Writers for Sale?

I really need to blog more. I used to do it weekly, then stopped when I realized it was interfering with the books I wanted to write. But lately, I’ve been finding that I want to say stuff, and rather than pick fights on social media with people I otherwise like very much, I thought blogging would be a good idea. Because what is a blog if not an unanswerable, inarguable assertion by someone who wants to talk smack, and not subject their arguments to analysis or criticism?

I’m only sort of kidding. These are the times we’re in. Battle lines are easily drawn and not so easily erased. There’s no, ‘let’s just agree to disagree’ these days. It’s more like ‘let’s fight to the death, preferably yours.’ So now you know why I’m blogging. Here’s what I want to say: this ghostwriter, plagiarism debate that’s been throwing the writing world into a tailspin lately is cray-cray. I mean, writers are out there using their keyboards as swords and are on a search-and-destroy mission to ferret out those who are not true to “the craft” either because they’re thieves or because they crank out hackneyed, formulaic stories and stuff e-books for profit, or they don’t write their own stuff but use ghosts who help them gain notoriety and a few more bucks.

It’s worth a moment to uncouple some of those things. The thieves are plagiarists. That’s a whole separate, unambiguously dishonest breed who deliberately steal the words or ideas of others and repackage them as their own. I think anyone who writes honestly is united with other writers in their condemnation of those folks.

And as for the scammers and book-stuffers; once a cottage industry, it’s now become big business for writers, and some non-writers to create very little new content and then pad their e-books with samples, teasers or previously released material, just to game Amazon’s system. Most writers decry this as well, and no one seriously argues that this practice should be allowed to continue though we may disagree about how much energy honest writers should give to that crusade.

What’s not as clear is where the writing world stands on the increased use of ghosts, people who do the writing for someone else who has maybe no will, acumen, or time to write their own stories. Ghosts are not a new phenomenon. And in point of fact, never used to be quite so ghostly. The most reputable folks who use ghosts say so, and put their ghost’s name right there on the cover, or in the credits or acknowledgments. Lately though, a new breed seems to be proliferating – let’s for the sake of distinguishing them, call them ‘ghouls.’ Ghouls are one-hundred percent invisible. We don’t know who they are because the named “author” does not even acknowledge their existence. This is where things have begun to get a little murky, ethically speaking.

Increasingly, writers who use neither ghosts nor ghouls are wondering whether it’s “fair” to the rest of us, and to the reader for them to be sold a bale of goods of dubious origin. Today, in the digital age, you don’t just sell books (electronic or otherwise). For good or ill, you sell yourself. The accessibility of the writer to today’s readership is unprecedented. We send and receive direct messages from readers, answer questions in real-time, and even form actual friendships with them in the real world. They are attracted to the written word, but often to the writer of it. Some writers are trendy, funny, hipsters, cool professionals, elusive introverts, boisterous extroverts, nervous strivers … and readers sometimes attach to them accordingly.

So, the question is, what if that persona to which a reader attaches is itself fiction? Is that ethical? Sounds like many writers are beginning to say not. It sounds like many in the writing community are growing increasingly uncomfortable with writers who may gain what they see as an unfair advantage by creating fake personas and selling that along with their books. Honestly, I don’t know what’s “fair” or not, and if writers are out there selling fake or amplified personas to move units, more power to you. I guess. I think it’s a broader cultural phenomenon. People do that every day on Instagram, even when they’re not selling a doggone thing except the illusion that they have a perfect life.

So, I’ll just talk about me and my deal. I write under a pseudonym. When I first started self-publishing, I was in a higher-profile job than I am now, and didn’t want my 9—5 profession to be affected by my writing life, or vice versa. I also like the anonymity. But I’m not completely anonymous. I don’t share personal pictures or details, but I do share almost everything else – embarrassing moments, stories about my day-job, my family, my neighbors and even, occasionally, the person I’m in a relationship with. I share it and it’s all true.

For me, the truth of it is important because here’s how I see it: when a writer’s words speak deeply to a reader, the reader feels kinship with them, and they feel understood. They feel it so much they write notes, emails, and send DMs, not as “fans” but as one human to another human saying ‘God, I didn’t think anyone felt this, saw this, understood this.’ And when you get one of those notes, it is hella-cool. It is, I kid you not, way cooler than when someone writes just to say, ‘You’re a very good writer.’ And for angsty, in-your-head types like writers often are, those notes also mean that not only did you understand them, they may understand something of you. I may not tell you where I live, but I do want what you know and understand of me to be real and true, just like I want the characters I write to be real and true.

