Silent Nights: Chapter 1 Sneak Peek

About the book:

It’s a career-making opportunity.

Summer has an invitation to ‘Black America’s Wedding of the Decade’ and wouldn’t miss it for the world. Deuce Scaife is finally marrying his college sweetheart Zora Diallo (an outcome that was never in doubt, by the way, except maybe to the two people getting married) and since there’ll be celebrities all over the event, it’s in an expensive, remote location and all very hush-hush.

As an up and coming blogger and YouTuber for a series called ‘The Black Girls’ Guide to Slaying at Absolutely Everything’ Summer’s stock will increase considerably if she documents her experience at the wedding celebrations.

But when an unforeseen obstacle presents itself, Summer realizes she can only go to the most exclusive of the wedding events if she shares accommodations with the insufferable Lloyd Winston. Lloyd is a conservative, stuffy wannabe politico who Summer is shocked even got an invite.

But whatever … she can tolerate him for one winter weekend, right?

Summer smiled when her cellphone rang and reached for it. Waiting through three more rings, she answered, taking a deep, silent breath and struggling to keep a neutral tone.

“What’s up, girl?”

“Don’t play with me, Summer. You picked up your mail yet?”

“Claudia, I had a long day,” she drawled. “I haven’t been back down to the mailbox. Why? Am I supposed to be getting something?”

Yes!” Claudia’s voice on the other end of the line was a shriek. “Are you serious? You didn’t get one?”

Summer squealed at a soprano pitch matching her best friend’s.

“I’m just messin’ with you! Yes! I got my invitation! I got my invitation …” She sang as she jumped onto her bed, bouncing up and down like it was a trampoline, even while the springs squeaked and protested. “We’re going to the wedding! We’re going to the wedding!”

Summer stopped screaming and jumping as a thought occurred to her.

“Wait. You did get one as well, right?”

“Yes! Thank god!” Claudia groaned. “Because you know only certain people got a plus-one and we are just not that important.”

“I’m not mad,” Summer said kissing her teeth. “I was never that tight with neither Deuce nor Zora, so if they want me at their wedding … I will go however they want me. Even if it means leaving you behind.”

“Who you think gon’ be there?” Claudia asked, taking on a conspiratorial tone. “You think K Smooth and Devin Parks …”

“Oh definitely. But I’m curious who else from Black Caucus might’ve gotten an invitation. I bet all the Penn State folks be stalkin’ their mail carriers this week.”

Claudia laughed. “Who cares about them? I’m just tryna meet me a rapper or a baller and have him take me away from this lower middle-class life.”

“Probably all Zora’s Black Lives Matter comrades will be there, huh?” Summer said, her mind beginning to whir. “Like Rashad Dixon maybe?”

“Deuce will not let Rashad Dixon within one hundred miles of his woman, dummy. Of course he’s not invited!”

Rashad Dixon, Zora’s ex-boyfriend, notoriously caused Deuce Scaife to lose his cool at some party and someone got beaten up, though Summer didn’t remember which of them it had been. The rumor at the time was that Deuce stole Zora from Rashad, but it was all very fuzzy now.

“I don’t know. Deuce doesn’t strike me as that petty. And also, he’s the one marrying her. I’m sure he’s unbothered by Rashad by now. But you’re right about all the stars …” Summer’s voice trailed off.

“Summer. No,” Claudia said. “I know what you’re thinkin’. Mess around and get that invitation revoked!”

“I would ask them first, obviously.”

“I don’t know. That’s kinda tacky. ‘Can I vlog about y’all’s wedding? Even though I don’t know why y’all invited me in the first place?’

“They invited me because I’m practically the reason they got back together.”

Claudia laughed. “Okay, Summer. Delusional much?”

“No, seriously. Deuce Scaife is big-time now. But when he was just …”

“When he was just … what? Chris Scaife’s son? He’s always been big-time, sis.”

“Fine. But he’s bigger time now. When I invited him to that mixer is when him and Zora reconnected. So …”

Christopher Scaife, Jr., aka “Deuce” was the eldest son of entertainment mogul, Chris Scaife, hitmaker and star-maker extraordinaire of the early 2000s. Not too many people had outlasted Chris Scaife’s game and now, his son was getting in on the business himself. Last year he had launched Gollum, a ragtag label that was beginning to make its name by signing African and European acts who had solid overseas fan bases, but little U.S. exposure. People were already beginning to use words like “inspired” and “genius in its simplicity” to describe Deuce Scaife’s approach to getting hits right out the gate for a fledgling company.

And now, Deuce was at long last marrying his college sweetheart Zora Diallo. Their unexpected love story had transfixed the Black community on their university campus while it was going on, because it was so darn unlikely. Not to mention filled with lots of college drama.

Zora was a modern-day, Senegalese American activist and Deuce had been, well, a hoe until she worked some kind of African juju on him. Whatever it was, homeboy was so obviously sprung that a wedding never seemed to be in doubt, except possibly to the two people who were now getting married.

