#FreeReadFriday- Jaded (Book Two of The Butterfly Memoirs) – Chapter 3

Welcome back to another #FreeReadFriday!

As the holidays approach, life is going to be  hectic as preparations are made to celebrate  with friends and family. But book lovers know, your’s still going to squeeze in a few minutes to hide out to get your read on! To wet your appetite, I’m sharing another chapter in the The Butterfly Memoirs series.

Jaded is a story of two people who’ve been hurt by love and refuse to give in to temptation. Their attempts to be just friends evolve into a Friends with Benefits relationship.

But what happens after a couple finds their Happily Ever After and REAL LIFE sets in? 

Autumn landscape

Get to know Yasmine and Zachariah….and fall in love again….

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

 When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

  Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

******************

Prologue and Chapter One

Chapter Two

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Chapter 3

 

Despite setting my alarm clock for four-forty-five, I overslept. At least I had taken a shower before going to bed. I selected my clothes the night before, so all that was left to do was make-up.

A horn honked behind me at the light. I finished applying eyeliner, flipped the visor up, and pushed on the gas. I fluffed my hair with one hand, glad my ear-length bob had a loose curl making it easy to style. It was easier to manage than the shoulder length hair I slaved over a few months ago.

The decision to cut my hair was about more than easy maintenance. It was about forgetting my past life and settling into reality.

No more expectations; no more games.

I drove into the Inn’s parking lot and parked, overwhelmed by the hard work of my family. The Phillips’ Family Inn I managed was larger than the original location and nestled in the rolling hills, minutes outside of Los Angeles. The hotel used to be an old Hollywood mansion until the area was re-zoned and the home remodeled to house eight regular rooms and two honeymoon suites. My parents lucked out on the property during a real estate auction.

Like others in the area, the property had beautiful landscaping. I’d recently contracted the yard maintenance to my best friend, Ebony’s fiancé, Brian Young, who owned a lawn care service. Even though he wasn’t always available to accompany his workers when they came, he’d trained them well. Over the last few months, Brian’s music career had taken off. He spent a lot of time in the studio of B&D Records.

After all, I owed them. Helping Ebony plan her dream wedding and hosting it at the Inn still didn’t feel like it was enough. I would do anything to help make their marriage possible.

Two months had passed since discovering my fiancé at the time was a bastard. After what he’d done to her…I still couldn’t fathom how she managed to pretend it never happened.

I couldn’t.

I sat in my car for a moment to gather myself, and ran a hand over my eyes, trying not to smudge my mascara. Now was not the time to think about the past. There were too many things to focus on, such as getting the hotel financial records to my mother. As predicted, she was not happy to hear she would not receive them last night. I covered myself by saying the computer crashed right before I sent them. The little white lie bought me time to get them completed today.

I seriously needed to step up my game. In order for my parents to be willing to fund my business as a fashion consultant, I needed to maintain the family business first. Now was not the time to slip up.

I exited my car and noted the time, six-thirty. I spied a car out of place in the parking lot and assumed it was the technician. I shut my door, walked around to the trunk of my cherry red Honda Accord, and retrieved my laptop bag. When I turned around, he had climbed out of his car, strapped a bag across his chest, and was unloading a large box from the trunk. I hurried up the steps of the Inn to open the door.

His smile was wide as he approached. “Good morning.”

Morning people get on my nerves.

“Sorry I’m late,” I said, trying to keep the irritation, stimulated by his cheery grin, hidden.

He adjusted the weight of the box in his arms. “Not a problem. Where are we going first?”

“My office.”

He followed me through the grand opening of the hotel living room, past the check-in counter, down the narrow hallway, and past the kitchen to a smaller room that served as my office.

The smell of burnt plastic assaulted us when I opened the door. After setting my bags on the floor, I immediately dug the Febreze air freshener from my desk drawer, sprayed, and opened a window.

“When you said your computer burned, I took that as a figurative statement.” His eyebrows furrowed as he looked for somewhere to settle the box. When done, he unhooked the bag strapped across his chest and went under my desk to access the damage. “It’s a good thing you used a surge protector or it could have been a lot worse. What happened?” He sat up from underneath the desk and adjusted the dark square frames on his wide nose.

Large, dark hazel eyes captured me. For a moment, I imagined him watching me as he explored my body.

“Ms. Phillips, did you hear me?”

I rubbed a hand over my face and blinked. “Sorry, still waking up.”

Yeah right. I was awake all right, along with other parts of my body. This man had some of the sexiest bedroom eyes.

