Forbidden Bonus Chapter

**This conversation between Constance and Big Aaron takes place after the big fight between Aaron and Bakari. Hope you enjoy. **

I’d changed to my gown and sat on the edge of my bed trying hard to keep it together. I rocked trying to soothe myself and kept wiping my eyes. My baby was gone again. I knew him. He was not going to come back. No matter how hard I loved him, it was never enough. When I saw my destroyed living room, I already knew what happened. As angry as I wanted to be with Kam, for pitting my sons against each other, I couldn’t. Their battle started a long time ago and she was just the catalyst.

“Sweetheart, there’s nothing we can do. Let’s just go to sleep and talk about it more in the morning. Aaron is just mad right now but he and Bakari will be fine.”

I gritted my teeth. I loved my husband but he like his elder son could be so self-involved. “In what world are you existing right now? Did you see that living room? They could have killed each other tonight. Our older son is a grown man and if he says he no longer has a brother, then that’s what he means. And Kari doesn’t like being around us either, so I don’t think he’s ever coming back. You can’t make either of them do anything they don’t want to do. I need you to understand that we just lost our family tonight.”

“Connie, it is going to be fine. Aaron is just mad because Kari told Kam about our grandson, but he has to realize sooner or later the only one to blame is himself. We should have made him man up long before now and I’ll talk to him about forgiving his brother. And I’ve been talking and getting closer to Kari like you always wanted. He’s not going to disappear again.”

“Like I always wanted?” I got up angrily and put on my robe, unsure if I wanted to be in the same room. “You know what? I’m always trying to keep the peace among my men but it’s exhausting. You’re the main reason he doesn’t want to come home and then you say nonsense like you really didn’t want to be close to him – it was something I wanted. He loves you and is your son as much as Aaron.”

“I know that. How can you say I’m the main reason? I haven’t done or said anything cruel to him. Hey, where are you going?” He sat up in the bed, bothered. The only arguments we ever really had were about the boys. I truly loved being married to him and I know with every fiber of my being that he has always been faithful though I know he’d been tried over the years. He already would draw women to him like a moth to a flame because he was handsome and then add on the fact that he was a cardiologist and most of the moths would burn just to get close. As loving and affectionate as he could be to me, he couldn’t do it with his sons. Aaron was more like him and it never seemed to bother him, but Kari was different and needed his father’s affection.

“What’s done is done. You’re right we can’t do anything about it. I need to sleep in the guest room. I’m too upset.”

“Con, the boys will work it out. They always do.”

I closed my eyes standing by the door, realizing I was at fault for not including my husband on his family and I no longer wanted to carry this burden alone. “Not this time…it’s not just the fact that Kari told Kam the truth about Dominick.”

“Then what?”

I came back to bed but sat on his side near him. He moved slightly so that I could have room but enough so he could wrap his arm around me. “They were fighting over Kam.”

“I kno…”

“Listen to me, Aaron. They were fighting over Kam.”

He stared at me in disbelief. “Are you saying Kari hit on Kam? He wouldn’t do that. They’ve had their differences but…”

“Not just hit, she may be pregnant with Kari’s child.” I met his eyes with my own tearful ones.

My Aaron looked so confused and then his expression quickly changed to anger, “How could he do that to his brother? What in the hell is wrong with him? We raised him better than that. We’re not that type of family. We don’t do that to each other. No wonder, Aaron disowned him, we should too,” he yelled.

“We will not disown either one of our sons no matter what. We are their parents.”

“How could you be okay with this? Our baby son had an affair with our older son’s wife,” he bellowed, and I fought the urge to cover my ears. He had the right to his anger because what happened between Kari and Kam was the worse form of betrayal. But I wasn’t going to allow my husband to shun his son anymore.

“Calm down, you’ll give yourself a heart attack and I can’t lose you.” I touched his heart. “My love, I think Kari loves Kam like you love me.”

“He can’t. She’s married to Aaron and they love each other.” I could see the bluster lessen because he knew how deeply he loved me.

I continued to touch his rapidly beating heart. “We’ve always worried about how Aaron could be dismissive with Kam because we love her like our own. Remember how angry we were to know he had a child and we both could tell he still messed around with Vonnie after he was married. She was still too bitter about Aaron and Kam for him not to have led her on at some point. I’m not saying that Aaron and Kam don’t love each other because they do. I think that Kam believes that Kari loves her the way she should have been loved by her husband.”

He hit his hand with his fist. “So, Kari must have convinced her to cheat by telling her that since Aaron had a baby then she should get back at him, because she would never cheat on Aaron. He got her to sleep with him and now she’s probably afraid of losing her husband. Damn, Kari for doing this to the family. I owe Aaron an apology for how I treated him, he was only acting like any man would do to the man who slept with his wife. It didn’t matter that…it was…his…” His words faltered at the end as if what I said really hit him. He reached for my hand and asked softly, “What did I do so wrong that my sons hate each other?”

I kissed his cheek. “I ask myself that same question, except I’ve been doing that since they were young. Aaron never even cared that his brother was in the hospital and you and he always seemed embarrassed after he attempted. “

My Aaron frowned at me. “Don’t ever say that about me. I was never embarrassed. I blamed myself that I could be a heart specialist and not know my own son’s heart was broken. That he was broken. Do you know how helpless I felt seeing him tied to that gurney because he had to be on suicide watch? Do you? To know that I failed as a father and that everyone knew.”

“So, what if everyone knew?” I asked tired, that he often worried about appearances more than I ever did. “He was and still is your son.”

“I didn’t mean for it to sound like it did.” He sighed. “I meant that everyone knew what he did, and I didn’t want people to treat him different.”

“You mean as you did.” I tried to get up and he held my arm preventing me.

“No Connie, we don’t walk away from each other, ever.”

I folded my arms and tapped my foot, trying to control my growing ire. “If you don’t stop doing this to our son, I may have to walk away.”

