Perfect Perceptions Publishing

There's A Storm Brewing.......


(for your reading pleasure Chapters 1-6 of upcoming novel)


Chapter One



            I guess you can only be disappointed by someone else’s actions if you give them the power to actually disappoint.  Maybe my new journey in life will be to harden my heart and not be so naïve to believe every word that comes from a man’s mouth. Even if the man happens to sleep next to me every night.  Another evening designated for quality time disrupted by work, twenty-nine year old Dr. Sharae Jones thought as she attempted to hold back her tears. 

            James had spent another night working and disregarding her need for his time.  She often attempted to soothe her need and her own loneliness by reminding herself that building his studio and music production company was important to both of them, the home they were building and their future.  The thought was easier to bear than the actual acceptance of his constant absence and what it meant to their relationship.  He’d sent her a quick text the night before saying that he wasn’t going to make it home as expected and that he was sorry. She’d texted him back ok and that she loved him, had even called but he hadn’t responded to either.

            The lack of response sent her heart into turmoil because they weren’t floating on the trusting waters of believing one’s word.  The constant nights out, vibrating cell phone, the quiet calls taken in other rooms, the fact that he never left his cell phone out anymore and took it with him even when he went into the rest room, or that he sometimes didn’t answer his phone when they were together were all signs that something was going on.  Signs that all women should wake up and pay attention to Sharea knew.  When she’d brought them to his attention James had sworn up and down that he was working and the calls along with her suspicions had nothing to do with his reality.  He’d even gone as far to tell her that if she trusted him she would believe him. 

            Believe him? She thought. Hhpmm, not as far as I can see.

Stressed, Sharae stood from her seated position to look at herself in the bathroom mirror. Through blurry hazel eyes she could see the marred shadows and puffiness beneath them that could tell the tale of a brief crying jag the night before.  

Sighing, Sharae turned on the shower faucets, tested the heat of the water with her fingers.  She peeled away her nightclothes stepped into the tub. She adjusted the shower curtain so that water wouldn’t hit the floor. For a minute, she leaned into the shower wall letting the hot water strip away that layer of disappointment and nighttime worries.  It was there that Sharae felt free to let a fresh rush of tears go, sure that the tears like the shower water would be washed down the drain and soon forgotten. 

Sharae chastised herself as she washed her body. Strong women did not cry, she challenged her mental but let her mind give way to the rationale that strong women were able to identify a weakness and spend an allotted time mourning over it.  When the shower was over, so be it the mourning time.  Sharae had learned early in life that time waited for no woman and she did not have any expectations that the rule would change for her. It was the reason she awakened every morning at five am when more than a third of the people she knew were still cuddled in bed beneath their sheets to hit the gym.  

The soft sounds of early morning radio personalities from her favorite station joked carelessly about last night’s episode of American Idol.  Sharae stepped on the scale she’d placed in front of her dresser as a reminder to weigh herself.  She nervously bit her bottom lip in anticipation of seeing the numbers drop since yesterday morning.    A confident smile appeared as the number displayed itself.  She was one pound down with ten more to go.  All the hard work of eating right and working out was paying off.  If she didn’t get pregnant, she’d vacation in the Caribbean this December in a two piece bathing suit, she promised herself. 

Sharae closed her eyes for a brief moment. She could already feel the sunlight basking all over her honey toned body.  A body that she’d spent the last year perfecting. She’d literally spinned, ran, squatted, and kick boxed her ass off to shed the excess fifty pounds she’d gained in the contentment of her relationship.    

At five feet eight inches tall, Sharae carried the majority of her weight in her hips, thighs, and behind. It was a family trait that had been passed down.  She had grown up receiving long looks from males who made it known that her body’s resemblance to the coke bottle was attention getting.   Her light brown-skin was a shade darker than what most people considered redbone but she was easily referred to as light skinned. 

Meticulously organized, she removed her sports bra from its designated drawer and then her underwear, sprayed them with some soft fragrance she’d fallen in love with during her youth. She forfeited smoothing lotion over her entire body for applying only to the areas she knew would be seen in her in her black capri-workout pants and form fitting lilac t-shirt with the words top model stretching across her breast.   As she stretched her arms over her head the five silver bangles she wore every day for every occasion danced and clinked around her wrist. She wore simple star-cut 1 carat diamond studs in her ears.  Her left hand was adorned only with a thin platinum band that represented her promise to James. One day it would be replaced by an engagement ring and then eventually a wedding band.

She grabbed her favorite everyday bag; the brown Gucci sukey tote, her gym bag and made her way down the stairs.  She stepped into a pair of retro Nike Bo Jackson cross trainer sneakers at the front door and quickly walked to the back of the house into kitchen to retrieve a half frozen bottle of water. 

Finally ready, Sharae stepped out into the brisk August morning air. There was a slight chill to it that carried a cool breeze.  It crept up the back of her thighs to her spine, tickled her cheek, and caused the long black tendrils of hair to dance around her face. Briefly, she looked up into the darkened sky.  The weather forecasters were calling for showers and tracking a hurricane heading up the East Coast. 

Sharae, could feel it, there was a storm coming.

She hesitated before closing the door as she completed her mental checklist to ensure that her morning haze had not caused her to leave anything. She’d hate to have to go through her day without necessary items or make an unnecessary trip back home once she was in the city. 

            The iPhone she carried beeped alerting her that she’d received a text message.  Once she was settled in her car, she looked at the message and rolled her eyes as she read, “Good Morning, Baby. I know you’re on your way to the gym to work it out.  Sorry I didn’t return your call last night but I was fuckin’ around with Troy and Shiz tryna mix down some tracks. Love you.”

            “Lyin’ Nigga,” she murmured as she turned the key in the ignition of her car.

Immediately, Sharae turned up the car stereo to blast Philadelphia Rap artist Ms. Jade’s single, Why U Tell Me That. She nodded her head to the beat as Jade heated up the track with a story of a woman’s heart turned to stone.  There’d probably be a nice note in her mailbox requesting that she keep her music down in the morning when she returned home from work.  She sucked her teeth at the thought and backed out of her driveway. 

Her cell phone rang as she shrieked her custom painted black on black 2009 Jaguar down the street of her quiet suburban block.  She needed the hype music as she feared her worries would follow her to the gym and throughout the course of her day. She glanced down at the caller ID and saw that it was her best friend King.  Sharae contemplated ignoring him but knew that he would call again if she didn’t answer. Never mind the fact that he would see her in less than twenty minutes.   He had no sense of time or respect for hers.

“Good morning, Beautiful,” King’s deep voice spoke in greeting.  “Can you turn the music down?”

            “What’s up, King?” she responded, reaching to adjust the volume.

            “Just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be late for our workout session,” he explained to her as he rolled onto his back in his bed.  The woman beside him stirred and snuggled into his side.

            Sharae sighed, she detested lateness. “What do you mean you gonna be late?” 

            King cleared his throat and braced himself for her attitude. “Rae, I didn’t get in until after twelve am this morning.”

She ignored his excuses and went in on him. “How this your job and you slacking?”

            “I’m tired as shit—”

            “It’s cool,” she said with disappointment.  She had been looking forward to their kick boxing session to relieve some of the stress she’d been feeling. “I have my music, but know that you owe me two extra sessions this week.”

            “Nawl. I’ma be there,” he yawned sitting up.  King dragged his hands over his face and glanced down at the woman lying beside him. He got out of the bed and moved around the darkened room.  Kyrie was about to be pissed that she was going to be rudely awaken and sent home so he could meet Sharae at the gym.

            “Where you going? I thought you said we was gonna sleep in,” Kyrie purred as she sleepily looked up at him. 

