SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘Young, Rich & Black’

Holding her phone between her shoulder and the side of her head, Zora stuffed her black one-piece swimsuit and a brown viscose skirt into her hobo along with an orange scarf and a long-sleeved beige t-shirt.

“You talk to Rashad since you’ve been home?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“Nope. He hit me up a couple of times, but I didn’t pick up. All we have right now to talk about at the moment is business, and I’m on Break, so …”

“Yeah, but you guys barely even broke up. After two years being together, that’s kind of cold to cut a brother off like that. And I can’t believe you’re going to hang out with Deuce Scaife again.”

“Mia,” Zora sighed. “It’s no big deal. I’m just …”

“Trying to get a little of that good-good,” her friend cackled on the other end of the line. “I don’t blame you, girl. Nothing like it to get you over the post-relationship hump. No pun intended. And if what I hear about him is true …”

the-optics-of-it-the-black-power-coupleOh, it was definitely true. But Mia didn’t need to know all that.

“Mia, I’ll call you back when I get home later. And please stop bringing up Rashad. He is definitely past tense.”

“If you say so. But dudes like Rashad don’t come a dime-a-dozen. You should …”

Zora held the phone away from her ear.

She had heard this sermon one time too many for her taste—about how Rashad was a “woke brother”, how he was on some “Barack Obama-type shit” and most of all how rare he was. That was the kind of talk that helped lead Zora into such an intense relationship with him so quickly in the first place; and it was probably also responsible for her staying in said relationship for at least one year too long.

It was just that the optics of her and Rashad were too powerful to ignore. People loved the idea of them. Together, they looked like the prototype of the ideal Black power couple—her with the dark skin and big natural, and Rashad, with his militant bearing and unrelenting scowl, staring down anyone who dared to look at him even halfway funny. And that they were co-chairs and co-founders of a Black Lives Matter chapter? That just made it even more of a modern Black American storybook romance.

When she was honest with herself, Zora admitted that it wasn’t just other people who loved the idea of her and Rashad. She had too. Until just a few months ago, she was as bought into the story as anyone else. Breaking it off had actually given her a few anxiety attacks. What if he was The One? What if she was being foolish by letting him go?

There was no question Rashad was going to be making some big moves in the next few years. He was the guy who would miss his five-year college reunion, but only because he was running for State Senate, or was a nationally-respected activist too busy to attend since he was on a speaking tour. But being in love with Rashad’s passion and drive; being enamored of his politics, and in sync with his worldview wasn’t the same as being in love, enamored with or in sync with Rashad himself. It had taken Zora a long time to acknowledge that, and now she was determined not to backslide by having anyone persuade her otherwise. She had been avoiding his calls mostly because of all the people who might attempt that persuasion, Rashad was the most persuasive of all.

Deuce Scaife was a convenient, albeit very pleasurable, antidote to that. No one could be more different from Rashad than he was. When they met up that night, completely by accident after his traffic stop, she had taken her shot, partly to see what would happen if she did; and partly because he had—much to her surprise—been just as magnetic as all the rumors suggested.

Glancing at the face of her phone, she checked the time. He would be pulling up at any minute. And since she preferred to head him off at the front door, or better yet at the curb, she needed to get downstairs fast. The last thing she wanted was for her brother, Ousmane, to spot the car outside and suggest that she invite her guest in. His, and her father’s more traditional sensibilities would be offended if she snuck out with some anonymous guy without at least introducing him for their inspection.

“Mia, let me catch up with you later,” she said, cutting her friend off mid-sentence. “I need to get out of here before Ousmane starts getting on my nerves.”

“Okay. But answer the brother’s call, Zora. Even if you’re not planning to get back with him, y’all can still do some good work together.”

In that, Mia had a point. BLM was facing a lot of negative media backlash, and along with about a dozen other college chapters, there had been talk about having a stakeholder call over the holidays to strategize on how to counter all that. The problem with decentralized movements like BLM was that a few knuckleheads; or as was the case in New York, a lone gunman with misguided motives and a history of mental illness, could blow the whole thing up in one news cycle. Just because nationally, the movement lacked the resources to coordinate a rapid-response strategy.

They had lost a lot of ground over the past few months and were in danger of losing control of the media narrative altogether. But luckily, Rashad was a master strategist. If they had a stakeholder call, Zora was confident he would have more than a few good ideas for how they might recapture their hard-earned public support.

On the handful of occasions when he had been in the media locally, Rashad had owned the interview, coming across as articulate, thoughtful and commanding of the facts. His credibility had no doubt given credibility to the movement itself. Zora still remembered the hundreds of emails and text messages he had gotten from chapters and individual supporters around the country. The buzz online about him after one particular radio interview that past spring had enabled them to raise over ten thousand dollars for their chapter in less than a week.

In a word, Rashad Dixon was impressive.

“Admiration is not love, Zora,” she whispered to herself.

Available now, exclusively on Amazon.

 

Lily’s Path to More

BMHSS Final CoverOver the past three weeks, you’ve gotten acquainted with three of the writers from my upcoming collaboration, ‘Because My Heart Said So’. One by one, Jacinta Howard, Rae Lamar and I have submitted to the inquisition of the author who has played the role of project manager, house-mother and general herder-of-the-cats, Lily Java. Sure, she had her character Sydney from ‘Because My Heart Said So’ do the actual interviews, but that is consistent with who Lily is—she gets people to ‘do stuff’, adding a process where there were previously only “cool ideas”. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that without her tenacity in pursuing the “cool idea” of a collection of Friends-to-Lovers stories, this book would not have happened.

So, along with Jacinta and Rae, I am super-excited to have everyone get to know Lily Java and her stellar work. She has been the level-headed calming influence of our group, the one who keeps me on task, gently prods me back into focus when my ideas wander, and I think Jacinta and Rae would agree, pretty much the “adult in the room” when the rest of us begin to get goofy. And the fact that she’s a damn good writer whose lyrical contribution to the Collection classed up the joint? Well, that’s a bonus.

Welcome, Lily Java! We’re old friends so it seems odd to have you here for something as formal as an “interview”, particularly about something that we collaborated on. But since you had me in the hot seat at least once, I’m thrilled to be able to return the favor.

So let’s start here ‘Because My Heart Said So’ is very definitely a compilation of romance novellas, and you very well-received debut novel ‘Sticky Moon’ is not purely romance. You wowed us with that book. Why depart from that genre? Or have you departed from it?   How do you think you’ve evolved creatively from then until now?

