I closed my eyes gathering my calm because I wanted to hurt this woman who seemed intent on wreaking havoc on my life. I said angrily, “Leela, what are you doing here? I haven’t changed my mind about dinner on Friday.”
“Was that your girlfriend?” She smiled wickedly.
I clenched my jaw refusing to answer her question. “Why are you here?”
“You help people start their own companies, right?”
“What? You came here today to discuss business?” I pushed the elevator button intent on going after Raquel. “I need to go and so do you. If you have consultant questions, we will talk on Friday as we planned.”
She pouted. “I want to meet now.”
I looked heavenward praying for strength. I really needed to get back in church if shit like this keeps happening. “Leela, I don’t really care what you want. Threaten me, expose me, whatever you want to do. But I’m not going to be at your beck and call. Either we’re meeting on Friday night or we’re not.”
Glaring, she folded her arms, her mouth forming a stern straight line.
The elevator dinged and I stepped closer to the doors. “Do whatever the fuck you want. I’m out.”
“Fine. I’ll see you Friday night.” Leela flipped her long hair and we both stepped on the elevator. I stood on one side while she faced me looking me up and down, with her hand on her hip.
“You can stop all that. I’m not remotely interested.”
Leela straightened indignantly. “You were that night.”
“Leela, I thought we both understood it was a night of fun. That’s it. I mean no disrespect, but I don’t do threesomes with my woman. I should have spoken to you and maybe shared a drink. That’s it. I can admit I fucked up by being with you and leaving without saying goodbye.” I put my hand up stopping her protest. “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings I’m just explaining myself. I don’t date any exes of a family member or my friends. Period. It’s not about you personally. You being here right now just proves why I shouldn’t have ignored my own rules.”
Leela’s chest rose and fell rapidly and when the doors opened, she flounced out without another word. I walked out slowly behind her, wanting to put distance between us, as I searched for my mother and girlfriend. Leela left out of the building and I made a right and headed to the coffee shop, ready to come clean. My stomach twisted in knots about telling her the truth about Leela, but I hated seeing the hurt expression on Raquel’s face. She’d been nothing but good to me in the little over a month we’d known each other. I would make it right.
When I entered the shop, Ma waved at me from the corner of the room, away from the windows. She had been strategic in her choice of seating in case Leela passed by the shop.
“We already ordered.”
Raquel had trouble meeting my eyes though she nodded.
“Son, sit down.” Ma patted the chair next to Raquel.
“I need to talk to Raquel.”
“Yes, but I need you to sit right now.”
I complied and looked at my mother nervously wondering what she had to say to me in front of Raquel.
She glanced at me before turning her attention to Raquel. “You’ve known me all of five minutes, but I want to know you longer. That woman that was in Aaron’s office is his past and she unexpectedly popped up. He asked me to trust that she was not of concern right before we saw you, which is the only reason I allowed him more time to talk to her. This may not be my place to say anything. My son might seem strong, confident, and unbreakable. And he is those things much of the time, but when it comes to affairs of the heart, he’s vulnerable. You already are important to him.”
Raquel responded quietly, “How do you know?”
Ma rubbed my hand. “He told me that he’s afraid to lose you and he wouldn’t do anything intentionally to hurt you. And my son doesn’t confide in me about the women in his life. I’ve encouraged him to be honest with you and I believe he would’ve been even if you hadn’t caught him.”
I don’t think I’ve ever loved my mother more as I listened to her defend me and my behavior that Raquel may deem indefensible. Leaning to kiss Ma’s cheek again, I picked up Raquel’s hand. “She’s right. I haven’t been happy for a long time and you met me right when I was getting that back. I don’t want to go back to that dark place again. I only want light from here on out.”
Ma rose from her chair like the queen she was and smiled warmly at the both of us. “I think I will let you two talk. Aaron, Raquel and I have already made plans for brunch next weekend. She and I will meet even if you can’t.” She squeezed my shoulder and waved bye to Raquel. “You can have my coffee, Aaron.”
“You might want to pick it up on your way out. You like way too much sugar for me.” I teased, relieved that the tension that bounced between Raquel and myself had ebbed away after Ma’s speech.
“I forgot you actually like the awful taste of your coffee, black.” Ma waved and headed to the counter.
I looked at Raquel. “I know I have to explain-
Her lips cut off the rest of my words and I gave in to her sweet kiss. She soon pulled back and curved my face with her hands. “Is she your past?”
Gazing into her eyes, I reassured. “She was never my present.”
Raquel wiped lipstick off my mouth. “You don’t need to explain anything that happened before me. I do want to know more about your marriage, and what went wrong, but I don’t care about any other women from your past as long as they remain in the past.”