His chuckle was deep. “Not a morning person, I remember.”

I walked over to the desk. “I saved a document and opened the accounting software when the screen went blank. I thought there was a power outage. I flipped the power switch on and then, poof,” I demonstrated with my hands. “Sparks flew.”

He smiled and a set of deep dimples appeared on both sides of his goatee. My attention went to his thick lips, imagining what they would feel like against mine.

The warm feeling taking over my body made it impossible to think. I forced my attention to the items on my desk. I hadn’t been this attracted to a man in months. Why now? Why him?

Even though he appeared to have a nice build, despite his geeky appearance, Zachariah Givens was not my type. When I was sure my thoughts were clear, I allowed myself to watch him. He’d disappeared under the desk again and proceeded to disconnect cords, leaving his firm derriere in plain view. I swallowed a groan. His butt looked good in those jeans.

I blinked. Jeans? He wasn’t wearing the geek uniform of black pants. When he emerged from beneath the desk, I realized he wore a polo shirt.

“How come you’re not in uniform?” I blurted.

“What?” He dragged the burned-out equipment from underneath my desk and glanced at his attire. “Oh, it’s my day off.”

My eyes widened. “Wait, you’re here off the clock?”

“I didn’t have anyone to send in at this time of the morning.” He dumped the cords in the trash and turned to retrieve the old computer tower. “Besides, I miss this part of the job. Being store manager keeps me inside all day. Don’t get me wrong, it has its benefits, but I’m good with my hands.” He glanced over at me. “And since you said our customer service over the phone sucks, I had to make it up to you.”

Good with his hands…God. I felt my face redden.

I forced myself to laugh. “Thank you, Mr. Givens.”

The old equipment removed, he walked over to open the new box. “Call me Zachariah, or Zack.” He smiled and those dimples popped again.

“Okay. You can call me Yasmine.” I stared at him a little too long.

He nodded in the direction of the old computer tower. “I’ll be honest…Yasmine, I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage anything for you. I’ll get the new system up, start loading your programs, and then check it. I want to have you up and running as soon as possible.”

I sighed and glanced at the burnt shell. “I could use a miracle right now, and a cup of coffee. Would you like one?”

“No, I’m not big on caffeine. I’m a morning person by nature.” He chuckled when I rolled my eyes.

“To each his own,” I replied.

***

Several hours later, all of the computers – mine, Brandon’s, and the one at the check-in counter – were up and running and the software was nearly loaded. Mine took the most time since it was the hub for everything in the hotel. He’d even been nice enough to load the hotel business software, free of charge.

I sat on the other side of the office, working furiously on my laptop to compile the data for the business reports and receipts I kept in the filing cabinet- information that had been lost when the computer died. I promised myself to keep a backup on my laptop, USB drive, and any other digital format outside of the main office set up from now on. I did not intend to repeat this scenario.

“Yasmine, a few more minutes and I’ll be done,” Zack said. “Sorry I couldn’t save the hard drive.”

I glanced up from my screen. “No need to apologize. I should have had everything backed up. You live and learn.” I saved my work and checked the time on my laptop. “I can’t believe it’s that late already.” It was nearly eleven; I stood up and stretched. “Would you like something to eat? I don’t know about you, but I missed breakfast. It’ll be my treat. The kitchen is open and Mrs. Davenport will be making lunch.” I studied him for a moment. “I bet you’d like one of her Double Decker Monterey burgers. They are to die for.”

Zack appeared surprised by my offer. “I’d like that.”

I stopped in the doorway. “I’ll come get you when it’s done.”

Twenty minutes later, we sat in a booth in the rear of the dining room, away from the guests.

“This has got to be the best burger I’ve ever eaten. I would drive all the way back for another one.” Zack bit off a large bite. He’d finished half the thing in record time.

I smiled. “I’ll be sure to give your compliments to the chef.”

“I’ll be sure to kiss her.” He drank from his cup and pointed at my salad. “Why aren’t you eating one of these?”

I stabbed at my chicken salad with my fork and glanced at the remains of his burger. “Good question.” I laughed. “I ate one yesterday for lunch. Too many of them will mess with my figure.”

Zack’s eyebrow arched, but he remained silent.

My gaze dropped to my plate. In my past life, flirting was my way of determining if a man would be competent enough to handle my sexual needs. It was second nature.

But this was now.

