It’s coming soon, I promise. In the homestretch…
In spite of his directive to Camilla and her willingness to comply Sam didn’t want to embarrass her. After they parked at the restaurant he went around to the Mini’s driver’s door and opened it for her. He stood in the door opening, shielding her as best he could as he looked around, scanning the parking lot for eyes that might see them.
The restaurant sat in strip mall between a 24-hour gym and a dry cleaner. Being the lunch hour, most of the foot traffic near them was headed to or from the restaurant. No one seemed to notice them. The coast was as clear as it was going to get.
“Okay,” he said.
Camilla swung her legs out of the car. Sam’s heart lurched as she yanked her dress up her thighs and lifted her bottom off the seat.
He looked around again, but in his heightened state of excitement and apprehension saw nothing.
Behind him Camilla stood up, pulling his attention back to her. She bumped the car door closed with her hip and said, “I’m ready now.” She looked and sounded happy.
As they headed for the restaurant entry Camilla brushed her hand against his. Sam thought she wanted to hold hands, but when he took hers she pressed something soft and silky against his palm. He knew what it was, and a glance confirmed it. The underwear she’d taken off was a red lace thong.
He stuffed her panties into his jeans pocket and took her hand as they crossed the parking lot. “They felt a little moist,” he said.
Without breaking stride Camilla leaned and pecked him on the cheek. A few eyes cut their way. “That’s your fault sir,” she smiled. “I’m ripe enough to burst.”
They reached the restaurant entry just behind a group of suited men and women probably on lunch break from their office. The last man in the group, a blonde, thirtyish Ken doll with a haughty too busy for peons because I own the world manner gave Camilla an appreciative once-over as he held the door for her.
Camilla cooed, “Thank you” to Ken.
Ken smiled at her, flashing his inhumanly brilliant teeth. “You’re very welcome.”
Walking behind Camilla, Sam reached over her shoulder and took over holding the door for her. He said “Thanks” to the Ken doll.
Ken’s eyes darted from Camilla to Sam and back to Camilla. His smile changed to a false one—one Sam had seen all too often in his life. Ken’s smile said, Hey, I’m not racist. See how I’m still smiling even though you’re with a black guy?
Okay, they were in another city in another state. No one knew them. Sam decided to see if he could push two buttons at once: one for spite and one for fun. From behind Camilla he leaned to her ear and just loud enough for Ken to hear said, “What if I told you no more playing with yourself until the month’s over? Would you do it?”
Without missing a beat Camilla said, “I wouldn’t like it sir, but if you insist of course I won’t.”
Ken followed his group to the hostess station. He looked back at them three times on his way.
My goal was to have what I intended to be a novella on the streets this month: August. But the story won’t let me. Here’s why:
I have over thirty novels and novellas published under my real name and under my pseudonym The Black. Probably half of them are novellas, because my personal writing style is to focus on telling the story, not to write to a page length or word count. When my story is done, it’s done.
If you’ve been following the history behind The Way of a Man with a Neighbor you know I was inspired to write it as a modern day version of the Victorian era erotic tale The Way of a Man with a Maid. I anticipated that my story would be similar in length, and be a get-to-the-point erotic story of a man who has intimacies with his neighbor. I had the story mentally outlined, and I figured it would clock in at about 40,000 words. A novella. But then, well…
The Way of a Man with a Neighbor is at over 84,000 words, and the mystery plot turn has yet to happen. The book threatens to become my longest release ever, even beating out my 115,000 word saga The Professional. That’s my estimate. When all is said and done will I cull some stuff in the edit? Probably. But it’s still going to be novel length because Sam and Camilla have a lot to tell you.
So when is it coming out? I’ll likely miss my 31 August deadline, but The Way of a Man with a Neighbor will be on the streets a few days after.
Once upon a time living the American Dream meant owning a modest home in a quiet suburb. It meant that Dad worked while Mom managed the home. It meant having one car. One television. You knew your neighbors and were on a first-name basis with the mailman, the milkman and local merchants. It meant having minimal debt because you lived within your means.
Craig Jackson and his wife Sheryl are living the Dream. At least that’s how Craig’s cousin Donnie sees things when he visits Craig in his new suburban home in an out-of-the-way town called Springdale. Craig seems to have it all: the home with all the amenities in a great neighborhood, a new car and a job that allows him to pay for the good life while Sheryl manages their home with an apron over her dress, high heels and pearls.
In Donnie’s opinion his cousin Craig lives a life too good to be true. And perhaps it is. It’s 2008, and yet Craig paid 1950s prices for his home and car. Gasoline and store goods in Springdale sell at decades-old prices too.
Craig tells Donnie that he and his fiancé Keisha could move to Springdale. They could have their piece of the American Dream.
But there are conditions.
The question Donnie and Keisha must ask themselves is if they’re willing to do what it takes to live the Dream.