“But I want to tell you.”
Raquel shook her head. “Sometimes a person can know too much truth about another. Your mother told me to trust you and I will. Let’s go have dinner as we planned, and we can talk later in bed.”
Impossibly turned on by her willingness to trust me, I wanted her desperately. “I need to be inside you now, dinner later.”
She gasped softly at my words and bit her lower lip so seductively, I practically jerked her up. We hurried out of the shop to the parking garage. My Range Rover was parked in my reserved space in the corner. We were blocked from the view of others on the passenger side. When Raquel waited for me to open her door, I started kissing her and pressed her against the car. My hand went under her dress to ready her pussy for my pounding. In between kisses, I demanded, “Take your panties off.”
Her brown eyes widened in lust. “We’re doing it out here in the open?”
“Hmm…hmm.” I kissed her neck. “My windows are tinted on the other side, and no one can see us as they head to their car to leave or if they’re trying to park. We’re good.” I backed up just enough to watch her. “Now, take them off.”
I reached in my back pocket for my wallet to retrieve a condom while she lifted her dress high enough to give me a peek of her blue lace panties as she then pushed them down her legs and off her black high heels. I quickly sheathed myself, lifted her long legs to wrap around my waist, and thrust deep inside. I caught her loud moan with my tongue that delved in and out of her mouth matching my fucking rhythm.
Raquel held on to my neck, allowing me to have my way with her beautiful body. I unzipped the back of her dress and she adjusted her arms so I can push the silk material off enough to taste her breasts through her lace bra. I nipped one of her rigid buds and she winced. “Fuck, Aaron.”
I lifted my head and whispered, “Am I hurting you?”
She squeezed her legs tighter around my waist as she rested her back against my car window. “Yes…but I love this side of you. Please don’t stop.” She lifted her bra, releasing her perky breasts so I can indulge on her heated flesh. She tasted salty and sweet as I sucked hard and rolled her nipples in between my teeth. She yelled and bit my neck when I tugged too roughly.
The sting of Raquel’s bite triggered my libido and I began to grind furiously, uncaring that now my Rover rocked to my insistent, forceful pumping. That anyone, including my staff, could walk out any minute and know what we were doing. Nothing mattered but making this woman scream my name. And when she finally did and her body collapsed against mine, I held her limp, exhausted body, fucking her until my cum spewed from deep within.
Friday morning as I made my morning commute, Kari called. I clicked the button on my car. “Hey.”
“Yeah, I’ll be hitting the city about two. Where we meeting up?”
“You coming alone?”
“Ma wants us to have dinner tomorrow. Just the four of us again.”
“You okay with that?”
“I guess. Meet me at my condo. I’ll text you my address.”
“Still don’t want to tell me what’s going on?”
“There are some things best said in person.”
He sighed. “Okay, Ron…I mean Aaron.”
About three that afternoon, the security guard on duty buzzed to let me know I had a visitor. Three minutes later, I opened the door for my brother. He still looked rough around the edges with his growing beard and thick head of hair that he started twisting. But his eyes were bright, brighter than I’d seen since before he left to go overseas. He was happy to be here. We dapped and hugged briefly before I welcomed him into my home.
“Nice place.” Kari looked around my spacious open living plan and headed to my kitchen. “I’m thirsty. You have water.”
“Of course. Help yourself. There’s some water in the pantry.”
“Oh, you remembered I like room temp water?”
“Why you sound surprised? I’ve been knowing you for thirty years.” I moved to my kitchen island and stepped onto the leather stool. “Get me one out of the refrigerator.”
He grabbed one for himself out of my pantry and then one for me from the frig. “So, I’m here. What’s up?”
I started, “I don’t need your judgment. I already know I fucked up.”
Kari perched on the stool across from me. “Oh…oh. Do you have liquor?”
I glared. “You know I don’t drink regularly.”
“I don’t know what you do now, since you refuse to talk to me until you need something.” He shook his head ruefully. “Like you always do.”
“Then why come here?”
“Because it’s what we do. You need me, I’m here.
Opening my bottle, I said, “I wish I can say the same.”
Kari frowned. “What does that mean?”
“You twisting this like I’m being selfish, and only want to be bothered when I want something. When the truth is you never let me be there for you. I do call when I need you, but you never called me. Until you betrayed me and want my forgiveness.”
He flinched at my use of betrayal but continued, “That’s because I couldn’t rely on you.”