I’m absolutely not through with the suspense genre. There are two more romantic suspense novels in me fighting to get out. One, I plan to publish in the fall. But the mini—departure is definitely part of my evolution as a writer. I still feel like a virgin in this industry. So new, fresh, and dewy. It’s an odd feeling given my actual age. Before I published ‘Sticky Moon my brain was full of stories — all types. I’d been a deeply closeted writer in my head my whole life with a ton of unfinished ideas. Once I finished something for the first time, which was only about 2.5 years ago, it was like the flood gates opened and all this very disparate stuff started flying out. Then I realized that was fitting ‘cause I’m nothing if not radically independent. I never liked being put in boxes or categories so the idea of being married to one type of story didn’t sit well with my imagination. Last fall, I started trying to establish a regular writing schedule that fits sanely into my life and writing smaller stories that I could finish while also delving into other genres. I could’ve easily been a detective in another life and I adore suspense novels and movies, so it was natural for that to be my first book. But despite that, I believe love is THE strongest and most unpredictable emotion so trying to write a story without love being an element would be the most challenging for me. And relationships involving people in love interests me a lot.

Sticky MoonYour genre-hopping leads me to believe you get inspiration from varied places. Tell us about that. What inspires the different types of genres you write in? Where do those ideas come from?

Literally everything inspires it and the ideas come from everywhere. A few days ago I was trying to catch a cab and nearly collided with this woman in her seventies with fuchsia hair, wearing makeup and an outfit that resembled the wardrobe of a teenager in a bad copycat version of an eighties John Hughes coming-of-age flick. Consequently I cannot get the vision of that woman very far out of my head. Making shit up about her is on a pretty constant loop in my mind: is she the landlord for a young newlywed couple in Brooklyn who are falling out of love already as they look for a starter apartment or the dynamic aunt and sole support to a schizophrenic nephew who she fights with child services about so he can continue to live with her or is she a former disco queen whose personality is frozen in time (think creepy Betty Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane)? I don’t know yet but that woman I saw for about 10 seconds is definitely going into a story. I think the key to finding and using inspiration is not being afraid to let your mind go in a completely off-beat direction.

Everyone knows that we creative types are a little temperamental. Rae and Jacinta and I have already described the love-fest of a process for getting this book together, at least logistically speaking. But what were your greatest fears about this process? What were the best surprises about it?

We had a brutally short writing schedule for this book and I’m a slow writer. And since I’m also the type that’s always piling on to my challenges like a damn fool, I was simultaneously the primary manager for a project at my day job that if it didn’t go well I could easily have lost said job. Oh yeah, and my house was and still is, under some pretty major reconstruction that I’m overseeing alone. So consequently my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t finish the book on time.

My second biggest fear was that I’d finish the book but the story wouldn’t measure up to the incredibly talented writers I was working with. I’m not neurotic so I got over that fear fast though. I knew the other stories would be really wonderful so if mine sucked one out of three ain’t exactly bad odds for the reader. In the end, I did finish on time and I liked how my story came out. That wasn’t the biggest or even the best surprise though.

The best surprise was how well we four meshed together as people and writers, seemed to carry over into how well our stories meshed in the book. When you do a collaboration like this eventually everyone takes on a role, you find out everyone’s strengths or weaknesses and you hope fervently that you all don’t have the same strengths and weaknesses. In our case it was repetitively clear working on this project that we complemented each other in ways that were often surprising and educational.

Syd and EllTell us about your story in the ‘Because My Heart Said So’ Collection. What’s your guy like? What’s his girl like? What’s their ‘love language’ when they’re together?  

Elliott is an interesting guy. He’s at the top of his game or so everyone thinks because he’s hip, focused, and brilliant at almost anything he attempts especially managing people. He’s also a man who has always been recognized or encouraged by women and his relationships with them but, except for the women closest to him, he sees that gift only as a means to an end. He’s never been in love, nor does he particularly think he needs it and then he meets Sydney. Sydney is also interesting but in a very different way. Painfully shy, inherently quirky, studiously insightful, and stubborn are some of the words I’d use to describe her. Sydney can also be profoundly honest given that she sees most things in black or white, and rarely grey.

As for their love language both Sydney and Elliott are vivid and visual creatives. So first and foremost they bond that way. They know that artistry makes them each observant and perceptive about the world at large and consequently gives them both an intensity in how they perceive each other. But on a personal level they also see a similar dysfunctionality in their respective families and upbringing. There is a fragility and innocence to Sydney that Elliott immediately feels protective of. There are deep-seated fears in Elliott that he doesn’t quite measure up to his shiny image, which Sydney who is well acquainted with fear, scoffs at, because to her mind Elliott is very nearly perfect.

One of the things about collections of work from disparate authors is that the ‘voices’ have to vibe well for the collection to hold up. How would you characterize your voice and those of the other authors?

Nia’s voice is so current or maybe a better word for it is relevant. Whenever I read one of her books I literally feel as if her characters are echoing thoughts inside my head. A Nia Forrester book always makes me personally feel present and accounted for when I read it, which is not only validating, it’s cool. She’s also got a phenomenally sensual undercurrent running through her books that can be surprising as well as exciting because she’s clearly an intellectual. But that just goes to show you. Men? Smart girls are very sexy.

Jacinta. Where do I begin? Talk about sexy. Okay, I won’t start there. Jacinta writes intimacy in relationships better than almost anybody I’ve ever read and I’m not talking about physical intimacy. It’s almost like she tunes into what her characters think and feel emotionally with such precision that when she presents it — you can feel it. That is a neat fricking trick to have as a writer. I remember reading her the first time and just how the characters shared riddles about music became a metaphor for their closeness and I thought: Oooo, how she’d do that? And lately Jacinta is getting deeply in touch with the sensual side of her writing. I’m starting to carry fans around when I read her. I’m just saying.

I love Rae’s voice. It’s extremely memorable to me because it makes me laugh while also articulating something I think is extremely hard to share accurately in books about relationships: the fact that all humans are flawed but not necessarily tragically flawed. Rae’s characters represent the reality of how men and women actually are with each other to me – the good or bad, and often that reality is sweet and hilarious. I once asked Rae whether she was the comedienne in her family and she said no. I realized later that Rae’s funny not because she’s trying to be, but because she’s telling the truth.

My voice? That’s easy. Moody, graphic, esoteric — but hopefully not frustratingly so. There’s so much going on under the surface with my characters, to use a well-oiled phrase, a lotta deep shit. I think I have a tendency to make all my characters seem relatively important to the overall story, even the minor ones, because everybody’s got a place here, right? Speaking of place even a setting can play a defining role in how things pan out. Basically there are so many intriguing layers to people and places, it’s very hard for me to forget that when I write.

People always want to know what authors are like, personality-wise—the people behind the pen can be somewhat of a mystery. Give me one word that tells readers something they don’t otherwise know about each of the authors of ‘Because My Heart Said So’, yourself included.

Nia — hypothesizer

Jacinta — designer

Rae — diplomat

Lily – solutionist

-Your voice is really unique, particularly in the black romance genre. If you could pinpoint one characteristic you possess that you feel aids you in your writing approach, what would it be and why.

I have been an avid reader practically all my life. There is nothing that gives the visual and imaginary part of my brain a better, more thorough workout than reading all kinds of things, and all the time. It primes my pump if you get my drift. Geez, that’s like a joke. How many clichés can you put in one sentence? But what can I say, it’s the truth.