Besides, trying to seduce Zack would be a waste of time; he didn’t seem interested anyway. Unlike most men I ran across, he didn’t flirt with me at all. Any other man would have taken my comment and told me how fine I was, or some other line, to find a way into my bed.

Not Zack. He was the epitome of the perfect gentleman, never uttering a suggestive comment or taking the obvious stroll over my body with his eyes. I caught him watching me once or twice, but it wasn’t lust in his gorgeous hazel orbs, it was something I had never seen before.

To be honest, it made me nervous not knowing what he was thinking. Yet at the same time, it was refreshing to be in the company of a man who was able to have an intelligent conversation without his panting tongue being in the way.

My cell phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and excused myself. “Yes, Mrs. Langford, how are you?” I waited a beat for her reply and dug into my purse for pen and paper to write notes. “Perfect, I’ll see you then.”

A smile of satisfaction spread across my face when I hung up.

“Must be good news,” Zack said before popping the last of the burger in his mouth.

“Very. I work with this program called Dress for Success. It helps underprivileged women prepare for job interviews. We take them shopping, show them what to wear, how to apply make-up, and do their hair. Anything we can do to help them succeed.”

Zack wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Really? What made you decide to do that?”

His question startled me. I looked up and found genuine interest in his eyes. Men in my past couldn’t care less what I did when we weren’t together. The only thing that interested them was what I did in the bedroom.

“I’m starting a business of my own outside of managing this hotel,” I said slowly, deciding whether I wanted to share the details.

“What kind of business?”

Apparently I had his full attention.

“As a fashion consultant. I’ve been helping friends and family for years. I’d like to help as many people as I can. Participation in a program like this allows me to give back to the community and help people free of charge. As a bonus, I get to build my portfolio and gain experience working with a variety of clients.”

I held my breath, waiting for a laugh or sarcastic comment sure to come.

“Do you work with more than underprivileged women?”

“What do you mean?”

“Would you work with a cancer survivor?”

My curiosity peaked. “Who are you talking about?”

“My mother.”

####

Available on AMAZON, B&N, iTunes, and SMASHWORDS for $3.99! Also available on PAPERBACK!

***JADED can be read as a stand-alone or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series. Buy your copy today!***

 Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

Looking for Book 1? Follow this link to learn more about A Heart Not Easily Broken!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

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#FreeReadsFriday!!!- Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs)

Welcome back to another #FreeReadsFriday where I share ‘what happens next’ in order to wet your appetite for a good weekend read!

This week I’m focusing on Chapter 2 of the Amazon Bestselling Novel, Jaded, the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs Series. If you haven’t read Chapter 1, take a second and check it out:

Jaded- Prologue and Chapter 1

So what happens next?

Get to know  Zachariah Givens, the man I like to call ‘The Quiet yet Passionate Hero”. 😉

Chapter 2

 

“Mr. Givens, there’s a customer on the line asking for you.”

“Thanks, Ralph.” I studied the flashing lines and sighed. I needed someone who could handle the in-store portion of the job. Ralph, a gangly-looking college kid, made an excellent technician, but his customer service skills were seriously lacking. “Which line?”

He shrugged, sheepishly.

I glanced at my watch, four-twenty-five, not long before quitting time. Perfect. With any luck, I could short cut through traffic, take my mother something for dinner, talk, and be home by seven.

That would leave plenty of time for exploring the benefits of my latest technological gadget. The newest iPad had everything I wanted and more.

First, I needed to send this week’s time sheets to the corporate office, then take my tour around the store and turn off the display computers for the night.

I grabbed the phone and handled three of the five calls on hold in record time; none of them were the customer who’d asked for me. Ralph was still on the original call.

I answered the next call on hold in time to hear an angry curse and the phone disconnect as soon as I spoke. At the same time, the door to the shop flew open and a light-skinned woman wearing heels, a skintight skirt, and a loosely buttoned shirt, stormed up to the counter. She didn’t appear pleased.

“First of all, the customer service phone etiquette here sucks.” Her eyes were blazing as she focused on poor Ralph who appeared to shrink two inches from her glare.

Then she zeroed in on me. Her grey eyes squinted in recognition. I remembered her as well. How could I forget a woman with skin the color of coffee with too much cream and eyes the color of steel? Her body was worth every ounce of admiration.

“You,” a red colored fingernail pointed at me, “you’re…,” she referred to a paper in her hand, “Zachariah Givens?”

“Yes,” I replied, ignoring the flash of heat running to my groin. The woman was sexy and annoying at the same time. Unfortunately, it was impossible to appreciate her looks while she shot daggers at me.