I bristled at his words. “Can you step outside of your self-righteousness and tell me at one point did you ever ask me to do a damn thing for you once we were adults and I let you down? Huh? I’m not talking about when we were kids, talking about as grown-ass men. You never fucking gave me a chance and you know it. So if you don’t really want to be here, then go. I’ll figure it out.”
Kari said impatiently, “I didn’t travel all this way to go home. Fine, I didn’t give you a chance to prove me wrong. I’m here now, so what’s up?”
I took a settling breath. “It’s about Leela.”
His voice raised an octave. “Leela? What about her?”
“We ran into each other here. I’d just heard your message about you and Kam getting married and I was hurt. She was still hurt about you and one thing led to another and we slept together.”
Kari pushed back his stool. “Are you fucking kidding me? Why would you fuck around with her? Is this your way of getting back at me?” he asked incredulously.
“No, it wasn’t.” He snorted and I amended my answer. “Maybe on some level, but I never wanted you to know. It wasn’t a revenge fuck the way that she’d called it.”
“Why are you telling me this?” His eyes widened in shock. “So, you and Leela dating now? I’m with your ex, you with mine? Is that why you wanted to tell me in person? Come on, Aaron. I didn’t think you even cared for her, that she’s too shallow for you. Honestly, I don’t even know why I dated her for so long either.”
I held my hand up trying to interrupt his growing anger. “Can you please let me finish? You would be fucking right. No way I would want a relationship with her. It was one night only. I had too much to drink, Jamal egged me on, and she had a sexy friend…”
“Woah, Jamal? Jamal was there?”
“Yeah, he noticed Leela before I did. I didn’t want to even speak, but Jamal thought I needed to do something to cheer up. So I did Leela.” I gulped down the rest of my water. “And her friend.”
Kari placed his fist over his mouth for a second before surprisingly grinning wide, and reaching his hand over to dap me. “Big bro…you still got it. Two women and one was my ex.” He chuckled and sipped his water.
Now it was my turn to stare. “Wait…you not pissed with me?”
“Even if I were, I don’t have the right with how everything went down between you and me. Plus, Tisha read me my rights about how I acted about you and her.”
My breath quickened at the mention of Tisha. “Really? She never told me.”
“Shit. That woman got a mouth on her. She cursed me out telling me to stay out of her business. She reminded me again that you held it down while I was gone. That you had really been a friend to her and would never hurt her.”
He studied his water bottle instead of giving me eye contact. “You really care about her, don’t you?”
“I do, but I know she has Dewayne, so we ended our friendship.”
Kari chuckled almost to himself. “That explains why she keeps asking about you and your name stays in her mouth lately.”
“What she say?” I asked eagerly before I could stop myself.
Assessing me, Kari spoke slowly. “Nothing really except to ask how you’ve been doing and have we heard from you. Or when Kam made turkey burgers one night, Tish mentioned that’s about the only thing you cook well. Before that day you visited, she never said your name at least not around me.” He downed the rest of his water and placed the bottle down on the island. Kari then met my gaze. “Dewayne is my friend but you’re my brother, so if you feeling her like it seems like you are, then go for it.”
Realizing his opinion still mattered, I smiled before I could stop myself. “Jamal said the same thing, but I have a woman now. She’s a good woman and a fresh start. And Tisha reminds me of…” I faltered not wanting to fuck up the relaxed vibe between us.
“Of Kam,” he finished.
“Yeah.” I took his bottle and threw it in the trash. “In time, Tisha won’t even think about me. We live in two different states, living two different lives.”
“The question is will you still think of her?”
I shrugged not wanting to rehash my deep feelings for Tisha. “Back to why I called you.”
He nodded. “Bro, we really could have spoken on the phone about you and Leela.”
“That’s not why I asked you to be here. I wouldn’t have even told you about that night if Leela wasn’t trying to blackmail me now.”
“Blackmailing you? How?”
“She took pics of me in compromising positions that night while I slept. She has a lot of IG followers and she’s threatened to post pics. She only showed me one and it’s me, her, and her friend all in the bed together, with condoms and alcohol in the background.”
Kari was livid and came to stand next to me. “That’s some fucked up shit. Those photos can’t get out, it can damage your business, embarrass the family. She went crazy on me, but I thought it was because I hurt her. This some ‘thin line between love and hate, shit’.”
“Except I made her no promises. This bitch straight stalking me. She slipped the photos under my door and I never told her where I lived. Then she showed up at the office the other day while Ma and Raquel, my lady was there. Luckily I was able to smooth things over with Raquel and Ma, but it could have gotten so ugly.”
He asked incredulously, “Ma knows?
“Yes. Well, she doesn’t know everything. I just told her you were coming here to discuss some unresolved issues with Leela. I couldn’t tell Ma I slept with Leela and her friend.”