-What’s your biggest writing fear?

Running out of time before I can write my best work.

-Indie publishing can be incredibly taxing at times for most writers. Has there ever been a time when you thought about no longer pursuing writing, as in actively publishing books? If so why and what convinced you to continue pursuing your craft?

From the summer of 2013 when this all started for me until now I only thought about no longer doing this once. I’d release ‘Sticky Moon’ a month earlier than I wanted to because of my husband. By that time he was too sick to read it but I’d been reading passages to him for nearly a year. And he was in essence my strongest source of support and encouragement for almost three decades. He’d been telling me to write forever so when those blinders fell from my eyes there was one person happier than me – him. He died seven weeks after I published my first book and for ten months after that I thought it had been a fluke. I’d written SM as some weird cathartic therapy trip and woe is me I’d never be able to pull it off again. You know that sort of nonsense. But underneath it all, I knew it was bullshit. Yeah I’d lost my #1 fan who also happen to be a fab editor and that can be debilitating for a writer. Writers may write for themselves but they also thrive on recognition of their efforts and their vision. To know someone “gets” you? Sheeeit that’s everything.

So what convinced me to get back on the horse? I took one of those weird quizzes on social media and it said that my one defining trait was ambition. And it even showed a drawing of someone literally reaching for the stars in the sky. That shocked me. No, it floored me. I’d always associated ambition with the material wealth and the circumstances that go with it and that has never been me or what I’m about. However, keeping my eye on the ball and how to catch said ball, has always been important to me. I am one of those people who is excessively goal-oriented about things I want to accomplish. Turns out that’s ambition and I don’t think I‘ve ever been happier with an accomplishment than I am when I write books.

If you could pinpoint one moment in the ‘Because My Heart Said So’ collaboration as being the most memorable what would it be?

For me that would be when we made the decision to read each other’s stories. As a group the four of us have been fairly democratic in our decision making. In the beginning we decided that we wouldn’t read each other’s work until the day the book was released. Shortly after we submitted the book for pre-order when it was still in its draft phase the concerns started mounting. We put it to a vote and it was decided we should read the work in its entirety to figure out whether the four stories worked together or whether each individual story worked at all. Everyone got a lot calmer after we did read it, you could literally hear the breathy sighs of relief through the computer screens. That was the first and only time I felt we had a real crisis of faith in the project.

This collection has spurred a lot of interest in each of the authors individually and collectively. Where do you see your creative path taking you as an author personally? And where, if anywhere, do you see the collaboration with these particular authors going?

When I sit down and think about it, I know I have at least ten more novels in me, maybe more. I occasionally think at some point I’ll try being a hybrid writer if only so I can admit once and for all how absolutely impossible I am to micromanage and control. 😉 I also want to write a play and a screenplay. So, that’s where my creative path takes me to… more.

I see this collaboration as a blessing for all of us so I believe it should blossom into more writing as well, definitely more books. I’d like to see us take on another theme or maybe even two. I see us being substantively supportive to each other’s individual writing goals too. I’m going to contradict myself here because that in fact, may be the best surprise to have happened in this collaboration, the establishment of trust that in our little quartet there is someone who “gets” our voice and is enthusiastic about it being heard by as many people as possible.

And where can readers find you online?

Website: http://www.lilyjava.com

Twitter: @LilyJavaWrites

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

Amazon Author Page

About Lily Java

Lily Java2When she isn’t indulging her new found writing superpower, Lily raises funds for culturally rich arts organizations planning events in the iconic landmarks of one of her favorite cities in the world, New York. Other times she dotes on the artists she lives with (her family) hoping they’ll reciprocate by letting her feed her passions for reading and writing without feeling neglected or getting all grumpy about it. Lily doesn’t fly or wear a cape (presently) but she does read the minds of the characters she writes about, who come to her in multiple genres as well as all sizes, shapes, and colors. A true ambivert, Lily enjoys solitude just as much as she likes meeting and talking with other passionate readers and writers.

 

‘Because My Heart Said So…’ – A Friends-to-Lovers Collection

Because My Heart Said So Launch Promo

This is going to be one of the coolest things I get to do this year, for sure. I’m collaborating with three of my favorite indie authors, Jacinta Howard, Rae Lamar and Lily Java to bring you ‘Because My Heart Said So …’ a collection of four Friends-to-Lovers novels to be released in June. Until then, we’re getting you better acquainted with the four stories, four couples, and of course the four writers who will be bringing them to you.

Join us on our Facebook page here for exclusive content, giveaways and a chance to connect with the authors from now up until our June release date.

And BONUS: Just in case you can’t wait that long, Jacinta Howard has a new release this month! ‘Finding Kennedy’, the next installment in the bestselling Prototype series drops on MAY 20th!

traviskennedyreference2

For a sample from ‘Finding Kennedy’, visit the author here.


 

Finding Jacinta Howard

Well, she hasn’t been missing. But it’s been a while since we heard from Jacinta Howard, and only because she was working on a couple of exciting new projects. First, on May 20th, she releases the next installment in her bestselling Prototype Series.

Finding Kennedy CoverWell, she hasn’t been missing. But it’s been a while since we heard from Jacinta Howard, and only because she was working on a couple of exciting new projects. First, on May 20th, she releases the next installment in her bestselling Prototype Series. Remember ‘HAPPINESS IN JERSEY’? Catch up with Zay and Jersey, and then fall in love again, with Travis and Kennedy. Coming May 20, 2016. More about her other project later. First check this out …

From ‘FINDING KENNEDY’:

We rode for what felt like forever. Until my mind quieted. Until the noise in my head was less than a hum. Until the vibrations of the bike were even with my breaths.

We pulled up to a place that sort of looked like a small house that’d been gutted and turned into a storefront. The entire street was lined with quaint buildings like it. It smelled like fall– crisp and clean. “Evan’s” was written on the sign that hung just over the front door.

“Where are we?” I asked once I’d pulled my helmet off, smoothing my braid, which was hanging over one shoulder. My body was still humming, coming down from the high of our ride. I was still seated on his bike and watched as Travis removed his helmet, raking his fingers through his hair.

“In Allen, just outside Dallas. I wanted a beignet and some wings,” he said, nodding toward front door of Evan’s as he climbed off.

A small smile touched his lips, and he helped me off the bike. “Was the ride too much?”  he asked, watching as I stretched my arms above my head.

“It was perfect.”

He smiled, brushing a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

“This place is owned by a cat named Evan from back home,” Travis explained, as I looked around. “It’s pretty low key,” he offered, reading my expression. “And it’s old school, so no TVs.”

I looked down at my boots.

“I gotta warn you though, dude is a little… off.”

“Off?” I met his eyes again, grinning.

 “Last time I was in here, he was trying to tell me that world is actually flat. Like, he argued me down about it. Got all animated and shit, talking about how Antarctica is really an ice wall.”

I laughed and he shook his head, his dimple showing as he chuckled.

“Why does he think the earth is flat?”