In this tale straddling the line between the past we believe existed and the present day The Black forces us to consider the questions: Was the American Dream ever real, and would we be willing to do whatever takes to have it again?
SUNNY DAYS EXCERPT
Somewhere in America June 2008
“Okay, that’s Willow Road right there, “Keisha said. “She glanced at the written directions—directions that hadn’t shown up on MapQuest—and said, “His directions say turn left, and then go two miles. And then we’re supposed to see the sign for Springdale.”
Donnie followed Keisha’s direction and turned left.
Willow Road was just that, a two-lane country road bordered on either side by tall willow trees. Their drooping leaves cast the road in deep shadow, blocking out the late day sun.
“Man this is like driving through a tunnel,” Donnie said.
“Looks kinda spooky to me,” Keisha said. “I’d hate to be out here by myself at night.”
“Hell, being here alone in the daytime isn’t too cool either,” Donnie laughed.
Two miles down the road the tunnel of trees ended. They drove out of the shadows into the light of the afternoon sun. As if waiting for them specifically a roadside billboard greeted:
Welcome to Springdale
America’s Future, Then and Now!
Reading the directions, between pops of gum Keisha said, “Willow Road dead-ends at Main Street. Take a right on Main, go down three blocks and take a left on Elm Street. That’s where they live.”
Donnie followed the directions provided by his cousin Craig, who they were going to visit. He turned left on Elm Street.
“Okay,” Keisha said, “His house number is 26. Damn, your cousin lives in a nice neighborhood. He make a lotta money?”
Donnie shrugged. “He works in a bank. He does okay, I guess. I mean he must, because I don’t think his wife works.”
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Keisha said. “Find you a nigga that’s gonna take care of you. Is she nice?”
“I haven’t met her, just talked to her on the phone,” Donnie said. “She seemed nice on the phone—real polite.”
“How long they been married?”
“About a year, I think.”
“Well, I hope she ain’t one a them stuck up bitches,” Keisha said. “Just ‘cause she live in a nice house and shit.”
Donnie looked at her. “Come on Keisha, you haven’t even met her yet. Let’s not go in there with your attitude, okay?”
Keisha clicked her tongue and chicken-bopped her head at him. “Look, you said yourself you ain’t seen your cousin in a few years. You don’t know what the hell he married. I’m just saying I ain’t gonna let some stuck up bitch lord it over me just ‘cause she ain’t working and live in a nice house. And what the fuck you mean, my attitude?”
“I’m just saying there’s no need to assume something about people before you even meet them, that’s all.”
“Nigga, if you don’t like my attitude then what the fuck you marrying me for?”
Donnie let that question go without answering. But he thought, sometimes I wonder.
They rode in silence down Elm Street until Keisha said, “You know what’s funny? All these houses kinda look alike. I mean, different colors and all that, but they all look almost the same.”
“It’s probably one of those developments put up by one builder,” Donnie said. He was glad they were on a new subject. When Keisha went off with her rusty razor-edged tongue she sometimes left scars that never fully healed.
“It’s not just that,” Keisha said. “Everybody got their grass cut all neat and shit. And ain’t no trash lying around. That shit is weird.”
“What’s wrong with having a neat neighborhood?” Donnie asked. “Why do people have to turn where they live into a hood?”
“Well, I’m just saying. I bet there ain’t a lot of us living up in here.”
“Oh yeah? Well, check that out,” Donnie said, tilting his chin toward the sidewalk on his side.
Two boys who looked about ten years old rode their bikes along the sidewalk. One boy was black, the other white. Both kids waved at Donnie’s car as they passed.
“Damn, don’t they know not to be waving at strangers?” Keisha snapped as if they could hear her. “For all they know we could be child molesters or some shit.”
“This neighborhood looks pretty safe,” Donnie said.
“Nah, I bet what it is is them little motherfuckers probably hustling,” Keisha said. “Probably got some rocks or some reefer they trying to deal. Just like on The Wire.”
Donnie was checking house numbers as Keisha talked. “Hey that’s his place right there.” He slowed and angled to the curb in front of the house with address number 26.
The house was a white two-story colonial with green shutters. Just like all the other homes in the neighborhood his cousin’s lawn was perfectly manicured, right down to having the edging along the sidewalk cut as neatly as a slice of cake. A white picket fence lined with yellow zinnias and pink moss roses bracketed the carpet-like lawn. Donnie figured Craig’s wife Sheryl must have a green thumb.
Donnie noted the open single car garage with a new Chevy Impala parked inside. There wasn’t another car in the driveway or in front of the house. He wondered if either Craig or his wife wasn’t home. Craig said he got off work at the bank at five, and that he worked here in town. It was 6:30 now. Well, maybe one of them had to run out for a minute. After all, who lived in the suburbs these days and only had one car?