“I remember you. You came to my hotel two months ago and said I needed to upgrade my computer when it crashed. You patched it up, thanks again, but now I need a new one… like yesterday need a new one. I need what you listed here, but instead of one, I want three of them. I don’t have time to waste doing this again.” She waved the paper in front of my eyes.

My hands were resting on the counter top as I counted to ten, and then to twenty, before unclenching my teeth. Patience. Let her vent, get it out of her system, and then we could move on.

“Well, aren’t you going to look at this?” The paper waved again, sending a slight breeze of perfume.

Damn, she smelled good.

I counted to thirty, then reached out and waited for the paper to settle in my hand. Our eyes held for a moment before my attention went to it. Yasmine Phillips was her name and it was one of the last jobs I did as a technician before my promotion to store manager.

I studied my notes. “Do you still need authorization to place this order?”

“No, my father has no choice because the computer didn’t crash, it burned. I still have the metallic taste in my mouth.”

I glanced up. Bad idea. Her tongue ran over pale pink lips. Another shot to the groin. I adjusted my stance, glad to be standing behind the counter.

“I don’t have three of the computer systems listed. We have two of them­”

“Two? That is not enough.”

I glanced over the rim of my glasses. “I can get a third one from our sister store, but it will take a day or two.”

“Not acceptable.” She chewed on her bottom lip.

My attention went to her mouth. Focus, man. Why did this woman turn me on? She was nothing like anyone I’d ever dated. Then again, I had no interest in dating.

Ever since Melissa had left.

I did not want to think about her. Not now, not ever.

I walked over to the nearest computer and input the specification of the model in question. “It appears we’ve got something that will still fit your needs. There is an older model on clearance. That will leave some breathing room in your budget.” I explained the details of the computer and watched her eyes glaze over when she stopped listening.

“So it will do everything I need and save money, too?”

“Exactly, and there are three in stock.”

“I’ll take them.” She dug into her oversized purse for her wallet.

With the size of that thing, I expected a poodle or some other small dog’s head to pop up.

“Do you accept corporate cards?”

I nodded. “As long as it has a Visa or Master Card logo.”

She handed me the card and waited for me to type up the paperwork. “Will this be a self-installation or do you need a professional install? There’s an additional fee, per computer.”

“Professional install. Since they are clearance items, do they still come with warranty?”

“Yes, and there’s an additional discount from the warranty from your previous computer, which will increase your savings.”

“Thank you. Now, I need them tonight and—”

“We don’t have an installer available tonight. I can put you on the schedule for tomorrow morning.” I glanced up as her face went from the softened look of relief, to angry again.

“No, I need it tonight, not tomorrow. In fact, I need an entire hard drive saved so I can retrieve some important work.”

I glanced over at Ralph who had finally completed his phone call and looked worse for wear. As great as he was at his job, sending him to handle a triple install with a woman like Ms. Phillips would probably send the poor guy home crying.

“I don’t have anyone available for tonight. Ralph can come tomorrow morning. He’ll get you taken care of and see what he can do about your hard drive.”

She glanced over at Ralph who now quivered in his boots. “No, I want you. I don’t trust anyone else.”

“Unfortunately, as store manager, I don’t do customer installations anymore.”

“That’s not going to work for me. I need you.” Her eyes zeroed on me and softened slightly, almost like a plea.

I loved my job and the money was good, but a day hadn’t gone by when I didn’t miss going on service calls and working alone. I reviewed my options. Dale and Stephanie would be here in the morning and both were great techs.

I studied her. Her cat-like stare bore into me, waiting for my reply. She was determined to have her way. If I said no, I was sure she’d have a challenging remark to convince me to get the job done. I liked challenges. Working with Ms. Phillips seemed like a challenge. Since tomorrow was my day off, ensuring she was a satisfied customer, wouldn’t be a problem. I could handle this job off the clock. It would be a great change of pace.

“How about this…I’ll do the install myself in the morning. What’s the earliest I can arrive?”

“I’ll open for you anytime.”

I swallowed hard. Her statement, coupled with the ‘I need you,’ was not helping. I ignored my thoughts, chalking it up to over a year of celibacy and the presence of a fine woman. How the hell did she manage to stir me up on so many levels?

“How about six a.m.?”

She grimaced. “I’m not a morning person, but I need this done, so six it is.”

I finished writing up the sale, processed her payment, and handed her the receipt. To my surprise, she held out her hand to shake mine.