“Your guess is good as mine. I tried to follow what the hell he was talking about– something about gravity being an illusion, and the earth really being a disc.”

I laughed, eyeing him. He smiled and grabbed my hand, interlacing our fingers as we walked together toward the entrance.

“I kept thinking he was gonna laugh, but it never came,” he continued. “All he kept saying was ‘stay woke.’” He widened his eyes, looking like a zombie, and I laughed.

“And you still come here?” I asked as we paused in front of the door.

 “You know how hard it is to find a good beignet in Texas?” He raised his brows.

“But beignets and wings?” 

He nodded his gaze sweeping over me, landing on my boots. He grinned then met my eyes again.

 “My taste is particular.”

“Guilty pleasure?” 

“Nah,” he said, his eyes turning serious despite the playful grin on his face. “I don’t believe in that. You should never feel guilty for enjoying what brings you pleasure.”

A half hour later, we were seated at one of the plush booths, and I was completely in love. Evan’s was the coolest place I’d ever been—part restaurant, part bookstore, part record store. It smelled like vinyl and sugar. I chewed slowly, smiling at Travis who was watching me intently, waiting for my response since I’d told him I’d never actually had a beignet.

“So what’s the word, baby doll?”

I swallowed, relishing the sweetness of the pastry, and grinned.

Yum.”

He laughed, stuffing the last of his into his mouth. Sly Stone’s “Just Like a Baby” played from the speakers, the lazy groove filling the space, seeping into my bones, relaxing me. Or maybe that was just Travis’s energy. I’d expected this day to be like last year, unbearable, too drenched in reality. But I felt almost… dreamlike. The sadness, the ache was still there, but it was hazy instead of overpowering. I could breathe with Travis. 

JHowardConnect with Jacinta Howard
“Thanks to Jacinta Howard’s skill in making Jersey and the rest of the cast colorful and solid,  [Happiness in Jersey] is full of flavor, while offering a mix of life lessons to ponder long after reading.”—USA TODAY


Babymaking: A Tracy and Brendan Drop-in

BabymakingThis is an unedited excerpt from a longer piece, coming in 2017:

Given that it was almost one a.m., Brendan was sure Tracy had long departed seriously-pissed-off and was somewhere approaching ballistic. But there hadn’t been any way to avoid it. The men he’d been entertaining all evening had flown in from Dubai. They were young Saudi sheiks, or sons of entrepreneurs or some such thing, with money to burn and looking to invest in music.

The Saudis were always hard to shake. When they came to the States they didn’t just expect to be shown a good time. No, these guys wanted pure debauchery. Strip clubs, loose women, hard liquor—the whole nine yards. That was the part of his business that Brendan seldom talked about with Tracy. She didn’t like him being around women in power-suits let alone those in G-strings shaking their tail in his face. And while Brendan never partook in that manner of festivity, he was definitely expected to be along for the ride.

Tonight, his charge had been a twenty-three year old with a potential $2.5 million investment who happened to like blondes. But he and his entourage had two very specific requests: full nudity and twerking. Easy enough in New York City, right? Wrong. Because dude also wanted them to have big butts. Like, really big. The stripper aesthetic differed from city to city, and big butts were more of a down South thing. New York clubs were more into toned and athletic girls, some of them more on the slender side. So they’d been to three clubs before Karim or Jahir or whatever-the-hell-his-name-was had found the perfect dancer who met his and his friends’ requirements. And then they’d spent the better part of three hours making it rain. What should have been a perfectly respectable evening having a few early drinks with potential business associates had turned into a frat boy’s wet dream.

And a husband’s nightmare.

Brendan couldn’t hear her as he opened the front door—the house was completely silent—but he knew for a fact that Tracy was wide awake. Wide awake and waiting.

Making his way up the stairs slowly, he tried to avoid the loud spots, but of course, failed. The door to the master bedroom, which was directly opposite the top of the stairs, was ajar. They were staying in Brooklyn these days, in the house that Tracy owned before they got married. Layla was starting to need more space and they’d agreed that the apartment in the city had way too many perils, not the least of which was the beautiful but child-unfriendly spiral staircase that led up to the loft.

Pausing before going in, Brendan instead decided to go check in on his little girl. The second bedroom, once Tracy’s home office, had been transformed into an explosion of pink, ruffles and butterflies, at the center of which was a “princess sleigh-bed”. And in the center of that bed, his baby girl lay, sleeping sweet little-girl dreams, her long wild, reddish-auburn hair spread around her head like a halo, her rosebud mouth slightly open, her breaths soft and even.

Smiling, Brendan knelt next to the bed and inhaled, kissing her lightly on the cheek and then on the forehead. In her sleep, Layla stretched out her arms, waiting to be lifted. He smiled, and gently pushed her arms back down to the covers. Around the time she turned a year old, things had been so hectic at work that he rarely made it home before her bedtime. So it had been his practice, as he had done tonight, to go into her room just to pick her up, hold her while she slept and walk back and forth in her room for a few minutes. The weight and warmth of this incredibly beautiful little being—the most amazing thing he had ever done in his life—was something he couldn’t even begin to describe.

Tonight he didn’t pick her up, but just looked, smelled her, kissed her and went back down the hall to face his wife.

When he opened the door to the master suite, Tracy was sitting up in bed, back straight as though she was in a yoga pose, her hair loose about her shoulders, arms folded on her lap, and legs stretched in front of her atop the covers. Still the most beautiful woman he had ever known, Tracy struck him right in the chest and in the gut whenever he walked into a room and caught sight of her. Tonight was no different.

“Is it important to you that we have another baby?” she asked, without greeting him first. Her voice was scarily calm.

Trick question, incoming.

“Of course it is. You know me. If it was up to me, we’d have a few more.”

“It is up to you, Brendan. All you have to do is make it home during the window.”

“Let’s not talk about ‘the window’ at one-thirty in the morning. I don’t think I have it in me right now to talk about ‘the window’.”

“According to the book, it’s our best chance for …”

“I know. You read The Book to me every morning for the last few months while I’m trying to get dressed for work, so I know all about it.”

“So you know today is …”

“Yep. I know. Ovulation Day.”

Brendan shed his shirt and began working on his pants. As exasperated as he was by the conversation, he was mostly relieved that she wasn’t angry after all. By Tracy standards, this was nothing short of a miracle. His wife was not one to take it well when things didn’t go according to plan. Particularly if the plan was hers.

“Are you making fun of this process?”

“Nope. Not at all.”

Tossing his clothes over the back of the bedroom armchair, he turned toward the bed, pausing only to switch off the overhead lighting, throwing the room into almost complete darkness. The only illumination came from the hallway where they always kept a dim light on in case they needed to make their way to Layla’s bedroom in the middle of the night.

Climbing on to the bed, Brendan grabbed his wife by the ankles and pulled her toward him, causing her to topple onto her back.

“Brendan!”

“Shh,” he said, spreading her legs. “You’re going to wake Layla.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” Tracy asked as he grasped her behind the knees and lifted her legs.

