SAMPLE SUNDAY: DL White’s ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’

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DL White is another of those writers that, if the world were a just place, we would hear a lot more about. I just started reading her work last year when she had a promotion running, and quickly became a fan of her keen eye and ear. She writes real, mature, women’s fiction with just enough romance thrown in, and describes the inner lives of women  incredibly well (check out, ‘Brunch at Ruby’s’). No cookie-cutter, endlessly wisecracking, paper-thin characters here. This is the good stuff.

So it’s going to be a particular treat to meet and sit with, and share a glass (or three) of wine with her at Wine with Writers Atlanta on March 10. That’s next Saturday, y’all! I think you can still get a ticket if you’re interested. If you make it out to meet me, DL White, Tasha L. Harrison, Rae Lamar, Lily Java and Jacinta Howard that would be cool, but if not, please check out the books. And with them, have a glass of wine of your own.

I’m just getting to know DL, but I really want you to get to know her (and her work!) too. So … here’s her interview. Ten questions, and some very funny answers, followed by a Sunday sample of  ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’.

Love & light,

N.

Ten Questions for DL White

Would you like to see into the future? Why? Nah. I like predictability as much as the next guy but I also love the element of surprise. If you STAY ready you ain’t got to GET ready. HA!

If you could only choose one vacation destination where would you pick and why? Eauh Gah why are you asking me thisssss??? A beach. I don’t know which one but it should have soft sugar sand and blue green water and the air should be warm… that’s as specific as I can get.

What show on Netflix did you binge watch embarrassingly fast? It wasn’t Netflix, but the L Word… I found it online and blew through that series like CRAZY.  I think I stayed up all night to watch the last season. I heard a rumor that the show was coming back, though I feel like people are just playing with my emotions. But can Jenny still be dead but Dana come back?  GAH JENNY SCHECTER WE HATE YOU!

What will finally break the internet?  I’m not sure it can be broken at this point. It’s so evil, it’s all powerful.

What’s in your purse?  Like fitty eleven pens, ibuprofen, 4 tubes of chapstick, 2 lippies (beauty bakerie- get hip to it!)  my organizer, my wallet, Tangy Mae Kindle, and one of those multi charge cord things so I can charge all of the things. And of course the work phone and the Ho phone.

Favorite book you’ve written?  Brunch at Ruby’s. It’s always going to be my Book Baby.

Are you spring, summer, fall, or winter? Please share why. SUMMER. I just LOVE it, heat and all. I moved south for the HEAT and the sunshine. Spring is a close follow up. If I don’t have to worry about a jacket and the skies are blue and cloudless…. Heaven.

If you were a city, which city would you choose to be and why? Some place modern and cosmopolitan but also kinda small townish and downhome…. Like Atlanta. Or maybe my vision of DC, a hip chocolate city.

What technology from science fiction do you wish existed? Teleporting. I neeeeeeed that technology. Like, I love going places but I hate the airport and I don’t like to drive long distances. If I could just… arrive… at the nearest beach that would be great.

What are the most common road blocks that stop people from achieving their dreams? Fear. In my opinion, roadblocks boil down to fear. Fear of unknown, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of the word no, of people not liking us or our ideas.  When we stop being afraid of what could or won’t happen, when we get rid of the what if’s, we’re able to push forward. Speaking for myself, really

27786239_10159967782015494_1652126059_o (1)Wine/Book Pairing:  Chateau St Michelle Riesling/ Leslie’s Curl & Dye

 

From ‘Leslie’s Curl & Dye’:

He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.

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To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn’t much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.

“I mean, with all due respect, Leslie…” KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. “You’re not my competition.”

That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.  

Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. “Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake.”

“I’m not… slumming. I hadn’t been over here since I moved back and— “

“And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?”

KC’s eyes narrowed and his brows formed “V” of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.

“Tam, why don’t you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready.” I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.

As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC’s arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.

“What do you want?” I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. “We’re about to close up.”

He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. “I just… was around and— “

“Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So… what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?”

“I’m not steal—” He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. “I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— “

“No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— “

“That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn’t know this shop was here.”

“Well, now you do.”

I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.

Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but… damn, he was fine.

“Now I do,” he acknowledged, with a head nod. “All I’m saying is that we should be able to co-exist.”