Now, I know there’s going to be the “it’s just a business” crew and a “you-take-this-too-seriously” crew. Yeah. Both those things may be true. But I’m just here repping for the writers for whom it isn’t just a business, but a gift that allows us to see other people, and be seen by other people, and yet still hide behind the safety of our pen.

Love & Light,

N.

Rhyme & Reason — COMING 2019

An unedited excerpt from Chapter 1 of ‘Rhyme & Reason’, from the new generation of ‘Afterwards’ novels, coming 2019.

Happy Friday.

She had fallen asleep while watching The Best Man and woke up to the sound of her phone ringing. On television, the Netflix home-screen was scrolling through programming options. Grappling for her phone, expecting to see either her brother’s name or Asif’s, Zora sat upright when she saw the initials DS.

Why don’t you have my whole name in your contacts?

Because you’re kind of famous.

Deuce had twisted his lips and narrowed his eyes skeptically.

Here’s what we can do to fix that, he said. Just change it to ‘My Man’. I can live with that. So, whenever you see it, you know.

I already know, she’d said, trying not to blush.

“Hello?” Her voice sounded gravelly, so she cleared her throat and tried again. “Hello.”

“Hey. I wake you?”

“No. I mean, yeah, but it’s fine. I was …” She didn’t finish her sentence, imagining how pathetic it might sound.

I was watching Netflix all on my own. On a Friday night. Yes, I was.

“You alone?”

Zora thought for a moment, wondering why he would think … Oh, yes. Asif. He hadn’t allowed her to explain earlier. One would have thought he would figure it out. Asif and she could have passed for siblings. 

“Yes. I’m alone. And Deuce …”

“I just … I wanted to say I was sorry,” he said. “For speaking to you the way I did.”

Zora felt her throat tighten.

“I’m sorry, too,” she said.

“What’re you sorry for?”

“Springing up on you. I mean … it wasn’t fair. I should’ve …”

On the other end of the line, Deuce sighed. “I don’t know that it would have made a difference anyway,” he said.

“Why?”

“Zee, you know when it comes to you …”

She held her breath.

“Anyway. I’m just sorry I came off like that,” he said in a rush.

The silence stretched.

“How … how are you?” she asked finally. “Lately. How have you been? With work and everything. And that plan you had.”

The last time they spoke he mentioned he was about to make a pitch for a special project with an artist his father’s company had high hopes for. But after the way the rest of that conversation went, they hadn’t spoken since.

“You mean with Devin Parks?” Deuce asked.

“Yes. Did Jamal ever give you the go-ahead to have him as the first …”

“Nah. He shot it down. Said he couldn’t give me an artist of Devin Parks’ caliber right out the gate. Told me to work with the team to find my own people.”

“Ouch. That’s harsh,” Zora said, settling back into her pillows again.

“Not really. He was right. Devin Parks is going to be huge. He is huge. Lettin’ me have him for this new label would have been giving me something I didn’t earn. Hell, I didn’t even earn the right to develop a new label.”

“Don’t say that …”

“It’s true though. Who graduates from undergrad and gets that kind of opportunity from jump? I mean, if I was just some regular dude, I would be an intern at SE for real.”

Zora had heard him speak this way about himself before, but it hurt her every time.

“You’re always underestimating yourself,” she said. “So what if you’re not ‘some regular dude’? So what if you got a foot in the door because of your father? Now that you’re in, you just have to prove you deserve to be there.”

“Tryin’,” he said.

“And?”

“It’s goin’ okay, I guess. Mostly I’m learning the business, y’know?”

“Does your father help?”

“Nah.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t ask him.”

Deuce.”

“What?”

“That’s such a wasted opportunity. Your father probably has an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge about how to develop a record label. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?”

“So he can get confirmation that I’m just fakin’ through it right now?”

“Are you?” she asked.

Deuce said nothing for a few beats.

“Not really. I mean, I did my homework. I’ma have to take a couple risks, but I feel good about where things are at, considering.”

