on, out of his way, and Jamal saw Delgado’s manager throwing the towel at the referee.
And then all hell broke loose in the ring. Jamal rose from his stool and his corner men kept him ascending, hoisting him up in the air. They’d carried him halfway around the ring before he managed to struggle back to the canvas and push his way back to his corner. He looked over the ropes down into the audience, to the front row where Tia was sitting.
She wasn’t there.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer was somewhere behind Jamal among the mass of people pushing and shoving and trying to be a part of the celebration. Jamal barely heard him as he announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, due to what’s reported as a fractured rib, the red corner is forced to retire after the third round…”
Jamal turned around, looking for Tia among the gang of happy friends and well-wishers crowded into the ring. The HBO reporter was grabbing at his arm, trying to get his attention for the post-fight interview. Jamal spit out his mouthpiece, and thinking he was ready to talk, the reporter got excited and shoved his microphone under his nose. Jamal turned his back on him and strained to see over heads in the ring, trying to locate Tia.
Michael Buffer was shouting, “…the winner, and new WBA Middleweight Champion of the Woooorld…Ja-maaaaal Jefferson!
Somebody grabbed Jamal’s right hand and lifted his glove into the air. It was Stephanie Rhodes, his manager and promoter. Where was Tia?
On his other side Pops leaned close and said into his ear, “I think she went back to the dressing room.”
Jamal and his team were in the stadium tunnel leading to his dressing room and being trailed by a pack of reporters when Jamal saw WBC Middleweight Champion Ernest “The Gunslinger” Gaines and two members of his entourage approaching from the other direction. One of the dudes was named Reggie something. Jamal didn’t recognize the other one.
Gaines was dressed in monotone – a damn near day glow orange suit with a matching brim and shoes. The only break in color were the gold chains draped around his neck.
When they drew near Gaines slowed his stride, grinned at him and said, “Congratulations on winning nothing, Jay. Everybody knows Delgado was washed up five years ago.”
Jamal stopped in his tracks. Pops muttered, “Oh, hell…”
“Is that why you were ducking him?” Jamal spat back. “Seems like every time he wanted to unify the belts, you had something else to do.”
Gaines snorted and said, “I wouldn’t waste my time fighting that has been. Not enough money in it. But hey, I understand why you did it, Jay. You had to get a title somehow, and you damn sure can’t take mine.”
One of Gaines’ henchmen snickered, “Oh, snap!” and bumped fists with the other idiot.
Jamal said, “Any time you want to sign the contract, pull your pen out.”
Still grinning, Gaines shook his head. “I got more exciting things to do. Speaking of which, Tia was so bored watching you dance with an old man that she couldn’t even hang around to watch. So I kept her company for you, gave her something more exciting to do with her evening. She’s in your dressing room right now trying to recover.”
Pops and two members of Jamal’s crew grabbed him before he could reach Gaines. Paparazzi camera flashes went off like Fourth of July fireworks.
Gaines grinned at the reporters and onlookers and said, “Nothing to see here, people. Just a boy trying to be a man.” Gaines continued up the tunnel with his boys on his heels, but he wasn’t done. When he was past Jamal’s group he turned back and sneered, “Damn Jay, it really must suck being you. Even when you try to equal me you can’t. Oh, and that goes for in the ring, too. But anyway, congratulations…champ.” Seconds later he was up the tunnel and out of sight, with his taunting laughter echoing back.
When Jamal reached his dressing room door he said to his team, “Everybody but Pops hold tight for a minute.” Then he went in to find out what the fuck Tia had been up to.
THE LAST ROUND
I feel them walking among us, watching us.
The spirits of the dead.
The dwellers of other realms.
The wretched spawn of Lilith, The First.
I feel him.
The other half of my soul lives in him.
His heart beats within my breast.
His blood heats my veins.
I feel his joy, and his pain.
I feel his passion, his desire for me.
It makes my blood run hot.
It makes me breathless and weak.
She wants to come between us.
If I must, I will open the gates of Hell to stop her.
GOLDEN (INSATIABLE: BOOK TWO)