As they got out of the car and headed for the walkway leading to the front porch a small red ball bounced across their path, followed a moment later by a black and white cocker spaniel. Keisha gripped Donnie’s arm and hissed, “Whoa, shit!”
A boy who looked about eight ran around from the side of Craig’s neighbor’s house. He was a tousled-headed kid with coppery hair and a face sprinkled with freckles. A little girl of about four appeared next. She had curly blonde locks, bright blue eyes and rosy cheeks.
The boy stopped in front of them. “Gee, sorry mister,” he said to Donnie. “We didn’t mean to scare you.”
“No problem,” Donnie said.
Keisha let out a ‘humph’ and kept her eyes on the dog which had just bounded back to where they stood on the sidewalk, proudly carrying the ball in its mouth.
The dog dropped the ball at the boy’s feet and looked up expectedly with round eyes and its tongue lolling out happily. The boy scratched it behind its floppy ears and said, “Good boy.” Then he looked up at Donnie. “My name is Ted, sir. Ted Sanders. That’s my sister Suzy. And this is Spots,” he said, indicating the dog. The dog wagged its tail. “Are you guys visiting the Jacksons?”
“My, we sure are nosy, ain’t we?” Keisha said.
The boy blushed. “No ma’am, just saying hello.”
Out of the side of his mouth Donnie said, “Chill, Keisha.”
“Well, you folks have a good day,” the boy said. He picked up the ball and tossed it back into his own yard. Spots bolted after it as if shot from a cannon.
The little girl named Suzy laughed and clapped excitedly. She smiled up at Donnie and Keisha, pointed at the running dog and said, “See Spots run. Run, run, run!”
Donnie stared at the little girl as she scampered after her pet. Aw hell, no, he thought.
COMING NEXT WEEK
Brothers Anderson and Griffin Knight and cousin Morgan Knight have an “over the barbecue grill” discussion about women and marriage:
As I flipped the ribs, instead of talking about that day with Phyllis I said to Morgan, “Do you know why Anderson is divorced, why I’m on my way to divorce, but you and Mina have an excellent marriage?”
“No, why?” Morgan asked.
Anderson said, “Yeah, I want to hear this too.”
I said, “Because Mina was married before. For Celia and Phyllis, Anderson and I were their first husbands. See, all this bullshit started with the Brothers Grimm and this dude named Charles Perrault.”
I brushed barbecue sauce on the chicken and let my words marinate in my cousin’s minds. After about a half a minute Morgan said, “Okay Griff, I’ll bite. Explain that.”
I said, “Okay, back in the day the Brothers Grimm and Perrault published stories like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella.”
Anderson started grinning. “This is going to be good,” he said.
“What do those stories have in common?” I asked.
“They’re children’s stories,” Morgan said. “Fairy tales.”
I nodded. “Yeah, they are. And they’re especially appealing to little girls. That’s who parents buy those books and movies for—their little girls. It’s their first exposure to the fairy tale of romantic relationships. After that comes romance novels and chick flicks. But they’re all the same story: The female suffers through some drama. She gets rescued by the handsome prince. They get married. And then what?”
“They live happily ever after,” Anderson said.
I smacked my fork on the grill. “Exactly! That’s what all those stories say, but that’s where all those stories end, with, ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ But what the fuck does that mean? Nobody knows because the story is over. So little girls grow up thinking that all they need to do is get there. All they need to do is find that dude—her Prince Charming—and after that ‘happily ever after’ will be automatic. And when it doesn’t work out that way she thinks it has to be his fault. He must not be the prince she envisioned. After all, she did what she was supposed to do. She got to the wedding.”
Anderson said, “You given this some thought, haven’t you?”
“Damn right,” I said. “And that’s why you’re divorced and I’m on my way to divorce. We made the mistake of marrying women who’d never been married before. But Morgan did the right thing. See, Mina’s first husband was an asshole. She knows he was an asshole. But now she has Morgan, a brother who loves her and works hard and pays the bills and treats her like his queen. Of course every day isn’t perfect for them because life isn’t perfect. But even on those imperfect days Mina is still happy, because she knows what real unhappiness is. So women like Mina who’ve been married before, they appreciate a good brother. They look at him and they remember the asshole they used to be with and they say to themselves, ‘I’m gonna give this man some good pussy tonight because I know what I could be stuck with.’ But see, for a woman who hasn’t been there, she’s still believing in those fairy tales that don’t really have an ending…that undefined ‘happily ever after.’ There’s only one story that tells the true tale.”
“What’s that?” Morgan asked.
I said, “The story that begins with ‘happily ever after.’ The one that starts off with the man and woman already set up in paradise. They’re already in ‘happily ever after.’ You’ve got a man and woman made for each other. They’re in a perfect environment, don’t have to do anything but tend the Garden and love each other. And what happens? I’ll tell you what happens: the same thing that always happens with a woman who doesn’t recognize when she has it good. She’s not satisfied with paradise. She thinks she wants more. So she goes for something she thinks is more and fucks everything up. And that cycle repeats itself for all of us, from the beginning of time to the end. Now I know there are a lot of fucked up men out here—too many—but a man doing the right thing has a hard way to go, usually harder than the assholes who don’t give a damn.”