Kyrie knew that King thought she was sleeping but she had been listening since the moment she felt him reach for his phone in the dark. An instant pang of jealousy twisted in her stomach.  She hated that she couldn’t roll over to him when the sunlight crept through the blinds in the mornings because he was always rushing off to meet Sharae. 

“I gotta meet Rae at the gym. You wanna go and we can come back here and lounge ‘til my next appointment.”

Kyrie frowned, “You know what time it is? I don’t think so, King.”  She wanted to roll over and just get lost in the massive king sized bed but knew that he wasn’t having any of that.  King had a rule that all guest exited his house when he did.  No one had a key to his place except for Sharae. 

Kyrie was still trying to decipher if she’d ever used it for matters that extended beyond them being best friends.  For the life of her, she couldn’t figure why the two of them weren’t dating each other.  

When King had introduced her to Sharae as his best friend she had been surprised because in her opinion Sharae was beautiful and successful. From her observation, they were comfortable in each other’s personal space, had even completed one another’s sentences.  She assumed that since they’d know each other for over ten years that they were oblivious to their reactions to one another. 

Kyrie frowned as she thought that Sharae must have been blind or completely happy with her man to not have been attempting to hook up with King.  He was fine. His skin complexion reminded her of milk chocolate, the hair on his head was a dark set of waves, he’d let the hair on his face grow a little longer than a natural beard.  King stood six ft three inches tall, he was lean like a basketball player and his body was toned perfectly.  

It surprised her that King had been single and that there had been no drama with other women since they’d began dating six months before.  Single black women were always on the lookout for handsome, heterosexual, and successful black men to snag as their own.  With the way their relationship was going, this might be Kyrie’s opportunity to get hers.

            “I could have stayed home for all of this,” she pouted as she climbed to the edge of the bed.  She stood up on her knees in front of him.

King sent her a sideways glance with a bright smile that showed off his pearly white teeth.  “And miss out on all this good dick this morning?” he smirked as he stepped closer to gather her up in his arms.

            “Ummm. You bout to pass out some more?” She inquired as she let her arms settle around his neck.  Her eyes sparkled in anticipation.

He glanced at the clock and grinned back at her. “I got a lil’ bit of time,” he murmured coaxing her onto her back.


Chapter Two

            Time always seemed to tic toc several seconds slower than normal on Friday afternoons.  Hating your job added to the sense of time slowly passing by.  Sharae stared at the colorful abstract art painting that hung directly in her line of vision from her desk.  She wondered if she stared at it long enough would she disappear into it.

Taking children away from their families was taking a toll on her life.  When she’d started working at the Department of Human Services six years before she believed in their mission of promoting safety, permanence, and the wellbeing for children and youth who were at risk from abuse, and neglect.  A Master’s and Doctorate degree later Sharae was still not doing what she’d set out to do. Her dream had been to save at risk girls from falling into the streets and show them how to become successful regardless of their past upbringing and environment.

The consulting position with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to develop welfare to work program initiatives was not going as she’d expected.  Although the position was very demanding, she’s dedicated a year of hard work and limitless fountain of fresh idea. After a year of hard work and statics showing the decrease in participation since her program began, Sharae was released from her contract.  The outcomes of her program ideas had not been as successful.  From the backlash she was receiving, her understanding was that the state of Pennsylvania disagreed with her implementation of the programs to get Philadelphia’s welfare population employed.

            Her plan to lead others to the road of self-sufficiency had been tested during her research for her thesis and had worked.  Hundreds of unemployed people could be thankful to her for their current employment.  The result of that alone was enough to have garnered interest from every employment agency in the city.  She learned what worked for ne group didn’t specially mean that it would work for everyone.  In theory one model supposedly fit everyone.  But everything worked perfectly in theory, she reasoned.   It was when you put that theory into practice that she’d been shown the truth.  She felt that the state hadn’t given it enough time to work.  The numbers reflected that too many people were coming back to be put into another program after the successful completion of another program for her sufficiency model to have been efficient.   It irked her nerve that no one paid attention to the fact that the economy was on the brink of destruction. None of them took in consideration the people’s mindsets. She knew that they all felt that they were going to walk away with jobs that paid enough for them to provide for their families without assistance from the state. She also knew that the likelihood of people obtaining the successful careers they wanted was based on each person individually.

Sometimes, I just want to sprinkle common sense on these heffas.

Sharae shook her head, she knew the answer laid in changing people’s perceptions of success, instilling some ambition and drive into the hearts of the city’s poorest and most hopeless peoples She knew that she needed to be proactive instead of being reactive which lead her back to educating and mentoring young females. It didn’t matter that she’d failed at this one program.  Failure was a stepping stone to ultimate success.

Considering it had been a failure, she felt the hundred thousand dollar salary they paid for the year was compensation enough to heal her heart. That was her story and she was sticking to it. 

            Given an opportunity she would show the world what she was capable of.  She didn’t want to waste another moment living for other people and subjecting herself to their dreams while putting hers on hold.

She bit her lip nervously as she contemplated signing the resignation letter she kept in the top drawer of her desk under her portfolio.  She glanced at the wooden frames that hung from her walls which held her degrees reminding her of her accomplishments. She closed her eyes and was brought back to reality by the vibrating of her cell phone.

“Hey,” she answered her younger sister; Ava.

“Can you tell me why your cousin is getting married during a hurricane?” Ava’s even toned voice came through the cellphone.

“I’m so sure that they planned this before they knew about the hurricane.  It’s indoor so it’s not gonna bother me. Are we still going to the mall?”

“And you know that,” Ava answered cheerfully.  “You think you can get me that Gucci bag we saw last week?”

Sharae frowned and looked at the phone to ensure she was hearing her correctly.  “Hell no.  I keep telling you when you get a job and are responsible enough to stop living off your refund checks then maybe I’ll get you something Gucci, or Louie like.”             

At the age of twenty-one Ava was finishing up her double major in fashion design and marketing at Drexel University.  She was very spoiled and was misguided if she was under the impression that Sharae was going to take over her parent’s pampering now that they’d moved permanently to Phoenix, Arizona.

“Please, I can get mommy and daddy to give you half,” she pleaded.

“If you’n fuck outta here.  If you can get them to give you half, you need to replace my shoes.”

“Which ones?” Ava asked hesitantly, praying she didn’t want the Madame Butterfly pumps by Christian Louboutin’s back.  The peep toes had become her favorite shoes during the past summer. 

“All of them,” Sharae answered quickly with an aspirated sigh.  Ava had at least ten pair of her designer heels tucked in their boxes hiding in her closet.  Sharae hadn’t been the only one to thrive off of Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s generous salary.

“Please, Rae. I was also thinking that you could get me something to wear to the wedding,” Ava begged some more.

“Girl, you shot out for that one. I know you better have some fuckin’ money later on or you gonna end up being very sad.”

Ava laughed.  “Don’t be like that, Rae. You know I love you, see you later when you pick me up.”

Sharae smiled to herself, as much as she loved her little sister, she was confident that her parents had slipped in the time between their births. She guessed the eight years in age difference had something to do with it.  The sense of responsibility that had been instilled in her seemed to be severely lacking in her younger sibling.  At times she seemed to be more of a mother figure than sister.  Ava was so carefree that none of Sharae’s warnings about life had yet to reach her.

“Okay, baby,” Sharae said clicking her phone off. 

Sharae used her telephone to log into her facebook profile.  Social networking always had a way of helping the day pass by quickly.  She scanned the feeds for updated news on her friends.  She checked her inbox messages and accepted a friend request from Daneen Roberts. Sharae rolled her eyes as she looked over the young woman’s page to discover if she actually knew her.  