“Coexist? Seriously?”

I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.

“It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them.”

He scoffed, but I ignored it. “We can’t coexist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years.  Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn’t hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of…”

I shrugged, shaking my head. “Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you’re already rich, so now you’re just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It’s about more than a cheap haircut.”

“What do you want me to do, Leslie? Shut down my shop on some first dibs bullshit?”

I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of familiar feelings from being too close to him.

“I just want to run my shop, KC.”

“And I want to run mine.”
Book/Website Link:

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075J6LQ8X

Get to know the author: http:/BooksbyDLWhite.com

Review: ‘Ribbons & Belle’

Oh, I’ve been around. Doing this and that, more related to life than to writing. But I am back in the saddle and recalibrating my release dates, so stay tuned!

One of the things that gets me back into that creative space is communing with other creatives and with their creations. This one, ‘Ribbons & Belle’ by Ey Wade is work I read a long while back. As I get back into my groove, I’ll be posting some shorts just for fun, and as the year draws to a close, releasing new work. But in the meantime, I hope you’ll check out some of the work from the writers I reviewed and enjoyed, like this one!

randbA review of ‘Ribbons & Belle’ by Ey Wade

I read this book now several months ago, and recently happened across it again, recalling that I hadn’t reviewed it. And then I recalled why. ‘Ribbons & Belle’ is one of those books you want to sit with for a while after you’ve read it, because it raises interesting questions under the guise of a ‘simple romance’. But having read this author’s work before, I was forewarned that it probably wouldn’t be quite as simple as it might initially appear. For starters, the female lead is named Annabelle Lee, whose namesake is a tragic figure from an Edgar Allan Poe poem about a man who mourns his lost love, a love so great that even the angels are envious. So I was fully prepared for this Annabelle to be a tragic figure.

And she was. Somewhat.

At the beginning of the novel we see Annabelle mourning a loss, and yearning for what was lost. And that writing—the opening scene—was some of the most beautiful I have read this year. It had some the same hallmarks of Ey Wade’s writing in another of her books I read, ‘When Clouds Touch’—there is a fairytale like aspect, an otherworldliness to it that makes it sound lyrical and feel almost magical. And, as in that book, even the physical characteristics of the main characters were uncommon. Both Tyson and Belle are showstoppers in their own way, but not in a romance novel way. They are unique. Again; like in a fairytale.

But Ey Wade’s fairytales are somewhat like ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ with a very … well, grim, underbelly. That element was definitely present in this story. The details of what and how Annabelle lost are enough to make you want to weep. She has had miscarriages and her marriage ended as a result. But one particular pregnancy loss was incredibly difficult, and forced her into making a choice that no woman would want to make.

But then there was the love story, the coming together of Annabelle and her interesting, somewhat quirky suitor Tyson Ribbons (see what I mean, ‘ribbons’ and ‘belle’ –very reminiscent of the names in children’s stories, right?) who is determined to be her Prince Charming despite the incredibly difficult dilemma she presents him with. Annabelle is trying to get pregnant, and she’s doing it through artificial insemination; a plan she has no intention of delaying or changing simply because a persistent and seductive new man enters her life. And to further complicate matters, despite the obvious conflict of interest, Tyson is to be her counselor through this process. The counseling sessions become subterfuge for him to learn more about the mysterious Annabelle and for the two to grow closer.

Their closeness, and developing relationship is tested when those close to Tyson and to Annabelle learn troubling new details about her last pregnancy, and question whether she deserves what she wants most—motherhood.

So here’s my take. I loved Tyson, and particularly loved that his affection for Annabelle grew from afar at first and then turned into something more. The choice he made—to pursue Annabelle despite her circumstances—was one I would have counseled a friend against, but somehow it seemed to make sense for the man he was. I believed him completely, and felt like I understood him. Annabelle, less so, probably because I think a culture that tells women that they are incomplete unless they are mothers is oppressive. And Annabelle seemed to have bought into that in ways that made me want to throttle her a times. She was so single-minded in her drive to be a mother, that I couldn’t relate. But of course, I have a kid, so what do I know about wanting and not being able to have one? So … when I stopped judging her, I liked her more, and just wanted her to get what she wanted.