Anderson cut off my soapbox sermon by saying, “Okay Griff, I hear you talking. But let me ask you something…”
“That cute little sister from next door…Chione?”
“What about her?”
“She ever been married before?”
I shot a glance at Morgan. He took a swig of his beer to let me know he wasn’t in this. Apparently he hadn’t told Anderson that Chi wasn’t into men.
“No, she hasn’t,” I said.
“So you two seem pretty tight,” Anderson said. “And I saw the way you look at her. So if she gave you some play you wouldn’t go for it because she’s never been married?”
“She’s not interested,” I said. Chi wasn’t in the closet but I didn’t want to be the one to tell anybody who didn’t already know that she was gay. I didn’t feel like it was my place to say.
“That’s not what I asked you.”
I grinned at Anderson and said, “Fuck you.”
Anderson grinned back and said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
KNIGHTS OF PASSION: GRIFFIN
KNIGHTS OF PASSION: ANDERSON
KNIGHTS OF PASSION: MORGAN & MINA
The club scene has changed, and not for the better. Used to be, brothers came to a club like this to have fun; you know, to groove, dance, get their drink on, pick up babes if they had the skills to work it out. But these new dudes are lined up against the walls, posing, trying to look hard like they’re looking for trouble. As if most of these Jheri curl juice-slinging punks would know what to do if trouble found them. And in the meantime, while they’re posing for each other, all these lovely ladies are sitting alone at their tables, waiting for…for what?
I can’t help them. The ladies, I mean. Well, not all of them.
I see my client waiting at the bar. Her name is Darla. She’s looking hotter than anything in this place in her strapless wet-look little black dress. She looks bored too, but that’s about to change.
Before I go to my client and get to work I take a stroll to the DJ booth. The DJ’s name is Crystal. She’s a friend. I slip her a C-note and whisper a request in her ear. She gives me the bill back and takes a rain check for a different deal.
By the time I’m halfway to my client Marvin Gaye is crooning Sexual Healing.
Yeah, you know.
This is going to be a hot summer.
COMING SUMMER 2014
Schoenegg Swiss Quality Zermatt Chalet Hotel
Britt lounged on the bed in her hotel suite, gazing between her knees at Idris Elba playing Luther on the television as she nibbled on a piece of the absolutely most exquisite chocolate she’d ever tasted. It was a sample provided by one of the candy makers bidding for the STC contract. She was thinking that the only way her day could be better was if Idris were sitting next to her on the bed feeding her the chocolate when Quentin Loroupe called her room.
She’d met Loroupe that morning, at the first meeting between the New World Labs Passion Project team, representatives of the three Swiss chocolate makers vying for the Passion’s Kiss contract, and representatives from St. Christopher Enterprises’ London branch: Julian St. Christopher’s British cousin Bethany Arthur, who was Director of STC Enterprises, London, and Quentin Laroupe, the company’s London-based attorney.
Rumor had it that Julian’s cousin Beth—a wisp of a woman around Britt’s age with a smile that could light up a football stadium at midnight—would be moving to the States to run the two New Jersey STC Technologies divisions. Since she wouldn’t be involved with New World Labs, Britt’s only interest in her was that she would be Kyle’s boss. Britt planned to pay attention to Beth so that she could give Kyle the lowdown on her.
So far she was impressed by Beth. She was friendly, but in this morning’s introductory meeting demonstrated that her rise to power wasn’t just family nepotism. The woman knew her stuff.
So did attorney Quentin Laroupe. And, he was PHine, with a capital P-H. Britt’s first impression when he accompanied Beth into the hotel conference room was that whatever his duties, he was the perfect representative for the Passion’s Kiss meeting because he looked like a walking, talking hunk of dark chocolate.
He stood just over six feet tall, with a shaved head, a salt and pepper goatee, football player shoulders, a dazzling smile and that British accent that would make the panties of American girls melt down their legs.
Britt figured Laroupe would be nice eye candy, something fun to look at for a week during their meetings, the next of which was scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon. But there was no reason for him to be calling her.
“Dr. Chandler, I hope I’m not calling at an inconvenient time,” Laroupe said.
Britt sat up on the bed, said, “No, it’s okay,” and wondered why the attorney would be calling her at all. If it was about business regarding their team he should be calling Glenda, their project manager.
“Good, good…” Laroupe said.
He sounded apprehensive. His tentative tone—such a contrast to the swagger he’d displayed in the meeting this morning—put Britt on alert. “How may I help you, Mr. Loroupe?”
“Call me Quentin, please. I was wondering, Dr. Chandler…and please forgive me if you feel I’m stepping beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate…I wonder if you would care to join me for lunch in the hotel dining room.”