In her opinion, the profile picture displayed the light brown skinned woman as a blond; weave wearing, purple lip looking poorly aged female.  Sharae scanned through a couple of her pictures, read a couple of her feeds which notated that she was continuously “chillin’” and determined that she didn’t know her.  She saw a post in which someone affectionately referred to her as Goldie, and laughed.

            “Bitches on facebook be burnt out,” she murmured to herself as she scrolled over the pictures.  The young woman was provocatively dressed with dollars bills over her body in one picture. In another she had a bare shoulder exposed with the name Semaj scrolled in cursive across her the left side of her chest.  A couple of the other pictures looked like they were advertisements or promises that the dim lit room resembling a vampire’s den could turn into a strip joint for the right price.

Sharae shook her head and narrowed her eyes. 

Why the hell is this trick tryna friend me? Just as she began to scroll through her feed to dissect it, the phone began to vibrate in her hand.  She saw that it was James and she smiled.  “Hey, Bey,” she cheerfully answered.

“Sup, gorgeous?”

“Waiting for five o’clock to come.  What are you doing?”

“Standing outside your door?” he told her.

A lazy smiled spread across her face. “What are you doing standing outside my door?”

James walked through the door.  Walked directly over to her and bent to kiss her lips.  “I’ve been so busy these last couple weeks that I didn’t realize how much I missed you.”

Sharae tilted her head to the side as she eyed him suspiciously, “You missed me?”

James eased his hip onto the corner of her desk and leaned in for another kiss.  His lips captured hers and he nibbled on her bottom lip before his tongue delved into her mouth.  Sharae reached up to run her hands from the base of his neck to rest on his cheeks.  She let her tongue dance with his before she pulled away.  Sharae’s hand fell and she lightly pressed his chest to bring him to a halt.

His kiss had the power to make her heart melt, to make all her issues with him disappear.   James’ hand was rested on her cheek as the pads of his thumbs brushed across them in a circling motion. His fingers began to roam in her hair.

  “Of course, I’ve been missing you, Rae. Waking up and going to sleep with you, rolling over to you in the middle of the night, loving you.”

The scent of his Dolce and Gabanna cologne wafted in her senses. Lost in his trance, Sharae smiled. “What are you up to?” She questioned him feeling that familiar spike in her blood.

            “Nothing, I realized that I don’t spend enough time telling you how much I love you,” he smoothly replied dropping a kiss to her forehead.

Sharae tilted her head back so she was able to look him in the eyes.  “It’s not in the telling but all in the showing,” she informed him.

            James stepped back, giving her an opportunity to study him.  His brown eyes were bright but the lines beneath them told her that he had worries. The dark waves of his hair were beginning to be infiltrated by gray.  At thirty-five years of age, he still had a very young and handsome face.  It was clean shaven except for the hair of his neatly trimmed goatee.   He was tall, if asked he would extend his six foot two inch frame to six feet four inches.  His body was lean like the build of a basketball player.  “So, that’s why you been acting all funny?” he asked 

            “I’m not acting funny,” she responded defensively.

“This shit is stressful, Rae and you’re one of the only things that keep me going.  I know I haven’t been at home as much and we haven’t spent that much time together but sacrifices have to be made in order for us to get this bread,” he went on to explain.    

            Guilt ate at her stomach; she knew that he was stressed.  The knowledge of that stress kept her from mentioning her own loneliness and insecurities about their relationship.  The initial sacrifice had been their quality time.  It was hard for her to adjust to him not being readily available as he was still working fulltime as an engineer for SEPTA and going straight to the warehouse where they were building Horizon Studios. Due to the constant demand of opening a new business James was never around.

Promises for quality time was issued but never followed up on.  She’d accepted that it was going to be a strain on their relationship.  Sharae guessed she’d prematurely made the assumption that it had to get better.  When he’d taken the leave of absence from work, she’d that been excited because it would allow him to be home more often. When that had not happened, she’d bit her tongue on complaining because this journey was very time consuming and she was either going ride with him through it or get left on some curb. She believed in his dream as passionately as he did and was willing to invest her time and devote herself to making it come true. 

Somewhere along those lines the distance and lack of communication had placed doubt and fear into her heart and mind.  That combined with the multitude of tale tell signs of cheating were enough for her to question his faithfulness.  Now every word he spoke from his mouth was being scrutinized. She battled with herself daily because she loved him and wanted to believe him.

            “I know, Bey.  We all about gettin’ the bread,” she said wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head on his chest.

            “You come first and everything that I do is for us.”

            “I know,” she repeated.  Not wanting to dwell or even go into the loneliness she felt she decided to change the subject.  She stood up, adjusted her navy colored pencil skirt. “We’re supposed to be going to the mall later to see if we need to make any last minute outfit changes for the wedding. What are your plans for the evening?”

            “Have a couple sessions lined up. It’s real nutty that your cousin didn’t invite me to the wedding.”

Only married couples were invited with plus ones.  All of the couple’s unmarried friends were only issued an invitation for one regardless of their relationship status. That had been a unanimous complaint among her family.  She understood and didn’t complain. King and Ava would both be there would be there to keep her company.

“They ain’t have enough money, Jay.”

He did a flagging motion with his hand. “It ain’t ‘bout shit though. I’ma be busy at the studio most of the day anyway.”

Quickly disappointed, Sharae came to the conclusion that this was his entrance for his excuse of him being at the studio.  She knew that it would lead to him being there all night. Sharae quietly said, “Working hard. You know they’re forecasting a hurricane, right?”

Irked by her reaction, Sharae turned her back to him as she walked over to the office door.  She had no clue why she walked there but she needed the distance and didn’t want to give him the opportunity to detect the shift in her mood.  She leaned against the door.

“Unt uhn, come here,” James told her as he caught the brief change in her eyes.  He followed her to the door.

            “What?” She asked, a little breathless as James caught her wrist within his grasp.  Her heart began to speed up as he stood in front of her.  The hairs on the back of her neck stood up when he gently backed her into the door. 

Excitement registered in Sharae eyes as the weight of James body pressed into her chest as he leaned down and took her lips with his.   

Sharae allowed his lips and tongue to explore her mouth as she felt her resistance begin to fade.  She assumed that he was trying to soothe her worries in the only way he knew how. Sharae had come to the conclusion that he used his dick as a bargaining tool to fix all their relationship problems and issues.  Sex had always made her agreeable and pliable in the past.  He’d break her off with some of the good loving and assume that everything would be okay.  She’d become accustomed to that in the first year of their relationship.  James still had no idea she knew his strategy. 

As much as he thought he was, Jason was no different from any other man when it came to this matter.  In her opinion, they were all the same.  And at this point if he wanted to play the “fuck and make me feel better game”, then she’d go along with it and hoped there would be a happy finish to it.

Sharae turned her head to break the kiss to give him the impression that he was going to have to work for it.  Just then, he went in for her neck.  She closed her eyes so they could roll around beneath their lids as he feed from the crook of her neck as if he were a vampire.  Her intense attraction to him had her hands going to his belt to undo it, then to the zipper so he could tug his jeans down his legs. James let out a frustrated grunt as reached behind her to lock her office door. 

Sharae let her head fall back as she gathered her thoughts as she felt James’ hand pushing her skirt up her thighs and then pulling and all but ripping the lace of her Victoria secret underwear.  She moaned as he expertly lifted her off her feet and made himself comfortable between her thighs.  His hands went to her pumping hips to steady them as he guided her down the length of him.

Sharae released a whispered moan as his dick seemed to melt inside her velvety softness in one long thoughtful stroke.  His hands went beneath her behind to support her weight as he slowly administered deep strokes causing Sharae’s breath to get trapped in her throat.  He was encouraged as she wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders for her own support as her body meet the demands of his. 