But I have to admit, when The Big Issue with Annabelle’s pregnancy was revealed, I wanted to see the characters struggle with it some more. I wanted to see a little more push and pull over this incredibly difficult subject—most of the conflict about it was external, and where Annabelle had to school a couple people, I got it but was more curious about her own internal struggle, and perhaps even an internal struggle between the couple. All in all though, the writing was solid, and the ending satisfying. But most of all, I think the story, the characters and the conflict were uncommon and unexpected; all of which, for me, made ‘Ribbons & Belle’ well worth the read.

Happy Reading!

N.

 

Nia’s January Must Read: ‘Love Is’ by Tia Kelly

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‘Love Is’ opens with the very ambitious, goal-oriented and purpose-driven Diane Collins in an airport, waiting for a flight after having just endured an interview for a job that is well beneath her abilities and her lofty expectations for herself. She’s got huge plans, but knows that the job, however lacking, could be a stepping stone to where she wants to go, so she’s willing to consider it. As fate would have it, also on that flight, and in need of a buffer between him and his over-exuberant fans, is Warren “the Warrior” Scott, an NBA player with the Boston Celtics. Warren and Diane strike up a conversation and shortly thereafter a friendship that will dramatically change the trajectory of her life.

Unbeknownst to Diane, she is meeting Warren at a pivotal moment in his life and career, and though he may be the biggest thing to happen to her in a long while, her significance (and certainly her value) in his life … well, that remains in question throughout most of the novel.

‘Love Is’ is notable for lots of reasons for me. First, it’s definitely genre-bending. Though there are certainly love affairs and ‘love dilemmas’ in the story, the big questions are raised by how much Diane may or may not love herself and how that self-love, or lack thereof, may lead her into making bad decisions. The love between parents and their children is also a theme that gets a lot of attention from the author and by the time the book is done, the choices parents make for the benefit of their kids, and sometimes to their kids’ detriment is also thoroughly and thoughtfully explored.

But let me get concrete. Here’s what made this book a ‘must-read’ for me:

The Maddening, but “Relatable” Imperfection of the Heroine–I wanted to choke her out a time or two, I can tell you that. I rarely agreed with her choices and a few of them made me want to scream. But here’s one thing I didn’t do: I didn’t doubt that those were choices a woman might make, choices women have made, or choices that even with her flawed reasoning made a certain kind of sense. It is almost the most important thing to me from the beginning of a novel to the end, that I am convinced. And I found Diane thoroughly convincing. She was the friend you know, who you watch make mistakes, but whose mistakes you are powerless to prevent her from making. At one point, I could almost weep for Diane, seeing how she far she had departed from the woman she was in that airport.

The Ambiguity of the Anti-Hero–so there’s a hint for you (and a mild spoiler) by calling him an Anti-Hero. Warren Scott (whose choices reverberate in the lives of characters in several other Tia Kelly novels) is a complicated man. He does incredibly romantic and thoughtful things, and then mind-blowingly despicable things. He is heart-meltingly tender, and then unbelievably callous. But like, Diane, he is real. The realistic nature of the character is only part of the appeal for me, though. I also loved that he was an enigma, not only to the reader, but you also got the sense that he was an enigma to himself–unable to explain his feelings, or process them, unable to discern his own wants and needs; unable to stop himself going down a path that could only lead to pain for himself and others.

The Familiarity of the Themes–the story is in some ways an old and familiar one. And in the traditional telling of this story, Diane could be seen as the villainess, or at a minimum, as being, well, not very smart. But the way the author had the story unfold, you realize the slow steps people sometimes take to almost certain ruin. Only from the distance of a reader are we able to see with clarity how ruinous their choices are, but at the same time, we understand why they the protagonists and participants in the story may not see it.

The Attention to Time and Place–if you were born in the 80’s, or a pre-teen or teenager then, you will recognize all of the cultural references–the clothes people wore, the shows on television, the happenings in the world’s of sports, entertainment, and politics— and you will delight in them. These details were unobtrusively sprinkled throughout, reminding us that the action doesn’t take place in an unspecified ‘modern America’ but in a very definite era. And that era, before social media made the details of everyone’s personal life a Google search away, is essential for understanding a key plot point.  Also, each chapter, rather than being numbered, is named after a song from that era with a title relevant to the unfolding of the action. This kind of thing sets a book apart, and makes it clear that it was the product of thought, rather than an impulsive regurgitation of ideas expressed in a million other books before.