Okay, whoa. “Lunch?”
“Yes. In the dining room.”
“You and I?”
“I’m sure there will be other guests in attendance—just not at our table.”
Now she heard a trace of humor in Laroupe’s tone. Maybe because she hadn’t slammed the phone in his ear he was feeling more confident. Should she slam the phone in his ear?
“Do you think that’s appropriate?” Britt asked, then realized that by even asking she’d given up control by lobbing the ball over the net instead of spiking it and making him scramble. If he were quick enough he’d fire back a return.
“Are you married, Dr. Chandler?”
“Are you romantically involved?”
I have a new good friend that I like a lot and love to sleep with. Does that count?
“Mr. Laroupe, since you’re asking about my personal life, let me ask you: why do you want to have lunch?”
“You mean why do I want to have lunch with you, don’t you?”
Wise ass. “Okay?”
“Because you’re an impressive woman, Dr. Chandler. For one thing, your credentials would be a point of pride for someone twice your age. I won’t be so rude as to ask your age, but you look barely old enough to be out of school, much less in practice and again, with your impressive accomplishments.”
He’s really laying it on thick, Britt thought.“So you want to have lunch to discuss my education and work history?”
“Well, for another thing, Britt…may I call you Britt?”
“You just did.” And how did I get to the closet, and why am I looking at things to wear?
“I’m a man who believes in being straightforward—in being honest, even at the risk of appearing inappropriate.”
“How do you reconcile your honesty with the fact that you’re a lawyer?” I should just wear whatever I’m going to wear for the three o’clock meeting. I don’t need to impress this guy.
She heard Laroupe chuckle. “Touché. The other thing is that I feel no shame in admitting that in this morning’s meeting I was awestruck by your elegance, even while you were the consummate professional, and even more so by your beauty. You are so beautiful, Dr. Britt Chandler, so much so that I could barely focus on the briefing because I was trying desperately not to stare at you like some smitten schoolboy. I ask you to lunch because I want to be in your presence again, but without the distraction of our professional duties. This is me being as honest as I know how to be. I’m a man who’s not afraid to speak his mind, or to go after what I desire.”
“I promise you my intentions are honorable, that is, unless my desire to be able to appreciate your beauty in person is dishonorable. If that’s the case, then I’m guilty.”
Britt opted for a knee-length wrap skirt over black hose and a cable knit pullover, something she could wear to the afternoon meeting after lunch and more important, conservative enough that Laroupe wouldn’t think she was trying to impress or encourage him. She wasn’t going to roll like that, no matter how handsome he was with his dark chocolate skin or how smooth he was with his lines.
As Britt sat on the end of the bed slipping on her stockings she watched Idris on television, looking so handsome, and good enough to eat.
Like dark chocolate.
In the space between Nightwalkers, Books One and Two Abigail is being a busy girl…
Miami Beach, Florida The Avalon Hotel October 1958
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Percy said. “I’m here on business, you see. I’m from Philadelphia. I have a wife back home. Gertrude. I love her dearly, I do. But you’re just so beautiful.”
“Thank you Percy.”
She was standing at the dresser mirror wearing just her slip, freshening her lipstick. Their eyes met in the reflection and Percy dropped his, even though he figured she wouldn’t much mind his staring at her. A girl who’d come to a fellow’s hotel room minutes after meeting him probably wasn’t too shy.
“I’m not that kind of guy, I’m really not. I don’t do this kind of thing, never have. You’re just so…so…”
“It’s all right,” she said. “I understand.”
Not trusting his shaky legs Percy backed away and plopped down on his hotel room bed. He ran his fingers nervously through his hair. “I’ve never even kissed a colored girl before,” he said.
She turned from the mirror to face him. “Is that so?”
“Have you ever desired to?”
“Well…I mean, there were some girls…well…our housekeeper’s daughter; her name is Francine. We call her Fanny. Fanny is just so pretty, I think. But of course I never…and well, she’s certainly not as pretty as you. You’re just so lovely, I must say.”
“Why thank you Percy. You are so very kind.”
“So um, what should we do now? I mean, um…should we kiss now? I mean, if you wish. I don’t…may I kiss you?”
“You’re perspiring, Percy.”
“I’m sorry. I just never…this is so…oh God…” He dropped his head into his hands.
“It’s all right Percy,” she said. “Come here and let me loosen your tie. It’ll help you relax.”
Percy got up from the bed and moved on watery legs to the beautiful girl. He stood like a little boy as she loosened and removed his tie and unfastened the top buttons of his shirt.
“So do you work here, in the hotel?” he asked.
“Why would you think that?”
“You were down in the lobby.”
“I was only passing by. I went in to ask the desk clerk for directions, and there you were, looking so handsome.” She raised a hand to his face and caressed his cheek.