            “I love you,” he told her on an up stroke.

            She let her response be her moans of pleasure as he demonstrated that love stroke after long slow stroke.  After two minutes James quickened his pace and his strokes became more frantic.  Sharae labored breathes were short and fast as she bobbed up and down on his dick. She attempted to hold her breath as she felt the build-up of her orgasm begin to tickle up her back.  She closed her eyes tight praying that he’d last long enough for her to achieve the earth shattering orgasm she’d had her mind set on since he slid into her.

The prayer died, unfulfilled on her lips as he grunted and leaned into her, letting his forehead touch hers.  He kissed her lips and murmured again, “I love you.”

She had to keep her eyes closed in fear that she’d roll them and when she wanted to scream about her unreleased joy, she murmured, “I love you too.”

 Chapter Three


The martial unions between young African Americans always made Sharae’s heart swell. Celena and Anthony made it official as they accepted one another as husband and wife in front of all their family, friends and God.  Their union supported the fact that there were still good black men who wanted to marry good black women and it brought a smile to her face. She’d found that a man would string you along as long as you’d let him, and there was no telling that he’d pick you in the end.

Their ceremony had been wonderful and sentimental enough to bring light tears to the corner of Sharae’s eyes.  The reading of 1st Corinthians 13 was cliché but so fitting for them.  Celena was a romantic like herself and had been in love with the verses since both she and Sharea had proclaimed them as their favorite and motto to live by. 

Sharae believed and lived the words so much so that she’d had the lines Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love Never Fails tattooed in the shape of a large heart on the upper right side of her back and shoulder. Enclosed inside the heart was James’ name.

Love is patient, she reminded herself.  The thought had her tracing her thumb over her own promise ring. Not one of her friends or family members understood why she wore it, and in the back of her mind, neither did she. Yet, Sharae wore the band proudly. At least she had until doubt had crept into her mind and then into her heart. She desperately wished that the intimate evening in she had planned would give them an opportunity to reconnect.

Though, she didn’t believe any of the news reports forecasting possible destruction to the Tri-State area, she’d purchased candles and stocked up on perishable from the local Walmart in hopes of being hurricane bound with her Boo.

The shreds of doubt had briefly replaced the smile with a confused pout. The sight of the pelting rain discouraged Sharae and increased her lonely mood. She prayed to God that she didn’t carry that mood back into the reception with her. The last thing she wanted to do was put a damper on King’s or Ava’s wedding experiences.  On second thought, she doubted that she could. They were both four shots into their drinking and close to past the point of being affected by anything going on around them.

Sharae took a deep breath looked into the mirror and began to retouch her lips with her MAC gloss applicator. She puckered her lips and blew herself a kiss and was reaching for the exit when Celena stepped into the bathroom, shut the door quickly and leaned up against it.

Sharae smiled.” Hey, honey. You tired?”

Celena dramatically put her hand to her forehead. “Girl, it’s so freakin’ hot up in here,” she said fanning her clearly flushed face.  Her light skinned cheeks were rosy with blushes. 

“It’s a good hot thought, right?” Sharae questioned.  Despite the flushed cheeks, Celena’s eyes were bright with love.

“I’sa married now,” Celena creaked out the famous Color Purple line causing them both to laugh. 

“You crazy.  But you look good and extremely happy? I’m so happy for you.”

“I am extremely happy.  Now when you and James gettin’ married? Or are you still Mrs. Career woman?”

Sharae bit her tongue. It got under her skin that the majority of her family members saw her career as second rate to their marriages and families.  She was the only one on both sides of her families to have a doctorate degree and was constantly judged because of it.  All of her cousin’s in her age range were either married and or had babies. They all presumptuously believed that she was too busy with her career to want either.  She could cry at the thought of how far off they all were. 

“When the time is right, I’ll put on the white dress and all the extras.”

Celena  turned her lips and nose up. “White? Girl, you trippin’. Your hoe ass ain’t even ‘bout to be up in nobody’s white dress,” she laughed.

Sharae held her stomach as she chuckled.  “Oh, Please! Don’t front, heffa, we did hang out together.  I know your secrets.”

“Well, as long as you don’t let Anthony know any of them we good.  You know he think I’ve always been a good girl. That’s why he married me,” She said in an innocent voice as she stepped away from the door and stood in the mirror. 

“I’m sure that’s why he married you,” Sharae responded.

“I’m rocking the shit out of this dress,” Celena admired herself in the mirror.  She straightened her gown, cupped her hands under the sweetheart bodice and squared her shoulders.  

It gave Sharae an opportunity to study her before she agreed. Celena’s hair was classically waved and swept up to the side and pinned with a sparkling diamond flower hairclip. The off white lace bodice was molded to her curves as it gleamed with flecks of platinum and diamond accents as it flared out into yards of organza. The princess ball gown worked for her, Sharae concluded.  “You do look very beautiful, Lena.  I’m glad all this rain didn’t put a damper on your day.”

“Well, at first I was devastated but we barely got wet and fuck it, it’s about us and our family, who cares about the weather?”

“That is a beautiful attitude to have—” Her cell began to ring.  The assigned ringtone of Give Me You played to let her know that it was James.  “I’ll be right back,” She told Celena as she made a move to exit the bathroom.  “Hey, Bey, wassup?” she answered.

“Nothing. These dickheads on the fourth floor left their windows open and it was leaking from up there down into the studio. So I had to go upstairs to close the windows and shit.”

“That’s messed up, why the landlord ain’t come down there?”

“I ain’t time to be waitin’ on them. The rain was fuckin’ up the equipment,” he told her.

“Oh, well I know that’s right,” she agreed.

 “How’s the wedding? I know you look good.  Take a pic and send it to me,”

Sharae smiled.  “Aww, it was beautiful, Bey. Absolutely beautiful.  And I do look good. Gonna look even better later on,” she responded with a hopeful invitation.

“Yea, I can’t wait to see that. I’m definitely gonna try to get back home to you before it get worse.  I have to make sure that everybody straight down here. I’m in fresh grocer grabbing them some food now.”

Try, Sharae leaned up against the wall as his words registered.  “That’s nice of you to make sure that they all are alright but it’s supposed to get bad out there and you know you hate driving in the rain.”

“Don’t worry, Bey nothing could keep me from you.  Go head back to the party. I’ll see you when I get home, love you.” 

She doubted that she would but still said, “I love you too.”  James had said “try” which told her that there was a chance that he would not make it home.

Another excuse, she murmured to herself.  Sharae wanted to believe that he’d make it home to her.  She’d travel through a hurricane to be with the one she loved. There would be nothing that would keep her from being with her family.  If reports were accurate, devastation of homes were to be expected. 

He’s gonna make it home, she settled on the thought.

Sharae frowned but wasn’t able to indulge in a pity party after spotting Ava headed her way. “What are you holed up in the hallway for?” Ava questioned as she approached.  “You, a’ight?” she said as she caught the sadness in Sharea’s eyes.

Sharae shook her head.  “Umm hmm, I’m good. Where’s King?”

Ava rolled her eyes. “In there shaking his dick all over these thirsty ass old hoes,” she said with an attitude.  She made no secret of her crush on King.  Sharae had stopped that short as King was flirtatious but didn’t think of Ava as a grown or available woman beyond that of his own younger siblings.

            “Girl, please. King ain’t even fucking with you so get a damn grip and stop mooning over him.  He’s like a big brother to you.” Sharae informed her baby sister.