Anyway, Deuce and Zora’s engagement had never even been announced because they weren’t those types of people who would assume the world needed to know. But the great big honker of a diamond ring that appeared on Zora’s left index finger about six months ago while Deuce squired her around town to his various industry events had attracted the attention of all the Black entertainment blogs.

Since then folks had been on watch for what was being dubbed Black America’s Wedding of the Decade.

In closer circles, among the Black Penn State alums, rumors had begun to circulate about six weeks ago that the big date was close. Word was, they wanted to do it during the holidays, because the press wasn’t as on top of things then, and most of the outlets would be preoccupied with compiling those lists of celebrities who had croaked during the year, or in pre-production hell for their glitzy Christmas specials.

Final confirmation came about two months ago when someone who knew someone who was kind of friendly with Asha Carter, Zora Diallo’s bestie and wife of Kal Carter, Deuce Scaife’s bestie, happened to have spoken to Asha who said she was coming East near the end of the year for an occasion she couldn’t miss. Now that in and of itself probably wasn’t that big a deal since Asha Carter was originally from New York and might have been coming to visit family, but then, according to this person, she said something like: God, I don’t know if I’m up to getting my picture taken and being all over blogs and stuff when I’m going to be one-hundred years pregnant and big as a barn.

And boom! That was it. The news spread like wildfire: Deuce and Zora were getting married and it was likely happening in December. Everyone who knew them even casually, and definitely all the Penn State alums in New York had been on the lookout for their invitation.

Summer didn’t know for sure she would be getting one, because while in university, Deuce had a tight circle or basically … one: Kaleem Carter. And the girls who penetrated that circle only had one way in. They were screwing either Kal or Deuce. Summer had done neither. And Zora she knew from having once been in a class with her. They had shared notes and chitchatted occasionally, but they weren’t exactly close.

But what Summer had done, was organize the alumni mixer where Deuce and Zora reconciled after a breakup.

Claudia knew Zora because she had once been roommates in a triple with Zora’s good friend Mia and attended a few of Zora’s Black Lives Matter events. Getting invitations to the wedding had been a longshot for them both, but apparently miracles did happen.

And if there was one miracle, why not press for two?

“Who wouldn’t want to be featured on my vlog?” Summer said almost to herself.

“They’re having a winter wedding because they want to maintain their privacy,” Claudia enunciated. “Why would they consent to be on your vlog?”

“I wouldn’t have them come on personally—unless they wanted to, which I seriously doubt they would—I would just sort of … document my prep for their wedding, and maybe do a couple recordings while I’m there …”

“Summer. Do not ask them that,” Claudia warned.

“I have to …”

Summer …”

“I have to, Claudia! How am I going to ever be successful at this business if I don’t want to take risks?”

“Okay, do you. But do not put my name in it. If they take away your invitation, I’m pretending I don’t know you.”

“They’re not going to take away my invitation,” Summer said laughing.

“So you’re really gon’…”

“Yes. I think I might have Zora’s number around here somewhere, otherwise I’ll hit her up on Facebook. I’ll just ask her to coffee and make my pitch.”

“Okay. Well, lemme leave you to your self-destructive behavior. I’m about to go online and start looking for dresses.”

Zora came striding in, pausing at the door for a moment to shake some of the wet off her coat. She was wearing a gray beanie, pulled down over her ears from which long braids escaped, trailing down her shoulders and back. She stood, looking around for a moment, then spotted Summer and waved, coming toward her.

“I went to the wrong one,” Zora said, sounding slightly breathless. She rolled her eyes. “Did you know there’s another Starbucks just four blocks from here? Who does that?”

Summer laughed and stood to hug her briefly. “Well, New Yorkers need their caffeine, I guess. Want to go get something before you sit?”

“Yes. Definitely,” Zora said. “Back in a sec.”

As she shed her shearling coat and draped it over the back of the other chair at the table, Summer couldn’t help but notice The Ring.

“You want anything else?” Zora indicated Summer’s coffee cup.

“Nope. All good.”

Pear-shaped, brilliant, and two-and-a-half carats, Summer estimated.

Jeez, how did a Columbia Law student walk around all day wearing that? Wasn’t she afraid of getting robbed? Not that she was likely to be taking the number 1 Local anymore these days.

Watching Zora stand in line, Summer wondered whether she had any clue how much her life was about to change. Of course she did. It had already changed probably.

She and Deuce were practically joined at the hip. Zora was in just about every picture of him online, and if not, his arm was extended and holding a woman’s hand, darker in complexion that his which meant Zora was probably there, just out of frame. Seeing those pictures—and in fairness, not just pictures of Deuce and Zora, but pictures of all happy Black couples—Summer felt a deep gnawing in the pit of her stomach. She wanted that. For half a minute, she thought she had that.

With Aiden. That asshole, Aiden who had crushed her so badly, she quit her gig at HarperCollins to avoid seeing him every day. He was still there, still working his hustle, trying to discover the next big deal young adult author of color. And she had retreated, tail between her legs and pretended that starting her YouTube series and blog was a long-planned dream finally, joyfully coming to fruition.

