Never Should’ve Another Thug

Never Should’ve Loved Another Thug tells the story of the pampered princess, Zora, who is married to the secretive Raheem, a thug with a dark past. When Raheem is discovered dead in Zora’s sister’s bed, she assumes the worst: that once again Raheem was up to his devilish antics and they finally caught up to him. But what she doesn’t bank on is being accused of committing the crimes.

There’s an imposter with the face and and wardrobe of Zora leaving a trail of destruction in her wake and its up to Zora to figure out who killed Raheem and stole her identity in the process. Along for the ride is her best friend, Cherry, and a handsome stranger offers support as Zora not only solves a mystery but gets down to the heart of why she fell in love with the thuggish Raheem in the first place.

“Mrs. Combs,” Oscar, my driver said, jarring me from a comfortable sleep, my head nestled in Cherry’s lap. “We’ve arrived.”

“Just lemme get five more minutes, Oscar,” I mumbled, curling into a tighter ball and trying to fall back into the dreamless sleep I had entered.

“No problem.”

I had just readjusted myself a third time and felt myself drifting back to sleep when a banging on my window scared the daylights out of me. I sat up and found the male detective from yesterday trying to peer at me through my tinted window. I craned my neck up as Cherry rolled the window down until it stopped at my eyes.

“Don’t tell me you’re here to tell me that somebody else has died because, to be quite honest, I haven’t gotten enough room in my broken heart to deal.”

The detective shook his head, suppressing an eye roll. He said patiently, “Mrs. Combs, my name is Leon Daniels and this is my partner, Kendra Ross. We are truly sorry for your loss but we’re going to have to ask you to come with us downtown to answer some questions.”

“Questions about what?” When he didn’t answer I grew irate, rolling my neck and poking his nose with my finger. “First, you people come into my home and shatter it telling me that my husband is dead, then I discover he’s possibly got some hoe on the low, he leaves me out of his will, and now you mean to tell me that I’m about to be questioned concerning his murder? Slather me on a bagel and call me butter. Can my life not get any worse?”

Daniels’ mouth flapped open and shut before he settled for, “Mrs. Combs, if you want we can question you upstairs instead.”

“How about you get to prosecuting my sister instead? She was sleeping with Raheem; she was with him the night he was killed. Hell, he died in her bed. What more do you need from me?”

Daniels’ partner, Ross, appeared out of thin air, her pretty almond shaped face screwed up in frustration as she slammed her hand on the side of the car. “Get out the car or I’m going to pull you out through the window by that cheap cat on your head you call a weave.”

“You could try, but you might rip that cheap rag you call a suit jacket,” I replied, abruptly opening my car door and stepping out completely unbothered, Cherry right behind me offering Resting Bitch Face the entire time. Cherry passed me my iPhone, which I placed into my Givenchy clutch and slammed the door shut. “Now let’s get this over with.”

“Zora, I have some stuff to handle so I’ll swing by later,” Cherry said, shooting the detectives a scathing look. “Call me if you need anything.”

The ride upstairs was awkward enough, with Ross on one side of me practically hissing from being shaded over her polyester ensemble while Daniels hummed the elevator music playing. When we finally got off I raced to my apartment, in need of some chamomile tea to calm me down. Jeanette was in the middle of vacuuming when we entered, her rotund behind shaking to the Beyoncé song she had blasting through her headphones. With a tap from me she was off to grab refreshments for everyone. I made my way to my bedroom where I changed into a slip and one of my favorite sheer robes lines with feathers. When I returned Daniels and Ross were watching me, their poker faces intact.

“I’m here, I’m sitting, and I’m ready to talk,” I said, peering at the pair over my glass.

Ross pulled out a notepad and said, “Mrs. Combs, where were you on the night of your husband’s murder?”

“In my bed sleep. Where you found me that morning. You can check surveillance footage. I never left the house on the night of my husband’s death.” I paused thoughtfully. “If you’re asking me this then I’m assuming that you think my sister is innocent. Where’s the evidence for that?”

Ross shot me a look of loathing before she said evenly, “You mentioned that your husband left you nothing in his will, correct?”

“Yup,” I said, popping my ‘p,’ “you heard correctly. After all we had been through he ain’t leave me with shit.”

“Except for a sizeable life insurance policy in your name,” Daniels said, pulling a piece of paper out of his suit jacket and tossing it on the coffee table. “Ten million dollars to be exact.”

I shrugged nonchalantly, hoping they couldn’t hear the pounding of my heart against my ribcage. “I know what you’re thinking and Raheem knew about the policy. He encouraged me to have money set aside in the event that something happened to him.”

“We don’t dispute that,” Ross replied. “But did he know that a month before his death the policy increased by five million dollars?”

“Yup,” I lied easily. “Raheem was going through a turf war with some street niggas and he knew it was only a matter of time that they tried to come for him.”

I could tell by the tight line Daniels’ mouth formed that he thought I was full of shit. Ross wrote down my comments with a smirk, shaking her head with every word. With a sigh, I decided to come clean with the detectives.

“That and I’m pregnant,” I finished lamely. “With the business Raheem was in, I knew he could die at any moment, but having a baby made that seem far more real. So I upped the policy once I found out I was pregnant, because the last thing I need is to bring a baby back to the hood where he’s made more enemies than I can count.”

“Raheem had enemies?” Daniels said casually. “Like who?”

“Fat Marco over on Stuyvesant, his boy, Lex, Donovan who runs the bodega on Dekalb and Marcus Garvey. The list goes on and on. Raheem has always been ambitious and some of them old heads who been slinging since they were ten could never understand why he was given territory at twenty. Maybe if they had more than a fifth grade reading level someone would trust them with more than a corner.”

I poured myself a glass of juice and guzzled half of the glass, wondering what to say next. I wasn’t sure what game they were playing but I had to hold my cards close to my chest because they were obviously up to something. If Tasha was being charged with Raheem’s murder, why were they over here asking me about my personal business?

“Why are you here asking me about my personal business when last I checked, Tasha is guilty?” I crossed my arms and waited for a reply.

Ross tapped her pencil impatiently, her lips forming a thin line. “We got back the ballistics report on your husband and turns out that the person who killed him was taller than your sister. There was also no sign of gunshot residue on her hands or arms.”

“How much taller are we talking?” I asked, picking up a finger sandwich and popping it into my mouth.

“Roughly, about six, six-foot-one.”