He sat up with his arms now wrapped tight around me. “We also don’t talk or threaten divorce. I love you as much as I did when we first married. I may not have been the best father, but I’ve been a hell of a husband. I don’t know why it was easier to love you than my sons. I used to be jealous of the attention you gave them when they were babies, but I outgrew that when I would see how they were just as happy to see me when I came home from work. I never want you to ever think I was ever ashamed of Bakari. Ever. I was always proud of him. Always. I didn’t know how to love him like you did. I would try to talk to him, and he would rebuff me. I could tell he thought I was insincere and that I didn’t love him. I love him so much that I didn’t sleep that whole time he was in the hospital and I canceled all my surgeries because all that mattered was my son. I thank God that you found him. If he had…” He stopped himself, rare tears flowed. “I wanted to take away his pain and I begged God to let me switch places and feel whatever he felt as long as that meant he could be happy. I like Aaron more because we get each other but I love both of my sons. I need you to believe that. I was the one who wanted to try again after your miscarriage. I know I messed up with Kari, but I thought we were finally getting close…I can’t believe he slept with Kam.”

I nodded loving that he always had the ability to change my anger to softness and I touched my forehead to his. “I’m sorry I know you love them both. I’m just scared…”

“You don’t think he’ll hurt himself?” He inhaled deeply.

“Who knows? But Kam doesn’t seem to think so and I guess I’m inclined to believe as well. He’s much stronger than when he was a kid. He’s not coming back because he loves Kam and he thinks she’s going back to Aaron.”

“Well, they’re still married.”

“Yes…but she loves Kari right back. They remind me of us.”

He moved over so I could lay next to him and he propped himself up on his elbow to look down into my face. “She’s been with Aaron forever, and Kari for a moment. How can you say that they have the kind of love we have?”

“They’ve had feelings for each other for years but recently acted on it.”

“You knew and didn’t tell me?” He accused.

“Yeah, I’ve always known. It started the day we all met Kam.”

*****

We were up washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen after everyone retired or left for home. This was our time when Kari was himself instead of the withdrawn, sullen young man who stayed in his room listening to music or playing video games.

“You’re excited about tomorrow?” I asked as he passed me another glass.

“Not really. You know we didn’t have to have a party. I’m just ready to move.”

I cringed internally at his desire to leave his family, to leave me. Although Aaron was far away in Florida, he liked coming home every chance he got. Even though Kari was going to be closer, in my heart I didn’t expect frequent visits. “Promise you’ll try to have fun tomorrow. Most of your friends will be there.” I looked at his side profile thinking how such a handsome and intelligent boy had so much turmoil within.

“Most of the class will be there so it’s cool.” He dried the glasses as I put them in the cabinet. “What you think about Kameron?”

“I like her.” And I did, she was a pretty girl, but she was more than looks and was genuinely a nice person. “She was nice and fit in with our loud family.”

“She seems too nice for him,” he said studying the glass in front of him. “What does she see in Aaron?”

“Well, your brother is handsome and charming.” Aaron could talk his way out of a spanking even when he was four years old.

“You think they’re serious?” He asked with a frown. “She doesn’t deserve to be cheated on.”

“Oh, says the boy that flirted with all the girls, even though his girlfriend was at the party.”

“Ma, it’s different and you know it. He’s older than me. I haven’t even started college yet.” He stopped drying the glass and looked out of the kitchen window in front of him. “You can tell she likes him, but we know how Aaron is and it’s not fair to her.”

“I hope he does mean it this time because she’s a nice girl. But that’s between them Kari. Why do you care?” I leaned against the counter waiting for his answer.

Kari’s face lit up and he smiled wide showing his dimples. “She’s different than any girl he ever brought home and she’s smart. She liked the family and we all liked her. She wants to do so many things once she finishes school, not like the girls I know.”

I watched him recognizing a crush and it made me smile. He was animated more than I had ever seen him, and it was good to see him for once act like a young man should when he likes someone. I didn’t think it was a big deal that he’d had a crush but I did want to see if he was obvious with his feelings, so I made sure to observe him and Kam at the party. Watching them dance and I knew that not only was Kari crushing on Kam, but she seemed to feel the same. She smiled more with him than she did with Aaron. At one point, they both disappeared and came back together, though he walked through the door first as if they weren’t. I also noticed how when Aaron proposed later – which I still think was in poor taste to do that at his brother’s party – she glanced at Kari before saying “yes”. I thought that after the wedding, that whatever crush they had on each other was gone. And I believed it was until he came to visit.

I noticed that whenever they were in the same room, they would sneak glances at each other and at the dinner we had for him and Leela, Kam closed her eyes when he touched her shoulders and kissed her cheek in greeting. I grew concerned then because there was something there. The night it was just the three of us in the kitchen when Kam came over to tell me that she and Aaron were no longer doing the ceremony, the energy between them was crazy. They were like an old couple comfortable in each other’s presence. And I could tell she was jealous when we discussed his plans with Leela and his reaction as if he liked that she was. I asked him to walk her out that night to see what he would do. If there was nothing, then he would have come right back in the house. But he didn’t. Kari was gone for a while and when he came back in, he had a smile on his face that he couldn’t hide if he tried.

I asked him to help me with the dishes and at first, we talked about his move, his upcoming marriage, and where he wanted to live. I didn’t know if I should say anything about how I suspected something between him and Kam until he started talking about how he was glad that Kam popped by the house. With his guard down, he’d been completely relaxed as he seemed to be around her more than anyone else.

“Kari, do you have feelings for Kam?”

He looked taken aback and stuttered, “I…I mean she is my sister-in-law. Of course, I do.”

“Why did you stay so long walking Kam to the car?”

“Ma, I think she’s mad cool and you know that. I just wanted to make sure she was safe in her car that’s all. I also asked her advice about where to live.” Kari looked down as he spoke and I knew he was lying.

I touched his arm. “Son, you have to leave her alone. She’s your brother’s wife and he loves her. You are about to move here, and you’ll see each other all the time. I can tell you like each other. The more time you spend with each other will only lead to disaster. You have to stay away from her.”

“You can tell?” He again tried to contain his joy which should have been fear.

“Yes. It’s obvious if anyone pays attention. So, stop it now. Whatever is going on, stop it now. You and Aaron are getting close for once and that’s all I’ve ever wanted. Can you let whatever crush you have on her go?”