The Bold Conclusion–Around 80 percent into ‘Love Is’, you’re pretty sure you know what’s going to happen. Well, you’re wrong. And that’s all I’m saying.

Disclaimer: the author is a friend and someone I often have conversations with about writing, characters and popular culture and how that impacts what writers write, and what people read. She co-hosted an event with me in Washington DC called ‘Wine with Writers’ which gave us, as well as writers Xyla Turner and Lily Java, a rare opportunity to have face-to-face time with readers and talk about the theme of African American women in fiction, and hear their impressions of our work and characters. It was a super-fun, interesting and eye-opening afternoon and gave us a new perspective on the ways that the things we can write affect real people with real lives. That’s an awesome amount of power and responsibility to have. It still amazes me that anyone would even want to meet writers, just because of our fanciful scribblings about imagined people and their imagined lives. But I don’t think my friend and fellow-writer Tia Kelly would mind my saying that she takes that power and responsibility really seriously.

The seriousness with which she treats that responsibility is clear in ‘Love Is’. Having read everything she’s released, I have to say that this is, hands-down, her very best work.


 

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About the novel:

It took a once-in-a-lifetime bond to teach her what love is, and a once-in-a-lifetime betrayal to show her what love is not… Love Is. A different kind of love story.

Diane Collins had big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott was not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance.

Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.

From ‘Love Is’:

“I wish you would have rescued me tonight,” he said in a quiet voice.

Diane kept her eyes focused on the rising moon. “I feel like that’s all I’m worth to you.”

“No.” They returned to silence, but several minutes later he added, “I never meant to make you feel like that.”

“I know… sometimes, at least.”

He moved his feet in the water, and it splashed against their calves.

“I just don’t know what this is with you. Between us,” she explained. She inhaled the night air and released it, hoping to let all the bottled-up emotion that was building up out with it. “I can’t do another trip… All of this is lovely, and I know I probably sound ungrateful for saying this after you picked me to be here with you, but… Warren, I can’t keep doing this. Not when I don’t know how you feel. Or maybe I know and refuse to accept it.”

Cada dia que passa eu me apaixono mais por você.”

“Spanish?”

He laughed. “No… Portuguese.”

“Interesting,” Diane said, her voice trailing off, blending with the lapping of water hitting the wall of the pool.

“I probably butchered it a little. Still not always the best at speaking in Portuguese.”

“Planning a trip to Brazil?”

“No. I learned it once trying to impress a girl.”

“Did it work?”

Warren closed his eyes and shook his head. “No.”

Diane stared down at the water, looking at their feet beneath the surface. “What does it mean?”

“It basically means with every day that passes, I fall in love with you more.”

Diane looked up and caught him staring at her.

“I know one thing,” she said, looking into his eyes—a crazy hazel so intense that the color transformed into a bright green within the warm gold and brown iris she was used to seeing. The bold transformation was hypnotic.

“And what’s that?”

“It worked on me.”


 

Read ‘Love Is’ today: on Amazon, on Nook, on Google or on Kobo

You’re Invited to ‘Wine with Writers’ in Washington DC!

Wine with Writers bannerIndie writers are an elusive breed. We don’t do a lot of public appearances, may never hit it big enough to show up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, or even do a local radio interview. But we do love connecting with our readers, people who tenaciously dig through the hundreds of thousands of offerings on online retailers and, against all odds, find and stick with us.

So, eventually, how could we not want to meet those intrepid readers?

This fall, two of my colleagues and I will be in Washington DC, sitting down for wine, finger food and conversation at The Fridge DC, a hip, indie (of course) art gallery in the heart of Capitol Hill. The event starts to 3 p.m. sharp and will run until about 5 p.m. For this first run at ‘Wine with Writers’ we’re not going to be talking about any one book, but about the larger theme of ‘Romance, Realism and the Portrayal of African American Women in Modern Popular Fiction’. But no fear, this is not meant to be some deep, boring and dry academic lecture but a conversation among the authors and you, the guests, talking about the books we enjoy and what they mean for how AA women are portrayed in culture. In addition to myself, on hand will be authors Xyla Turner and Tia Kelly, signing books, talking about their any of their characters that grabbed you, and giving away oodles of cool stuff. And did I mention there would be wine?