“We’re about to make a baby …”

“No.” Tracy said.

“No?”

“No, Brendan. It’s too late now. And anyway, you don’t get to come in here smelling like a distillery, hours later than you promised and get some purely-for-enjoyment sex.”

“What’s wrong with purely-for-enjoyment sex?” he asked, turning his head to kiss along her inner thigh. “That’s the only kind we used to have, remember?”

“I remember.”

Her voice had softened somewhat and she sighed as he made his way up her right thigh toward the apex, and her chest had begun to rise and fall more visibly. Baring his teeth, he nipped her lightly and was rewarded with Tracy swatting him on top of his head.

“You suck,” she said. “We missed the window because of you.”

“I don’t suck,” Brendan said sliding a hand up and under her nightshirt. “But I will …” He tweaked a nipple and Tracy’s pelvis lifted off the bed.

“You always think you can placate me with sex,” she said.

“Because I always can.” Brendan moved up her body so that finally, they were face-to-face.

Tracy’s greenish-amber eyes blinked slowly, and her perfect bow-shaped lips curled into a smile. Her hair was wild and disheveled, spread around her head and shoulders on the pillow. It caught what little light there was, so that it seemed streaked in gold.

Brendan smiled back, and for a few long moments they just looked at each other. He loved the hell out of this woman, with all her edges, and moods and complications. But among the things he loved most was how hopeless she was at hiding all she felt for him. Even now, pissed as she was, he saw it in those incredible eyes of her.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I should’ve been here.”

Tracy reached up and swatted the top of his head again. “Yeah. You should have,” she said quietly. And then a pause. “So … where were you?”

Brendan froze, weighing the odds that Tracy’s surprisingly mellow mood would persist if he told her the complete truth. He felt her legs, wrapped around his torso slacken a little.

“Out with a potential investor. Young guy from the Middle East. He wanted a little … Western-style entertainment.”

“So you were at a … country-and-western bar?” Tracy asked sweetly.

“No,” Brendan said slowly. “Not exactly.”

“Brendan …” Tracy’s voice hardened.

“Sweetheart …”

“Brendan, tell me you weren’t at a …”

“Yes. But I swear I didn’t enjoy it.”

Tracy thrashed around beneath him, trying to get free, and shoving fruitlessly against his chest. “Get off me,” she ordered.

“Tracy, c’mon.”

“C’mon nothing! You know how I feel about those places, and yet you …”

“I go where the investors and clients want to go, Tracy. You know that. You think I want some sweaty-assed chick who’s been groped by a dozen guys grinding on me?”

“What do you mean grinding on you? Did you get a freakin’ lap-dance?”

Brendan sighed and rolled over onto his back. “No, sweetheart, I didn’t get a lap-dance.”

“You’d better not have, Brendan. Or …”

“Okay, okay. Let’s fight about this tomorrow. Are we having sex or not?”

“Not.”

“Fine. G’night then. I’m exhausted.”

After getting up to switch off the bathroom light, Brendan climbed back into bed. Next to him, though they weren’t touching, he felt Tracy’s tension and wakefulness. She could never sustain her anger at him for very long. She flared, and then she cooled, and then they were all over each other again. Knowing that by morning the whole disagreement would be a thing of the past made it much easier for Brendan to be sanguine about it. Still, it would probably take her another hour to drift off as she tried to talk herself down from her annoyance, while he could already feel himself slipping beneath the soft cloak of sleep. His wife was nothing if not intense; and once she made up her mind to do something she was single-minded until it was accomplished. And having a second baby was definitely her new mission.

The pregnancy with Layla had been far from uneventful. Even their daughter’s conception had happened somewhat against the odds. Tracy had been on and off the pill, and only occasionally having periods. And Brendan definitely hadn’t been trying to get her pregnant back then, because they weren’t married. He only began to reconcile himself to fatherhood—and acknowledge how much he wanted it—when Tracy almost miscarried in her first trimester. But after Layla was born, that was it, he was all the way gone, and the future he imagined for them included a large family.

But unlike Tracy, he was willing to trust that it would all happen in the fullness of time—they didn’t need to orchestrate everything. But because family, their family, was Tracy’s only occupation—since she had left her job to be a full-time homemaker a year after they married—Brendan was happy to let her be in charge of all things home-related, including the baby-making. The problem was, knowing his wife, if she couldn’t have even a modicum of control over the process, she would grow increasingly tense.

“Hey,” he said to her in the dark.

“What?”

“Come closer.”

He heard and felt Tracy move toward him, but still, they didn’t touch.

“Closer,” he said again.

This time he felt her arm brush against his.

Closer.”

“Brendan …”

He dragged Tracy closer still, so that her head was on his chest and his arm. Heaving a deep sigh, he shut his eyes again. “Good. There,” he said. “That’s where you’re supposed to be.”

“You still suck,” Tracy whispered.

Love Bites: A little somehing for my readers

‘Mother’‘Wife’ red-love-background-wallpaper

I like to say ‘I don’t write romance’. And I believe that. But I do write about love, and all its many complications. It’s my singular writing ambition, capturing the love of a man for a woman, a woman for a man, a mother for their child, between siblings, and sometimes the fleeting flash of something like love that springs up between strangers.

So, on this Day of Love, I share a few little ‘bites’ of love from my work, featuring men I fell in love with as I wrote them., and a woman who never knew love who came to me in my sleep one night. Happy Valentines Day, readers.

Love and Peace to you,

Nia


WHAT REAL LOVE LOOKS LIKE

“So what’re you doing? You got anything planned?”

“Nope.”

“No?”

“Nothing?”

Shawn looked up at his friends’ startled faces and laughed. “I have a sensible, levelheaded woman at home, unlike some of us.” He looked in Brendan’s direction. “So she won’t be flippin’ out and actin’ all crazy if I don’t have hearts and chocolate and a dozen roses in hand when I get home on February fourteenth.”

“You lyin’, man,” Chris said sucking his teeth. “No way you stayed married all these years without doin’ anything on Valentine’s Day.”

“I didn’t say I don’t do anything. Just that my wife doesn’t need all those dramatic gestures that y’all talkin’ ‘bout.”

Brendan swallowed a gulp of his Hennessey and shook his head. “I’m not buyin’ it either. Even if your wife were one of the founders of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, spends her days picketing against American consumerist culture and her nights blogging about the scourge of poverty in the developing world, she would still want you to do something big for her on Valentine’s Day.”

“Hell, Riley probably is one of the founding members of Occupy Wall Street, and probably does spend her nights blogging about poverty,” Chris said dryly.

Shawn laughed again. “Shut up. So what? My woman’s about something more than shopping and looking pretty.”

“Why you keep lookin’ at me?” Brendan said, feigning outrage. “Tracy likes nice things. And I like giving them to her. What’s wrong with that?”

“If I thought ‘nice things’ would do the trick with Robyn, I’d go that route, but …” Chris shrugged. “When we were just kickin’ it, I gave her a twenty-five thousand dollar bag and she just yawned at that shit.”