Ava folded her arms over her chest.  She’d seen King giving her the once over on several occasions and had been inclined to scratch his surface to see if there was anything beneath it. There had been.  “Oh, I’m damn sure gonna get him. Now stop blockin’.”

            “Really? How much did you drink?”  Sharae glanced at her through slit eye lids. 

            Ava sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Rae.”

Sharae shook her head at her sister’s nonsense, put her arm through Ava’s and said, “Come on sweet child.” She pulled Ava into the ballroom.

            The ballroom was illuminated in a soft glow of lights and candles. The flowing white and violet fabrics draping from the high ceilings creating lounging areas furnished with white ottomans, chaises and sofas in each corner of the massive ballroom.

Sharae immediately spotted King lounging back on one of the sofas with a young lady. She sat crossed leg beside him looking as if she was dying to hear every word that left his lips. She could see King put a hand on the woman’s knee and lean in to whisper in her ear. The brown skin woman laughed and patted King’s hand which caused Ava to walk over to where they were.

            “Oh, no that bitch didn’t!” was all Sharea heard as she stared at her sister’s back making strides to cut across the dance floor to reach King and the woman. She coughed as she followed, hopeful that in her drunken state, Ava would remember where she was. 

“Ava,” she whispered in a hushed voice as she continued to close the distance between them.  Sharea was unsure what brought on Ava’s renewed interest in King.  She could see it having a disastrous end of them if she didn’t nip in the bud.

She could have slapped Ava when she saw her remove King’s hand from the woman’s leg and pull him up to stand. 

The female said, “Damn, excuse me. I know you see we talking, right?”

Ava had been staring at King, frowned her face as she looked down at the female.  The female stood up just as Sharae stepped up to them. 

“Excuse us,” she said to the female.  She turned her attention to King.  “We gotta tell you something.” 

She grabbed Ava’s arm, King’s hand and flashed the female a smile.  She pulled them away but not fast enough for Ava to hear the woman say “Bitch,”

“What?” Ava immediately responded, stopping dead in her tracks.

Sharea shook her head and dug her fingers into Ava skin. “If you don’t come the fuck on,” she told her.

“I got her,” King volunteered and held a hand up at Sharae.  He could see that she would soon explode on Ava and didn’t want to draw any more attention to either of them.  Quickly King took Ava’s hand and pulled her onto the dance floor.

“What is wrong with you?” he questioned as his hands went to her slender waist.  It irritated him that he could almost taste the candy flavored scent that she wore as her signature scent.

Ava defiantly looked up into his face.  “What is wrong with you? Feeling all over that bitch in my face?” she responded.  She could feel his fingers — tense as they were holding her waist securely as she began to sway them into a dance. 

King could see that the effects of the alcohol she’d consumed glassed over in her eyes. “Ava, calm down and stop it before Rae think that something is up.”

“There is something up.” She pouted.

The first chords of I’ll Be by Edwin McCain pumped from the speakers as she continued to sulk, waiting for his response and admission of the same gut wrenching feelings she felt for him.  The crowd of people on the dance floor began to thin out as Edwin’s trail of promises wrapped around the people open and dreamy enough to enjoy it.

“It didn’t mean anything to you, then?” She demanded.

That one perfect night six months ago when he’d crossed the line and kissed his best friend’s younger sister was still a very vivid memory.  The stolen hushed kisses and flirts between them had been special and something he cherished.  .   

At the time he’d wanted to blame it on the alcohol or anything other than the swirling need that he’d began to feel when she’d began aiming those sultry amber eyes his way.   It made him uncomfortable to know that she had feelings for him and that if she’d been anybody else he be able to reciprocate those feelings. 

Shit, King cursed himself as she continued to stare into his eyes.

Ava, as beautiful and well put together as she was— was only twenty-one years old and not available. 

Sharae would kill him.

“Ava, we can’t get together or anything like that,” he explained. It broke his heart to see the disappointment begin to swim into her eyes.  It broke his heart that he continued to be attracted to her when she was off limits forever to him.

The thick layer of haze that the liquor had created did nothing to protect her from his words. She knew he had urges, wants and desires.  She could feel the heat of it in his stare. 

Yes, she resigned, King was rejecting her with his words but his eyes and his body told a different story.  She didn’t care that he was sometimes with Kyrie. It didn’t matter to her that he was her sister’s best friend. 

It only mattered to her that when King kissed her, everything around her disappeared.  That everything inside her felt alive.  That her heart sang a new tune filled with love and optimism.  None of the men she’d dated made her feel that way.

Ava, knew King wanted to argue that their ages made a difference.  To her, it did not.  They weren’t even ten years apart.  She understood that he assumed it would affect his relationship with her sister but was determined not to let her. 

Sharae would have to get over it, Ava concluded.

Distance would be good. King decided.  He’d transfer all her training sessions to his assistant.

“The only one judging you— is you,” She told him.

He laughed.  It was rich with self pity. King was sure that God was laughing at him.  He’d never known what it was like to have limitations when it can to women he wanted.  “You’ll find some nice young boah to treat you nice and give you what you deserve.”

“Could you picture me with some young boah?  Him doing all those things to me that I know you want to?” Ava breathed. Her lips close to his.

King shook his head to clear it.  He wouldn’t allow her to see him sweat. Shit— he would not allow himself to sweat. If he did, he was sure both Ava and Sharea would know it.  “Naw, I’m good. Now behave yourself before you mess up your cousin’s wedding.”

Ava frowned as she pulled away from him. Arched both her brows and aimed her stare at him. “  We’ll see,” she told him. She turned and walked away, leaving him on the dance floor, ears full of Edwin’s promises.


Chapter Four

                With her skin still warm from the steaming hot shower she’d taken to scrape off all the rain and crud, Sharae crept into her bedroom convinced that tonight would be a good night.  The wedding had put her in a romantic mood and nothing— absolutely nothing would be able to change that for her. 

She peaked out her windows to check what the weather was doing out there. It didn’t seem that bad, she’d seen worst.

Sharae laughed to herself when she noticed that none of the neighbor’s cars were in their driveways.  They’d all taken heed to the media’s hype up regarding estimated damages.  She did have to admit that she’d done the same, parking Brooke; her jaguar in the shelter of their garage instead of her normal space in the driveway.

“Hmph, it rained harder last week,” she murmured to herself as she pulled the curtains closed to block out the sound and sight of the rain.

Satisfied with the soft glow of the candles she’d lit around the room, she sniffed the air and smiled at the thought of having a cozy night at home.

She’d made a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, and had a pot of tea steeping with a hint of peppermint ready for when James walked through the door. He’d need something to warm him after coming in for the rain. She’d prepared his pajamas and robe, left them folded at the foot of their bed.

            So far the ambiance for a cozy romantic evening was there.  James would be the last and final piece to show up to make it complete. It made her glance at her cell phone to check the time. It rang James’ tune and a picture of him displayed on her screen. 

“Hey,” she answered.

“Hey, I’m just calling to say I’m about to leave down here, and that I’ll be home in less than an hour.”

Sharae climbed into her bed, made herself comfortable beneath the handmade quilt and duvet. “Ooh. Okay.  Be careful though, because they’re supposed to be putting out an alert that only emergency vehicles can drive,” she informed him. 

She reached for the television remote and pressed the button to get an update on the storm.  “I know. You know I hate driving in the rain.”

“That’s why I’m saying that you should hurry up and get here,” Sharae explained.

“I am.  What you doin’?” he inquired.

“Nothing. Getting ready for you,” she told him.

James smiled. “What that mean?”

            “That I’ma be just the way you like me when you get here,” she said, her voice low and sultry with promise.

            “You how I like it, right now?” he indulged in the play.

            “Wet, warm, and waiting, Daddy,” she stated.