Percy hadn’t been so close to a woman other than his wife since he’d been married, and never so close to a colored girl. He felt wrong, and wicked, and so excited. “Yeah, I saw you too. It was like when our eyes met; when you looked at me I just…I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“So tell me Percy, what makes you most nervous—that I’m a colored girl, or that you’re a married man?”
“What? Why…well, I would have to say the latter, of course. I really don’t mind that you’re a Negro. I’m not that kind of person. We’re all really the same you know? I mean it’s not your fault that…well…you know…”
She pushed his collar open and pressed her lips to his neck. Her lips were so soft, so warm. He felt his heartbeat throb beneath her mouth, and lower, felt another part of himself throb his want for her.
Against his throat she breathed, “Would this be the first time you’ve been unfaithful to Gertrude?”
The mention of his wife’s name tempered his desire, if only for the moment. “Yes, of course! I told you, I’m not that kind of fellow. I’m sorry; I don’t think you told me your name.”
She kissed the base of his neck, then trailed the tip of her tongue up to his jaw, leaving a trail of moist fire in its wake. Percy shuddered and groaned, and groaned again as her hands found his belt buckle and yanked it loose.
He didn’t care anymore about her name.
Against his throat she whispered, “My name is Abigail. And you don’t have to worry, Percy. After tonight you won’t ever be unfaithful to Gertrude again.”
NIGHTWALKERS BOOK ONE: NIGHT CHILD
NIGHTWALKERS BOOK TWO: NIGHT LOVERS
Friendship comes at a price…
He led her into his sunken den—a spacious but cozy space with a fireplace and dark leather furniture. Ceiling high windows overlooked a flagstone terrace. The space had a definite masculine vibe to it. Terri figured that if a woman had ever lived here, she was long gone.
“Have a seat, please,” he said, indicating the leather sectional.
Terri sat and crossed her legs with a practiced, fluid motion that made her hem drift up her thigh to give him a better view of part of what he was paying for.
He sat down too, but at a respectful distance from her on the sectional.
Some guys were hands on right away. Those were the type who had the attitude that if they paid for it, they didn’t need to waste time on niceties. They were the assholes who only saw her as a pussy and a mouth and a body they’d paid to use.
She kept her eyes and her professional smile on this guy Brandon. That was part of the illusion too, to make the client think that he or she was so appealing that she couldn’t keep her eyes off them. That wasn’t a problem with this brother. It would have been harder for her to not look at him.
He leaned forward and placed his forearms on his knees. His sleeves were pushed up, exposing strong, hairy forearms. She liked hairy arms. Sexy. A simple leather-banded watch circled his wrist. The timepiece wasn’t flashy, but she bet it cost some serious money.
He clasped his hands together and looked at her.
Was he nervous? How cute. Maybe he was one of those guys who needed a little push to get things started.
Terri was about to go into her standard fake flirt when he cleared his throat and said, “So Jewel, how does this normally work?”
The money was already paid, direct to the agency, so they didn’t need to talk about that. But since he’d asked the question, Terri knew she needed to get one thing out of the way first.
Still smiling she said, “Brandon, are you a member of a law enforcement agency in any capacity?”
For a moment he looked surprised. Then he smiled. White teeth. Sexy lips, framed by a mustache and a shadow of chin hair that made him look kind of rugged. Damn boy, why do you need to pay? Please don’t be a cop.
He said, “No, I sell money for a living.”
“Yes. But my father was a police detective. I hope that won’t count against me.”
“Not unless he’s hiding in the closet.”
“We’re all alone, Jewel.”
The way he was looking at her with his sexy eyes when he said that made Terri wonder again why the hell this man had to pay for it. She said, “Well then, to answer your question Brandon, your fee covers our night together. I’m yours until morning, for whatever you desire. The exclusions are anal penetration and any rough stuff.”
He smiled at that. “Aren’t they the same thing?”
Okay, he was trying to be clever. “It depends on the perspective of those involved. But we won’t be finding out tonight.”
“Duly noted. Oh, forgive my manners, Jewel. Can I get you anything—maybe a glass of wine?”
“If you’re having one, thank you.”
“I’ll be right back.”
As he walked out of the den Terri checked him out and assessed his vitals from the rear. Nice body; on the slender side but fit. She guessed he was in his mid-thirties, maybe forty. About five-ten. He was dressed casually but tastefully in a V-neck cashmere pullover over pressed jeans and Rockport loafers.
He dressed like he had money but didn’t need to show it off; like he didn’t need to use bling as a personal billboard; like he rode and died on who he was, not on what he could buy. A truly self-confident brother was sexy, too.
Terri thought that tonight might be kind of fun. When they got into it she could pretend that she wasn’t working, but that she was with somebody she wanted to be with and that they were doing it because they cared about each other and wanted each other.
She was good at illusions.
