SAMPLE SUNDAY: The Art of Endings

Paige copyFROM THE ART OF ENDINGS:

It had only been two weeks since Trey had spotted Paige coming out of Darren’s place, looking for all the world like a woman headed home after spending an intimate evening with her man. And D had copped to the fact that they were sleeping together. So this little show with the woman with the fire-engine red hair had to be some Darren-acting-out bullshit.

“Wow,” Shayla said next to him. “That’s  . . . interesting. Is that who Darren’s dating?”

Trey shook his head. “D doesn’t ‘date’. Two days from now I doubt he’ll remember her name.”

“Hmm,” Shayla said. “I’d forgotten that about you two.”

“You two?” Trey said, slipping an arm about waist and pulling her toward him. “I don’t know about D, but I’m taken.”

“Are you?” Shayla looked up at him with those large, molten, chocolate-brown eyes of hers.

Trey’s heart went ba-dum.

“Yeah,” he said, eyes fixed on hers. “Man down.”

Shayla reached up to give him a quick kiss. “I’m going to see whether Paige needs help in the kitchen.”

Turning his attention back to Darren, Trey wondered at the cause of this latest display. D should have known better than to mess with Paige in the first place if he wasn’t ready to give up this kind of shit; but to bring the woman here of all places. Even for Darren, that was some foul-ass shit. It would be foul no matter the woman he did it to, but for him to do it to Paige was inexcusable.

Even throughout Paige’s engagement to their boy Clint, Trey always thought there was something in way she looked at Darren. Something Darren studiously pretended not to see; something Clint himself had seen clear as day. Trey’s nature wasn’t to pry into his boys’ lives unless invited, and during that time he had his hands full with Tessa. But anyone with eyes could see that something wasn’t right among those three.

Paige was engaged, but to the wrong man. And though no one said it, on some level, they all knew.

How that screwy turn of events had come about, Trey wasn’t sure. But it had gone on for years and would have probably culminated in Darren being best man at the wedding of his woman to another man, if Clint hadn’t died in Afghanistan. But now that Clint was gone, and had been for about two years, Darren still seemed not to know how to come correct with Paige.

Trey walked across the room toward him and when Darren noticed his approach, his friend reached out a hand to give him some dap. Trey almost didn’t return it.

“What’s up, man?” Darren asked, his voice just a couple decibels too loud.

“Not much,” Trey said. He looked at the young woman to Darren’s left.

“Hi,” she said smiling and extending a hand. “I’m Stormy.”

Trey shot Darren a look as though to say: are you fucking kidding me?

“Good to meet you, Stormy.”

In her heels, she was taller than he was, and shoulder to shoulder with Darren, which meant that in bare feet, she was at least five-ten.

“Did you know this was a sit-down thing?” Darren asked, wrinkling his brow. “I didn’t know this was a sit-down thing.”

Not quite drunk, but getting there. Determined to do so.

“Yeah, I knew,” Trey said.

“So we’re going to leave in a bit,” Stormy piped in. “The hostess says there’s Cornish hens and I don’t eat flesh.”

“So if we leave before dinner, you don’t want to get a burger from Five Guys?” Darren asked, mock seriously.

Stormy gave a theatrical shudder. “I don’t know how people eat that stuff.”

“You’re from Texas,” Darren said. “Stop acting like you’ve never ingested dead cow before.”

“Yeah, but . . .”

“Excuse me,” Trey mumbled. “I see a few folks . . .”

Darren in self-destruct mode was not a pretty sight. But Darren in destroy-everyone-else mode was even less attractive. Not content with having brought this woman to Paige’s party and hurt her feelings, he was probably going to spend much of the evening laying waste to Stormy’s feelings as well.

Classic Darren bullshit. Bull-in-a-china-shop came to mind. And this time, Paige was the china.

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FROM SECRET:

Trey had begun to get curious. He was there sometimes, in bed with her when the dreams came. So far he hadn’t asked, but Shayla could feel the questions brimming over inside him when he turned to hold her in the dark, or when she slipped out from between the sheets and went to shower. She could wash away the perspiration but not the memories of Justin’s hands. Funny how she remembered every detail of his hands, while the contours of his face had grown fuzzy and indistinct.

Occasionally at work, she was tempted to look him up online, just to see one of the old pictures of how he used to be, to refresh her memory. She’d done that once, a long while ago now, when she was living in New York, and the image on the monitor had immediately transported her back to that time . . . It had not been a good feeling and she was in no hurry to repeat the experience, but sometimes, still, she wanted to see his face.

Nowadays she was constantly getting new reminders of how much of that time still remained with her. Like when Trey touched her unexpectedly; she tensed and it took her mind and her body a moment to realize that it would not hurt. And she hadn’t been so good about hiding it either. Once in awhile she saw something flash in his eyes, like he recognized her apprehension and wanted to say something to alleviate it.

He knew.