            “Won’t you touch her for me and tell her I’m on my way,” James persuaded.

Sharae smiled as she thought about it.  If they took out time for phone sex, it’d take longer for the real sex to go down.  “I’ma keep her warm for you while we wait and you can tell her about it when you get here.”

            “Damn, you gonna do me like that?  You think you want some vanilla ice cream?”

Sharae licked her lips as if she could already taste it. “It’s my favorite,” she responded to their private joke with a laugh.

She made him smile, despite what he had going on. She could always make him smile. He reasoned.  “I’ll be there,” James told her.

“Alright, see you in a bit,” she laid the cell phone beside her as she began to watch the news. 

ABC News had full coverage on the hurricane.  She could see her favorite channel’s meteorology team shine together as a unit for once.  She turned the volume up to listen to the reports. 

Sharae was surprised to see that Atlantic City and County were evacuating people in buses.  She had to admit, the rain there appeared to be getting out of control.  They were sand bagging all the buildings in attempts to avoid flooding.  The water seemed to be raging against the docks. The wind, furious as it all but blew the reporter down the boardwalk, mocked those who attempted to document it. 

People did what they had to for their jobs, she knew.  Just as she understood that she’d never make it in the world of meteorology.  They were always chasing storms, tracking heat streaks, and cold fronts.  Sharea shook her head resigned that she was inside the comfort of her home as opposed to being out in the mess of the rain.

She glanced at her laptop and decided to log into Facebook to check on how all the people she knew were faring through the hurricane.  She laughed at people’s comments about satellite cable not working. She reviewed and made random comments to her friend’s post.  She took the time to post that she couldn’t wait for her honey to get home to keep her company. 

Just as she was logging out she saw a status post by the girl Daneen appear stating that she was happy that her boo Semaj had decided to rent a suite at the Hilton.  She’d uploaded a picture of herself sprawled across the hotel bed.  One of her guy friends was quick to jump on her status saying how bad he wished he was her dude.

Sharae frowned and rolled her eyes.  These niggas stay hyping up these busted ass broads. Because her attitude came too close to hating for her taste, she spared the girl one more glance and decided aloud, “hope she have fun, everybody should be cuddled with the one they love.”

Her cell phone beeped with a text message from King.

Just checking to see if you’re cool, the text read.

            I’m good. Just waiting for James. What you doin’? Sharae responded quickly.

            Lounging, was his response

            Alone? She inquired

Yes, Alone. I ain’t feel like being bothered by any company.

Sharae wrinkled her nose. King never wanted to be alone if he had a reason to be cuddled with some willing female.

She wondered at the tone of his text. What’s wrong with you? Kyrie made you mad?

No, I made her mad.  She wanna chill and I’m not feeling it.  I have a lot of shit on my mind. It’s not even raining that hard.  Just don’t think it’s that serious.

King was a complicated and extremely moody man. There could be a million things going on in his mind, Sharae reasoned. God had spared her the heartache of ever having to have him as a lover.  Instead, He’d given him to her as a best friend.  To her way of thinking, she’d been lucky all around.  His past could tell the tale of a string of women with broken hearts.  There could be a million things on his mind, Sharea.

LOL, me neither but I’m ready to take advantage of the hurricane to get cuddled. 

Well, you need it. Pussy is the last thing on my mind.

Whatever, it’s always on your mind.  I can see you’re brooding.  I’ll call you to make sure you weren’t washed away in the storm. 

Not likely.  Holla at you later, he texted. 

She swear she funny, he thought to himself.  And he wasn’t brooding, he concluded.  He was assessing. 

Kyrie had gotten on his nerves as she insisted on coming to his house to chill.  Up until the point he’d seen Ava at the wedding; he’d had every intention of being with Kyrie.  Now that Ava was on his mind, Kyrie wouldn’t come close to compensating for Ava’s presence.      

To his, dismay and annoyance, Ava caused unwarranted feeling to travel through his veins when she was near him. He could feel the ball of anxiety at the pit of his stomach every time she was within his reach.  The thought of it made him sick.   She was just as young as his youngest sister and certainly off limits.

The plan to play a quick game of Call of Duty: Black OPS was quickly replaced by his need to stew. King dragged his hands over his face before he plopped down onto the oversized chocolate brown leather recliner that was tucked in a darkened corner of the room.  He grabbed his remote that controlled everything including the lights, heating system, television and stereo to turn the lights down and turn on his stereo.

 Pandora’s live stream of music played rhythm and blues group Silk’s Let’s Make Love. He sipped on his hot tea and tried to figure out how he’d went from wanting to shoot off his gun in Call of Duty to listening to a song that he’d used to seduce a number of willing females onto their back with during his college years.  He laughed at that thought.

Aaliyah’s Can I Come Over began to drift from the speakers as a brisk knock at his door had his turning his attention the door.  He got to his feet and contemplated not answering, sure that Kyrie would be pissed enough to break the door down if he didn’t. King knew she could hear the music, it was loud enough to be heard outside.

King paddled barefoot across the gleaming hardwood floor to the front door.  Attitude and curses ripe on his lips, died when he saw Ava standing there.  Seconds passed as he stood shocked that she’d been on his mind and now she was here.  At his door dressed in five inch heels and a short trench overcoat in the pouring rain.  She carried very large purse on her shoulder and held an oversized umbrella to protect her delicate body from the angry showers.

Ava spoke first.  “I’m getting wet.  Aren’t you gonna invite me in?”

If steam could have come out of his ears, it would have.  King moved to the side to allow her access but said, “Ava, what the fuck are you doing here?”

Ava rolled her eyes and stepped inside, handed him the umbrella to fold down.  She left him at the door, removed her coat, simply letting it slid to the floor where she stood. Put her hands on her hips and posed in the middle of his living room. 

King took his time at the door, submitting a brief prayer for patience.  He knew that Ava was stubborn but had no idea that she’d do something as reckless to show up at his house uninvited.  Had she been any other female, he’d denied her access.  The fact that she wasn’t any other female should be the one reason that he denied her access.  She wasn’t leaving him with much choice or respecting his request for her to stop pursing him.

Boundaries were about to be crossed, he thought as he closed the door and turned.  Then all his coherent thoughts disappeared from his mind.  She’d removed the coat and now stood clad in thigh high stockings, a matching black lace panties and bra set.

None of the illicit fantasies he’d had about her ever had her showing up at his door in her underwear.  Not just any underwear, but the, I’m getting fucked tonight heels, bra, and panties.  He shook his head to clear it. When that didn’t work, King attempted to open his mouth to speak but his throat was entirely too dry to form any words.

They were past the point of words he decided when he felt the king begin to rise.  He’d always enjoyed the slow journey to arousal but couldn’t deny the quick punch of lust and straight to the point hardness he now felt. 

King walked towards to her, he could see Ava’s smiled begin to form.

Death would become me if he denies me this simple pleasure, she thought.

“Yes?” she questioned right before he pulled her into his arms and had his lips on hers.

“Hell, yes,” he breathed between the nips he took at her lips. The heat of her mouth as he delved his tongue was like an answer to his silent prayers.  Gently, her soft lips played with his as his fingers massaged the small of her back. 

Hungry, King took the kiss depths deeper.  The urgency of his attraction for her had him attacking her mouth.  They kissed for what seemed like an eternity. 

“You sure?” he demanded of her tearing his mouth from hers.

Ava let out a nervous laugh.  “Of course, I’m sure.  Are you?”

King didn't speak when he linked his fingers through Ava’s began walking towards the stairs with her in tow.  

There were no sounds coming from Ava’s mouth, only the heavy breathing escaping from her lungs as she followed him up the stairs.  She did smile to herself in congratulations; The King had finally been checked.

