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.

 

‘Young, Rich & Black’: An Afterwards Novella

youngrichSAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Young, Rich & Black: An Afterwards Novella’

“Didn’t I just see you last night?”

Phone up against his ear, Deuce watched from the other side of the barbershop as his father got the finishing touches on his shave. His own haircut had been done for a little while, and when he got tired of the shit-talking and sports predictions, he called Zora. Just to see what was up with her since they hadn’t talked after he dropped her off the evening before.

“Yeah. Damn. Just checking to see if you’re a’ight. Is that a problem?”

“Why wouldn’t I be alright? From what I remember, you saw me walk up my front path, unlock the door and step right into my house, didn’t you? I know, because I waved at you from the open front door.”

He smiled. He kind of liked it when she teased him; not by being coy, but by playing coy.

“I’m a gentleman. I was taught to wait until the lady was safe before pulling off. And there’s been a few home invasion robberies in Jersey so you never know.”

Zora laughed her husky yet melodious laugh. “Well, no one’s invaded my home. So I’m totally fine. But thanks for checking.”

“You’re welcome.”

For a few moments, there was silence between them. Across the room, the barber was wiping his father’s face clean. Soon he would take out his powder and brush and Deuce would no longer have the privacy he needed to seal this deal.

“What’re you doin’ later?”

“Nothing. The usual for when its cold as hell outside. Netflix. Chill.”

“Come do that with me.”

“Why, when I could do it right here? And not even have to change out of my PJs.”

“You haven’t changed out of your PJs?”

“Nope.” Zora made a popping noise with her lips when she pronounced the word.

“That’s nasty.”

She laughed. “I showered before bed.”

“Yeah. Sure you did.”

“I did.”

“Deuce!”

He looked up. His father was done, and beckoning for him as he doled out tips to the barber and his assistant.

“If you don’t want to come over, let me come over there then.”

“I probably should leave the house,” Zora said, almost as though talking to herself. “Whenever I try to veg out all day, it seems like a good idea, and then around seven-thirty I start feeling a little stir-crazy.”

“So … you comin’ over or …?”

“Ahm …”

Deuce stood, deliberately slow-walking toward the exit of the barbershop where his father was waiting for him. Ducking his head, and lowering his voice, he spoke deliberately softly into the phone.

“C’mon, Zee,” he said. “I really want to see you.”


coming soon.

Sample Sunday: ‘Because My Heart Said So’

 

BMHSS Final CoverThis has been a crazy-exciting week! Along with Jacinta Howard, Lily Java and Rae Lamar, I’m thrilled to announce that our Friends-to-Lovers Collection is available on Amazon for pre-order in advance of our June 15 release date. We’re all a little shell-shocked honestly, and hadn’t thought too far beyond getting the book written so now that we have, we’re befuddled about what to do with ourselves. So let’s take this one day at a time, starting with a Sample for Sunday.

From ‘Because My Heart Said So’

About ‘Acceptable Losses’ by Nia Forrester

Quentin is in the middle of a separation from his wife that seems to have no conclusive end in sight, while Lena is stuck in Single Girl Hell. The only respite either of them have is their regular coffee dates, while working on shared projects at a very demanding job. Sick of hearing about Lena’s semi-disastrous attempts to couple-up, Quentin decides to fix her up. With his brother. Seems like a perfect solution; after all, his brother is a decent enough guy and Lena deserves that. Perfect … until it appears that the fix-up might actually work.


From ‘Acceptable Losses’:

“This was so not what I was expecting,” Lena said, laughing as she and Darius exited the fitness studio. “When a guy asks me out, I’m thinking wine … fancy hors d’oeuvres, a complete meal maybe …”

“We can do something like that next time,” Darius said.

“So now that you sweated my tail off, am I free to go?”

“Nah. We’re going to Jamba Juice,” he said, inclining his head to the left.

Lena sighed. “Okay, you’re in charge, so let’s do it.”

“You did well in there,” he said as they started walking.

“Thank you. Was it a test or something? Something you put women through to see whether you want to take them on a real date?”

“Nah. Why would I need to test you? My brother says you’re cool people, so you’re cool people.”

Lena shook her head. “That’s all it takes, huh? Q’s endorsement?”

“He’s never steered me wrong.” Darius shrugged.

“And is he in the habit of … steering women your way?”

Darius laughed. “I do a’ight on my own.”

Lena didn’t doubt it. While they were working out, more than a few gym-bunnies shot envious looks her way, their eyes skimming Darius’ frame, struggling not to stare. It was a special kind of high, she couldn’t lie—being with That Dude at the gym, being the object of all that envy.