“Okay, so where are they?”

“What d’you mean?”

“I mean, tell me where things are. What stage are you at in developing the label?”

Deuce didn’t realize this about himself, but Zora knew he needed to process things aloud. To talk them over with a thought-partner, and problem-solve through conversation. When he did, his confidence strengthened. Deuce was not short on confidence by any means, but Chris Scaife Sr. was a formidable yardstick to measure oneself by.

“You won’t be bored by all that?”

“Have I ever been?” she asked, before she caught herself.

Then they both laughed at the same time.

“Okay, fine,” she said. “There were moments, I admit …”

Moments?” Deuce echoed, laughter still in his voice. “You fell asleep on me, Zee. When I was talking about …”

“In my defense, it was right after …” She broke off.

Right after they’d made love. Made love. That’s what it was with him. Every time, maybe even including the very first time.

After lovemaking, Deuce was wide open. He talked. Told her his greatest fears, his biggest dreams. He talked until he was exhausted, and sometimes until she was, as well.

“Yeah,” he said now. “I’ll give you that. The moment wasn’t … opportune.”

“Baby?”

 The sound of a female voice, interrupting their conversation was so unexpected that Zora for a moment didn’t know where it was coming from. Her eyes instinctively shifted to her tv even though the sound was clearly coming from her phone.

She heard shuffling, and the muffled sound of Deuce talking to someone. To the someone who had called him ‘baby.’

From ‘Rhyme & Reason’ COMING 2019

Before ‘Rhyme & Reason’ gets here, make sure you’re caught up, by first reading ‘Young, Rich & Black’ and ‘Snowflake’.

‘You Know How to Love Me’

You Know How to Love Me by Chicki Brown

Chelsea Olson has always been a rebel. Growing up as the daughter of a conservative southern preacher, she never accepted his narrow-minded views, especially those about interracial dating and marriage. In fact, since high school her preference has been black men. But she’s never had a serious relationship with anyone. Then she meets Isaac “Ike” Sloane. 

Ike is handsome, successful and family-oriented, everything Chelsea has ever imagined in a man, and she wants him. Will outside forces and attitudes stop them from experiencing the love they have both wanted?

AVAILABLE ON:

AMAZON – US | AMAZON – UK

 ENTER TO WIN

Chicki Brown is giving away a copy of You Know How to Love Me (eBook).
Click here to enter.

About Chicki Brown

Contemporary women’s fiction/romance author Chicki Brown has been featured twice in USAToday. She was honored in 2014 and 2011 by B.R.A.B. (Building Relationships Around Books) Book Club and SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine). Chicki was also a contributing author to the Gumbo for the Soul: Men of Honor (Special Cancer Awareness Edition). 

Before she started writing romance, she worked as a secretary, typesetter, daycare provider, and executive assistant. Now she does her favorite job as a full-time romance author. Her goal as an author is to entertain readers and provide an escape from their daily routine into the lives of her characters. 

In 1994 Brown relocated from New Jersey, the land of the world’s best pizza and hot dogs to Atlanta, Georgia, the home of the world’s best shrimp and grits and hot wings.

If you’d like to find out about Chicki’s next book, please visit her blog at http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com, or her Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/ChickiBrownNovels/

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‘SNOWFLAKE’ is here!

If you only follow my blog, you may not have realized that ‘Snowflake’ the latest in the ‘Afterwards’ novels series is here! The ‘Afterwards’ series will be a collection of standalones featuring the extended friends and family of Chris and Robyn Scaife. The novels cover occurrences either concurrent with, or following the ‘Afterwards’ and ‘Afterburn’ novels chronologically-speaking. ‘Young, Rich & Black’ was Chris Scaife’s son, Deuce’s story and ‘Snowflake’ features Kaleem, Deuce’s best friend. Later this year, if all goes according to plan, I will release two more books in the series, ‘Rhyme & Reason’ which is the continuation of Deuce and Zora’s story, with some more about Kaleem; and then ‘On the Other Side’ which will delve into Damon, Jamal Turner’s (from ‘The Come Up’ and ‘The Takedown’) brother’s story.