Besides the great company of your fellow readers and writers, guests will receive a complimentary gift bag of books and other goodies from some of our favorites, and have the opportunity to purchase (or pre-purchase) autographed paperbacks of Xyla, my and Tia’s new (not-yet-released) books. We’re starting the ‘Wine with Writers’ franchise in Washington DC, but hope to have events in other cities in 2016, so stay tuned and look out for those events with other exciting indie authors.

Come join us on November 14th from 3-5 p.m. at The Fridge DC by getting your tickets here! Don’t wait till the last minute because space is limited. This is not a photo-op, but a private, intimate gathering of folks who love books. And wine.

And just in case you don’t know much about our work, samples and buy links are below.

Happy Reading!

N.


About Xyla Turner

Xyla Turner was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, Xyla wrote short stories and essays that have won numerous awards in local to nationwide competitions. She is an avid reader, but a sucker for romance. Specifically, sassy females and dominant males. Xyla is a dedicated educator and a life coach. Outside of reading, Xyla likes to spend time with her family and travel. She writes different genres, but her favorite is romance.

Her latest release ‘League of Bosses: The Client’ is available now!

League of BossesAbout ‘League of Bosses: The Client’: ‘League of Bosses: The Client; is a short story about an ambitious local plumber and his new feisty client. He’s on the fast track to success and the interruption from Tiffany, threatens his future and tempts him to throw caution to the wind and take a chance with the hot client who gets under his skin.

Excerpt:

The next day, around noon. A knock came to her door and in walked Tiffany Fox carrying a big bag of food in her right hand and another bag in her left. These were big clothing bags, but they looked heavy. She put them down and ran back outside and came back with another bag.

Every man, totaling four in the living room had their eyes glued on her ass. She had on some yoga pants, a tank top and her streaked hair in a ponytail, displaying her beautiful face. The woman was covered, but every curve could be seen and every man onsite would have a peek.

A possessiveness came over John as he heard a few low whistles and other men started to come down the stairs to see what the spectacle was about.

“Hey, guys.” She waved. “I just wanted to say thank you for all that you’ve done, so I brought lunch. I hope I’m not too late. It’s spaghetti with turkey meat sauce, salad, bread and sweet tea. I made enough for twenty-five people and I was told there were nine of you all together, so you can get seconds.”

The men were all smiles and some were openly salivating at the beautiful woman.

Before he realized it, John stood up, stalked towards her, grabbed her hand, and ground out, “A word.”

He brought her through the living room, the kitchen and to the backyard where nobody was, and seethed, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“What?” she looked confused.

“What do you mean, what?” he replied as he placed her against the door, with his body tilted down towards her.

“Why are you mad at me? I asked you if I could drop something off and you said yes.”

“Not dressed like that.”

“This is my workout gear.”

“Oh, but don’t I know it, and everyone else. You can’t come into a room full of men dressed like that with food. It’s like walking into the lion’s den. Now not only are they salivating at your food, but also salivating about you.”

“Well, I am single, John. There is no harm in looking, right?”

John’s eyes grew wide and he raised his brows. “Oh, that’s the game you play?” He lifted his hands like he was surrendering and backed away.

When he turned to leave, she grabbed his wrist and said, “Wait.”

He halted but remained turned away from her.

“I only want you to look at me, John.”

He felt like a drummer was pounding in his ears, her words were assaulting him. She was young, probably more trouble than he really wanted and just cooked a whole meal for a crew of men that were simply doing their job. Before he could think any further, she rubbed his arm and he turned and in one step partly picked her up and put her against the door again, but with his hands on her ass, holding her taut body to his.

“Say what?” He whispered on her lips.

Her breathing was labored, but she mumbled, “I just want you to look at me.”

He took her lips with his own and caressed them with his tongue. She tasted like sweet tea in the summer time. He moaned and picked her up, so her legs wrapped around his waist. He bit her bottom lip, then a small moan escaped her, which sent John over the edge. He squeezed her ass and pressed her in harder so she could really feel him. Then he pulled back.

Damn.

He released her and kept his forehead on hers.

Available NOW on Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Kobo!