Not counting Marita, who had her own suite on the third floor of the mansion, none of the girls lived at the house. As soon as their identities were verified, customers with appointments at the residence were ushered to a second floor bedroom with the woman they were scheduled to spend time with. So Terri thought it odd that two of the working girls and Cindy the receptionist, who should have been off from work and gone hours ago, were hanging out in the parlor. The girls were Patience—a melon-busted, full-figured redhead, and Ramona—a Puerto Rican chick whose exotic look belied her Bronx roots.
Even weirder was that Mike was sitting in a parlor easy chair reading a comic book. He was supposed to be in the guest house security building watching what was happening on the mansion’s grounds and interior common areas via closed-circuit monitors.
“What’s going on?” Terri asked.
Ramona shook her head and said, “You lucky wench.”
“Why the heck did Lindsay give him to you?” Patience asked. “Can I kill you and take your place? Please?”
“Because Lindsay didn’t know,” Cindy said. “Marita didn’t want his name mentioned on the phone.”
“Who’s name?” Terri snapped, and then turned on Mike. If the Incredible Hulk was Samoan and packed a cannon in a shoulder holster he would be Mike. “Mike, what’s up? How come you’re over here? Who’s watching security?”
Without looking up from his comic book Mike said, “Vonzell’s on the monitors. Marita wanted me in the house in case the paparazzi trailed your boy here.”
“You got Andrew Kent waiting for you upstairs.”
“I hate you Jewel,” Ramona said. “With every breath in my body I hate you.”
On a Friday night six years ago Andrew Kent, a blonde-haired, amber-eyed mathematics major at Harvard, was DJing at a frat party. “Spinning” was Andrew’s hobby. Sometimes just for fun he rapped along with the music he played.
On that night six years ago, while playing one of Jay-Z’s hits, Andrew just happened to be in the mood to add his own freestyle to the song. He interlaced his rhymes in the spaces in Jay-Z’s fractured vocalizations with such skilled timing that it sounded like he was performing a rap duet with the Hip-Hop star.
Someone captured Andrew’s rhyming on their cell phone camcorder. They uploaded the video to YouTube, and it went viral. Six months after the video hit the internet the rapper dubbed as Harvard by his rabid fans had a record deal.
Harvard’s first album went platinum. His second album, released that same year, went gold. And then Harvard vanished from the public eye.
He returned two years later, not rapping but singing. He performed two romantic duets with R&B high priestess Salome. Both songs were included on her album.
The critics raved about the duets. Some went as far as to proclaim them the next Marvin and Tammi, which irritated some black fans. No one could take Marvin’s place, especially some white boy, even if as Salome said, “That boy looks like what would happen if a young Robert Redford and Brad Pitt made a baby.”
Because they sounded so good singing love songs together, rumors flew that Harvard and Salome were a couple. Both denied the rumors, though their denials seemed tinged with winks and smiles.
Then Harvard vanished again.
He reemerged two years later, not in music, but as an actor in the movie Cougars, Inc. The movie tanked at the box office, but Andrew (now using his real name) earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as the heroin-addicted kept man of a wealthy divorcee. Next he was slated to play a man married to an unfaithful woman in The Girl Next Door.
Andrew Kent had the looks. Though a Harvard graduate, his beginnings in Hip-Hop gave him a bad boy edge. He could act, earning an Oscar nomination for his first role. No one doubted that he was Hollywood’s next “It” celebrity. He could have had his pick of star-struck women.
And yet he was a paying guest at Michelle’s mansion.
Terri tugged at the hem of her tube sweater dress and wondered if considering her customer, she should’ve worn something with more pop and sizzle. Well, it was too late now. She took a deep calming breath, tapped on the bedroom door and eased it open.
He was standing across the bedroom with his hands in his pockets, gazing at the night beyond the window. As Terri stepped into the room he turned around.
Oh shit-oh shit-oh shit.
He was taller than she’d imagined, and seemed older, though she knew they were the same age: twenty-five.
Maybe he looked older because rather than the baggy jeans and tee-shirts that were his style when he was a rapper, tonight he wore a tailored suit with an open-collar shirt, and rather than a baseball cap, his trimmed and styled hair looked salon fresh.
He flashed a Hollywood white smile at her and said, “Are you Jewel?”
Terri thought she said yes, but wasn’t sure. She nodded for backup.
“I didn’t know you were going to be so pretty,” he said. His golden eyes seemed to glimmer.
I could say the same about you, Terri thought, and closed the bedroom door.
COMING APRIL 2014
She shouldn’t have gotten mad. All he’d been trying to do was pay her a compliment. He’d just been clumsy as hell at doing it.
After screwing up he’d tried to lighten the mood by asking her more questions about herself, but she wasn’t having it. She’d given him her standard “streetwalker” answers about her life, which were really no answers at all. Like all johns he really didn’t give a shit about her personal life. He just wanted what he wanted from her.
