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.

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Come Up’

Jamal Turnercolor coverflatMakayla Hughes watched from across the club as Jamal Turner glanced at his watch for the third time in as many minutes. In fact, she’d been watching him ever since he entered. It hadn’t been difficult to do since he was about a head taller than most of the other men there. And the way he carried himself, with such obvious self-assurance was an attention-getter as well. Not that she didn’t already know who he was—everyone at Scaife did.

Jamal Turner was SE’s rainmaker. He secured big names and closed deals, and was known to be in the innermost of inner circles of the big boss himself; sought after by headhunters from Sony, Virgin and just about every other entertainment conglomerate on the planet. But Jamal Turner was almost as emblematic of Scaife Enterprises as the man himself. Not too many people could boast of being practical besties with Robyn Scaife, invited to every single family event and able to get on Chris Scaife’s calendar whenever they wanted; but Jamal Turner could.

Rumor had it he could waltz into Chris Scaife’s office at will, sitting on the edge of his desk and taking the kind of liberties no one else would dare, like calling him “Boss Man” with a mixture of deference and irony that was hard to question. Makayla herself had once heard him do it, when at a company party she was standing just five feet away from Chris Scaife and his pretty wife and Jamal Turner approached them both. Robyn Scaife’s eyes lit up at the sight of him and the boss had looked on with barely concealed amusement as his wife and friend embraced.

To say that Turner’s reputation preceded him would have been an understatement, but precede him it did. Long before she even scored the job in the PR department, Makayla had heard of him, back when she was at CUNY-Brooklyn, scouring the internet for leads on internships in the entertainment industry. Partly because he was known to have forged-in-steel friendships with some of the artists he helped develop, and partly because he was just so damned photogenic.

Jamal Turner was a photographer’s dream. With the dark chocolate complexion, erect, hard-body posture and winning smile, he just begged to be memorialized in photographs. And somewhere along the line, he’d learned the colors that accentuated his rich darkness—orange, white, yellows and occasionally a powder blue. He was gorgeous, there was no getting around that—the kind of gorgeous that could make a girl just the tiniest bit pissed off.

Makayla was a little pissed off now as a matter of fact. Because Turner had called her boss, not her, when he’d requested the meeting with Devin. And because he was standing at the other side of the club, near the stage like he had better places to be, and a better class of people to be with. But she happened to know that he was homegrown, a kid from uptown who’d managed to make good. No matter how many recording superstars he was pictured with in the blogs, he shouldn’t be standing there like this dingy little nightclub was beneath him, because she happened to know it wasn’t.

And finally, Makayla was pissed off because she was nervous, and she never got nervous. Not about anyone. But she was nervous and just a little intimidated, to tell the truth, by Jamal Turner. He had walked by her countless times in the office, usually accompanied by someone else closer to his pay-grade, looking all confident and larger-than-life and just … delicious as all get-out.

She hated to admit it to herself, but the fact that he’d never once turned in her direction with anything approaching interest irked her somewhat. True, she was just an admin assistant, but it wasn’t like she was ugly or anything, and rumor had it that he was one of those men who didn’t even have a “type.” When it came to women, he appeared to like them all. He dated lots of famous and beautiful women, but there were also a fair number of regular girls from around the office who he’d been with as well, some model-like and slender, others heavyset and buxom. Some white chicks, and a few sisters as dark as he was. But while they didn’t seem to fit a certain type, they all had one thing in common—if their post-Jamal behavior was any indication, they mourned the passing of their time with him and would have all loved a reprise of their role as woman on his arm.

Looking down at her jeans and black batwing blouse, she wished she’d dressed up just a little more. Not because she was hoping to capture his eye—or so she told herself—but because she didn’t want to come across as dowdy, either.

But being in a nightclub tonight hadn’t been in Makayla’s plans and so the time had simply gotten away from her. She’d been trying to get some more studying done before heading out for this “quick meet-up.” That was what her boss Serena had called it anyway. Serena was one of five deputy communication directors at Scaife, and handled community relations, doing the PR for anything related to Scaife’s charities. Rarely if ever did she deal with the more glamorous stuff unless there was a celebrity in need of a little image rehab by visiting a children’s cancer ward, or donating money to a school music program. But from the sound of things, she knew Jamal Turner quite well; she certainly seemed eager to help him get to Devin.

I hate to capitalize on a personal relationship, Kay, she’d said, toying with one of her rather large earrings. But it would be a huge deal if you could just arrange this meet-up. Believe me, Jamal knows how to take it from there. All we’re talking about is an hour out of your Saturday night.

And since Makayla pretty much wanted to be Serena one day, she’d agreed. She’d only been working for her for six months, and had yet to find a way to distinguish herself, so this seemed as good a way to do it as any. And if Scaife actually signed Devin because of her intro, there was no telling what that might do for her prospects at the company. Not that signing Devin was anything even approaching likely.

Sighing, Makayla began making her way toward Jamal Turner. She only hoped Devin wasn’t in one of his moods tonight and wouldn’t embarrass her. On her way over to the club, she’d texted him to let him know what was up and he’d promised to be on his best behavior. But Devin was temperamental and always had been, with moods as changeable as the weather. If sound-check hadn’t gone well, or if he got his sneakers scuffed on the subway ride over; if there was someone on drums tonight other than his regular guy, or he’d slept a half hour less than usual the night before … there was no telling how he might show out.

When she was about a foot away from Jamal Turner, Makayla smelled him. She didn’t know how she knew it was him, she just did. It was an unidentified musk, an earthy, sexy, manly scent that had a richness to it that reeked its expense. Walking toward him, he seemed even taller, her head would just about reach his chest; the chest that was accentuated in that bright-white long-sleeved shirt in a clingy fabric. Not too many men could pull off a shirt like that without looking cheesy. Tucked into an army-green tailored pant, he looked … perfect.

Scowling, he reached up and ran a large hand over his closely-shorn head and sighed, taking one last look at his watch. Finally, he pushed himself up and away from the wall where he’d been leaning, with the apparent intention of leaving.

Makayla cleared her throat. “Jamal,” she said. And when he didn’t hear her over the din, she tried again, speaking much louder this time. “Jamal.”

He looked about for a moment, not sure who had spoken his name until finally his eyes rested on her. Jamal Turner smiled.

“You must be …”

“Makayla,” she said extending a hand. “Makayla Hughes.”