“So we’re talking a guy,” I said, feeling the tension in my stomach ease. It started to feel like a witch-hunt and the last thing I wanted was to find myself tied at the stake. “A guy of average height.”

“Or a really tall woman,” Ross finished. She nudged her head at my Louboutin Daffodil pumps. “That’s a pretty high heel, Mrs. Combs. Six inches, right?”

“Maybe,” I said with an overtone of hostility.

“And when we saw you on the morning of your husband’s death you were barefoot and about —”

“Roughly five-foot-four,” Daniels finished, rubbing his beard. “Five-foot-five at the most. And paired with high heels—”

“The exact height of our killer,” Ross finished triumphantly.

I sunk into my chair and let out a hearty chuckle. “Cute, real cute. So you came here to my house to accuse me of killing my husband, the man that I vowed to spend the rest of my life with, for some money? Like Raheem wasn’t making plenty when he was alive? Come up with a better motive than that because right now you got me looking like some stereotypical Lifetime Movie Network hoe.”

“Infidelity,” Ross said easily. “You found out that your husband and sister were sleeping together so you killed him and set her up to look like the murderer. It kills two birds with one stone and they both suffer for betraying you. It was a betrayal, right, Mrs. Combs?”

“Raheem had hoes, that’s no secret to me. Did I know one was my sister? No. But it doesn’t matter to me either way because at the end of the day I’m the one with the ring, not none of these broke bitches. So when you come up with a better motive please stop by and let me know, this time with an appointment.”

The detectives stood, Ross shaking her head in amusement when I didn’t see shit funny. Daniels was halfway to the door yet she hung back. She stared down at me with unmasked hate, a hate that I couldn’t understand. It was almost like she knew me.

“I know you from somewhere?” I asked, taking a sip of juice and tilting my head to the side.

Ross let out a knowing laugh before exiting, shaking her head the entire way. The door closed with a slam and I was left to speculate if Raheem had possibly been fucking cops. I got up, figuring it was Ross forgetting to add on some slick shit to her dramatic ass exit. Instead I got the shock of my life.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

Tasha craned her neck to the side before rolling up the sleeve to the cheap trench coat she wore. “To beat your ass, bitch.”

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Never Should’ve Loved A Thug

When Alex’s daughter’s father, Q, is murdered in cold blood, Alex is left picking up the shattered pieces of her life. Instead of crumbling like she has in the past, Alex decides to avenge him by getting revenge on Ahab Miller, the infamous club owner. She plans her revenge by any means necessary even if it means exploiting one of her closest friends, Shalaya, a woman with nothing to lose.

With not a penny to her name and her rent almost past due, Shalaya Adams is in a situation no single mother wants to find herself in: crashing and burning for the enjoyment of her son’s father, Mar, who wants nothing more than to gain custody of their son and whisk him away to another happily ever after that doesn’t involve her. Her luck takes a turn for the better when she meets a handsome stranger who’s looking for a fresh start. Everything starts to go her way when she gets a strange request from her best friend, Alex, asking her to date Ahab Miller. What Shalaya expects to be climbing into bed with a cold-hearted monster turns into a sensual love affair unlike any other.

But what happens when Ahab isn’t the monster Alex has made him out to be? Shalaya is forced to make the decision of a lifetime. Will her allegiance remain to Alex or will she turn her loyalties to Ahab and end up between his sheets?

Alex

Alex tipped her head back, allowing her fifth tequila shot to burn her chest as the liquor went down her throat. “Damn that was good,” she said, doing a small shimmy at the effect the powerful drink was having over her. “Girl, you scared or something?”

Janice eyed the shot of Jose Cuervo she had been nursing for the past hour. “I’m the one who’s driving tonight.”

“One little drink won’t hurt.” Alex smiled widely. “Drink. Drink. Drink. Drink.”

Hearing Alex chant, a group of men and women cheered Janice to take the shot to the head. The glass was halfway to her lips when a voice said, “If the lady doesn’t want to drink then she doesn’t have to.”

Everyone turned to find an imposing man standing with his arms crossed, a scowl on his face. The crowd dispersed, leaving the trio alone. Janice licked her lips at the stranger who was also her savior.

He was tall and muscular, his angular face handsome despite the grimace he wore. His Bruno Magli loafers matched his black Armani suit perfectly. The diamonds in the rings adorning his hands sparkled as he signaled for the bartender, who stopped what she was doing and came over to take their orders without any preamble. “What would you like to drink?” he asked, his eyes trained on Janice.

“A Sex on the Beach would be fine,” she stammered, lost momentarily in his piercing gray eyes. “Thank you.”

“Not a problem,” he replied, holding out his hand. “Ahab Miller. And you are?”

“Janice.” Janice pointed her thumb to Alex who was taking her unwanted shot to the head. “This is my friend —”

“Janice, I think I drank too much,” Alex slurred, tipping her head back to take in her friend. “I need to go home.”

Janice rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

“How about this?” Ahab said, placing his warm hand on her thigh. “We fetch your friend a taxi and you hang out with me for a little while.”

“No, I should really —”

“That,” Alex said, emphasizing the ‘t,’ “sounds like a good idea. Go and get me a cab. You need some dick as hard as you be studying for law school.”

Janice rolled her eyes as she helped Alex off the stool and through the crowded club, Ahab on their heels. The July breeze was sobering as it tickled Alex’s face. Finding a taxi took five minutes.

“Call me the minute you get out of the cab and I’ll talk to you until you get to your apartment. Okay?”

Alex nodded drunkenly, a hiccup escaping her lips. “I got it, I got it. Now you go get you some of that dick.” She raised her hand and fake whispered, “That’s Ahab Miller. I heard some hoes talking about him: he owns the club.”

Janice rolled her eyes in amusement. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Alex slumped into the chair, her head spinning the moment she closed her eyes. She opened her purse and blindly searched through it until she found her cellphone. Popping one eye open, she noticed the message Q had left her.

Q: Went and got your spare key from ya moms. She was so happy to see me. I have surprise for you so hurry that cute li’l ass up.

“He so crazy,” she murmured. Her head lolled to the side easily, considering it felt like it weighed twenty pounds.

Alex wasn’t sure how long she had been passed out. The ride home was thirty minutes, but the way the cabbie was shaking her to wake up she could’ve been passed out for far longer. Rummaging through her purse, Alex tossed him two twenties and stumbled out of the car, too drunk to care about the change. She dialed up Janice, wondering what her best friend had gotten into so far with the very smooth Ahab.