“Ma, you worry too much. It’s fine. There’s nothing between us.” He kissed my cheek and then he reached for his cell in his pocket and whatever he saw concerned him. “I need to make a call. If you want me to finish the kitchen, I can before I go to sleep.”

I watched him leave out of the kitchen. The next morning, he left and didn’t return until Sunday night even though we had all made plans to go to church. I later found out that Kam left Aaron the same weekend Kari was here.

*****

I looked up at my husband. “I couldn’t imagine my life without you, there has never been another man for me.”

“And there’s never been another woman for me.” He touched my lips with his finger.

“Tonight, Kari believed that Kam chose Aaron.” I sighed. “What if Kam and Kari are really like us like I think they are?”

He sighed and closed his eyes tight and when he opened them again, I could see his tears. “Kari isn’t coming back is he?”

I shook my head and we held each other knowing first-hand how a love so deep is damn near impossible to ignore…

Autumn Falls is here!!

I am a proud graduate of Florida A&M University and those who read Forbidden, know that Kam and Aaron attended and met and fell in love there. And in my new series ‘A Love for all Seasons’ three of the sisters are graduates or attend FAMU. My first story is the youngest sister who is in her last year and the love she finds when she isn’t even looking…Whenever I write, I try to make my characters as realistically as possible even if they are living in a fantasy (One Week, Endgame and Essence series, anyone?)

Autumn Falls was a throwback to my college days and I hope you give it a chance and enjoy!!

Autumn Falls Release

Autumn Falls

Determined not to follow her mother’s footsteps and give up her dreams for a man, Autumn Locke has no time or desire for a serious relationship. She simply wants to enjoy her last year of college and study hard, while playing even harder. Falling in love was never a part of the plan. Until she unexpectedly has to live with Quincy Jackson, the sexy head drum major, who is just as resolute to tempt Autumn to act on their undeniable attraction.

Go to “Books” on my website and read the first four chapters of my new book. If you want to participate in my give away for a free e-book of Autumn Falls, either join my newsletter or follow me on Instagram @tiye28always to get more details!! Of course you can always click on the tab and pre-order now!! As always I hope you enjoy the first in the series about four sisters and each of her path to love…

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YVNV8GM

Ask Tiye

For those who like a lil kick to their hot chocolate

In my every day life I’m a psychologist and life coach and I speak with people everyday about the hills and valleys of our lives. All too often we try to do everything ourselves, think we can handle what has been thrown at us, and sometimes we can and other times we need a little help. So I decided to open up free tips or words of advice for my readers and followers to help you cope with life challenges or if you just need a little encouragement or a plan of action. Feel free to contact me directly through my website, my email at tiye28always@gmail.com and through my social media IG @tiye28always and FB (somehow I have two accounts but I prefer simply the ‘Tiye Love’ one). I will share your thoughts, and questions along with my responses on my site if you email me and I promise to not share your name, handle, or give information that could easily identify you, unless you want me to (this is what I do for a living, I can keep a secret (LOL!). If you directly respond to my website and comment, I’m assuming you’re fine with others seeing our conversation.

My first suggestion is if you’re reading this is to make sure that each day, you’re engaged in something you enjoy. Even if it’s just five minutes or something you take for granted like watching TV. Make watching your favorite show an event, replete with snacks, hot cocoa (or alcohol) and a comfortable throw. Whatever you do, make sure it makes you smile to remind you that there’s always some joy to be found in life!!

Unforgettable Kiss

(Not actual cover)

Chapter 1

“We are out of the Black Tea,” I said to Al, the cafe manager as I rushed to make my latest customer’s blend of mocha and expresso. Monday mornings were always our busiest and I hated that I needed to assist in the coffee section of the bookstore where I’d worked for the last two years.  The store manager always sent me to that area instead of my usual – the Children’s section – to work when it was short staffed because I’d worked as a Barista at a Starbucks in the past.  They’d even offered me a raise if I would transfer to that area, but I loved working with children. As much as I could use the money, I enjoyed my daily Story Time too much to give it up.

“It’s some in the back,” Al called out as he warmed up a croissant for a customer.

“Can you please get it after you finish with your customer? You know Nancy is going to be here soon and ask for her tea.”  Nancy Paul was one of our regulars and a well-known author, who used the bookstore for inspiration.

He laughed. “Okay. But at some point you have to go to the storage room.”

“Nope. This is not my usual area, I’m just helping out over here remember?” For some reason the storage room for the café with its poor lighting frightened me and I hated when I needed to get more supplies. I always found an excuse to avoid that space.

“We’re thinking of making you shift manager and you can get all the free coffee you want.”

I protested as I added whip cream and a swirl of chocolate. “I don’t even like coffee.”

“Blasphemous.” Al covered his ears before dashing to the storage room. He peeked his head out. “That’s what makes you perfect for us. You won’t indulge on the inventory. Plus, you would make your own schedule.”

“Let me think about it, okay?” I really would like to have more control over my schedule, but I really loved working in the bookstore. If I wanted to work in a coffee house, I would have stayed at my last job. 

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved his hand dismissively and closed the door behind him.

I finished serving my customer and prepared to take another order when there was a small commotion at the front of the store, a few feet from the café.  A diverse group of about six people in corporate blue and gray suits who carried themselves as if they were important walked briskly toward us. They held everyone’s attention in the café and the front of the bookstore but mine.  I had little time for pretention.  I wanted to finish serving the breakfast crowd so I could return to my section in time for reading hour.  I asked the customer next in line, “Are you ready to order?”

She was too busy grinning hard and focused on the elite troupe headed this way.  “Is that the new Mayor? I think that’s the Mayor.”

God, I hope not. “I’m not sure, I don’t follow politics. Ma’am there’s a line behind you, so if you need more time, you can step to the side and as soon as you’re ready I’ll take your order.”

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” She obviously didn’t hear me. “And to think that he’s single.  He can have my vote anytime.” I heard the flirtation in her tone, and she had to be at least sixty.