“Give her a baby,” Shawn suggested. “We know she likes those.”

Chris shot him a look. “Don’t even joke like that, man. I’m done. I’ve been thinking of getting snipped on the sly just to shut that down once and for all.”

“Yeah, you are one baby-making motherfucka, that’s for sure,” Brendan chimed in. “But don’t get snipped. I heard if you do your dick won’t get hard anymore.”

Shawn laughed. “Don’t listen to him …”

“Ain’t nobody payin’ his dumb-ass no mind,” Chris said shaking his head.

Boys’ nights out like this had become fewer and farther between in the last year, but after a business meeting earlier that day that all three of them had attended purely by coincidence, Shawn coaxed his two best friends into dinner and then drinks. Things were different now, so they all had women at home they had to check in with before they could head out to Mastro’s Steakhouse for a rich meal, followed by drinks in the bar at a small, exclusive boutique hotel.

Watching Chris in particular make his way over to a private corner to tell his wife he wasn’t coming home straightaway that evening was particularly satisfying. Who would have thought? Chris Scaife, married—and happily at that—with two kids under three years old at home. If there had been anyone he would have given the label ‘confirmed bachelor’, Chris Scaife would have been it. But even he got taken out by Cupid’s arrow.

It had been entertaining watching him fight it though. Shawn recalled with amusement the occasions before they were married when Chris and Robyn visited with him and Riley, or came to parties at their home. Chris had been a ball of coiled awareness, his eyes involuntarily following Robyn around the room, his body growing tense when someone of the masculine persuasion approached and spoke to her.

Shawn remembered even more keenly what those days had been like in his own relationship. Riley had been his singular obsession until he finally came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going anywhere. He’d proposed to her before he truly knew and accepted that, and for the first few months of their marriage, he felt like he’d somehow tricked her into something … lured her into a trap that he knew he had no earthly intention of letting her get out of. It was an entire year—and a shitty one at that—before he could allow himself to truly believe she wanted to be there.

Glancing over at the clock atop the old English pub-style bar, Shawn saw that it was just past ten p.m. This was about the time Riley would be getting ready for bed. Their nights were early ones when he was home. His son, Cullen was a little bit of a hellion, who, when he was awake tore through the house like a freight train and just as noisy. Because Shawn still traveled a fair amount, whenever he was home, he kept his kids close; and Cullen especially followed him around, sometimes mirroring his every move.

His daughter was different. At three years old, she was quiet and a loner and … graceful. He had no other word for it. Already, she was a little lady with a gentle disposition and a seemingly innate sense of calm. Like her mother.
Neither of his kids was ever far from his thoughts. And Riley, of course, she was everything.

Turning away from the clock, Shawn signaled to the bartender to bring him another drink. He could afford to stay out awhile because according to his wife, getting the kids to bed was twice as difficult when he was home, because to them, Daddy equaled playtime. But still, Shawn loved being there in that magic hour before bed, and particularly loved watching the rituals. Riley had a little refrain she repeated to them: Bath-Time, Book-Time, Bedtime. So now they’d started saying it as well, like it was one word.

Mama, I don’t want to go bathtime-booktime-bedtime, Cullen would whine, shaking his head from side to side.

I know, darling, Riley would say before scooping them both up, one under each arm.
She never argued, cajoled and bribed their kids, but just gently … handled them, getting whatever needed to be done done, while Shawn looked on in awe, wondering how in the heck it was that he’d lucked out like this. So the hell with Valentine’s Day. He knew what real love looked like.

But … maybe he’d get the flowers and candy anyway. And throw in a nice piece of jewelry. Just in case.

 


 

open roadBackstory for Jayson from ‘Mistress’, ‘Wife’ and ‘Mother’. This is from his travels after he left Keisha in ‘Mistress’) and while he was falling in love with her, though he didn’t know it was happening.

Journey: Jayson’s Travel Journals

March 20
Allentown, PA

There was one dude on the block who kept a journal when I was inside. Muslim brother. He wrote all the time, day and night. Kept his head down, his lips moving as he wrote. I couldn’t tell whether he was praying or talking to himself. One time I asked him what he was mumbling about and he smiled.

“Talking to Allah, my brother,” he told me. “Al-Raḥmān, al-Raḥīm.”

His name was Ahmad. He never got into it with anybody and everyone left him alone. He wasn’t a prison Muslim, he was a real deal zealot, who was inside because he’d beat his teenage daughter to within an inch of her life when he found out she had a boyfriend. His case was in the papers and on television a lot because folks were a still looking cross-eyed at all Muslims because of 9/11.

I asked Ahmad about his case one time. Which broke code. You weren’t supposed to ask anybody about their case. But I asked because Ahmad looked like the most peace-loving dude you would ever meet, and seeing on television what he’d done to his own flesh and blood, I just couldn’t believe it. That he would do something like that.

“Man’s law, or the law of the Allah?” he’d responded. “Which should I choose? Lā ilāha illā Allāh”

Some of the other Muslims told me Ahmad was full of shit. And that if he truly followed God’s law, he would understand compassion. Rumor had it, Ahmad planned to finish the job he’d started on his daughter when he got out.
The only thing I guess I learned from Ahmad was that writing things down can be purifying. So I’m writing.

When I left New York yesterday, it was already dark. I thought about leaving at first light, but didn’t know whether I’d want to leave if I waited one more day. Especially after seeing Keisha. She cried before I left. Real tears, fat drops rolling down her face and dripping off the tip of her chin. And I wanted to stay to comfort her, but knew I couldn’t because then it might get really hard to leave. And I had to, because I have some things to work out, and on top of all that, I’m not sure I trust her. I want her. I like her; hell, maybe more than like her . . . but I definitely don’t trust her. And what kind of messed-up shit is that? To want a woman you can’t even trust.


So I had to leave.

Right now I’m in a Motel 6 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I don’t know why except that I saw the exit signs and decided to check it out, because of that Billy Joel song. From my room, it looks like a depressing place to live. The song was depressing too now that I think about it—all about how someplace that was brimming and alive practically died.

That’s how I feel sometimes. Like maybe I died when I was inside. Not physically, but in other ways. In prison, I was Inmate # 01-B-8746 and now I’m not even that. And I’m not the Jayson Holmes who went in either–that cocky bastard got the shit beat out of him three days after he went in. So who am I now?

That’s what this journey cross-country is about. Finding out.

I won’t write anymore tonight. Too tired. A little scared. Wondering what the hell I’m doing traveling hundreds of miles away. I had to tell my P.O. because I have a five year tail on my sentence. He didn’t have to approve it but he did. His name’s Chester. Older white dude who looks like he’s been doing this for dog-years. He has runny eyes, a cloudy blue. Behind his glasses he stared at me when I told him my plan to travel and see the country. I expected him to ask me why, or what I was planning to do out there. I expected him to be suspicious. But he didn’t seem to be.

“I hope you find it,” he said.