Even if he didn’t know that he knew, Trey had begun to realize something about her. If she let this continue, their sleeping together, spending all this time together, he would eventually ask and she would have to decide whether to tell him, or to move on.

Get to know Darren . . .

 

FROM ‘SECRET’:

The plan had been a warm shower and early night, but when Trey got in around eight, he apologized for missing their workout and explained that Darren was on the way over. Didn’t matter to her; they would eat dinner and go their separate ways like they always did.

Darren

But when Darren showed up around eight-thirty he was wearing faded jeans, a yellow long-sleeved shirt that clung to his very impressive chest and made the most of his dark-as-molasses complexion; and as a bonus, cologne that made Shayla want to swoon. He seemed to occupy the entire kitchen with his overwhelming masculinity, all biceps and shoulders and booming laugh. It was impossible not to flirt with a man like him, and he clearly enjoyed flirting back.

“What you doin’ tonight?” he’d asked as they all finished up with the meal. “Go on get dressed and come out with us.”

Shayla noticed that Trey said nothing, so she refused at first, looking at him out of the corner of her eye. For all she knew, he had plans to pick up some woman and bring her home, and if she was along for the ride, it would make things a little awkward to say the least when his conquest realized she lived in the same house.

“Don’t look at him,” Darren said, noticing the glance. “You’re rollin’ with me.”

Feeling caught, Shayla said nothing.

“No, you should come,” Trey said finally but without enthusiasm. “Go ahead. Get ready. We’ll wait.”

So she’d gone down to shower and change, managing to find a pair of close-fitting jeans and a yellow slip top which she wore with black high-heeled sandals. At the last minute she even pulled her braids up into a swing ponytail and put on a little lipstick and eyeliner. She had no idea how she looked—she was so out of practice with that stuff—until she walked into the kitchen and saw an expression of unmistakable appreciation cross both men’s faces.

“You clean up good, girl,” Darren said, his eyes running over her. “You’re most definitely riding with me. Trey, you can take your car.”

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Happy Reading!

-N-

Get to know Shayla . . .

ShaylaFROM ‘SECRET’:

It was almost an hour later and Shayla sat staring at her reflection in the mirror. Her hair stood upright, wiry and springy, away from her skull like a cartoon character who’d stuck their finger into an electrical outlet. It was as uneven as she’d feared, and a little dry. And long, but not nearly as frightening as she expected. Whenever she’d gotten her braids redone—about every seven weeks or so—she never paid attention when they were removed, never even looked in the mirror until the job was done. This was the first time in two years that she’d taken a good long look at her own hair. Longer, in fact, because before the braids, she’d used a relaxer on her hair and had since she was thirteen.

She stared for a moment more and then reached up to test the texture, raking her fingers over her scalp.

Oooh. That felt good.

Next to her, Trey smiled. “I like it,” he said.

Shayla laughed out loud. “You’re nuts if you think I’m going to leave it like this,” she said.

Trey’s face fell. “What’re you going to do to it?”

“Well for tonight, wash and moisturize and hope to God I remember how to do a fishbone braid or something so I don’t look like a lunatic at this party tonight. And then tomorrow I’m going to a hairdresser and get a trim and . . .  I don’t know, but something.” She shook her head, still not taking her eyes off her reflection. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“I’m glad I did,” he said. And then he nodded. “I can see you now.”

Shayla’s eyes met his in the mirror and they stared at each other. Sometimes when they looked at each other like this, she felt a literal chill over her entire body, like he’d reached inside her and unexpectedly touched some secret place that was not meant to be touched.

“Get out of here,” she said after a few moments. “I have to go wash this bird’s nest and figure out what the heck to do with it for tonight.”

When she was alone, Shayla took a closer look at herself. Her hair was just something short of black. Darker than she remembered it, and certainly much darker than she used to keep it. Back then she used to get highlights. There were long hours in the beauty salon while the hairdresser painstakingly pulled strands through the highlighting cap. Sometimes she would be there for five hours or more, making sure it was absolutely perfect. Justin would pick her up afterwards and he would look her over with appreciation and for that moment in time, she would once again feel as though she pleased him.

Pleasing Justin had once been her primary mission in life. Seeing that smile on his face could alter the trajectory of her entire day. Her entire existence was colored by his moods. If he was happy, she was too and her day would go well. If he was in a bad mood, she knew that it wouldn’t be long before he ensured that she knew it.

In the mirror, her face had changed. Just thinking about him made her look different. Sometimes lately, she caught herself wondering how he was, where he was and whether he ever thought about her. It was hard to imagine that she could ever live a life that did not somehow include thoughts of him, and of them, and of what they had been to each other. It frightened her to think that in that way, he still owned part of her, just as he had then. But that wasn’t exactly right. Back then he hadn’t owned part of her, he’d owned all of her.

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Happy Reading!

-N-

 

Get to know Tessa . . .