I released ‘Snowflake’ just after Christmas, so it already feels like yesterday’s news but I am so pleased by how it’s been received so far. It’s been the #1 New Release on Amazon’s African American Women’s Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, and African American Literary Fiction lists for about a week now which is so humbling, and also very surprising. It’s so weird how, when you’re writing it, it’s tough to figure out whether a book will land, or completely fail. I didn’t think this one would fail, but I certainly thought it would go largely unnoticed because it features a subsidiary character among a group of much more well-known characters. I hope you enjoy ‘Snowflake’ and if you do, tell a friend and write a review. I read them. I read them all.

Also, in case you’re interested, and are a fast reader, there’ll be an online book chat about ‘Snowflake’ tomorrow at 7PM ET in the Facebook group ‘Because My Heart Said So …’ You have to be a member of the group to join the chat, so you can take care of that here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BecauseMyHeartSaidSo/

Here’s to 2019!

Love & Light,
Nia

SPOTLIGHT: ‘PUSHING THIRTY’ by NECOLE RYSE

29-year-old viral TV blogger Zaahira Ramsey has it all, except peace. She’s built a fortress of protection around her heart as big as her coily hair. But when Chris Samuels enters her life, ready to unpack everything she’s been carrying, will she put up a fight? Or will the scrappy know-it-all fold under the pressure?

Camille Downing has lived most of her 29 years in the shadows of other people. As a top-notch executive assistant, she makes the impossible possible while taking none of the credit. But when she meets flashy and outgoing Jemel Jones, he makes her question why she’s been constantly selling herself short. Can she let go? Or will he push her too far out of her comfort zone?

Terry Baldwin can’t even. With three kids under her belt at 29, and a husband who acts like child number four, she’s slowly losing her mind. With her family falling apart at the seams, Terry decides to get a job. Can she be a full-time employee and mother? Or will the weight of adulting finally send her over the edge?

Grab your copy of Pushing Thirty today for only $1.99!

(limited time only on)

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2E4SIaT

‘Pushing Thirty’ Author Necole Ryse

Playlist: http://bit.ly/PushingThirtyPlaylist

Author Website: https://necolerysewrites.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NecoleRyse

Twitter: www.twitter.com/necoleryse

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/necoleryse

Goodreads Author Profile: http://bit.ly/2PbAq91

Add on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2zBH0jZ

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2rgrVzW

SAMPLE SUNDAY:SNOWFLAKE

“I have a proposition.”

Asha opened the door and smiled. “He lives.”

“Barely. But yeah. Got some rest and now I feel much better.” Kal moved around her and entered the apartment without waiting for an invitation.

She hadn’t seen him in a day and a half and more than once, wondered whether she should go over to knock on his door just to check that he was okay.

But that would have felt pushy. Kaleem Carter did not need her to be his babysitter, and as it was, she was getting too used to his face, too excited at the thought of just being in his presence. It was ridiculous.

“Good. Glad to hear it,” she said. “And the ankle?”

“Still sore. But getting better. Since I was on my back all day yesterday, that helped.” He collapsed on her sofa.

He was getting super well-acquainted with that particular piece of furniture. Like it was his spot whenever he came over. Asha wondered whether he would come over once school started again, and once his regular female visitors resumed. More likely, she would recede into the back of his mind—as if she had ever been in the forefront—and they would wave from their front doors or say a brief hello on the stairs when they ran into each other.

“You said you had a proposition?” she asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Yeah.”

He said the word in a slow drawl, and was eyeing her from where he sat, his gaze running over her from head to toe. Asha took mental stock of her appearance— her hair was in a ponytail, and she was wearing tattered cut-off denim shorts frayed at the hems and a grey NY Giants baby-tee.Nothing remarkable, but Kaleem sure seemed to find it interesting. It was probably just his way, making girls feel so visible. Like he missed nothing about them and liked it all.

Asha felt her skin flush and damned her fair complexion. Every tiny blush was visible.

“You know Deuce Scaife?” he asked.

“Not personally, but I know who he is,” she said.

She wanted to sit, so he wouldn’t be on eye-level with her bare legs. She didn’t hate her legs, but sometimes wished they were less gamine, and had more muscle-tone. She looked great in jeans, she knew, but sometimes, unclothed, Asha wished there was more there for a man to appreciate.And a man to appreciate it.

“His father has a place in Jersey and every Thanksgiving the whole family is there, some friends … a whole mess of folks.”