“Thank you, Mr. Givens. You have no idea what this means to me.”

With that, she disappeared out the door and into the cool evening air.

***

“Zachariah, you don’t have to hang around with me,” my mother said.

“I know.” I reached into the cabinet for two plates, silverware, and cups.

I studied my mom’s profile as she peered into the bag of chicken wings and French fries. She was still too thin to my liking, despite my attempts to help her eat healthy. Six months of chemotherapy had taken its toll, whittling away the vibrant woman who raised me. Her skin had lost its healthy glow; her caramel complexion waned and held a dark grey undertone.

Her long graying mane no longer graced her shoulders. Once her hair began falling out due to chemo treatments, she’d had it cut low. It had grown since then, but she decided to keep it cut short, barely longer than my own close shave. I missed the grey and black curls that once adorned her head. They had been a testament of her wisdom and amazing ability to persevere through the hardships of her life.

Yet, despite everything she’d endured physically and mentally in the last year, her eyes still conveyed the true beauty of her mind.

I loved my mother. Not just because she was my only living parent, but because she taught me so much.

After setting the dinnerware on the table, I took a moment to pull her into my arms while being sure not to squeeze too tightly. Even though her cancer had gone into remission, and she no longer received chemo, her body still ached.

She sighed and leaned against me. “I enjoy you checking on me, but you need a life of your own, son.”

I kissed her forehead before releasing her. “You are my life, Mom.”

She laughed lightly. “You know that’s not what I mean.”

I bit back my reply because no matter what I said, this conversation was going in one direction.

“You need a wife, Zachariah.”

I selected a few chicken wings from the box, put them on my plate, and followed up with celery sticks. “Been there, done that. It didn’t work.”

“That’s not true. Engagement is not the same thing as being married.” She picked up a wing without setting it on a plate and nibbled.

I didn’t like the fact she wasn’t eating a lot. She seemed to enjoy protein shakes more than actual food.

“Close enough,” I muttered before stuffing a hot wing in my mouth.

Melissa. For the second time today, her name popped up in my head. Damn. The thought of her messed with my appetite. Not wanting my mother to give up picking at her food, I forced myself to chew.

“All things happen for a reason, baby, whether we agree with them or not. Melissa was not meant for you.”

“Maybe, but it wasn’t because you had cancer. Don’t tell me you got sick so we would not get married. That’s messed up.” Unable to chew further, I tossed my wing on my plate. My mom didn’t even blink.

“Zachariah, you know that’s not what I meant. I got cancer because I got cancer. Melissa left because she wasn’t the woman you needed. She didn’t support you in your time of need, and I was the sick one. What do you think would have happened if you had gotten sick? The poor girl would probably have run home to her parents the moment she learned you were ill. Marriage vows include staying together through sickness and health, not just for richer or poorer.” She smirked. “I don’t think Melissa would have handled the ‘poorer part’ too well either.”

I wiped my hands on my napkin and allowed myself to smile. “Yeah, she was money hungry, which was not new. I would have provided for her, given her everything she wanted and then some.”

“True, and she would have drained you dry, financially and mentally,” she added, disposing of the wing she had finished. I held my breath and waited for her to pick up another one; she did.

“I know how to pick them, huh?”

My mother patted me on the knee. “One day, when you least expect it, the woman of your dreams is going to walk into your life and knock you sideways. Mark my words.”

I thought about the woman who’d come into my shop. Ms. Phillips was probably on the same high-maintenance level as Melissa. All beauty and attitude wrapped into one. I could imagine what her man put up with in order to be with her.

Then I pictured her body without the hip hugging skirt and low cut blouse covering what I imagined would be perfect breasts. One night with her would make a man overlook her issues.

I chuckled. “Glad at least one of us feels that way.”

I sure as hell didn’t.

####

Available on AMAZON, B&N, iTunes, and SMASHWORDS for $3.99! Also available on PAPERBACK!

***JADED can be read as a stand-alone or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series. Buy your copy today!***

 Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

 When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

 Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

***Read as a STAND-ALONE or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series!***

Looking for Book 1? Follow this link to learn more about A Heart Not Easily Broken!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

 

#SampleSunday- A Heart Not Easily Broken- Chapter Two…The Story Continues from Another Point of View

Although I shared this extended sample of A Heart Not Easily Broken earlier this week, some of you may have missed it. If you haven’t read the first novel in The Butterfly Memoirs series, but you’ve read the first chapter you’re probably wondering if Ebony decided to take Brian up on his offer to meet him in the VIP section of the club. I can guarantee what happens next is a surprise for not only Brian, but for Ebony as well.