“Girl, what took you so long?” Alex asked as she managed to pull open the broken lobby door to her building. “Don’t tell me you left with that nigga already.”

“Alex…” Janice whined causing Alex to let out a stream of giggles. “He’s so…fine. And smart. And funny. And —”

“You could see what he was working with through them suit pants,” Alex said, cracking up at how red Janice would’ve probably turned had her skin not been a rich brown.

“Alex, shut up and get your drunk ass in the —”

Alex screamed as her phone fell to the floor with a clatter. Blood, bright red blood, was splashed across her white walls. Shaking her head back and forth, she walked deeper into the house, her heart racing as the trail of blood grew thicker until it pooled around a very dead Q, who lay sprawled out on the floor, a look of surprise on his face.

“Oh my God,” Alex cried, dropping to her knees by Q’s dead body. “No, no, no. Q, wake up. Wake up.”

Crying against his unmoving chest, Alex felt her world fall apart all over again. She was walking into her house to find her little brother sprawled out on the couch, the white tee he wore blood red. Amara was still in her bed unmoving, an angel resting eternally. She was tired of this world where everyone she loved was snatched away from her. She decided that her time to leave and join them would come soon.

But not without blood on her hands first.

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A Brooklyn Love Affair Pt.4

t’s only been half a year and the Romano family has had more than their share of drama, with it only growing worse by the day. Just when Gino and Vixen manage to repair their relationship with Gigi and get him on the right track, Mariposa disappears in the dead of night without a trace. With Mari missing, Vixen must decide whether she will stay strong or allow herself to be sucked back into her old habits as a coping mechanism.

Meanwhile, Camille continues to exact her revenge plans, playing the role of puppet master over the Romano family and sitting back to watch with self satisfaction. She has a flair for dramatics and her final scheme is likely to be one the Romanos will never forget. Will Vixen be able to save her family from her past once and for all? Or will Camille win and create the company she feels her misery deserves?

Stay tuned for the final installment of A Brooklyn Love Affair, where mother doesn’t always know best.

Vixen 

“Curtis,” I said into my cellphone, staring at the glass of wine sitting on the bar counter top. “I’ve reached my breaking point.”

“Vixen, where are you?” Curtis asked without preamble, worry evident in his tone. I ratted off the directions, leaning closer to the glass with every breath. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Don’t do anything rash.”

I was inhaling the scent of the glass of Bordeaux in front of me when Curtis entered the bar, racing over to where I was sitting and moving the glass out from literally under my nose. I sunk into my chair and for the first time during the month Mari had been missing, I cried. Not my usual sniffles as I lay in bed wondering where she is and what she’s doing, but a guttural cry that scared the patrons of the half empty bar. Even the bartender moved to the other side of the bar to give us some privacy.

“Curtis, you don’t understand,” I said between sniffles. “There’s so much pressure on me as we speak. I’ve spent every single day in the Bronx flooding it with pictures of Mari and no one has seen her. Then I go back the very next day and there those pictures of her are, haunting me. My daughter is out there somewhere in trouble and I can’t save her. Then today I got a phone call from the detective in charge of the case and they’re scaling back the search for her even father. Gino and I are the only ones out there looking for her,” I said, pounding my chest, “and I’m starting to feel like no matter how much we look she’ll always be so close yet a million miles away.”

“We all have a time in our lives when we’re feeling like the world is pulling us under and God is weighing us down with more trials than we can bear. You have been through more in this short period of time with your children than most parents do in a lifetime and it is perfectly natural for you to have come here and order that glass of wine.”

I opened my hand and stared at the crumpled picture of Mari from her sweet sixteen. She looked beautiful in her white gown, like a princess. At the end of the night she was so exhausted but didn’t hesitate to hug Gino and I, telling us that it had been the best day of her life. My little girl was missing and the world had stopped caring. The police had given up.

Today became the worse day of my life.

***

Mari

“What’s wrong, Mari?” Carla asked her big sister.

Mari sat on the small cot in the room Amir had fashioned for her. She was only allowed to the bathroom and back. Her meals consisted of dinner from Marisol, who stopped by everyday to talk but Mari turned a deaf ear, taking a few bites of food and shoving the plate back at her.

“Mari, you don’t get it,” Marisol said one day after Mari flipped the plate over at her in a fit of rage. “You don’t understand the control he has over me. You think I wanted him to hurt you? He had me tied up in my room so I couldn’t get to you.” She showed Mari the angry red marks that marred her wrists. As much as she wanted to sympathize with her biological mother she would risk being covered in a thousand welts and have her freedom than remain an unscathed slave of Amir.

“Mari?” Carla’s voice brought her back from a harsh memory to an even harsher reality.

“I’m sorry,” Mari cracked a small smile. “You said that today is July fifth, right?”

“Yeah, just like you told me to. What’s today?” Carla was curious, waiting patiently to hear the answer.

Mari looked up at the small patch of window Amir had left uncovered. Sunlight washed down onto her face for a brief moment until a cloud covered it. “Today is my little sister’s birthday.”

“Jade? How old is she turning?”

“Twelve.” Mari laughed sadly. “I wish I could see her right now and tell her how much I love her.”

Carla snuggled up to her older sister and kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t worry, Mari. I think she knows.”

The girls sat in silence for another hour when the door opened. Amir snapped his fingers as Carla impatiently. “Come on, it’s time for you to go to your mother. Tell Mari you’ll see her tomorrow.”

“Bye, Mari.” Carla hugged her sister and scrambled off the bed.

“See you.” Mari took in the scent of Carla — bubble gun and skittles — and held Carla at an arms length. “Tell me what happened on Fly Girls, okay?”

Fly Girls was a Disney show Carla watched religiously, detailing every event to Mari with the enthusiasm only a little girl could. Carla was the only person keeping her sane. Her eyes and ears to the world she had been deprived of for the past month and a half. Everyday that passed Mari felt more out of tune with the world. Amir’s apartment was so quiet it made her feel a little crazy.

“Mari.” Amir had sat down next to her, grabbing her hand and kissing it. “You love me, right?”

Mari felt her throat dry. She swallowed, nodding her head up and down to appease him until she could form coherent words. “Yeah.”

“Would you do anything for me?” Amir stroked her cheek with the finesse of a lover. Mari stilled; Amir had never asked her for anything that he didn’t already take almost every night. “Or better yet would you do anything for Carla?”