I stole a glance at the man in question, who was indeed our newly elected Mayor.  He leaned against the wall on his cell while one of his minions stood in line to place his order.  The others were around him but giving him privacy for his call.  I guess some may say Tre LaSalle was handsome with his caramel-colored complexion, hair that would be curly if he didn’t keep it cut close, wide smile, brown eyes surrounded by lashes that any woman would buy.  He raised his arm to adjust the phone causing his muscles to flex in his suit. Okay. He’s a babe, but he does nothing for me, at least not anymore. I’d voted for his opponent. I had a hard time trusting men who looked like him, men who were used to getting what they want either because of money or looks. In Tre La Salle’s case, he had both and now he was the youngest person ever elected Mayor of New Orleans at thirty-three years old.

Al who had returned from the back of the café, called one of the Mayor’s staff, to the front of the line. “We’ll go ahead and take your order. I can only imagine our Mayor is busy and can’t wait. Raini will prepare it.”

I rolled my eyes at the fact that we were trained to cater to the rich and powerful who entered our store. What about all the regular folk waiting patiently? There were five people ahead of the Mayor and it would take a while to complete his team’s order of at least six.  I tried to hide my annoyance as the pretty red-haired white young woman rattled off what his people wanted.  I felt someone’s stare and I turned my head slightly to see Tre LaSalle watching me with a smirk. Damn. He could tell I was irritated. When I looked again at him, he winked.  I stared a moment longer with no acknowledgement of his wink and hurried to prepare their orders before I got into trouble for poor customer service or drooling over an undeserving man.

Al and I worked quickly together to get the various coffees and pastries together. We were already short-staffed and now with this demanding group and ever-growing line, we were really backed up. I groaned internally afraid I would be stuck in this section all day. At this point, it was doubtful I would make it to story time and one of my co-workers, Yaz would take over in my absence.

“Good morning. I’m sorry we just came in and skipped everyone. I really do have to run to a council meeting, but I needed to pick up this book and coffee first thing this morning.  So please be a little bit more patient and we’ll be out of your hair.” The Mayor’s voice both soothing and deep as he spoke to the customers who all replied in some manner of acceptance.  I did appreciate that he apologized for skipping the line, though I still believe he could have waited.  “Excuse me, Miss, are you the manager?”

My back was to him making coffee drinks until this point. I turned around to answer him not realizing he was mere inches from me at the pick-up counter. My tongue apparently got caught by a cat. Up close, he was still ridiculously handsome, and he smelled good. “Um…”

“I am. Can I assist you?” Al stepped to the counter, luckily saving me from further embarrassment.

He spoke to Al as he took out his wallet and gave him three, crisp, hundred-dollar bills. “Anyone in this line, can get whatever they want for their patience. I got it.”  He then smiled at me. “Whatever is left is her tip.”

Al responded, “You got it.” He then spoke loudly so that anyone in line would hear, “Order whatever you want, courtesy of the Mayor.” The small crowd in the café cheered.

“Do you take a break soon?” Tre LaSalle asked so quietly, I almost didn’t hear him.  I was adding the whip cream to an iced coffee drink near where he stood.

“Break?” I continued to work diligently on his order wondering where he was going with this question. It almost felt like he was hitting on me since he leaned toward me, but that couldn’t be possible. Why would a man like him even be interested in me, a woman who worked at the coffee shop? Maybe he thought I needed a break because he saw my irritation.  I picked up another iced coffee. “Cherry and whip cream? I’m assuming this one is for you?”

His dark brown eyes widened. “Yes. How did you know of all the orders, this one was mine?”

I met his gaze again briefly before dropping my eyes as I added the whip cream and two cherries. “It was the only one that was different. Everyone ordered almost the same thing. Maybe they all really drink coffee the same way – my guess is they’re trying to make a good impression on you. So, they’re not going to order something as fun as an iced vanilla latte with extra milk, caramel, and chocolate at nine in the morning.”

“You’re good.” He chuckled as he reached for his drink and our hands touched. I almost dropped the drink I was so shocked by the feel of his skin against mine. He must have noticed because his voice deepened. “Can you take a quick break now?”

One of his people, a black man who appeared to be in his late twenties, approached him at that moment. “Mayor, we need to go now, Councilman Davis just called and wants to speak with you before the meeting and you know how long-winded he can be. I sent Nakia to get the book you needed, and she will join us there.”  

“I really don’t want to talk with him before this meeting so he can complain about the tax bill again.”

“You have to if you want his support on the school zoning issue.”

“Maybe I can call and start the conversation before we get there.”

“You can try but he specifically requested that you see him before the meeting.”

He groaned and mouthed “sorry” to me as he grabbed his drink with one hand and pulled out his cell with the other and walked away with his group.

“Did you finish the orders?” Al asked breaking me from my semi-stupor as I watched him leave, suddenly understanding why Tre LaSalle held everyone’s rapt attention.

“Almost. Sorry.” I placed the tops on the cups before putting them in carriers. I handed it to the red-haired woman who originally gave the order.

“Thanks,” she said as she grabbed the pastries and drinks rushed out the store with the Mayor and the rest of his entourage. 

“Have a good day. Come again,” I offered suddenly hoping that this elite group did come back. Why did Tre LaSalle want to know if I could take a break? And more importantly why did I care? He left me hanging years ago and he didn’t look at me like he remembered me.

“I would like a hot chocolate and two blueberry muffins,” demanded the customer who had been mesmerized by the Mayor.

“Okay.” I quickly placed her order. “That will be…”

“Um. The Mayor is paying for it, remember?” She grumbled.

“Yeah, yeah. You’re right. It’ll be ready in a few.” I hurried away mad at myself that I allowed him to get to me again after all these years.

*****

“Are you freaking serious?” Royalty, my best friend, screamed on the phone. “Tre LaSalle was in the store and asked if you, personally, could take a break? What could that mean?”

“I don’t know. I’m not the best when it comes to reading men…there was this vibe between us. I can’t explain it but his presence was overwhelming.”

“I wish I was there because I would have been able to tell you.”

“Don’t I know it.” I shook my head. Royalty always had men. She had been proposed to at least three different times, accepted once, and at the last minute with that one, decided she preferred her freedom.

I on the other hand only had four boyfriends in my thirty-two years and had been with my current one only a few months. I never was boy crazy like my bestie, but it would have been nice to have options.  “I’m putting you on speaker.” I sat at my favorite place in my apartment, in front of my easel.  I sketched whatever thoughts crossed my mind.  It was relaxing and I needed it after seeing Tre today.