“You think you ready for me?” he inquired with a sleek grin. 

Ava licked her lips as her hands went to the helm of his shirt.  “You think you ready for me?” she returned, inching the helm of his undershirt up toward his stomach.


Chapter Five

 Groggily, Sharae squeezed her eyes tight as she fought off the sleepiness she felt. With her eyes still closed, Sharae extended her arm and ran it over the empty space besides her. She carefully opened her eye slits open to expose the darkened room. The early morning light crept along the borders of the curtains but the darkness couldn’t hide the fact that James had not come home.

Sharae frowned as she sat up. She wiped her eyes and shook her head to clear it. Laughed to herself as she took in the fact that she was alone in her bed.

She eyes shot to the clock. It was 6 am. She scanned the room for traces of him. The pajamas that she’d set out the night before was still in the same space she’d left them. She’d fallen asleep while watching Something Borrowed.

A rush of worry came over her and had her reaching for her cell phone. Mind racing, close to raging, she dialed his number. It went directly to voicemail.

She called again, same outcome. Out of habit she turned on the news to catch reports of any accidents and mishaps from the night before. She attempted to call him again.

Annoyed when she heard his voicemail recording, Sharae began to leave a message asking him to call her back as soon as possible.

The worry quickly turned to outrage when she noticed he’d sent her a text message at 12 am saying that he couldn’t get on the expressway because there were road blocks and asking if she was okay. He’d texted her twenty minutes after that demanding her to answer. There was also a missed call from him.

She rolled her eyes.  “Ahhhhh!” she let out a frustrated sigh.  “I can’t believe this shit! I fuckin’ told his ass,” she murmured as she felt her eyes begin to water.

She’d weathered the history making Hurricane Irene alone and he wasn’t answering the damn phone.

Sharae got out of her bed began to pace the floor as she rationalized his reasons for not being there. She called the studio, listened to it ring, left a message when the voicemail picked up.

Thoughts raced a mile a minute through her brain.  There would have been nothing that would have kept her from making it home.  Especially during a storm that made promises of destruction.  She would have driven through hell to be with him, she reasoned.  And he let some nut ass rain and wind keep him from being there for her. 

Why had he not done the same? Her inner woman demanded of her

There had to be a better reason than the road blocks.  She’d spoken to him before the roads were closed. Had urged him to hurry in fear that he would not make it home.  

Sharae sank down onto the edge of her bed, dragged her hands down her face.

James hadn’t come home. She shook her head as she felt the rush of emotion come to the surface. Her attempt to ward off the pain, futile as she bent over and let the tears come.  There were small pangs of hurt stabbing into her heart.  How could he not come home to protect and keep her safe from the unknown?

She wrapped her arms around herself to console as her shoulders shook violently and the tears continued to pour from her.  An hour passed by, each minute was filled with a manifestation of her pain shown through her tears. 

She fell back onto the bed, took a few minutes to stare up at the ceiling.  Her cellphone beeped and vibrated alerting her of a new text.

Baby, my phone is close to dying, lost electricity for a while so couldn’t charge it but I’ma be home as soon as possible.  I love you.

She didn’t want to be cliché but found herself thinking what Halle told Eddie to be true, Love should’ve brought your ass home last night. She curled up onto her side, responded to the text.

Whatever, Jay…

            The scent of his cologne seemed to permeate from his pillows.  It maximized the ache she felt in her heart. She used his pillow to smother her fresh streams of tears.  

Her heart stopped when she heard his ring tone. She ignored it.

 It rang again, Mary J pleading. Sharae put the phone up to her free ear.

 “What the fuck you mean whatever?” James’ voice thundered through the phone.

Sharae signed heavily. “Just what the fuck I said.  You weren’t here.  The whole fuckin’ house could have blown away and you weren’t here,” she responded calmly.

            She heard him suck his teeth. “What was I supposed to do? Drive through the fuckin’ road blocks?” he shouted.

            “You were supposed to be here!” she let him know.  She waited for his response when silence continued, Sharae added, “What don’t you understand about that?  All these days and nights you been missing. But last night is a night you should have been here and you were not.”

It broke her heart that he hadn’t come home.  That he didn’t see the need to make it there.  And that he had the nerve to respond negatively to her reaction.

 In her mind, Sharae assumed that James didn’t care and that whatever and whomever he was preoccupied with at the studio was more important than being with her. She shook her head as she realized that he didn’t get it. No matter what she said or how she said it. He would never get it.

Sharae’s throat was so raw that it hurt when she swallowed. 

“I’m tired, Jay. I’ll see you when you get home.”

“Rae? Sharae?”

She disconnected the call.

The voices from the television were covering the reported destruction that Hurricane Irene had caused.   A house in North Philly section of the city had been completely destroyed.  It was located three blocks from the studio. 

She bit her lip as remorse for being snappy at him ate at her.  Then she rolled her eyes. She didn’t give a damn if the entire North Philly had gotten swallowed up whole, it did not justify his reasoning for not making it home.  Nothing would.

He gets on my fuckin’ nerves.

He’d spend the rest of his week making up for it, she decided as she slipped into sleep. 


Chapter Six 


                The delivery of two dozen of red and yellow roses to her office was enough to signal to her coworkers and friends that James was in the dog house.  Three workers had already stopped in her office to chat and see what the occasion was.  Sharae had learned to brush off the annoyance of inter-office nosiness. She even found herself laughing about it during lunch with Tamika, one of her closet friends.

            They’d used fact that the storm from the weekend had cleared and the sun was shining high in the sky as an excuse to walk down Walnut St. to check out the shops and to have an extended lunch at one of the sidewalk Bistros.

Sharae ordered a grilled chicken salad, staying true to her diet.  Tamika on the other hand was taking advantage of the opportunity to indulge in a salmon burger and fries.

            “Samantha was all like, ‘umm, it must be nice’,” Sharea told Tamika as she nibbled on her lettuce.  “I smiled and said, ‘you don’t even know the half of it.’”

Tamika laughed.  “I bet she smiled and was waiting for you to tell her more.”

Sharae’s bottom lip dropped to show the stunned “O” that Samantha had displayed.

            “Too funny. You know better than to tell these hoes your business up in here. They’ll all be talking ‘bout your ass like you the latest unfit mother or father.”

Sharae nodded in agreement. “Don’t I know it?”

            “Umm, and you know half these hoes be having they eye on him when he be up in the office.”

            “Girl, all that fineness hiding his sneakiness. I think he’s been lying,” she confessed her friend. 

            There was no surprised smirk on her lips or confused look in Tamika’s eyes, Sharae realized.  Tamika was her female version of King and knew her inside out.  They’d become fast friends during their training program with the department and had been the closet of friend since then. She’d been her maid of honor at her wedding and was Godmother to her brand new baby girl, Camille.  Tamika’s husband Stephen was friends with James and Tamika had introduced the two.

            “I keep telling you that you too predictable.  You need to pop up on his ass to make sure he is where he say he is when he say he is. You ain’t crazy enough.” Tamika told her.  Her eyes rolled to emphasize her advice.

            “I’m not in to that.”

Tamika sucked her teeth and gave her a head on look.  “Well, you better get into it.  You know how many girls be hanging around studios?  He fine, got major swagger, and he own a studio? You know its bitches on his ass.”

Sharae swallowed the lump in her throat.  “I know that. I’ve been down there.  All the regular people know who I am—”

Tamika held up her fork to make her point. “Girl, ain’t no groupie bitches worried about you and if he there more than he’s at home, you don’t know what he saying to them.” She dipped her fries in Sharae’s extra salad dressing.