“Like what?” He knew that although she was unable to protect Carla most of the day, Mari would do anything for the little girl.

“You’re starting to become really expensive. I sold your clothes and found the stash of money in your jacket, but that’s not enough. It only paid this month’s rent.” He stopped stroking her face and sat against the wall. “You have to start earning your keep.”

“Excuse me?” Mari croaked, unsure of what he meant.

Amir flashed a toothy smile before continuing on. “Marisol doesn’t work right now because of this…situation. That leaves me with the responsibility of taking care of her rent and mine. I could just let you go, but then you would end up telling the police all about our relationship and I can’t have that,” he said amenably. “So now I’m left with having to share either you or Carla with some of my friends. Honestly, they like them young. Carla has those rosy cheeks and soft skin they’re more than willing to pay for, meaning she would yield more money than you. However, I am a reasonable man and since you’ve been so good to me I am willing to settle for allowing them to have you instead.”

Mari wanted to scratch and claw at him with everything she had except she was weak from a lack of food. So she did what she would do if it were Jade Amir had been trying to sell.

She agreed.

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A Brooklyn Love Affair Pt.3

Seventeen years. The amount of time since Gino and Vixen started their love affair and it grows stronger with each day. They have everything they could ever ask for: three beautiful children, their own successful businesses, and the love of each other. Life couldn’t be any more perfect. Or so it seems.

History has a way of repeating itself and the Romano children become byproducts of their parents’ sordid pasts. Seventeen-year-old Gino Jr. dabbles with the game that once sought to destroy his father and eighteen-year-old Mariposa learns the price to pay for discovering the truth about her past.

In the midst of it all is a stranger from Vixen’s past seeking revenge for the destruction of her family. She’s been watching and waiting for a long time — seventeen years to be exact — and plots her revenge the way one paints a masterpiece. Her philosophy: an eye for an eye. If she can’t have her family why should Vixen have hers? Her first victim? The loving marriage Vixen and Gino created from their pain.

Will Vixen and Gino be able to survive the tempest that becomes their lives? Or will this love affair soon come to an end? Stay tuned for the third installment of A Brooklyn Love Affair.

Vixen

“Hey guys,” I said, breading the fried chicken wings and dropping them into the deep fryer. “How was school?”

“It was okay,” Jade said, kissing me on my cheek and heading upstairs.

Mari offered a small shrug. “School was school. Still feels pointless considering I’m only there for like three hours.”

“Which should make the possibility of failure nonexistent,” I said, kissing Mari on the forehead. “Hello, Brandon. Are you staying for dinner?”

Brandon reminded me of a young Trey, smooth brown skin with a neat Caesar and a politician’s smile. He was also smart, captain of the basketball team, and on his way to Penn State with a full ride on a basketball scholarship. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about letting Mari date, but Brandon was always keeping her on her toes and on the right track.

“Sure, Mrs. Romano,” Brandon replied, shrugging out of his coat and tossing it across a neighboring chair. “Are you making your famous fried chicken?”

“Sure am.”

Mari rolled up her sleeves and washed her hands. “Need any help?”

“I’m almost done cooking but I haven’t made dessert,” I said, throwing the bait and hoping Mari would take it. “Think you could whip something up?”

“How about lemon coconut cake?” Mari began to pull out the ingredients to make one of her favorite cakes. “I can probably make some ice cream if the prep doesn’t take too long…”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said, opening the oven and checking on the macaroni I had baking. “Have you seen Gigi?”

“Not since I left school. He was hanging with that no good friend of his.”

“Mari, he seems like a nice boy,” I replied, wiping my hands on a dishcloth.

“He smells nice too, after Gigi hoses him down before bringing him over. He reeks of weed. I’m convinced it must be all his parents feed him since he’s so darn skinny.”

“Must you always?” I asked, biting back a laugh. “Do me a favor and watch the chicken. I have a conference call coming through in a few minutes.”

Mari shot me a thumbs up, waving for Brandon to come over and help her. With dinner now under control, I snuck away to Gino’s office where I knew I could find some expensive treat. Locking the door behind me, I plopped down into the large high-winged chair and rummaged through the desk drawers until I came upon a box of Swiss chocolates. I was spinning around in the chair when my call finally came through. I pressed the speaker button and crossed my feet on the large desk, dominating the otherwise cozy office, ready to talk with my business partner of nearly twenty years.

“Hey, girl,” I smacked on the exquisite chocolate. “What’s up?”

“Vixen, I am at my wits end with this girl. It’s like Carlo is always tryna use this bullshit ass logic to raise our child, and now it’s all coming back to bite ME in the ass,” my best friend, Kenya, fumed on the other end of the line.

Kenya was always at odds with her daughter, Quianna, and often used me as a sounding board to figure out how to handle the colorful situations she found herself in, raising a teenage girl.

“What happened now?”

“I caught her, Vix,” Kenya said, pausing for effect. “I caught her.”

“Doing what?” I inquired, pilfering through the box of chocolates until I found one with a peanut butter center.

“Washing her own damn drawers. What do you think?” Kenya exclaimed. “FUCKING!” she screeched before I could swallow the thick blob of chocolate in my throat.

I nearly choked, rummaging through Gino’s mini fridge and coming up with a bottle of mineral water. I chugged it and after catching my breath, said, “Uh-oh. And she’s still alive?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Here I am, walking into my house, minding my own damn business when I hear all this banging. Then screaming. I kicked that door open like SWAT and their li’l rabbit asses nearly died,” Kenya huffed. “Then, that li’l cone headed boy had the nerve to start apologizing like I ain’t just catch him on top of my daughter.”

I could hear a bunch of doors slamming followed by Qui screaming “I HATE YOU” at the top of her lungs.

“TAKE A SEAT BEHIND MY EX-HUSBAND!” Kenya yelled back. In a regular voice she continued, “Now I have to have ‘the talk’ with her. Have you had it with Mari yet?”

“I’ll have it when I feel like she’s having sex.”

Kenya cackled wildly. “Girl, are you delusional? Mari’s been getting the D.”

“No, she hasn’t.”

“Yes, she has,” Kenya said, catching her breath. “You mean to tell me that you honestly thought Mariposa was coming home from school every day to an empty house with her boyfriend, and they were just studying?”

My brows creased in frustration. “Yeah….”