About Tia Kelly

Tia Kelly is the author of contemporary and women’s fiction. She is known for her candid way of capturing life’s moments, one character at a time. You can visit her here.

About Tia’s upcoming release ‘Love Is’: Diane Collins had big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott was not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance. 

Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.

Excerpt:

A low grunt beside her got Diane’s attention and she looked to her left to see a man trying to get comfortable in one of the seats. His long frame poured into the aisle in front of them as he shifted his stiff magnificent body, making his unusual length stand out even more.

Love isA family with two young children stopped in front of her and the stranger. staring openly, unlike Diane who tried to keep her gaze discreet. The mother held onto a Polaroid camera and one of the kids clutched a piece of paper and pen.

“We hate to bother you, Warrior, but do you mind?”

Diane turned to look at the guy now wearing a scowl on his face as he took the piece of paper and scrawled his name across it.

“No pictures if you don’t mind. I’m just trying to spend some quality time with my lady before our flight,” he said in a voice so low that it was barely audible.

The group moved on and Diane sighed with relief after noticing no other stragglers threatened to invade their space. Turning the page, she mumbled to her seat mate keeping her own curiosity about him in check. He was a man that clearly wanted to be left alone, but that was until she was dragged in to the imposition his celebrity caused him. “Your lady?”

“They usually leave me alone if I have company.”

She smiled, not able to resist the urge to tease him. “Glad to know I could be of assistance. By the way, I’d be highly upset if after all I did to save you from your fans if my man happens to forget my birthday this year.”

He laughed and the sound of it stirred her soul. She placed the magazine on her lap and turned to get a good look at him. He kept his head down, but she still noticed the intensity in his golden brown hazel eyes beneath thick, dark furrowed brows. A passerby interrupted their polite conversation by calling out “The Warrior.” With his head still bent, she saw his face go from relaxed to obvious discomfort. A group of young men repeated the nickname and the guy beside her clenched his jaw. Strong, angry nostrils flared above full lips and for some reason, Diane felt the need to protect him.

Her soft voice broke the tension and she placed her hand atop his forearm. “I take it you would rather they don’t recognize you.”

“Right now just isn’t the best time for me.”

“You must be pretty famous. People are whispering and staring at you.” Diane watched the corridor fill with people slowing down just long enough to get a glimpse of The Warrior as he waited at the gate.

He shrugged and shifted again in his seat, not saying anything but also not moving to get from under her touch.

A gate attendant appeared and offered him two small white flight pillows. He struggled as the attendant watched without offering any more help that might invade this man’s space. On instinct, Diane reached to help, placing the pillows behind his back only pausing to ask if that made him feel any better. When he nodded, the attendant returned to her post at the counter.

His laborious effort of pointing behind him was just as uncomfortable for her to watch. “Landed on my back during last night’s game.”

“Game?”

He smiled and laughed again.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re refreshing.”

“No. I’m just confused. Would it be safe to assume you are referring to basketball?”

He nodded.

“No need in telling me more. I don’t follow sports so any conversation about teams and the like would be wasting your time and mine. But I do hope you find relief soon.”

The Warrior smiled and signaled to get the gate attendant’s attention.

“Your ticket?” he asked Diane.

“My what?”

He pointed toward the sign with their destination and flight number nearby. “Are you going to New Orleans, too?”

“Uh, yes.”

He stared at the ticket she used as a placeholder in the magazine and slipped it from between the pages before handing it to the attendant. “There was a mixup when my lady and I made our travel reservations. Is there any way you could seat her beside me in first class?”

Turning back to Diane after the attendant walked away, he offered a stiff shrug. “Like I said earlier, I hurt my back in the game and now the spasms are killing me. I just want to rest during the flight. Do you mind sitting with me? That’s the only way I can make sure whoever has that seat doesn’t work my nerves the next few hours.”

Diane looked back at the uniformed woman that was still smiling and typing on the computer terminal in front of her. “Why me?”

He lifted his head and once their eyes met, Diane felt herself drawn to him. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the attendant returned holding a new ticket out for Diane to accept.
“Mr. Scott, we’re about to start boarding, but I’m willing to allow you and your companion early entry so you can get situated. Please follow me.”

Diane paused, but he nodded after standing and gestured for her to follow. Collecting her belongings and his small bag so he didn’t have to bend down to retrieve it, she walked with him toward the jet bridge.