Asha nodded, wondering where this was headed.

“Deuce invited us to come stay with them.”

“Wait. What?

She shook her head, wondering if somewhere along the line, while she’d been distracted she had missed a step in their conversation.

“Deuce wants us to come to Jersey for Thanksgiving.”

“Why would he want me to come to his house for Thanksgiving? He’s never spoken a single word to me. I don’t even think he knows my name.”

“He knows my name. And he knows that I’m not leaving you here.”

Asha opened her mouth but didn’t know what to say. She took a step back and lowered herself into the armchair opposite Kaleem. Biting her lower lip, she chewed on it for a few moments, buying time.

“Ahm … You … Why would you …? We don’t even know each other,” she said.

“You looked after me when I was sick.”

“I gave you two Advil and some soup.”

FourAdvil. And you let me sleep off my fever, and drool on your sofa,” Kaleem corrected her. “In my book, that means you don’t get to claim to be a stranger.Not anymore.”

Asha was touched. But she shook her head. “I can’t. It would be …”

“You know Zora Diallo?”

Asha nodded. “Yeah. I used to be a member of the BLM chapter, before … Before.”

A question flickered in Kaleem’s eyes. The obvious question. Asha hoped he wouldn’t ask it aloud.

“Zora is Deuce’s girl. She’ll be there, too. So,if you’re worried about being a third wheel, don’t. You’d be saving me from being the third wheel, for real.”

Asha said nothing.

“And you have a more than fair chance of meeting a couple of celebrities.” Kal squinted, as if making a last-ditch selling point.

“I’d be terrified to meet any celebrities,” Asha said quietly.

“Bullshit,” Kal said, just as quietly. “You don’t scare easy.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t know how I know. I just do.”

Their eyes met, and Asha didn’t want to look away. His were an impenetrable shade of brown that was almost black, and their shape when he squinted a little, as he was doing now, was almost feline.

There was a time when Asha had been obsessed with ethnicity. It was the kind of obsession a kid with no idea of who her father might be developed. She searched faces on the street for clues, thinking, ‘That woman looks like me. She looks like we could come from the same place … And him … And her … and him.’ It was futile, and exhausting, and she had eventually given it up, but now she had a largely useless stockpile of information, and the uncanny ability to identify people as Haitian versus Jamaican, Argentinian versus Colombian. She was practically an Ethnic Studies savant.

Kaleem reminded Asha of pictures she had once pored over, of Fulani men, long, but strong neck, narrow nose-bridge with flared nostrils, and thick lips, balanced by a strong, square jaw. And the body. Coiled strength, in a deceptively long and lean frame.

Did he know he was beautiful?

“Come on, go with me,Snowflake,” Kaleem said, his voice low and hoarse. “Let’s you and me have a winter adventure.”

COMING IN 2018.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘Rhyme & Reason’

“What?”

Deuce leaned in close, straining to hear over the din. Unless he was mistaken, Lloyd just said …

Zora. She’s supposed to be here, too. I thought you’d know.”

Lifting his glass to his lips, Deuce took a long sip, giving him just enough time to compose himself.

“Nah,” he said, swallowing. “I didn’t know.”

Lloyd squinted. “For real? So you …”

“This is so cool, you guys!”

Before Lloyd could finish his thought, Summer had thrown her arms around them both, having to reach up a little because she was so short. Summer Harris, the official organizer of the alumni mixer, had reached out a bunch of folks from Penn State, primarily on Facebook and Twitter and suggested the get-together in a Midtown bar. She had only given a couple of weeks’ notice, and Deuce stopped in only because he it was close to his apartment and he was slightly curious to see who else was in the city.

The turnout was surprisingly good. So far there were about twenty people there, most of them familiar, though none of them people Deuce had been particularly tight with. New York was a post-graduation mecca for lots of people, but most Penn State alums wound up in Philly. So, he stopped in just to see who else from the Black Caucus might be around.He already knew that most of his crew were spread far and wide, including his best friend, Kaleem who was back out west in an MBA program and training for the Summer Olympics.

“I never thought so many people would make it!”Summer sounded like she had to have been drinking well before anyone else showed up, because the mixer had only been underway for about an hour.

Early in, early out, that had been Deuce’s plan.