“Bitch, are you blind?”

“Bitch, are you deaf? How deep did you get into your house before you realized they were fucking?” Kenya was silent for a beat, which told me she was probably deep in her house before she knew what was up. “Exactly.”

“Whatever,” Kenya said with enough stank to let me know she was feeling salty. “I’m dreading this entire talk. I can’t believe she did this in my house.”

“I’m sure your mama said the same damn thing when she came home early from her church convention and caught you and Terrance fucking on her couch.”

Kenya huffed. “You know what? I’m signing off. See you tomorrow.”

“Okay, girl. Just remember –you got the hard part out the way. Literally.”

“OOOOO, I can’t stand you.”

I giggled in delight at the dial tone blaring throughout the room, sobering as I turned and admired the dusky sky. Life had been good to me so far. All I could keep hoping for was more blessings to come.

***

Gigi

Gigi pulled a black plastic bag out of his book bag and tossed it at his girlfriend, Jazlene. Jazlene dug in the plastic bag and pulled out a box of Plan B pills, her face screwing up in disgust.

“Gino, what the fuck is this for?”

“Jazlene, I’m not ready to have a baby and neither are you.” Gigi ran a hand over his thick curly hair. “So can you take the pills while you still have a chance?”

“I’m not taking shit,” Jazlene countered, rolling her neck with every word.

Gigi plopped down in her computer chair and spun around a few times, figuring out how he would get this done. When he first met Jazlene, he loved her laid back demeanor along with her wicked sense of humor. She was pretty, too: long blonde hair paired with pretty hazel eyes that came with her Afro-Cuban heritage. However, once they started having sex everything changed. Jazlene went from being cool to feeling like she had something to prove to the entire school. She spent all of her money on knockoff clothing, which was embarrassing, especially when Mari and her clique walked by snickering. Then her insecurities started to get out of hand. Before Jazlene knew Mari was his sister, she almost attacked Mari in the hallways after watching them hug briefly. Mari didn’t approve of Jazlene, but she kept her mouth shut about her to their parents.

“Jazlene —”

“Why I gotta take it, Gino? You ashamed of me or something? I’m not good enough for your rich ass family?” Tears welled up in Jazlene’s eyes. She sniffed hard in a feeble attempt to make them go away.

Gigi couldn’t stand seeing her cry so he walked over and held her face. “Jazlene, this has nothing to do with being ashamed of you. I just want to be in a good place before starting a family. You know… have a degree, my own place, plenty of money in the bank. We’re only sixteen. There ain’t no need to rush.”

Jazlene nodded her head. “You right. Can you get me some water?”

Gigi pulled a bottle of water from his bag and opened it, placing it in Jazlene’s hand, and taking the empty pillbox and wrapper from her. When Jazlene swallowed the pills, Gigi felt a weight come off his shoulders. He kissed Jazlene on the forehead and promised to see her at school tomorrow. Checking his watch, he realized he was probably on his parents’ shit list for missing dinner.

Again.

***

Jazlene

Once she heard the front door slam, Jazlene spit the pills from under her tongue into the wastebasket by her bed. She had been practicing the technique all day with Tic Tacs, the moment she got the text from Gigi saying he was buying the pills. She lay back in her bed patting her belly happily. Yeah, she had missed her period.

A month ago.

Jazlene had always imagined living a nice life with a handsome guy like Gino taking care of her, buying her nice things and taking her to places she had only read about in magazines. After four months of having protected sex, it wasn’t hard to convince Gino to slip in raw once. Especially since she had thrown away all of the condoms he had purchased, claiming they were expired. One time turned into plenty more times and finally he slipped up, going in too deep way too long.

Now I can be part of his family, Jazlene thought as she rubbed her belly.

Once and for all.

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A Brooklyn Love Affair Pt.2

With a table of their enemies prepared before them and Charles sitting at the very head, Vixen and Gino find themselves battling not only for the preservation of their love, but for their lives. With allegiances destroyed, family has become the enemy and if Gino and Vixen hope to escape harm’s way unscathed they have to choose between saving those who continually damn them or to stand behind each other, even if it means dying together.

But what happens when these enemies share a common goal? That an unlikely alliance is formed to not only take Vixen down, but also to drag her back to the roots she worked so hard to evade. Or the person who knows Gino’s kryptonite uses it to destroy everything he’s worked so hard to build. And at the center of it all is a greedy Mahogany, whose boss remains the almighty dollar.

With their lives hanging in the balance, will Vixen finally be able to combat the one man who has sought to make her life miserable, or will she succumb and return to the habit that once claimed her life? Can Gino battle the brother he must now call his enemy and come out on top, or will the skeletons he’s buried deep resurface with an unfortunate outcome?

With enemies as far as Atlanta and some one cab ride away, the second installment of A Brooklyn Love Affair is certain to shock as well as teach the lesson that some wounds run too deep to close.

She was a stallion, Charles thought as he took in the beautiful specimen standing in front of him. She stood in the shadows but he could tell by her long toned legs that she was gorgeous. He saw her become more alert; she stood up straighter when she noticed she had an admirer.

“Hey,” she said from the shadows.

Charles smiled and tilted his head. “Let me see your face, beautiful.”

He expected her to be cute. Pretty. But when Charles’s dark brown eyes connected with her grey ones he was taken aback. Smooth shimmering mahogany skin covered her like a veil. Her raven black hair was luminous in the night, thick and bone straight reaching her mid back. This girl was a sight to behold and he found that it was just his luck he got to her before someone else did.

“This good enough fa you?” she purred, placing a hand on her hip.

Charles appreciated her curves, her jean miniskirt fitting her snugly along with the matching bustier she wore. On her feet was a pair of heels made to boost her a few inches, a job which they did well.

“It’s fine indeed,” Charles said, rubbing his hands together. “What’s your name, beautiful?”

“Mahogany. Like my skin.”

Charles cracked a smile. “That’s what yo mama named you?”

“Yup. That’s what she named me before dumping me at my grandma house.” Mahogany shrugged as if being abandoned wasn’t a big deal. Her moment of self-pity was over in a second as she studied Charles with keen interest. “What you lookin’ to get into tonight?”

Charles knew Payne wouldn’t mind if he brought along the beautiful girl to keep them company for the night. When they arrived at Payne’s Brooklyn pad a party was in full swing, people dancing and having a good time in the smoke filled apartment. Drinks floated around the room as people simulated sex on the dance floor to the latest Al. B Sure tune blasting through the speakers.