About ‘Ivy’s League’By any measure, she is a success. By any measure that is, except her own.

Ivy Livingstone has entrée into Washington DC’s political elite, lives in an exclusive neighborhood and sends her son to a sought-after private school. But her beautiful life is a gilded cage. She is independent, but alone. And unfortunately, very few men are confident enough to believe they are in Ivy’s league.

Eli Thomason has all the confidence in the world, except when it comes to his own judgment about women. And his attraction to Ivy Livingstone proves him right. She is everything he shouldn’t want: a woman above his station and beyond his means. He overreached once before and still lives with the heartbreaking consequences, so why does he find it so difficult to leave Ivy alone?

And if their own baggage isn’t enough, Ivy and Eli have to contend with circumstances around them that seem to confirm their worst fear: that the bond they’re beginning to build can’t possibly last.

Excerpt:

As they drove, in a companionable silence, it was a complete contrast to the tension-filled trip the evening before. The morning was cool enough that Eli had to turn the heat on for the first few minutes, but after that, it was comfortable, and one of the most beautiful fall mornings Ivy could remember. The sky was the brightest blue and large cotton-ball clouds drifted by. She rested her feet on the dashboard and saw Eli glance at them, shaking his head but not complaining about them being there.

“Yknow last night?” Ivy ventured. “When a lot of things got said in like, the throes of … passion or whatever, I just wondered how many of those things hold up now, the morning after.”

“Things like what?”Eli asked.

“Things like, ‘you’re mine’ … things like that,” she said.

Eli glanced at her. “Second thoughts?”

“No,” she said quickly. “I just want to make sure you don’t have any. Men have a way of …”

“Talking nonsense before they bust a nut?”

Ivy laughed. “Well, yeah.”

“Not this man. I meant it.” He gave her another long look.

“So. At Woodmore, how does that … how are we going to make that work?”

“What the heck does Woodmore have to do with it?” Eli asked. “It’s none of their business what we do. And besides, who even knows if we talk to each other outside of that parking lot? Who would care?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Jenna Tate for instance.”

For what seemed like a long time, Eli said nothing. “How do you know about her?”

“She approached me. The morning you were sick and didn’t come. She walked up to me and made it pretty crystal clear that you and she … knew each other.”

Eli sniffed. “That was nothing. And it’s over with. Obviously.”

“Were there others?”

“No. It only took one time for me to know that it was a dummy-move in the first place.”

“Well, not one time, Eli. Because now there’s me,” Ivy pointed out.

“You think for one second, what’s going on here is like what happened with me and Jenna Tate?” he asked. He sounded angry.

“I don’t know. Because I have no idea what happened with Jenna Tate.”

“I told you, it was nothing. A horny woman who wanted to slum it for a while, and a guy dumb enough to walk right into it.”

“She wasn’t ‘slumming-it’ with you, Eli. You have to stop saying stuff like that.”

“That may not be the way I think of myself, Ivy, but it’s definitely the way some of those folks at Woodmore see me. And if you pretend otherwise, you’re kidding yourself.”

Ivy exhaled. “We’re getting off-topic. I want to know how we’re going to handle when we’re at the school. Our boys go there; it’s a very conservative school, so we can’t expose them to any …blowback.”

“What blowback? And how will we handle what exactly?”

“Eli, I don’t want to fight. I just want to know how I handle the Jenna Tates and the other women who might be curious about our relationship. What would you have me say to them?”

Suddenly Eli was pulling over to the side of the road, doing so abruptly enough that the tires screeched and gravel on the shoulder sprayed behind them. He turned to look at her, and Ivy feared for a moment that he was really angry. But he wasn’t. The only looks in his eyes were certainty, and steely determination.

“What I expect,” he said, “is for you to tell them if they ask that I’m your man. If any of them step to me, I intend to say that you’re my woman. And if any of the Upstanding Christian Brothers over there step to you, I expect you to do the same.”

Ivy’s lips twitched. “What did you call them? Upstanding …”

“I’m serious, Ivy. As for the school and the administrators, it’s none of their business, and where anyone else is concerned, you’re off the damn market.”

Ivy leaned over and nuzzled him. “I swear to god, I just got wet when you said that.”


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