“All this after one night? And you didn’t promise her anything?”
He whistled. “You must have snuck out and ghosted her, then. She hates being ignored. We would have our biggest arguments when I didn’t answer or call her right back if she called me.”
“I did leave while they slept. But how many one-night stands do you wake up and have breakfast and talk?”
Kari grinned. “I never even spent the night whenever I had one.”
“Exactly. We never exchanged numbers, so it wasn’t like she kept calling me and I ignored her. We had a wild night, and it was over. Or so I thought until she slid this under my front door while I was in Tallahassee.”
He tapped his knuckles against the bar. “What does she want?”
“She says me. She wants a real date, to be treated like she matters, but I think she really wants you.”
He stepped back waving his hands. “Get the fuck out of here. That’s been done.”
“Look, I may be arrogant enough to believe that she wants me madly after one night of lust, but I heard the pain in her voice when I called to tell her what happened to you and the relief when I told her you were still alive.”
“I didn’t know you’d called her at all,” he said quietly.
“I was the bearer of bad news. I had to inform the rest of the family on my birthday. Ma and Daddy were too broken up to do it.” I shut my eyes at the memory of that horrific day. “I called Leela because she had been your fiancé and she’d meant something to you at some point. She let out the loudest howl of pain when I told her. Once you returned, I felt like I needed to tell her you were alive. She sounded relieved and so happy. Leela asked me then would you be contacting her, and I told her that I didn’t know. I hung up feeling sorry for her because when you grieve as we all had, you want to hear from that person yourself. I think she needs to move on from you again. She needs closure. Yeah, she’s shallow, mean, and definitely psycho. But you contributed to it with how you treated her, and I made it worse.”
Kari tightened his jaw several times, dimples flashing, reminding me of our mother. “Whether you believe me or not, when I realized that I had to remain ‘dead’ for the sake of National Security, I hated that everything happened on your birthday. I wanted to violate my orders and call you before I even called Kam to reassure you that I was still alive. You had always been so strong, so full of life, and I already had seen how my betrayal changed you.” He blinked rapidly, though a tear escaped, which he wiped annoyed. “Then for you to think I’d been killed on your birthday, all I could pray for was that you wouldn’t become me. The me that’s had to fight darkness most of my life. But I underestimated you yet again. You were still strong, to be there for Kam and lil Kari when I couldn’t be like I’d been there for Dominick. That you had the consideration to call my ex both times, especially after I returned, and you weren’t even speaking to me. I know I’ve said it before, but I am so sorry how I’ve judged you harshly for so many years.”
I looked at him. “We’re here now.”
“Does that mean you forgive me?”
“Honestly, as I told Ma, I don’t think I can fully until we talk about the truth of the day you attempted suicide.”
He averted his gaze past my shoulder. His slightly shaky voice belied his calm demeanor. “Whatever you have to say, say it now.”
“Not the time, Ma wants to tell you.”
Kari jerked his head. “Ma? What does she have to do with anything?”
It was my time to be surprised. I thought he remembered at least some part of that day. “Wow. You really don’t remember.”
“I try not to think about that day.”
“Well, tomorrow Ma wants to talk to you. Tonight, we need to handle Leela. She wants me to take her out on a real date. I agreed only to make amends. Thinking that we should both go and then I’ll leave so you two can talk.”
Kari rubbed his hand. “I don’t know, Aaron. She gave me this scar and I don’t want any more drama. There has to be another way. I can just call her.”
I snapped, “You don’t think you deserve any consequence for the pain you caused? Get over yourself and let’s work this shit out so we can be done with Leela. I doubt all this is about me.”
His eyes now haunted as he stared at me, Kari hissed. “You don’t think I suffered? These last two years have been both the happiest and saddest times of my life. Losing you was a blow to my soul I didn’t expect. You are the biggest consequence, which is why I’m here right now hoping we can work things out.”
Offering an olive branch for now, I held my hand out to him across the island. “We’ll talk more tomorrow after you and Ma speak.”
He clasped my hand tightly. “Okay…okay. Now, let’s go beg this crazy-ass woman to leave you alone.”
I gestured at his face. “So glad you going for this unkempt look, make it easier for Leela to move on once she sees you again.”
“Whatever, Aaron. Women like this roughneck look. You ought to try it sometime.”
“Naw. I can get two women to sleep with me at the same time just as I am, I think I’m good.” I bragged as I grabbed a large bag of Doritos and tossed it at him.
He smiled broadly. “My favorite.”
“I know.” I returned the smile, forgiveness becoming easier as each moment passed.