“You think he remembered you?”

“I am almost certain he didn’t. Why would he? He was a year older than me and in high school years, that’s at least five years older.”

“Yeah, but you shared a kiss at the Winter Formal. He has to remember that.”

“Earth to Royalty. That man had kissed so many girls before me and definitely much more ever since, if his swag is any indication.  There’s no way he could possibly remember me.”

“You remember it.”

“Duh, it was my first kiss.”

“Oh yeah, right.” She paused. “Tell me again why you didn’t have your first kiss until you were sixteen?”

“Everybody can’t be hoes.” I laughed. We’d been friends since we were freshman in high school. We remained friends even when she left to attend Howard University while I remained home, choosing to work and attend school part-time.  She and I remained friends and over the years we had become best friends. I was godmother to her six-year old son, Grayson. 

“Whatever, I wasn’t a ‘hoe’. I liked boys and they liked me. You just didn’t care about them. Do you know how many dudes you could have had back then if you ever looked up from one of your Octavia Butler or Harry Potter Books? I met you at fourteen and with that figure and black wavy hair you forever wear in a ponytail, you always got attention.  You were hot then and would be now if you cared remotely about your appearance.”

“I have a man who likes me as I am.” Royalty had been riding me about how I dressed since I could remember. I looked down at my army green tank, army painter’s pants, and brown boots. Hey, I was comfortable. Admittedly my style was eclectic. I was an artist, dammit.

“Dex?” She snorted. “You’re settling with him because he’s a nice guy.”

I dipped my paintbrush in a swirl of brown I’d created. “And what’s wrong with that?”

“He is boring. He’s a pastor for God’s sake.”

“And a realtor. There’s nothing wrong with loving the Lord. You need to get your ass back in the church.”

Royalty snickered. “Says the woman who only attends church on Easter Sunday.”

I argued, “You know me, and God have our own relationship. He accepts that I pray wherever I’m at and doesn’t believe I have to step one foot in church to praise him.”

“What anyone says to avoid being guilty for not going to church.” Royalty attended church faithfully and had been trying to get me to join her church for years. It just wasn’t me.

I continued to paint without thought. “Then you should appreciate that I date Dex. I attended his church two weeks ago and I might go again someday.”

“Hey, I’m always down for a brother who attends church, but he is the squarest person I’ve ever met. His voice even squeaks.”

I rolled my eyes. “Only when he gets excited. Besides he accepts my celibacy. Something you should be practicing ‘Miss Holy Roller’ and ‘Miss Love Them and Leave Them’ the rest of the week.”

“I atone for my sins. What can I say, my flesh is weak? And if you got some, you would understand that very basic human need. I think you even believe the lie you’ve been telling yourself. Celibacy? You’re not even a born-again virgin.”

I grumbled. “Whatever, he accepts me.” I was embarrassed to tell the men I dated that I was still a virgin. It was cute when I was twenty-one, now it’s like I’m venturing into ‘nun’ territory.  Except I’m not prudish, Catholic, or particularly religious. I’d just never met a man with whom I really wanted to have sex. It really was that simple.

            “Rain, if he hasn’t tried anything it’s because he has a side chick.”

I protested, “You just said he was a nice guy and a man of the cloth.”

“I meant in general, but he is a man and he’s attractive. If you’re not giving it up to him, someone is. Women love men in the church.”

I got down off my stool to go to my small kitchen to grab a bottle of water out the pantry.  “Here we go again. Why do you keep saying it’s impossible for a couple to be celibate? Dex and I have lasted this long because he doesn’t pressure me like the other men did.”

“A couple who has been dating for months then yes, it’s impossible. I know you’re not having sex so it must be him.”

“How did it go from me seeing Tre again to my sex life?”

Lack of sex life.”

“You’re so lucky I like you or I would hang up.” 

            “Sorry. If you did have sex just once, it would open you up. You are the most passionate person I know. It’s in the way you dress, dance, and laugh sometimes too loudly.  You can see it in your art and this bohemian lifestyle you inhabit. There’s no perfect man. We are in our thirties and sex is so much fun. I highly recommend it.”

I put my bottle down on the cabinet, hating that she was right. “You know I have my reasons.”

She sighed. “I know. But you can’t live in the past. I think you are so used to being this non-sexual being, you’ve become too comfortable. How can you be near a man, especially one that you like and spend time and not want to sex him?”

I walked back to my stool and climbed back on. “Can we please talk about something else?”

Royalty giggled. “Sure…Like how you would so give it up to Tre in a heartbeat.  If you managed to still tell that fine ass man ‘no’ then you got to be a lesbian. He has only gotten hotter with age. I can’t believe that man is still single, and he tried to speak to you.”

“I’m not a lesbian for the last time. You would be the first to know if I was.  And if you think he is so sexy then I’m sure you could get him if you wanted to.” My friend was gorgeous with her model frame, hair styles that changed like the wind, and brown skin.  Since she was a lawyer and because she never left her house without appearing like she should be on a cover of fashion magazine, she would look good on his arm.  Unlike myself, a boho- sometimes chic- artist who never finished college and worked at a bookstore for consistent income.

“But you want him, so why would I do that to you?”

“Because I don’t want him, even if I had a remote chance in hell, which I don’t. From what I could tell, he is still the same arrogant asshole from high school.” Okay. Maybe I was exaggerating. He was just like most popular teenage boys when I knew him, focused on himself and getting girls.

“Then why did you call me as soon as you got a chance to describe in detail what happened today? You had gone out with Dex twice before you mentioned anything about him.”

“He’s someone from my past and our new Mayor, I thought you might want to know he came in the store today.”

“Bullshit. Admit he made you heart skip a beat when he winked at you and made you hot when he asked if you were taking a break soon.”

I smiled despite myself. “Ugh. I hate men like him.”

“Yeah, they’re annoying especially when they’re charming and rich, too.”

“And don’t forget looks and smells good.”

“Did he smell as good as he looks on TV? Please say it isn’t so?”

I thought back to his scent of cool citrus when he stood near me at the counter and smiled. “Even better.”