“Especially just one year after graduation,”Lloyd said, peeling Summer’s arm from around his neck. “I guess the real world ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and we’re just pining for the old days.”

“I know am,” Summer said, raising her voice a little more than was necessary to be heard. “My gig at HarperCollins is not what I thought it would be. I’m like a glorified … file clerk.”

“Bet you don’t have them kinda problems, huh?” Lloyd said, nudging Deuce in the ribs. “Workin’ with your Dad and all.”

“I don’t work with my Dad,” Deuce said.

He was looking at the entrance to Le Bar now, scanning the clusters of folks who walked in. The moment Lloyd said her name, his heartbeat had sped up. Just at the sound of her fucking name.

“You don’t?” Lloyd looked confused. “But I thought you were at …”

“Yeah, but my father isn’t there anymore. I work for the new CEO.”

Lloyd shrugged, and looked like he didn’t understand the distinction. Most people didn’t. They tended to think that because his last name was Scaife, he could walk up in that joint and start running shit. Knocking back the remains of his vodka tonic, Deuce extricated himself from Summer as well.

“Lemme go get another one of these,” he said. “Anybody want anything while I’m over …”

Thereshe is!” Summer shrieked. Shoving her way past Deuce and Lloyd, she plowed her way out of the reserved section and toward the front of the bar.

And yeah. There she was.

Zora looked a little disoriented when she first walked in, her eyes narrowing a little as they adjusted to the relative darkness of the bar. She stood still for a moment and pulled the strap of her purse higher on her shoulder, surveying the room before Summer accosted her with a hug.

Zora’s face lit up in a smile when she saw who it was and held Summer back at arms’ length to look her over. While she did, Deuce looked Zora over. She was wearing a canary-yellow blouse with long sleeves and a ruffled neck with skinny black pants. And her hair … damn, he’d always loved her hair … It was in neat, sleek, cornrows, and in her ears were medium-sized gold hoops. She wore vivid lipstick in a shade of purple that was like a bruise, but somehow made her lips look even fuller, even sexier. Sunglasses were pushed up atop her head, giving her an air of mature sophistication that was at odds with how Deuce was accustomed to seeing her.

He thought of Zora and the picture that came to mind was her in one of his sweatshirts, nothing underneath. Her hair messy as hell, her lips swollen from being kissed, curled in a smile her eyes sleepy,cloudy, and looking at him in the way only she did.

Deuce had not seen her in eight months, and they hadn’t spoken in six. And yet, he could already feel his body orienting itself in her direction, pulling him toward her.

She stood at the entrance for a few moments more,talking to Summer and Deuce stood watching her, not realizing he was staring until Lloyd spoke.

“So, I’m guessing y’all split up or somethin’, huh?”

Deuce looked at him.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Anyway. I’ma grab this drink. You want …?”

Zora was looking over at him now, as Summer pointed him out. The expression on her face robbed him of every coherent thought. Her lips trembled, like someone trying not to smile, or not to cry. And her eyes …

The moment their eyes met, she touched Summer on the shoulder, wordlessly excusing herself from their conversation and coming toward him. Deuce felt Lloyd take his glass.

“I’ll get this one,” he said, from what sounded like far away.

Fighting the urge to meet her halfway, Deuce stood still until Zora reached him. And when she did, he bit into his lower lip and looked down at her. She looked up at him, her long neck curving. Her lips finally parted in a smile, and her shoulders lifted and fell in an inaudible sigh.

Deuce.”

Out of nowhere there was a lump in the back of his throat, hard and immovable.

Zora’s shoulders sagged even further, and she shook her head.

“Deuce,” she said again.

And then she hugged him. Not like you hug a friend, putting your arms around their waist. But the way you hug a lover, her arms up and around his neck, pulling him down to her, so that her cheek was momentarily pressed against his.

Muscle-memory dictated that the next move was for him to turn his head and kiss her. Deuce fought it, and instead reached up and took her by the wrists, gently removing her arms from around his neck.

“Hey, Zee,” he said, keeping his voice level.

“Hey,” she said.

Though she had said relatively few words, her throaty, slightly husky voice just kept hitting him right in the center of his chest. He hadn’t heard it in so long, another muscle of his remembered and clenched. His heart.

COMING 2019.