I didn’t even tell him I was looking for anything. I didn’t even know for sure that I was. But I guess I am looking for something. And I hope to God I find it.


Journey: Jayson’s Travel Journals

March 22


I thought about heading south to Philly, but that seemed kind of obvious. So instead, today I headed west towards the Appalachian Mountains in the direction of Pittsburgh. I stopped once, so I could call Chloe. She sounded like she was crying but trying to hide it. I think she believes I’ll never come back. I wanted to tell her that the only way for me to really ‘come back’ is to go on this trip. See, I never really came back home from prison. For the longest time, working in Rey’s garage, going home to that small room in his house, sleeping with a bunch of women I didn’t care about … that wasn’t me, that was me in limbo, waiting for Jayson to come back. Like I was asleep and going through the motions of the dream, waiting to wake up.

In Altoona, a woman tried to pick me up in the parking lot of a gas station with a little diner attached. I thought she was just looking for a quick hook-up, and was thinking that maybe she had a hotel room nearby or something. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days and her breath smelled like crap, too. It took me a minute to realize that she was a hooker, one of those they call ‘lot lizards’, who walk through truck stops and do tricks for like ten or twenty bucks a pop. And once I realized what she was, I saw about a dozen other women like her. Kinda messed with my head a little, that I couldn’t even recognize hookers when I saw them.

What the hell am I doing out here?

My cousin Ty used to pay crackheads to suck his dick once in awhile. I could never do it. When he made fun of me, I told him it was because I was too attached to my dick and couldn’t imagine putting it just anywhere. He looked like he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Ty. Stupid-ass Tyrone. One of these days, I’ll stop being mad at him, but I’m sure as hell not there yet. Not even close.

I wanted to call Keisha when I found a motel for the night. Just before I closed my eyes, I thought about her and the way she says my name. Jaaay, with the ‘aaaa’ elongated, like she’s caressing it with her tongue. Caressing it with her tongue. Yeah, that’s just what I need to be thinking about right now. I shouldn’t be thinking about that, or about her at all. So I’m going to just stop. For now anyway.

Until maybe tomorrow.


Journey: Jayson’s Travel Journals

March 27
Canton, Ohio

I fell in love while I was locked up. Nah. Not with a dude. Although that does happen, even to guys who weren’t gay before they came in. I have a theory, that the human heart is like that—it seeks out something, or someone to love. And if you live an unfulfilled life, it’s only because you never found that person, or that passion which filled your heart to capacity.

My third year in, I thought I found that. Her name was Donna Pierce. She was a law student in her final year of school who came onto the unit as part of a re-entry program. They showed us films about guys on the inside preparing to get out and coming to terms with the things they’d done, the time they missed and the lives they’d ruined. After the film, Donna led a discussion where I guess we inmates were supposed to see something of ourselves in the men on film.

Though she put up an image like she was comfortable sitting around on the unit with a bunch of beefy, horny convicts, I could tell that Donna was nervous. She didn’t know what to do with her arms and legs when she sat and spent lots of time arranging them, probably trying not to be too alluring. But hell, when you’re locked up, it doesn’t take much. Anything that bears hints of the feminine will make your dick hard. And Donna bore more than just hints. She had shoulder-length hair that she wore out whenever she came to the prison, and a deep, rich complexion that reminded me of Belgian dark chocolate. And her eyes, black as coal.

I remember the eyes and complexion now, but at the time I was more focused on her hands, slender and graceful, the slight hint of breasts she had—they were small, but more than enough for a dude in prison—and her beautiful, curvaceous hips. I went to watch her films, but never participated in the discussion afterwards, though I sat there staring at her. I mean, I hadn’t done a crime, so what the hell did any of that have to do with me, right? That’s what I thought at the time; that I was somehow going to come out of prison different or better than the other dudes who actually had done a crime. Stupid.

One day, after one of her screenings, Donna approached me. Usually the guys descended on her like locusts, asking questions they didn’t care about the answers to. This time, as I was about to saunter away, she stopped me. She didn’t just stop me, she touched me. She touched my arm. That was like lighting a fucking forest fire, having a woman touch me, all soft and gentle like that.

“Hey,” she said. “What’s your name? You always come to these discussions, but you never talk.”

“I’m Jayson,” I said.

And just that quickly, just because she looked at me in the eye, and because she was female and pretty and touched me with an intention other than custody and control, I was in love. Donna came back many times after that, and for a while, it seemed like she loved me too.

But that’s a story for another day.


dsc_0100BETTER OFF NOW

Maintaining the fiction of a perfect marriage–that had been the most difficult part. From the outside, had anyone known what was happening to Helen, they would have assumed the beatings were the worst of it. But they would have been wrong. If there was a way to rate levels of unhappiness, Helen would have put them in this order:

One; pretending–to family, friends and co-workers that the reason she walked so slowly, sat so carefully and wore such thick pancake makeup had nothing to do with anything of consequence, because of COURSE things at home were fine; of course she loved her husband and he loved her; and of course, he would never do anything so terrible as raise a hand to her.

Two; waiting to be hit–there was no way to characterize that other than ’emotional terrorism’. ‘Abuse’ seemed far too tame a word to describe what Brett put her through. The days and weeks and sometimes even months of sweetness, romantic gestures, gifts and praise, were all a cruel wind-up to the main event, which was always, always unexpected. On one occasion, he had immediately consoled Helen when she tearfully–and fearfully–confessed to having scratched his prized black Range Rover. But yet, her forgetting to get his favorite salad dressing led to a beating that cracked her front tooth, dislocated her jaw, broke a rib and landed her in hospital for a week.

Three; the beatings themselves–they ranked lowest on the list of things that had been difficult about being married to Brett. No one would believe her if she said it aloud, but it was true. The beatings were sometimes sweet relief. They validated her fear (‘See,’ she would think as he stomped on her abdomen. ‘Of course I should be afraid, because this is what he can do!’) and they externalized the pain she carried around inside all the time. The force of a fist on the side of her face, making her eye feel as though it might explode, only matched the resounding ache she had inside every moment of every single day.

Helen never told anyone any of this. She maintained her silence throughout her trial; she maintained it to her parents and Brett’s, and even with her defense attorney. No one understood how and why she stabbed her childhood sweetheart to death while he slept. They assumed she must have gone quite mad. That was her defense–temporary insanity. Helen let her attorney say that, because she didn’t much care about the outcome of her trial. Sitting in her cell, from the night she’d been arrested and even now that she’d been transferred to the prison following her conviction, Helen said nothing.

Because what she thought the moment she knew Brett was dead remained true, no matter where she was. What she thought then, and still thought every day, was, ‘I am better off now.’


SAMPLE(S) SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ and ‘Ivy’s League’

Wine w WritersI like to write about women, figuring out who they are and what their “stuff” is. You know what I mean, right? The things that drive them, the things that hold them back, the things that block them from having the kind of life they deserve. That’s it. If I had to sum up the central theme of every single thing I write, that would be it.