The truth was, if she didn’t seriously monetize both the blog and online series in the next four months, she was going to have to move home to Queens. And if there was something she didn’t want to do, it was move home to Queens. Her mother still had her bedroom waiting. That’s how confident she was that Summer didn’t know what the heck she was doing with her life.

“Okay. I’m back.”

Zora sat down across from her, and Summer smelled the scent of pumpkin spice wafting in her direction. She loved fall. But winter was going to be so much more exciting if she could pull this off. Exclusive background on the Zora Diallo-Deuce Scaife wedding would easily double her subscribers.

“I’ll cut to the chase,” Summer said, assuming her businesslike, student council president mien. “I was beyond shocked to get an invitation to your wedding.”

Zora looked surprised, widening her catlike brown eyes.

They made her look—there was no way around the use of the word—exotic. And add to that, those high, sharp, enviable cheekbones and pouty, plum-colored lips? She looked like the freaking Princess of Wakanda. No wonder Deuce was so obsessed with her.

That was how everyone described it when they were all back at school: He’s obsessed with her. There’d been a little undercurrent of jealousy, of course.

“You helped get me and Deuce back together,” Zora said matter-of-factly. “Of course we’d invite you.”

Summer tried not to give a smug smile. Wait till she told Claudia. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Well I’m flattered you did,” she said. “But there’s something I want to run by you.”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I don’t know if you know I have a YouTube channel. And a blog.”

Zora shook her head. “I didn’t know that. Cool. What’re they about?”

“It’s lifestyle stuff mostly. They’re called, The Black Girls’ Guide to Slaying at Absolutely Everything.”

Zora laughed. Not as ridicule but in delight. “That’s perfect! Oh my god, that’s completely you. How many subscribers so far?”

“Almost three-hundred thousand. Not great, but I started only four months ago.” Summer shrugged.

“That’s pretty cool.”

“And …” she drawled, then bit her lower lip. “Here’s the thing. The crux of it is documenting my life, talking about just daily stuff, like where to get the best purses, when cool sample sales are happening … how to make your blowout last longer …”

“Sounds like fun. I’m gonna look you up,” Zora said, sipping her drink.

“And I also talk about parties and events I go to,” she added.

Zora looked at her blankly for a few seconds then leaned back in her chair. “Oh.”

“I don’t want you to feel like I’m exploiting our …” She hesitated to say ‘friendship’. All that would do was draw Zora’s attention to the fact that what they had wasn’t precisely that. “I don’t want to exploit the access I have …”

“But …?” Zora prompted.

“I’d like your permission to talk about your wedding on my vlog. And write about it on my blog.”

Zora was already shaking her head. “Summer. I don’t know. Deuce really hates hype. I mean, really hates it. And we want the wedding to be … personal, y’know? It’s bad enough we have like two hundred people coming.”

“I’m shocked you were able to keep it that small,” Summer said. “Especially since you invited randos like me and …”

She stopped, remembering Claudia’s admonition to not mention her name.

Zora laughed. “You hardly a rando. Penn State is where Deuce and I met, where we fell in love … You, and a whole bunch of other people were part of that tableau. So …” She shrugged. “We want you there.”

That description—of her and others being part of their relationship tableau—almost made Summer feel badly about pressing her point.

“This wouldn’t be hype, Zora. I promise. It would be talking about how to prepare for a celebrity event …”

“Celebrity.” Zora rolled her eyes.

“I can guess at some of your guest list. Let’s not be in denial about the fact that this is going to be an A-list event.”

Zora sighed. “I guess. But Deuce and I … We just want to be married already. And all of this is for other people to begin with, so … And also, you know who his father is, Summer. I mean, I just don’t …”

“Okay, how about if I write up some parameters for what I plan to talk about? And then you can run it by Deuce. And you two can talk to your publicists or whatever, and …”

“Our publicists?” Zora almost spat her latte across the table. “We don’t have a publicist.”

“Then better yet. If you want to get some lower key buzz, what better way than to use an unknown vlogger?”

Zora shook her head and smiled. “You’re persuasive, I’ll give you that.”

Summer said nothing, knowing to leave well enough alone when Zora was actually smiling at her.

“Email me your … parameters,” Zora said finally. “And I’ll talk to Deuce. I mean, there’ll be all these other people there, Summer. People who want their privacy maintained. Not just me and Deuce. So, I think he’s going to have to make that call.”

“I understand. And I respect that. I’ll take that into consideration when I draw up the guidelines.”

Sighing, Zora reached for her cup again and clasped it in both hands. She nodded.


“Cool,” Summer echoed, trying not to look too pleased with herself. “Now tell me … besides being the bride in Black America’s Wedding of the Decade, what else is new?”

Zora made a gagging sound.

“Well, parameter number one? Please do not call it that.”

Summer shrugged. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”