FROM ‘SECRET’:

TessTessa Denison was as beautiful as her brother, with wavy dark hair that hung like black licorice, the same intense almost black eyes and smooth coffee-and-cream complexion. She was in Shayla’s kickboxing class and was to many of the men at Olympus what her brother was to the women. But personality-wise, she couldn’t be more different.

Tessa talked to everyone who crossed her path, and made friends with people within minutes, smiling and laughing her way through her workout, making fun of herself and cracking smart-ass jokes. She had a slender, graceful body that she hid in thick sweatpants that sagged at the seat and basketball jerseys that were way too big, under which she wore a sport bra. The one time she’d worn a close-fitting pair of running tights, just about every man in the room had spent a good portion of the evening checking her out.

But it was all for naught, because as Tessa had explained to Shayla within minutes of her meeting her, she didn’t “do men” and was “as gay as the day is long.” Her type, she told Shayla was “girls who look like boys. Not actual boys.”

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Happy Reading!

-N-

Get to know Trey . . .

FROM ‘SECRET’:

Trey Denison was definitely something to look at. Tall and well-built and with dark, intelligent eyes and a café au lait complexion, he was the kind of man who could accurately be described as beautiful; strong-jaw but sensual mouth, high-bridged nose and that dark hair that looked as soft as a baby’s. The women at the gym rhapsodized about the hair.

TreyShayla wasn’t much into the pretty boy thing herself but his voice was a deep, rich, husky tone that reminded you he was all man. If that lawyer stuff didn’t work out, he could have a great career reading smutty audio-books for lonely housewives. For the past six months, she’d noticed him working out, his face a mask of concentration and intensity. Trey rarely socialized in the gym, but when he did, it was generally with one very specific woman—his flavor-of-the-month—and only for a very short period of time.

Shayla could almost pinpoint the moment he’d decided to screw someone, and the moment the affair was over. For a day or two, he would spend a little more time talking to the chosen young woman at the water cooler, or he might even show her how to use some piece of equipment, gracing her with his smiles, winking at her as he left. And the poor, hapless woman would smile back and get all shy around him and for a time—usually no more than a week or two—he would arrive and leave with her. And then abruptly, all of that would stop.

One day he would walk in alone, and his poor victim would show up sometime later, or she may have been there earlier. And she would look at him with hopeful eyes while he completely ignored her, or worse yet, gave her a brief distant smile like she was a stranger and continue his workout routine.

Shayla watched these exchanges with interest and amusement, wondering how it was that women just kept lining up to be humiliated in this way. Come to think of it they weren’t victims, they were volunteers, because line up they did. Olympus Sports Club was practically a smorgasbord for Trey Denison. All he had to do was indicate interest and he could sample just about anyone on the menu.

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Happy Reading!

-N-

Parting Gift

Shayla and Trey

In preparation for the impending release of ‘The Art of Endings’, its prelude, ‘Secret’ is FREE on Amazon Friday June 7th and Saturday June 8th!

FROM ‘SECRET’:

Trey stirred, mumbling in his sleep. It was hard to believe that this was the same man who hadn’t been able to sleep when she first moved in here. It was hard to believe she was the same woman. But of course, she was not. She was not the same woman. On an impulse, Shayla turned in his arms, so that they were facing each other. He had removed his shirt when they moved from the couch to her bed, but was still wearing his sweats and socks. Gently releasing herself from his hold, she moved to the foot of the bed, peeling the socks from his feet. Trey took a deep breath like a sigh but slept on.

It was only when she moved back up, peeling his sweatpants down at the waist that he began to come somewhat awake. But he was still not quite there when she pulled them over his hips, down over his thighs and completely off. Shayla looked at him, naked now, studying him. She wanted to know what it felt like to make love to him now that she was free and unburdened, and though they almost certainly would when Trey woke up in the morning—because he was habitually more of a morning-sex type of guy—she didn’t want to wait. She was ready for him now.

She slid off her panties and straddled him, her weight on her knees until she found the perfect position, and opening herself, she slid back and forth along his semi-turgid length. Shayla felt rather than saw Trey come marginally more awake, and heard a soft, vague moan. Then his hands were on her hips and he was guiding her back and forth, pressing her harder against him, his breathing becoming louder and more labored.

When he breathed her name, Shayla arched her back and rolled her hips at an angle so that Trey slipped inside her, and sunk deep. He exhaled and she settled onto him, making only the smallest, laziest of movements. Soon Trey’s breathing slowed and quieted, and Shayla realized with amazement that even while erect inside her, he was falling asleep. She would have giggled if it didn’t feel so good. Not just the physical sensation of him gently pulsating within her, but the knowledge that he was so truly and completely hers that she could wake up in the middle of the night with a craving and have him. And that he would, even in his sleep, recognize her and acquiesce.

That realization calmed her and Shayla soon let herself fall forward so that she was lying on Trey’s chest, her face resting in that space between his head and shoulder, feeling the steady beat of his heart against her chest.

Happy Reading!

-N-