And if I had to sum up my approach to writing, it would be “searching for realism.” I am rarely (okay, never) completely satisfied with anything I write, but on the occasions that I am somewhat satisfied, it’s because I think I may have struck a note of realism close to what I wanted.

For that reason, I love ‘Ivy’s League’. Love. Ivy has more than a few personal characteristics that I relate to, or have myself. But more than that, her story was one that felt real to me, and unfolded completely organically on the page–I didn’t map or chart it out, or even know where she would end up, I just let it happen as I wrote. And I also love that in her life, there’s an absence of drama other than the purely personal and domestic kind; her struggles are those that most women face in one form or another. But I’m not going to say too much more about Ivy since I’m doing an online Book Chat about her story today at 7 PM EDT, here.

And of course, I’ll be at Wine with Writers in person in two weeks. Tickets are going pretty fast, so get yours now, if you’re going to be in the DC/MD/VA area. I’ll be hanging out with Tia Kelly and Xyla Turner, talking books and drinking wine and signing my brand new release (slated for release just before ‘Wine with Writers’) ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’.

So … about Miri: I know some folks have been anxiously waiting for her. And honestly, I had a hard time understanding why. Miri was a quiet and small character for me. Someone who lived in the shadow of the much larger characters of her brothers. So writing about her was challenging. Here’s a little secret. If writers struggle, it’s for one reason only: we’re having a hard time figuring out what our characters want, and how (or whether) to have them get it.

Apart from life getting in the way of our writing, there is pretty much no other reason for writers being “blocked” other than that. And until we figure those things out, the book just ain’t gon’ come. Miri, now that her story is about to be released, remains in some ways a small and quiet character. But I figured out what she wants, and whether (and how) she gets it. So she’s on her way in very short order.

In the meantime, I thought I’d let you visit with these two very different women–both of whom have just enough slice of “real” to satisfy me. And I hope you as well.

Happy Reading!

N.


Eduardo promoFrom ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’. Coming Soon.

The sound of the door opening and shutting sent Miri scurrying back to the bed, clutching the sheets around her naked form. And then she felt silly. After all that happened the previous evening, shyness seemed ridiculous. So, while she listened to the movement in the next room, she found a t-shirt and pulled it on, recalling that Duardo had offered her one the night before, though she never got around to putting it, or anything else, on. Taking a moment to check her hair—which was pretty much a disaster—Miri went out to join him in the living area, pausing only to brush her teeth with her fingers in his small bathroom, and to splash water on her face.

Buenas días.”

Duardo looked up when she entered and spoke to him but did not answer.

Expecting some warmth, or acknowledgment of the previous evening, and not getting it, Miri was disappointed. Instead, his expression was inscrutable. But she felt brave, and more importantly, he looked incredibly hot, in a stark white t-shirt that only emphasized his sun-darkened skin; and baggy grey sweats. His scruffy and unshaven face reminded her of how it felt against her own face, and later, against her inner thighs. So Miri went to him, and while he removed what smelled like breakfast from a paper sack, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Resting her face against his broad and firm back, she felt her entire body heave in a sigh.

“Will you not speak to me?” she asked, feeling emboldened by the way he leaned oh-so-slightly backward and into her embrace. “¿Estás enojado conmigo?”

“No,” Duardo said after a long while. But still he didn’t turn around to return her embrace.

“So if you’re not angry, what is it?”

“I crossed a line with you,” he said, turning around and looking down at her. “After everything that your family …”

Miri exhaled impatiently and pulled away from him. “If we’re going to talk about how what happened between you and me—two consenting adults—affects my brothers, my family? If that’s what you’re about to say, I’m going to fucking scream,” she said.

Duardo looked surprised, though he did not comment on her cursing.

“I’m serious,” Miri said. “I walked in here on a high and you’re just going to … wreck it. I’m starting to feel like I would have been better off going home with Stephan Payne.”

And that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Duardo grabbed and pulled her back against his chest, his hands grasping her arms and holding her tight, his face inches from hers.

“Don’t you ever say that to me. He doesn’t get to touch you. He doesn’t get to go near you. ¿Entiendes?”

Being manhandled should have alarmed her, but it did the opposite. It made Miri confident, and even calm. Because she knew Duardo would never hurt her, and because she now knew that his stoic distance of a few moments earlier was the only way he knew to maintain control over the riotous emotions that were now so clearly visible in his eyes.

“I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want him near me. I want you,” she said, shrugging. “I just want you.”

“So why do you say these things?” Duardo let her go, running a hand over his head. “Just to … provoke me?”

“Because I want to get past this part,” Miri said. “This stupid part where we pretend like we don’t already know what’s going to happen.”

At that, Duardo gave her a grim smile. “And what’s that?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.

“We’re going to have an affair,” Miri said, staring back at him evenly.


Young black woman in the room

From ‘Ivy’s League’ Available Now.

Eli looked up just in time to see her coming down the sidewalk. Holding the hem of her gown up so it wouldn’t sweep the ground, Ivy looked like something out of a dream. Her dress was yellow, a soft shade like the faintest glow of morning sunlight and made of a foamy fabric that swayed as she walked. Cut in a straight line, binding her across the chest, it left completely exposed Ivy’s smooth brown shoulders and long, graceful arms. Under the hem of the dress, Eli could just make out gold strappy, high-heeled sandals that looked like something a gladiator would wear. If a gladiator was a five-foot nine, slender-as-a-reed, breathtaking Black woman in a yellow gown.

Ivy spotted him and he opened the window on the passenger side, disengaging the locks. She leaned in, her lips pursed and stern. She looked even more beautiful up close. Her hair was pulled back into a high, regal mass of kinky curls, her makeup subtle but iridescent. A stab of possessiveness impaled Eli right in the center of the chest.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Get in,” he said.

Ivy seemed poised to protest but instead sighed and opened the door, getting in next to him. Turning, she took another breath. “Eli …”

He kissed her. Hard. Hard enough to shut her up, steal her breath, and make her gasp all at once. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t respond either. Not at first, but he persisted until her lips softened and she kissed him back—tentatively at first, and then with all the feeling he had become accustomed to from her. She tasted sweet, like white wine, and smelled even more amazing than usual. Eli turned even further and reached over to pull her toward him by the waist, awkwardly in the confines of the truck’s cab.

That awkwardness provided an opening and Ivy took it, wrenching herself free and shaking her head.

“Eli,” she said again. But this time her voice was trembling a little.

He answered her by starting the engine, and pulling out into traffic away from the curb. Ivy looked frantically behind them, and then back at him.

“Eli!” She said his name yet again. “I’m working. My boss is at that dinner.”

He slowed the truck to a crawl. “Is she going to fire you if you don’t come back?” he asked pointedly.

Ivy opened her mouth to speak but did not. Her shoulders heaved, and shaking her head, she leaned back against the seat, staring straight ahead.

**************

AVAILABLE NOW.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vb8C5R

 B&N: http://bit.ly/1NOPG7i