It was just like Tamika to breathe life into her fears.  That’s why she loved her.  Tamika never shied away from telling her the truth, or what she thought her opinion of the truth was.

“Sometimes things are not as they seem and I don’t like jumping to conclusions without any proof.”

Tamika’s hand reached out to grab hold of hers, making Sharae’s eyes meet hers.  “Ain’t nothing wrong with paying attention to that feeling in your gut that says something is out of place.   Pay attention, God gave us intuition for a reason.”

“I wanted to think that it was the strain of both of us having such demanding jobs.  I was so busy with the contract for the state last year we barely spent any time together. Then he was spending all his time working and making the studio happen.  I thought it would ease up when he took the leave of absence.  Instead now he spends even more time there.”

“Tell him. Stop thinking these Negros are smarter than they really are.  Sometimes they don’t know something is wrong until we tell them.  On the other hand sometimes they’re being sneaky and dumb thinking we won’t find out.”

“It’s like an argument when I say that we not spending enough time with each other.  He just keeps asking me to be patient and reminds me how patient he was with me and all my stuff.”

Tamika sighed and figured that James probably was cheating.  His behavior did fit the profile of a cheater. “These niggas want they cake and wanna eat it to.”

Sharae sucked her teeth and laughed as she thought of King. He always made it a point to argue that of course men wanted their cake and wanted to be able to eat it too. Who wouldn’t?  “The problem comes when he want her cake, and hers, and extra piece in the freezer.”  Sharae dramatically put her hand to her forehead. “Oh my God, I think I’m the piece in the freezer.”

Tamika shrugged and rolled her eyes.  “Is that what you think?  That he having all the cake in the world?”

Sharae closed her eyes and said, “There has to be someone else.  He doesn’t call me like he used to. The just because text messages are damn near nonexistent. When he is at home, we’re rarely intimate. He says he’s preoccupied. I say he’s fucking someone else.”

“You know your man better than he does. If you ready to go digging, are you gonna be ready for what you find?”  She could already hear her husband; Stephen’s booming voice telling her to mind her own damn business. 

Sharea shrugged in response. She was tired of the uncertainty and possible lies.      “It’s only one way to find out.”

Her cell phone began to ring. Tamika laughed.  “He must can feel when you talkin’ shit about him.”

Sharae laughed as she answered, “Hey, Bey, wassup?”

            When she returned to her office an hour later, the six case record folders she’d requested from Samantha were stacked on her desk.  Sharae rolled her eyes at Samantha’s timing. She’d expected to stroll into her office and then stroll right back out an hour later with no work in between.  The salad she’d eaten threatened to send her off into la la land as she was aching to close her eyes and lay her head down on the desk.

Just for a moment, she promised herself as she let her check rest on the desk.  After a second her eyes snapped opened as it registered the name she’d caught sight of before closing her eyes. Daneen Roberts. Sharae frowned to herself. Where had she seen that name?

The girl from facebook, she acknowledged.   An eerie feeling came over her.  Why the hell was this girl suddenly popping up all over her life?  “Stupid heffa on facebook chillin’ all fuckin’ day and her kids in DHS custody,” she murmured aloud. 

Sharae pulled out her cellphone, logged into her facebook account and tried to pull Daneen up in her friend search.  Nothing came up. It struck her as odd that she was no longer the girl’s friend. Obviously Daneen had deleted her. She searched her by her name and was not surprised when the girl profile came up and the last comment from an hour before was about her chillin’.

These young girls never learn, Sharae judged.  She scrolled down reading more feeds.  Someone Daneen knew asked if she rapp no with an lol and explained that her dude owned the studio and that’s why she was there so much. Sharae imagined the girl’s voice was as ghetto as the pictures she displayed.

A sick feeling began to rise into her throat. Sharae could feel her stomach clench, felt her heart begin to pound heavily in her chest.  She could feel her temperature rise as she hurriedly scanned all the feeds.   None of them specifically named James as her boyfriend, in fact hadn’t she said something about a Semaj the day of the hurricane?

No fucking way she talking ‘bout my man. I know this nigga ain’t fuckin’ with this dusty bitch. The urge to scream was won over by her need to move. She stood up and began pacing. She held the phone in her hand and continued to read through all the feeds.

The usually frigid room became stuffy and humid. Sharea came out of the sunshine yellow linen blazer she wore and let it fall in a pile on her desk.  Her adrenaline was pumping as she read her post line for line.  The day of the hurricane when she’d spoken to James and he was in fresh grocer, Daneen also had a posting referencing how crowded the market was. 

Sharae laughed to keep from crying.

No jumping to conclusions, she instructed as fire raged in her heart, began to spike through her veins. 

Black spots began to appear in her vision, the pounding in her head seemed like a ball threatening to bounce right out of her temple. Cursing the spots, Sharae squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them hoping they’d disappear. She put her hand to her head as rushed to her seat. Dropping the phone onto her desk she opened the case file and began to read over the girl’s case. 

A hoarse strangled sounding scream erupted of her mouth before she could stop it.  She dropped the file onto the floor in front of her and just stared at it in total disbelief. 

James old address stared boldly back at her.  There was no fucking way that the address on this girl’s case was correct.  She logged into the system to check and there it was for sure.

Has to be some crazy type of coincidence, she rationalized. He’d moved from that address two years before when he’d bought their house. He had not been displaying signs of cheating then. Or maybe he was more careful about it then.

 “Are you okay?” a hesitant voice belonging to the office clerk questioned from her open doorway.  She looked up and saw at least seven people huddled in her doorway.

A rush of emotion promised to overtake her when she caught sight of Tamika walking up to squeeze through the crowd.

Concern was apparent in Tamika’s eyes as she stood beside Sharae and questioned her friend, “Rae, you okay?”

When Sharae failed to respond, Tamika turned to the onlookers said “excuse me” to the person blocking the door before closing it in all their faces. “Nosy asses,” she murmured absently turning back to Sharae who still sat quietly staring at the file on the floor.

Fuck weird coincidences and conclusions.

She couldn’t speak.

All she could do was think.  Eyes closed, Sharae mentally scanning every thought, deed, and action of his that made her pause in thought or wonder over the past two years.  All those weird feelings, all the notions, all the signs were building up to this moment. 

He wouldn’t do this to me. Not with some nobody ass chick with three fuckin’ kids that she ain’t even taking care of.

Even with the reassuring thoughts battling the ones that felt more like common sense Sharae still found herself decidedly sure that he was. This couldn’t be a mistake; there was no way that all of this was a mistake.  They’re in the same place, at the same time.

Stabbing pains to her heart could be felt.  She wasn’t sure if they were real or part of her imagination.  Everyone had always accused her of being overly dramatic.

So, this is what real heartbreak feels like?  She could feel the tears wreaking havoc with her senses as she forced her tear ducts to hold them in.  There was no way that she was going to have an emotional breakdown in front of Tamika.  She damn well would wait until she got in her car, and the tears would have to hold out until then.

“Rae, what’s wrong?” Tamika asked again, this time touching her arm. 

Sharea grunted out another frustrated scream as she stood up. She did not care that the entire office would be talking about this tomorrow.

She grabbed her blazer and yellow Elly Clay tote bag.  “I gotta go.  I’m cool, I’m call you later.”  She started to walk away but went back to grab the folder from the floor.  Without a second thought she left the room.  She ignored people questions regarding her wellbeing and walked straight to the elevators.

Sharea punched at the elevator button impatiently as she noticed people lingering around to watch her.  Filled with anxious fury, she burst through the exit and started down the five story flight of stairs in a hurry.

Adrenaline pumping, Sharae ran down the last flight, cursing herself for wearing four inch heals to work.




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