When Lena called him back to let him know she was free, Darius told her to “dress very casually, and for an active evening.” So Lena had worn loose black yoga pants, her tennis shoes, and a long-sleeved, white Under Armour shirt, pulling her hair back into a high Afro-puff. She imagined he was probably taking her to play laser-tag or something, but when she met Darius at the address he gave her, she got out of the Uber and realized it was a Washington Sports Club.

We’re gonna work out, he’d announced, looking pleased with himself.

And they had. After a half hour warm-up on the treadmill, Darius took her through his routine of dead-lifts, bench presses, squats, and flies. Somewhere about forty minutes in, Lena felt those endorphins kick in, and actually started to enjoy herself.

And it didn’t hurt that she got to watch Darius’s muscles ripple and tremble as he put them to work. Even the grunting and groaning as he handled the heavy weights was kind of sexy.

Now, as they walked down the cobblestone sidewalks of Wisconsin Avenue, Lena was glad she’d come. Working out was something of an afterthought for her most days since she worked long hours, so it was good to see how well her body held up under pressure.

“After we get our smoothies, want to see my studio?”

Darius was walking closely at her side, but not touching her. Lena pretended not to notice the looks he got from other women. His tattoos didn’t just cover his forearms, she’d learned; they were all the way up to his shoulders and neck as well. And when he lifted his shirt in the gym to wipe his brow, there were even more on his chest.

“I would love to see your studio,” she said. “But you’re not going to talk me into getting a tattoo.”

He grinned. “No authentic tattoo artist would do such a thing.”

In Jamba Juice, they both got energy bowls and sat at one of the tables to eat, Darius’s long legs stretched out beneath it, on either side of Lena’s.

“So is this your standard Wednesday night?” she asked.

“This is my standard, any-day-of-the-week night. Except for Fridays. On Fridays, I hang with Q.”

“Every Friday?”

“Without fail.”

“That must get irritating for women you’re involved with. Friday is supposed to be date night, couples’ night. Do you ever bring your dates with you?”

“Nah. Friday is about me and Q. If she’s not with that, she can’t be with me.”

“That’s a pretty hard line to draw. I guess I should be flattered I was invited to hang out with you two last Friday.”

“You should,” Darius said, looking at her seriously for a moment. “He’s never done that before. Neither of us has. That’s how I knew you were important to him.”

Lena looked down into her bowl and scooped up a spoonful of strawberries and yogurt. “I don’t know about all that. We’re friends, and he wanted me to meet you, that’s all.”

“Hmm.” Darius looked at her searchingly. “Y’know, I’m going to share something with you about my brother …”

Lena looked up, waiting.

“He doesn’t … always know his own heart. So when he wanted me to meet you, like maybe so I could ask you out, I wondered, y’know. Especially when I saw you two together.”

“What did you wonder?”

“Whether friendship was all either of you wanted. From each other, I mean.”

“Did you ask him?”

“I did.”

“And what did he say?” Lena asked, trying not to sound too eager to know.

Darius shook his head. “I’d rather hear what you say.”

Lena forced herself to meet and hold Darius’ gaze. “Your brother’s married,” she said. “And even if he weren’t, we are most definitely just friends. I wouldn’t have accepted your invitation tonight otherwise.”

Every word of what she said was true, but then why did it feel like a lie?

Darius’s eyes held hers for a few moments more. “Okay,” he said finally.

Then he looked down into his bowl again and dug in, coming up with a heaping spoon of fruit and oat grain which he promptly ate, chewing like it was the most delicious thing he’d ever eaten.

When he swallowed, he leaned back and watched her eat a few bites. Lena pretended not to feel self-conscious at being so openly regarded, and kept eating, albeit more slowly and daintily than she might otherwise have done.

“So,” Darius said, “you want to hang out again sometime?”

Moment of truth, Lena.

Darius was waiting, his light-brown eyes trained on her face. All the confusion about Quentin aside, he was the most attractive man who had asked her out in eons. And the most fascinating. If she had met him any other way, and at any other time—like before she met Quentin—she would be jumping out of her skin to say ‘yes’. But she had met Quentin first and had only met Darius because he was Quentin’s brother.

Then she recalled what Marlon had said earlier that evening: He’s married, Lena, and it looks like he’s trying to stay that way.

“Yeah,” she said to Darius. “I think I would.”

He grinned. “Hurry up and finish that,” he said, “So I can walk you over to my studio. And talk you into that tattoo.”

 

‘Because My Heart Said So’ is AVAILABLE NOW TO PRE-ORDER!