“Mm hmmm. Maybe he’ll come looking for you again.”

I laughed loudly. “What planet are you on? This man is not going to come looking for me. Maybe he was only asking about my break to make sure I got to have free coffee as well. And even if he was flirting, he probably still loves the women and saw an opportunity. Royalty, that man probably forgot about me, the minute he left the store. No, thanks I don’t want that type of trouble.”

“I think you protest too much.”

“I’m speaking truth. Bye, girl. I got to get off this phone.”

“Tell me you haven’t drawn him yet.”

“I…” Damn. I’d been sketching his face the entire time I was talking to her. I captured his sexy eyes and luminous smile.

“I rest my case. Night. Hope you have sexy dreams of Tre LaSalle.”

Autumn Falls

(Not actual cover)

Chapter 1

“Are you freaking kidding me?” I yelled in the phone. “I can’t afford this rent by myself. Who waits until the week before a semester starts to say I’m not coming back?”

“Autumn calm down,” said my former best friend, Akila. “I have movers coming today to pack up my things and put it in storage.  And I already have someone who’s ready to move in. I didn’t want to tell you until I had someone to replace me. I know how you are about money.”

My temples pounded. “What time are these movers coming here? And why couldn’t you come get your own things? This is fucking unbelievable. How are we best friends and you don’t think I need to know what your plans are, especially when they concern me?”

“I wouldn’t have two off days again until three weeks from now.”

“What the hell? You have a job now? You left here end of June, told me you’ll see me in August and now you have a full-time job and staying in Charlotte. We talk several times a week and you never thought to tell me any of this?”

 “Because I know you would think that staying home to finish school for Kaleb is stupid.”

I snorted derisively. “And you would be absolutely right. I should have figured you would be going through all of this for him. We only have one more year of school. He couldn’t wait one more year or better, yet, he could have transferred here. Didn’t you say he has friends here anyway?”

“Come on, Auti that makes no sense.  I’d already planned to move back home after graduation. He already has his own place, a good job, and I’m living with my parents for now.  I’m able to transfer colleges with little problem. And everyone’s thrilled that I came home for my last year. You should be happy for me.”

I paced in the living room of our, I mean my, two-bedroom townhome. “Maybe if you told me when you told everyone else, I would be. But we’ve been roommates and best friends since we started FAMU and now you plan to live in Charlotte? This was supposed to be our year. We finally both got food stamps and good paying part time jobs in our field. And you’re leaving me with Kim and Nikki? You and I were supposed to go to parties and hang out all night in between cramming for our exams in our fab townhome.”

“We did that last year.”

“Yeah, but now we can actually afford it.” We were both nursing majors and we’d both always earned high marks and barely scraped by to afford the townhome ten minutes from campus.  This year was about coasting and living it up since most of our hardest courses were behind us.

Akila pleaded, “Please forgive me, Auti.  I’m sorry for dumping this on you at the last minute. But honestly I didn’t know how to tell you because as much as I want to be here with Kaleb, I’m going to miss my best friend even more.” Her voice broke at the end. “What am I going to do without you?”

I dropped on my red sofa and hugged my red pillow.  Tears sprung to my eyes at the finality that Akila really was gone and not coming back.  She hated confrontation and would avoid it like the plague, where I met it head on. This was so her to wait until the last minute, though it annoyed the hell out of me. “Yeah, me too. That’s what hurts the most.  You made FAMU fun and I know we planned to part ways after graduation, I just thought I had one more year with you.  I didn’t think you and Kaleb were that inseparable couple.”

“I didn’t either until this summer. We had an amazing summer and I don’t want to leave him.”

“You’ve been apart for more than a year, already.” Akila had met Kaleb, last summer when she went home, and they’d had a long-distance relationship. “What’s one more year?”

 “Autumn, I love him and maybe if you let a man love you too, you would understand.”

“I have plenty of time for love. I need to finish school first and I refuse to let a man deter my dreams. For too many years, my mother put aside her career for my father, who got to be this big-time orthopedic surgeon. And what does he do, as soon as my oldest sister graduates from high school, he’s gone.  My mother made sacrifices for our family for what?”

“I know, I know. Your mother’s story won’t be yours. My parents are still together and they both in careers they love.”

I hugged the pillow tighter. “You forget I have three older sisters and their stories with men leave much to be desired, no thank you. I’m good.”

              Akila sighed. “Love happens when it happens, and you keep blocking it. Every time a man gets close to you, you find reasons why it won’t work.”

“I’m not finding reasons or excuses.  My future isn’t worth any of the men I’ve dated. Just think if I was serious about Chuckie what would have happened to me? I would be fighting with two baby mamas as we speak. I’m not against love, I just want to get mine first.  I’ve seen it happen too many times where a woman has to give up what she wants to be with a man.”  I propped my legs on the matching red ottoman.  Summer, my oldest sister who was a pediatrician, had provided the living room, dining area, and patio furniture, replete with a fifty-inch flat screen.  Akila and I had each taken care of our own bedroom furniture and décor.

“Not every man wants his woman to give up what she wants for him.  And everyone dates idiots, but what about Hakim and Cole? They were good guys.”

“And? They wanted too much of my time and couldn’t get it that I needed to study.  I still have my Masters’ program on the horizon.”

“Fine. I can’t convince you to live a little.”

“You know I have my fun with men.  I love sex as much as the dudes. I’m just not trying to be serious about anyone. You act like I’m a nun and shit. I just don’t need a relationship like you do.” I looked around our cute apartment, suddenly assailed by loneliness. “What am I going to do without you? I’m mad as hell as I am at you for dropping this shit on me, but  I know how much you missed Kaleb and your family. You were meant to return home while I don’t ever plan to go back.  Will I even like this new roommate?”

“Okay…here’s the thing. I really didn’t decide until two weeks ago to stay here and…”

I said skeptically, “I don’t like the way you’re sounding. I don’t need any more surprises right now, Akila. Who is she?”

There was a knock on the door.

“Someone’s at the door and I’m not expecting anyone. What time are the movers coming here?” Then realization dawned at the silence on the other end.  “Wait, so she’s here? Moving in right now? I swear if you weren’t so far away, I would slap you through the phone.”