“Lemme say ‘hi’ to my boy and then we can chill in private,” Charles shouted over the din, grabbing hold of Mahogany’s wrist and pulling her through the crowded party. 
 
Payne was the perfect host, leading the pair upstairs to a bedroom he cleared out for Charles’s stay. The double bed was made up with floral linens and a light blanket that wasn’t necessary due to the summer heat. The musical stylings of Run DMC shook the dresser and television sitting in the corner of the room. Charles dropped his suitcase on the floor and made himself comfortable on the bed.

“So tell me about yaself, Mahogany,” Charles said, patting the spot next to him.

Mahogany made sure she sat extra close, placing a possessive hand on his leg and rubbing small circles into the denim fabric of his jeans. Staring deep into his eyes she smiled. “You don’t wanna hear about my life as much as I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Well then I’ll get right to it: how old are you?” Charles asked nervously. “‘Cause I’ont want no trouble with no cops.”

“Don’t worry about that, Daddy. I’m grown enough to handle whatever you’re packing,” Mahogany replied, her hand traveling farther up his pants. She became excited when she saw a bulge in his jeans.

“Where you live?”

“Not too far from here, Daddy.”

Charles grabbed the girl’s chin, willing her eyes to meet his. “Why you actin’ like this?”

“’Cause I like you. And when you like somebody you have to show your appreciation some way.”

“Who told you that?”

“My daddy.” Mahogany placed her hand on top of Charles’ package and smiled. “But enough about all a that. What you came to the city for?”

Charles smiled. “Some employees.”

***

         Charles smiled at the history in those words. How he managed to break Mahogany down with one night of intense sex. She admitted to him the next day that she ran away from home because she couldn’t take any of her grandmother’s rules. Charles told her he could help her get some work in Atlanta and she readily agreed.

“You ain’t gonna tell her what type of work it is?” Payne had asked while the girl was taking a shower.

Charles explained that Mahogany admitted she was at the Port Authority hoping to turn enough tricks to get a bus ticket out of New York. He was more than positive the girl wouldn’t mind sex work in Atlanta. Charles recalled how she wasn’t the least bit infuriated at the other five girls he had recruited over the weekend.

“As long as I’m ya head bitch, baby,” Mahogany told him, snuggling up to him as the group rode out of the city a few days later.

Charles thought about Darlene and his baby girl, Chastity, back in Atlanta. They were at her mother’s house because he didn’t have enough money to rent them a place. There was barely any work in Atlanta so when Payne suggested that he get him a stable of city girls to make him some money he figured it wouldn’t hurt.

Mahogany’s steel grey eyes remained trained on him, waiting for his confirmation. “You my head bitch.”

Riding along on the F train Charles laughed at the way things turned out. At his anger when he found out that a shapely Mahogany was only thirteen. His fear when she told him she was pregnant. He hadn’t signed up for no baby with no little girl so he abandoned her right after she have birth. Twelve years later she managed to find him and show him a picture of their little girl.

“Nigga, look at what we made.” Mahogany showed him a picture of a beautiful little girl with his mother’s skin and Mahogany’s eyes and hair. “Ain’t she beautiful?”

Charles agreed. “How old is she?”

“Twelve.”

Charles examined the shell of a woman he had abandoned over a decade ago. She wasn’t the same young tenderoni he met in the city during the late 80’s. But the girl in this picture? She was gonna be the next head bitch.

And so she had, Charles thought, closing his eyes as the train lulled him to sleep. Vixen had profited him more than any other woman he’d come across. She’d provided the life his family deserved, the luxury he always dreamed of come to life. Then she tore it away with her stupidity. He’d went to jail for her and would’ve still been there if not for his own colorful thinking. Vixen was about to get her comeuppance. She was about to pay with her body and freedom.

Tenfold.

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A Brooklyn Love Affair Pt. 1

Vixen Williams has always been known as a woman of many faces. The fiercely devoted one she uses for her best friend, the one of a lover and confidant to her fiancé, and the real one she keeps reserved for looking in the mirror and battling her inner demons. Life is fairly normal for Vixen until her verbally abusive mother reenters her life, dredging up traumatic childhood memories, and bringing a handsome stranger into the mix with her devious antics causing Vixen to reprise her role as caregiver and bread winner.

Gino Romano is infamous for many reasons: his notoriety for being one of the youngest king pins in New York City, the cold manner in which he handles business, and the notable political ties he’s managed to create along the way through “profit sharing.” However, the most prominent thing he’s known for is the ice fortress he’s built around his heart. Because of his past, Gino keeps women at an arms length, believing it hard to find one who could accept the scarred past he comes with. Until he lays eyes on Vixen.
Brought together for all the wrong reasons, Vixen and Gino find a common ground that not only develops into a budding friendship, but sparks a love affair. From the moment they become one they must fight to protect their love from those who plan to destroy it by any means necessary, one of which being the very reason Vixen ran away from home ten years ago in the dead of night.

Will the forces determined to see Gino and Vixen destroyed win? Or will their love prevail? Set in a spicy Brooklyn backdrop, A Brooklyn Love Affair brings to life pain, forgiveness, and the never ending possibility of finding love.

I was halfway up the stairs to the co-op Trey and I shared with two other families when I heard a heavy click clacking of heels followed by a smoke stained cough. Rolling my eyes I turned to find my mother, Mahogany, standing in front of me, hands on her bony hips. She looked fifteen pounds lighter in the loose zebra print dress that swathed her small frame. My lips formed a thin line as I walked back down the stairs to talk with the woman who was responsible for making my early years a living hell.

“What are you doing here?” I hissed, looking around to make sure no one I knew was walking by.

Mahogany adjusted the cheap blonde wig she wore. “I need some money.”

“You need money?” I repeated incredulously. “I gave you money last week.”

“Vixen, that wasn’t nothing but some change.”

“You call five hundred dollars ‘change’?”

“It lasted me only a week; so yes, I call that ‘change.’”

“Well then here’s a couple pennies,” I said, pulling out a twenty and tossing it to her.

“What the fuck is this supposed to do?” she asked loudly.

I could see Mark, my neighbor, a few blocks down, squinting in our direction. I sucked my teeth and grabbed her arm, pulling her out of his view. “Make that last you tonight and I’ll see what I can do tomorrow,” I said through gritted teeth.