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Fall’

The Fall Final Promo

From ‘The Fall’:

Tea usually worked to help calm her when her mind was racing, or if she could not sleep. Something like chamomile or peppermint, neither of which she really enjoyed under usual circumstances. But the chamomile didn’t work tonight, and neither did the one very small glass of chardonnay that she had immediately afterwards. Finally, Lorna tried just lying in bed, but when she closed her eyes, she saw Riley’s face—the surprise, and the disappointment, the hurt and the withdrawal.

Sitting up cross-legged after an hour of fruitless tries to get to sleep, she finally gave in to the impulse she’d had since early evening. The jeans she had been wearing that afternoon were on the floor nearby. She put them on. Then she slid her feet into her clogs, pulled a random sweatshirt over her head and left the house without even bothering to check in a mirror to see just how crazy she might look.

Malcolm answered his door surprisingly quickly, and looked tired but not as though he had been asleep. He said nothing when he saw her, but simply looked surprised.

“Are you alone?” Lorna asked.

It had only occurred to her on the drive over that he might not be.

He nodded. “Everything okay?”

“No,” she said. “Not really.”

And then she took a few steps forward which made him step back. He shut the door behind her and locked it.

“Lorna,” he said when they were facing each other again. “What …”

“Nothing. I was home, and couldn’t sleep.”

Malcolm waited for more, but then she saw him decide not to press her further about why she was there.

Lorna advanced slowly, and he watched her, waiting to see what she would do next. She didn’t usually have to initiate anything because normally he wasn’t one to wait. This time he did.

Putting her arms up and around his neck, Lorna exerted gentle pressure to pull him down. She closed her eyes just before their lips met, and relaxed her body against his. His lips softened, but he didn’t do what he always did. He was still holding back, to see what she might do. What she did was kiss him more deeply, press her tongue into his mouth, pull back and capture his lower lip between hers coaxing him, frustrated when he didn’t immediately take charge.

Letting her arms drop, she took a step back and shook her head. “Maybe I made a mistake. I thought …”

“What?”

“Nothing. I just wanted …” She turned away from him, but Malcolm grabbed her arm, pulling her back so she collided with his chest.

“You wanted what?” he demanded.

“I don’t know. I just …”

This?” he said. His lips pressed into hers, bruisingly hard; and he kissed her the way she liked him to—no waiting, no hesitating, just taking. One large hand came up to almost span her neck. He tilted her head to the side, kissing her there as well, his rough stubble scoring her skin. “This what you want?

“Yes.” Lorna exhaled. “This …”

Malcolm reached down and opened her jeans, sliding his hand down into it. He parted her with his fingers, stroking her none too gently while Lorna moved against his hand. His lips came to hers again, and he swallowed her moans, even as the rhythm of his fingers produced more of them. He moved her again, exposing the other side of her neck, licking and biting her there.

Now, he was out of control, but in charge at the same time.

“You came here to get fucked?”

“Yes,” she said again.

Abruptly, Malcolm lifted his head but his hand still worked on her. He looked angry. “I’m more than that, Lo,” he said.

Lo. He had never called her that before.

We’re more than that,” he added.

Lorna looked at him, or tried to. It was difficult to keep her eyes open or even to listen when he was touching her this way. She got on her toes, kissed him again and he made a sound of frustration. Then they were tussling with each other’s clothing, moving, lifting, peeling away. Malcolm had her naked in less than a minute and she had only succeeded in removing his shirt. Lifting her so her legs were wrapped around his torso, he carried her into his bedroom, which was dark. He had been writing, because the light and computer in his office were on. Lorna felt only the tiniest stab of remorse at having taken him away from his work. And even that disappeared when he lay her across the bed and immediately spread her legs wide.

Without further preliminaries, he stripped off what remained of his clothes and sank between her knees, shoving hard inside her with one long thrust. Gasping, Lorna clutched the sheets as Malcolm moved, each time with long, deep strokes. After her body’s initial slight resistance, she loosened and softened around him, warming and becoming more liquid.

Bowing his head as much as he could, Malcolm captured a nipple between his lips, tugging and sucking on it. The feeling was electric. Lorna’s hands came up atop his head, holding him there, and he nipped her, causing her hips to buck upward. When they did, he held her in place and pulled back, both of his hands pressing her immobile into the bed. Shifting tacks, he pulled out of her completely and sat back on his haunches. Hands still on her hips, he dragged her forward so that her butt was on his thighs. Now grabbing her at the knees, Malcolm used her legs as levers while he pumped in and out of her, forward and backward, his eyes trained downward, watching himself.