He got the hint quickly enough and shut up and left her to eat breakfast in peace. When she finished eating and was ready to go he walked her out to the Beemer. He didn’t mention wanting to see her again.
It was a punk move anyway, trying to buy a friend. Who does that?
Now that she was done with the customer and in her car Terri grabbed her cell phone and turned it on. One of Michelle’s rules was that a customer was supposed to feel that the time they paid for was all about him or her, so while with a customer they had to keep their cell phones off, except in case of an emergency.
Her voicemail light was flashing. As she drove out of the upscale township of Rumson she put her phone on speaker and listened to a message from Lindsay, asking her to return her call ASAP.
Lindsay had hooked her up with the agency and had been her sponsor for her first three months on the job, but since then, just like back in high school, they weren’t tight. So Lindsay wouldn’t be calling her just to chit-chat. Terri figured the call must be job-related.
Had Brandon already called the agency to bitch about how his appointment ended? Had Lindsay heard about the drama and was calling to give her a heads up that Michelle or Marita was pissed?
Well, one thing she’d learned in the Army was that it was best to make the calls you didn’t want to make first, to get them out of the way and take that stress off the rest of your day. She tapped the phone’s screen, initiating a callback.
Terri was only slightly relieved when Lindsay said, “I have a humongous favor to ask.”
“Can you work for me tonight? I know you worked last night and you don’t like back-to-backs, but Frankie just told me that Bruce is playing a surprise concert at the armory tonight, and he got us tickets.”
“Oh.” That figured. Lindsay’s rich boyfriend Frankie was about two hundred years old. It wasn’t likely he’d be hunting for Bruno Mars tickets.
“Please Terri?” Lindsay whined. “Frankie wants to go so bad. I’ll make it up to you.”
Ordinarily Terri wouldn’t give a shit about what Lindsay wanted, not if it meant her working a back-to-back, but it wasn’t like she’d really worked last night, at least not with her body. And if she worked tonight she could afford to take off until next weekend.
“You need to clear it with the house,” Terri said.
“God, thank you Terri! I already called. Marita’s at the house this morning. She said to call her if you want to take it.”
“Okay, I’m on my way home. I’ll call her when I get there.”
“Who’s the customer?” Terri asked as she turned the key in the front door of her Red Bank apartment.
“Someone new, but someone I think you will know,” Marita said. “He did not wish to use his name when he scheduled the appointment. He would prefer to meet here, so that the paparazzi won’t catch a scent of what he’s doing.”
Visions of Usher naked danced through Terri’s head, but she figured that knowing her luck, the customer would more likely be somebody who was a sitcom star back in the 1960s, and who was middle-aged back then.
“Okay. What time?”
“He will arrive at 10:00 p.m. Give him a half an hour to settle in and get comfortable.”
“So it’s okay to bring the car back tonight?” she asked. “My appointment ended an hour ago.” The fee for using one of the agency’s luxury vehicles was a cheap flat rate, but it only covered the time of the appointment and a three-hour window on either side of that period.
“It’s no problem. You weren’t expecting this appointment. By the way Terri, your customer from last night called a little while ago.”
Shit on a hot brick! “And?”
“He would like to see you again next Saturday, at 10:00 a.m.”
“Oh…okay. That’ll be fine.” So she hadn’t blown it.
“Very good then. He provided a different address than his residence, so I checked it out.”
It was part of the agency’s safety protocol to look up any new customer address. Any place that smelled strange, like an abandoned warehouse or some shack in the boonies of South Jersey, wouldn’t be approved. In their profession there was never an absolute guarantee of safety—you could get your throat slashed in a Manhattan luxury hotel suite as easily as in a dark alley—but the agency was at least cautious about locales that seemed odd.
“Where’s the place?” Terri asked.
“The Ocean Park Health Club in Monmouth City.”
Ocean Park was the ritzy no-you-can’t-afford-to-live-here suburb of M-City. Why would he want to meet at a health club there? Oh, right: racquetball.
Depending on how long Brandon wanted to play her fee might barely cover the gas she burned to get there.
As if reading her mind through the phone Marita said, “He would like you until 6:00 p.m.”
Okay, nobody played racquetball for eight hours straight.
Since she was talking on the phone Terri entered her apartment on auto-pilot. When her call ended she found herself upstairs in her bathroom, standing in front of the bathtub naked and ready to get cleaned up.
Ordinarily after working she would steam herself in the shower, scrubbing her body until her skin felt ready to peel off, and then run the hottest tub she could stand and stew in it. Then she’d shower again. Sometimes, when a customer left her feeling particularly grimy, she’d repeat the process until her apartment’s hot water heater tapped out.
But she hadn’t been touched last night. And she’d slept alone in his guest bedroom between clean, crisp sheets. And she’d showered at his house.
She had just come from a job, yet she felt clean and rested.
It was almost as if her night spent with that guy Brandon was yet another illusion.
COMING APRIL 2014