“Ummm…it’s going to work out…he’s going to pay you one hundred and fifty more than I paid.”

“He? What the fuck? I can’t live with a boy.” I got up annoyed, put my phone on mute, and looked through the peephole and saw a light-skinned black woman with two tats on her neck and two long pink cornrows standing at the door. She frowned when I opened the door. “Can I help you?”

She said with a slight twist of her head. Great. Am I rooming with ghetto girl? “I’m just making sure this is the right place?”

“I don’t know what apartment you’re looking for?”

She stepped back to look at the number on my door above my head. Her shorts were even shorter than mine and she had way more hips than I did. “Does an Auti live here?”

“Autumn. That’s me.”

Her eyes widened. “I thought you were supposed to be a man?”

“And I thought you were supposed to be a man too.”

She immediately became defensive. “That trifling ass bastard. Who the fuck are you to Q?”

I frowned in confusion. “Q? I don’t know anyone named Q. You got the wrong place.”

She put her finger in my face. “Too late to lie now, bitch. You already told me your name. He told me this is where he’s staying.”

Livid, I retorted, “Get your hands out my face. Autumn is my name, but I don’t know a Q. I ain’t got no reason to lie.”

And before she or I ended up in jail, I backed up and slammed the door in her face. She immediately started banging and cursing. I quickly unmuted my phone. “Have you lost your damn mind allowing ‘Black Ink Tallahassee’ to room with me?”

“I don’t know who that woman is. I heard the whole convo…but Q,.. I mean I do know Quincy Jackson.”

“Quincy Jackson, the head drum major? So, the psycho was looking for you? You were messing around on Kaleb with a drum major? When did this happen? I didn’t realize you kept secrets from me.” The banging continued and then she’d started kicking my door too. I yelled through the door, “I’m about to call the fucking cops if you don’t stop. I don’t know Q. My old roommate knew him, not me.”

Akila said, “Auti, I didn’t mess around with him. He went to high school with Kaleb.  Quincy is your…

“Cinnamon, what the fuck you doing here? I told you to come over tonight after I got settled. Stop that shit.” I heard a male voice yelling.

The crazy girl hollered back, “You live with a stuck-up bitch and you told me you were single. That’s my motherfucking problem.”

What kind of name is Cinnamon? I took a peep through the hole and my stomach fluttered.  Quincy was a gorgeous, tall, brown skinned man with reddish undertones, soft black hair braided in small short corn rows.  He wore a loose-fitting tank and long shorts that displayed his muscled arms – of which one shoulder was completely tatted- and his toned legs well. He now smiled at Cinnamon and had placed both his hands on her waist, and she was like putty in his hands. “Babe, you don’t have any problems with me. I haven’t even met my new roommate yet and you here causing confusion.  I’m glad I stopped by when I did.  She could have called the police on you, cutting up like this over nothing.  I don’t have a woman.”

“I could be your woman.” She pulled his head down and before she could kiss him, I opened the door, arms folded.

“Akila is this my new roommate?” I shoved my cell in his hand in between the two of them.  He took it giving me a quick once over and I self-consciously tugged my short shorts down.  He obviously liked what he saw based on the tiny smile he had before he turned his back to answer the phone.  I heard the smile in his voice as he spoke to my friend so I knew without a doubt he would be living with me for the next year.  I patted my foot impatiently at Cinnamon who had been scowling ever since I interrupted their kiss.  “Look, I’m just as confused as you. My old roommate who’s on the phone with him just told me she isn’t coming back and that I have a new one who I didn’t even meet until right now.  I’m not trying to get with your man. And I definitely don’t want him.  So, leave the drama for the other women he’s seeing and not at my home.”

“Other women?” She growled at me. “He just said he doesn’t have a woman.”

“Because he has many.” I gestured toward his turned back.  “Look at him, nothing about him, says he’s only seeing you. And he’s the head drum major? Deep down you know it which is why you were ready to jump my ass.”

“Hey…hey…you don’t know shit about me.” Quincy turned back around angrily and passed me back the phone. “She wants to speak to you again.”

I clicked the phone off, too angry with Akila to talk to her and retorted, “You’re right I don’t but I know your type. And if you fuck up my last year of school with your women and parties, you’re out.”

He raised his voice. “I can do whatever the fuck I want. Akila subleased this apartment to me and I plan to pay my half of the bills, so half is mine.”

“She did it without my permission and if I didn’t need your part of the rent and bills, I wouldn’t have opened my door to this.” I gestured to him and Cinnamon. “And you better keep her on a leash, she’s the type that will stalk you thinking when she’s not with you, you have someone else. Although in your case, it’s probably the truth.”

His admittedly pretty brown eyes flashed, his mouth tightened and when Cinnamon was about to snap back he grabbed her wrist. “Look, I’m moving in later today. I wanted to meet you first and talk but I see you already judging folks. You and I don’t have to speak but half this place is mine. I already have a key.”

I stepped back from the door and snarled, “Fine. Use your key next time.” I slammed the door in both their faces this time and stormed off to my room, frantically calling Summer, hoping that somehow she would have enough to support me my last year in school.

              She answered on the second ring. “What’s up Buttercup?”

I sat down in my desk chair. “We still doing this? I’m twenty-two.” My oldest sister was twelve when I was born and had always been more like a second mother than a sister. Her nickname for me was “Buttercup” until I was five and told her to call me Autumn.  

“You’re twenty-one for another month or so. And you’ll always be my Buttercup.”

“Whatever, Summer. I did call for a reason.”

“Hence me asking, what’s up?”

“Fine smart ass. I need a huge favor.”

“What Autumn?” The serious tone had replaced her more playful, loving one.

“Calm down. It’s not that huge of a favor. Okay…maybe it is.”

              “Spit it out. I don’t have all day.”

“Akila’s not coming back and she found a new roommate.”

“Really? Why? This is your last year?”

“I know.” I leaned back in my chair and said with disdain, “she wants to be with Kaleb. Isn’t that stupid?”

“Auti, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as she finishes school at some point. They’ve been together for a while.”

“I can’t believe you’re saying that?” My big sister has always been about her career. She’s dated men and even has a child, my nine- year- old niece, but her focus has always been on being the best pediatric doctor in Houston. She’s always said that marriage will come when and if it comes.