Mahogany sneered at me, yanking her arm from my grip with surprising strength. “You better make something happen unless you want me to come back over here scaring all your neighbors.”

“Stay the hell away from here.”

“It’s not my fault you’re scared, Vixen,” she continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “You’re scared that all these people in this neighborhood will see you for who you are. ‘Cause no matter how nice your clothes are or how good you look, you ain’t nothing but a whore like me.”

I walked away from her and shoved my key into the front door. After a few seconds I heard the sound of her cheap heels click-clacking down the street and knew she was gone.

“Hey,” Trey said the moment I entered the apartment.

My heart dropped when I saw where he was sitting. Putting on my brightest smile, I managed a bright, “Hey.”

“So,” he said lightly as he got up from the seat we kept by the window. “Who was that?”

“Just some stupid crackhead bothering me.” I said lightly, walking into the bedroom so he couldn’t see the tears pouring down my cheeks.

“She was there for a while.”

I slammed the bathroom door shut, turning on the shower to drown out the sobs that racked my chest. Trey knocked on the door, calling my name. I ignored him, too hurt by my mother’s harsh words to be bothered. The steaming hot water streamed down my face, mixing with my tears as I let go of the tidal wave of emotions that overcame me. My mother was right: behind my expensive clothes I was nothing but a whore and undeserving of a decent man like Trey. He loved me now, but I was sure once Trey knew the real Vixen he would treat her as such.

***

“Vixen, what’s your story?” Gino observed me over his glass. “And don’t say ‘there isn’t much to tell.’”

“My mother made me a prostitute when I was twelve years old. My first john was my father,” I admitted for the first time in my life to anyone. “When I was fifteen I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I ended up running away and never looked back.”

“What happened to him?”

I downed the rest of my drink, the bubbles from the champagne offering a decent cover for the tears welling up in my eyes. “He’s exactly where he belongs. Locked up in a cage like an animal.”

“Good,” he replied, staring up at the starry sky partially obscured by the bright lights. When he spoke again, his voice barely reached above the city din below us. “Am I the first person you’ve ever told?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because you look relieved.” He turned his heated gaze to me. “Why haven’t you told your boyfriend?”

“As strong and independent as Trey is, he still relies heavily on the approval of his family. My past might not matter to him, but it will effect the way his bourgeois family treats me.”

“It’s easier to pretend to be someone you’re not than live as you really are,” Gino replied coolly.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I felt my hackles rise at the dismissive way he was treating my personal problems. “You think I like being Vixen ‘the orphan’ or Vixen ‘the commitment-phobe?’ How dare you sit back and act like I’m supposed to wear my emotional scars on my chest for the world to see.”

Gino shrugged, the corner of his mouth tugging into a small smile. “All I’m saying is that this ‘boyfriend’ is in love with a woman who doesn’t exist. If you really want to know where you stand with him, show him the real Vixen and see if he stays.”

“Easy for you to say but not practice,” I spat, standing up and adjusting my dress. “You sit here in your anonymity and luxury afraid of anyone getting too close to you not because you’re a thug or whatever else you feel like it is. You’re afraid of rejection just as much, if not more than me, Gino.”

I turned to leave when he grabbed my wrist, leaving me no choice except to acknowledge his existence. “We may both have a fear of rejection except there is one huge difference between you and I: I live in the real world while you live in a world you’ve manufactured. At least when I’m rejected it’ll be because of something she didn’t see in me. I am visible and my intentions always remain clear.”

“How about I make one thing clear for you: this date is over.” I snatched my hand away from him and stormed into the living room to grab my purse.

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The Heart of a King

The Heart of a King chronicles the lives of four unlikely players wrapped up in a vicious game where sometimes the wrong winner takes all.

Born into one of the most notorious Columbian cartels, Heartria “Heart” Romero is a pampered princess who has grown up with everything her heart desires except for one thing: a prince to whisk her away to live happily every after. After trying to kiss many scared frogs, Heart’s luck turns for the better when she meets King, a fearless hustler with the courage to leave the streets behind for her and the passion to love her right. The couple has their sights set on their fairytale ending when tragedy strikes in the form of the notorious Spade, tearing the pair apart, leaving King heartbroken and unprotected in the mean streets of Brooklyn.

At the heart of every love story is a villain and this one is no different. Sitting atop his throne is Spade, a kingpin with a slew of enemies in his wake. One of which is Diamond, a former lover and soldier of Spade with an ax to grind of her own. After feeling the wrath of Spade’s love, Diamond seeks revenge on Spade only to end up literally beaten at her own game.

Brought together by the wrath of Spade, King and Diamond are no different, taking him on and ending up with irreparable scars. However, the pair is given a second chance at taking Spade down when a stranger with unknown ties to the kingpin enters the mix. Will the next hand dealt be in their favor?
Or will the cards stacked against them fall?

Once we were in the privacy of King’s shiny black Lexus, I decided to throw a tantrum. I sunk into my seat and crossed my arms. When King slid in and made himself comfortable, buckling his seat and dropping his phone into a little tray beneath the radio, he turned to me.

“What?” he asked impatiently, placing his key in the ignition but not turning it.

I sunk lower into my seat. “I’m hungry.”

King took a calming breath and said with forced politeness, “What you wanna eat, ma?”

“Hmmmm…” I said, perking up at the thought of picking out the most extravagant meal I could think of. “I want a big, juicy steak with mashed potatoes and a Pepsi.”

“Bet,” King replied without hesitation, turning on the car and focusing on the road ahead of us. “Now buckle up before you get yourself a ticket.”

Since King didn’t argue with my childish demands, I obliged him, buckling up my seatbelt and tossing my purse in the backseat. I reached over to turn on the radio when King popped my hand. I tried my best to look affronted but failed when I saw the hint of a smile creep up on his handsome profile.

“Nobody touches my radio.”

“Not even Michelle?”

He pulled off with a jerk, jostling my hair and sending me crashing into my chair. I knew it was revenge for bringing up his hoe. “Not even Michelle.”

“Well can you put on the radio. It’s mad quiet and quiet makes me bored. And when I get bored I start talking. So unless you wanna talk to me —”

I was interrupted by the blasting of Chris Brown’s “Back to Sleep.” I exclaimed “that’s my shit” and began doing a slow wine to the sultry R&B song. My hot ass was always grinding to some steady beat, not caring where I was or who I was with (unless it was Papi). My dancing was interrupted by King stopping abruptly. I thought he was trying to be spiteful until I looked up and saw the driver of the car in front of us yelling “watch where the fuck you’re going” before speeding off. I shot King a look of contempt before beginning to dance again, this time slower.