Lorna’s back was arched, only her shoulders and head making contact with the bed. She opened her eyes and saw only Malcolm’s face in a scowl of pleasure and concentration, his focus on their bodies joining. He didn’t look at her face, which was for a moment mildly troubling until the pleasure overtook all thought, and her head thrashed back and forth.

“This what you want?” Malcolm panted between breaths. “Like this?”

“Yeah,” Lorna panted. “Like that. Keep it … right there … like that …”

“Y’know what, Lo?” he said. He sounded angry. “Fuck you.”

Then he shoved her back further, so her butt was once again on the bed and he was no longer inside her. Lorna’s body clenched, protesting his sudden absence and she opened her eyes, just in time to see Malcolm come for her again, this time slinging both her legs over his shoulders and stabbing at her like he wanted to drive her through the mattress. His face was buried in the space between her neck and shoulder, again, not looking at her. She shouldn’t have cared, but she did.

Grabbing his face between her hands, Lorna forced eye contact.

“Malcolm …” she forced out. “It’s you I needed. You.”

Something in his eyes shifted and he slowed.

“Please. Don’t doubt that,” she said.

He blinked slowly and lowered his head, kissing her.

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

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Mother’

Betty2flatFrom ‘Mother’:

Jay turned in search of Rob again and instead his eyes met Betty’s. She was alone, so he went to her.

“You’re such a man,” she said when he was directly in front of her.

“Thank you?”

Betty laughed. “No, I mean you were standing there looking so oppressed for having to be here at this party in your honor. It’s funny.”

Jay grinned. “Yeah. This isn’t my thing.”

“What is your thing?” She let her head fall to one side.

Tonight she was in a white lace dress with long sleeves and wore small pearl earrings. Her makeup was scant, but she was wearing a very soft, pleasant scent that made Jay want to inhale deeply.

“Being outside, taking pictures, hanging out at home with my wife. I’m a simple kind of guy that way.”

“And your wife …” Betty shook her head. “She’s far from simple. She’s … stunning.”

“Thank you. I like her too.”

For a few beats, they both said nothing.

“So …” Jay broke the long silence. “Braxton …” He lowered his voice and mimicked her date’s baritone.

Betty smothered a giggle. “Yes. He’s very …”

“Braxton,” Jay supplied.

“It’s only our first date. I can’t decide whether there’ll be a second.”

“There shouldn’t be,” Jay said.

Betty’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, is that right? And why not?”

“Because he left you all alone,” Jay said. “To be preyed on by other men.”

Betty stared at him, her smile slipping from her face. “But surely I’m safe with you,” she said.

Before he could formulate his response, there was a hand on Jay’s arm, the soft hold immediately familiar.

“Jay, Chloe and I need you over here for a moment,” Keisha said, gently tugging.

“Oh. Yeah … I’ll see you later, Betty.”

She nodded, and smiled at Keisha before turning away.

“Chloe wants to know whether you want to say something,” Keisha said as they walked. “Like give a toast or anything during dinner. I told her I don’t want to, so if you don’t …”

“Yeah, I’ll give a toast to my wife. Of course I will,” Jay said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Rob had arrived with his wife Allison.

“You will?”

Keisha sounded so surprised he stopped walking and looked at her. She gazed up at him, her large doe-eyes liquid and full of feeling.

“Baby,” he said, putting a hand at the nape of her neck and pulling her closer. “C’mere.”

Keisha leaned into his chest. He didn’t know what else to say. Sometimes he was so focused on how much he loved her, he forgot how much she loved him. He’d never really doubted it. Even with the tough things they’d been through, the tough time they were having now over this baby business, he didn’t doubt for a moment that Keisha loved him.

She loved him like a flower turning toward the sun—naturally, instinctively and without reason. Of all the dumb-ass things they would each say and do to each other—and had—that truth remained immutable: she loved him, and he damn sure loved her back.

“So I can tell her that. You’re sure?” she asked, looking up at him. “That you want to give a toast.”

“Yeah. You want to go ahead and do that? Tell her I said it’s fine. It’s just that …” He pointed in Rob’s direction. “I got something I gotta take care of right away.”

“Okay.” Keisha moved out of his arms and gave him one last smile, her head falling back.

Recognizing that look, Jay absentmindedly leaned in to receive her kiss just before she headed off to find Chloe. When he raised his head, looking in Rob’s direction once again, he instead met Betty’s gaze. She quickly smiled at him, and took a sip of her wine. It was a wry smile, not a seductive or inviting one; but it seemed to be saying something to him, sending Jay a message that he knew he was better off not receiving.

To read ‘Mother’: 

On Kindle

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