“I know but sometimes maturity brings about clarity. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so focused on my career at the expense of everything else.  If you find the right man, he’ll support your dreams and you can do it together.”

“Well, not the men I’ve met.”

“That may be true, especially at your age. Just don’t be too hard on Akila. She’s not like you.”

“Well, I’m pissed with her now, but it’ll pass.”

“What’s the favor?”

I closed my eyes in prayer. “You think you can cover her half of the rent? I can work a few more hours and pay a little more. Or maybe I can ask Mama to help too?”

She responded rather impatiently, “Auti, I thought you said Akila found a new roommate?”

“She did but it’s a man. And I can’t live with a man.”

“A man? Does Akila know him?”

“Yes, he’s a friend of Kaleb and the head drum major of the band, though I’ve never met him until today.”

“Head drum major? How was he?”

“Already drama, his woman was here banging on my door pissed he was going to be living with me.”

She exclaimed, “What! What did he do?”

“He charmed her into calming down. You know how men like him can be?”

              “He’s cute?”

Sexy as fuck, popped in my head. “He’s alright.”

“Did he sublease the place?”

“Even if he did, I’m sure I can get out of it.”

“Auti, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to figure it out. I’m trying to save for my own practice and with private school for Bella, I really don’t have it. And don’t ask Mama. She’s finally back into dancing and spends most of her money doing so.”

“What if he’s a rapist or something? I can’t live with him.”

“I trust Akila and he’s the head drum major. He’s probably solid. And you can’t just kick him out legally. What does your gut say about him? Are you worried? Does he scare you?”

I sighed. “No. He doesn’t. Just want peace my last year.”

“You want Akila back. No matter who she picked you would have been upset.”

“Don’t you think it’s foul how she moved out on me and then chose another roommate without my knowledge?”

“Extremely foul and I’d be furious. And I’m not telling you to stay there if you’re unhappy or uncomfortable, just that you’re almost twenty-two years old as you just reminded me. Time for you to figure it out on your own.”

My head started pounding again, that she wouldn’t help me. “That’s what I’m doing, Summer. You know I can’t afford to work full time and finish school. I need your help.”

“No one told you to choose an expensive ass townhome while in college. When I was in college, I barely had enough money for McDonalds. Meanwhile, you’re eating at steakhouses courtesy of all of us. I furnished your place and that’s it. And you better not call Mama,” she threatened.

“I’ll just call Daddy.”

“You do that. I gotta go.” We both knew I wasn’t going to do that. My father had more than enough money to fund my education and lifestyle.  I hadn’t spoken to him since I went off on him at my high school graduation party for not being there for me like he’d been for my older sisters. When he left Mama, he’d left me too.

I said testily, “Bye, then if you have to go. Sorry if my problems are a bother to you.”

              “Bye, Autumn and grow the hell up.”

I threw my phone before myself on the bed, totally feeling fucked. This was so not how I pictured my last year at FAMU, living with a sexy man who already got me hot, truth be reluctantly told.

Essence of You trilogy

The story of Jasmine Green and Montana Keyes

Spoiler alert if you haven’t read the entire trilogy!!

I am really proud of this story, probably more than the rest because the story of Jasmine and Montana began January 2018 and finally came to completion in July of 2019, and is my longest running story. And some of you reading this may remember I started their story on wattpad…got inspired after seeing Black Panther and created Forbidden with Michael “Bakari” Jordan and Chadwick “Aaron” Boswick as two brothers fighting over the same woman. Then finished up Game Changer, the last of the Endgame Trilogy before returning to Jas ‘like a flower’ and Ana to complete Essence of You in November of 2018. I then published on Amazon and got feedback it was too long for readers and I revised and made it into two and Essence of You became Essence of Me as well.

I’m from New Orleans and though I don’t live their anymore, I used my experiences while living there and attending the Essence Festival to inspire their story. There are some readers who may see Jasmine as weak and not strong for someone like Montana but all I tried to do was make her human. Although I write romance, I strive to make my stories with flawed characters and she may have been my most flawed thus far. I hoped I gave enough backstory on why she struggled with liking herself and self-doubt at different points in her life. She had those issues and I as well as other women I know have had struggles with self-love. I wanted to show that it’s really all in your mind how you feel about yourself because in spite of her self-doubt (spoiler alert) as Dr. Zoe Broussard-Carson pointed out, she did love herself and in her relationship with Montana we see how they both have grown through their love for each other.

In Montana, I explored how family trauma has lasting impact on how you perceive self, others, and relationships. Often our parents and for those who are in relationships and have children don’t realize how their actions and behaviors influences their children. Parents have to be aware of their actions and that children may see what’s really going on though often adults think that they don’t.

This was my first story without feedback and my stomach was in knots about how it would be received. I poured my heart and there were times I teared as I wrote (e.g, when she had the baby, the therapy chapter, and their wedding) and I hope my readers felt emotions as I did writing about them. I started having regrets that I even announced that there would be another book after the long first one that was so long it was split into two still long stories (I swear my long ass stories are a thing of the past, especially since my most consistent book in terms of popularity has been One Week, a stand alone that I didn’t think readers would take to it as they have.)

I was told that there was nothing left to write about Jas and Montana and if you knew personally all that I went through this past year (even having a moment where I shut out the world because life was too much) it’s a miracle I even completed their story. As you can see I found a lot to still talk about with this couple. I will miss Jasmine and Montana, and their family and friends…

Please share with me:

  1. Your favorite characters
  2. Your favorite love scenes
  3. Your favorite moments
  4. Which of the characters showed the most growth?
  5. Which supporting characters would you like to read more about in a story or a novella? (Aaron Youngblood’s story is on the horizon for my Forbidden fans)
  6. Do you think Jasmine was wrong for not telling Zena about Tarik and Cali?
  7. Did you believe that the baby was Montana’s? Why or why not?
  8. My stories often deal with forgiveness. Is there anyone that should not have been forgiven for their actions in your opinion?
  9. Is there ever a reason to lie or withhold information from a loved one?
  10. Which of the trilogy is your favorite story and why?