“You better not kill me, King. My daddy will hunt you down and make an example out of you.”

“Like he did ‘ol boy five years ago?”

I felt my cheeks redden in embarrassment at the memory, recalling it rather vividly. I wasn’t in the mood to dance anymore, instead, choosing to sit back in my seat and stare out the window. I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep until King was gently shaking me awake.

“We here, ma,” he said, getting out once we made eye contact. “Now come on before they cancel our reservation.”

I sat up slowly and began checking my hair and makeup in the mirror. Once I was satisfied, I reached back and grabbed my bag. I was about to open my door when King appeared on my side and opened it like a gentleman. I popped off my seatbelt and got out of the car real ladylike, as if I wasn’t dressed like a half naked lumberjack.

“I wish I would’ve known you would be taking me to a restaurant,” I said as we crossed a busy intersection right next to a large bridge. “I would’ve tried to do something with my hair.”

King glanced down at me before taking my hand and pulling me across the complicated five-way street. “You look fine, Heart. Besides, I thought you wanted to eat a big ass steak, not worry about who’s checking you out.”

“Why can’t I do both?”

King shook his head in amusement as he opened the door to Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. One whiff of the place made my stomach grumble; I hadn’t eaten all day and Milly dragged me out of McDonald’s before I could at least get some chocolate chip cookies. The hostess was friendly, greeting us as soon as we entered the establishment and taking us to our seats. Glasses of water were placed in front of us and I took a tentative sip of mine, using the straws provided.

“Daddy’s little girl drinking tap? I’m pleasantly surprised you decided to lower your standards and drink from the same dispenser as us peasants.”

I continued drinking as if I hadn’t heard him, only stopping when I was half done because I didn’t want to ruin my appetite. “Well, it’s not often that I get to go out to dinner without my parents and they’re always dragging me to some five-star restaurant. So here I am, wearing shorts at the dinner table so I figured ‘When in Rome…’”

“I feel you,” King replied, picking up his menu and browsing it. “That’s how I felt last week when I was at your mall. Out of place.”

“So then why’d you go? You could’ve gone to a number of places where you’d fit in. Fifth Avenue is only an hour away and has twice as many stores.” I flipped through my menu and only stopped when I laid eyes on a steak that had to be as large as my head.

“I didn’t go because of the stores; I went for the experience.”

“Experience? You mean all of those stuck up sales people fawning over you so they can empty your pockets? It’s not as fabulous as I make it seem.”

King cracked a smile, the first genuine one I had seen on him since we met. “To you because that’s all you know, but for a nigga like me that morning felt like an out of body experience. Honestly, I ain’t even think they were gon’ let a nigga in let alone give him decent customer service.”

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” I said, closing my menu and staring him straight in the eye. “You’ve got plenty of class.” I could see the disbelief in his eyes and the way he was about to brush me off, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, I continued. “Class ain’t always about what you’re wearing, King. It’s about the way you hold yourself, the way you address others, the confidence you have whether you’re wearing an Armani suit, or khaki’s and a white tee. You’ve got a quality about you and it makes you command the room like only one other man I know: my dad.”

King stared at me with something in his eyes that I couldn’t make sense of. I knew I probably sounded like a little kid or something, so I went back to looking at my menu, too embarrassed to look him in the eye again. Luckily, our waitress came and took our orders. King ordered a scotch next to my Coke. We sipped in silence until our food arrived.

“This is delicious,” I said, savoring each bite of my medium-well steak that was large enough for two. “I guess I’m taking the rest home for tomorrow morning. What?”

King wiped his mouth and pushed his own empty plate away from him. “I can’t see you standing at the microwave waiting for a plate of food to heat up. It’s funny to me.”

“King, you better stop,” I said, thanking the waitress as she arrived with a small box and wrapped up my food. “My mom is from the hood and when she cooks there’s always enough for dinner tomorrow. She had it hard and one of her biggest pet peeves is wasting food. I wish I would waste some food.”

The waitress left my wrapped food next to me and placed the bill in the center of us. King reached into his pocket, peeled off three crisp hundred-dollar bills, and said to me, “You ready?”

Pleased that he tipped well, I was ready to leave, grabbing my bag and skipping out of the restaurant. King and I walked along in an amicable silence, with my enjoying my last fresh breath of freedom as he texted rapidly on his phone. When he asked for directions to my house, I gave them hesitantly, recalling that after all he was the “enemy” and I didn’t want my father trying to hurt him. King must’ve noticed my apprehension because he addressed it right away.

“You scared for me, Heart? Ain’t no need to be. I’m a grown man. I can handle myself,” King said, hopping on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway with ease.

My worries instantly faded. King was a real man, and I knew that because he was bringing me home, Papi would be more grateful than angry. “King?”

“Yes, Heart?”

“Why are you going out of your way to take me home?”

He paused thoughtfully and said in a businesslike tone, “Because you were trespassing and I wanted the opportunity to make it clear how important it is for you to stay out of my hood. The reason isn’t out of me trying to be petty, it’s because people around there don’t like your pops or his people. It wouldn’t be nothing for one of them niggas to harm you just to start a drug war.”

“So it has nothing to do with you not liking me?” I said, staring at him through my long lashes.

King glanced at me from the corner of his eye. “No, you still get on my nerves.”

“King!” I exclaimed, playfully slapping him on the arm, my stomach doing backflips when he looked at me full on, our faces barely inches apart. I leaned in slightly, wanting him to do the same. I was disappointed when he returned his attention to the road. “I forgot,” I said settling into my seat and looking out the window, “you have a girlfriend.”

“She’s not my girlfriend.”

“So then why were you out shopping with her?”

King shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter. At least not anymore.”

“How come not —”

“Heart,” King said, “she’s not the reason why this can’t become anything. It’s the streets. We’re on different sides of the war in these streets.”

“You’re right,” I conceded, closing my eyes and trying to savor as much of this, riding in King’s car, the feel of the smooth leather on my thighs, his cologne wafting all around me, the feeling of being normal, as I possibly could before I was locked away in one of the most lavish prisons you’d ever seen. Because that’s exactly what my house was, a lavish prison. And if the game had its way, I’d always be a princess without her King.