Check out the next chapter told from Brian’s Point of View….

Chapter 2

I loved to work, but after spending the weekend playing late night gigs with my band, sleeping in on Monday would have been my preference, except my bills made it impossible.

Besides, laziness of any kind was not in my nature.

My cousin, Dylan, waved for my attention. “Hey, Brian, we’re done over here. Is there anything else?”

I cut off the weed whacker to appraise Dylan and Peter’s work, inhaling the smell of freshly cut grass. They did a good job clearing the yard of all the clippings. The decision to hire my young cousins for the summer paid off. Letting them handle the grunt work left me to handle the finer details, like trimming the edges of my clients’ professionally landscaped flowerbeds.

Sweat dripped from my brow, stinging my eyes. “No, we’re done. Take the bags to the curb.”

Dylan nodded before passing the message to his brother.

I removed the weed whacker’s carrying strap from around my neck, placed it in the bed of the truck, and then reached into the semi-melted ice in the cooler to retrieve a bottle of Gatorade. The liquid saturated my parched mouth. The bottle was empty in seconds.

“Heads up.” I tossed them both a bottle.

They murmured their thanks before leaning against the tailgate.

“Man, it’s hot,” Peter said. “How many yards have we done today?”

Dylan laughed. “This is the fifth one, bro.”

Peter turned to me for confirmation. I nodded and threw my empty bottle into the truck bed, adding to last week’s collection of bottles to be recycled.

“Man, how did I forget that?” Peter mumbled.

“Because your mind is still stuck three jobs ago,” Dylan replied.

Peter continued to have a look of awe on his face. I chuckled. If he got this flustered at the sight of three grown women lounging topless poolside, he was going to be dumbstruck when attending his first frat party in college.

I remembered my time spent in college. Somehow, I managed to discover my independence without screwing up too much along the way. Hot women always found their way into my dorm room once they learned I was in a band. A year after joining Diverse Nation, I got over the hype and focused on my craft instead. Being a member taught me discipline and kept me grounded with my eyes on the prize when it came to my career.

Music was my life. Cutting grass made it possible to pay the bills until my career took off.

I walked the yard one last time surveying our work. The hedges trimmed, grass cut evenly, and clippings set curbside. Mrs. Dillard would be pleased.

“Finish loading up,” I instructed, while walking up the long stone path that lead to a partially covered overhang, and rang the doorbell. The narrow strip of shade didn’t do much to ward off the sun’s oppressive heat. My attention went to the flowerbed kept near the front door. There were a few weeds growing among her flowers.

I smiled down at the older woman as the door opened. She was in her late sixties and believed in looking her best at all times. Mrs. Dillard lived next door to my parents. She’d been my first paying customer. She’d advertised my services at the monthly homeowner’s association meetings until nearly every neighbor became my customer. As a thank you, I offered her a lifetime of free yard maintenance. She refused, insisting she pay a discounted rate instead.

“Mrs. Dillard, you look young as ever.” I flashed the smile that used to earn me milk and cookies.

She laughed. “Brian, you are such a flirt. If I were thirty years younger…”

I shook my head. “Yeah, but then Mr. Dillard wouldn’t want me to come back around.”

“True, oh, well.” She stepped out onto her porch to survey the yard. “A great job as always, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Unable to resist, I asked, “When are you going to let me weed your garden? It would be free of charge.”

“Never. I love to have my hands in the dirt. You handle the rest of the yard. I’ll handle my weeds.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I accepted the check. “Thank you. We’ll see you in two weeks.”

Sweaty bare feet hanging out the passenger side window greeted me when I reached the truck.

“Peter, I am not going to be held responsible by Aunt Gina if your foot gets cut by road debris.”

“Sorry,” he muttered, sliding his feet back inside. “It’s hot as h-e-double-hockey sticks out here. My feet were on fire in those boots.”

Now that his feet were inside, it made sense he’d hung them outside. Telling him to climb into the bed of my truck didn’t sound like a bad idea.

“Aunt Gina’s not around. You can drop your choirboy act, and say ‘hell’. It’ll be our secret.”

“Yeah, right. My mom probably has my boots bugged. She’d come home and slap me upside the head after listening to the recording.”

I cracked up. “Do you plan to let loose when you move into your dorm?” I concentrated on backing out of the driveway.

“Hell, yeah.”

Dylan and I both chuckled. My attention turned to my parents’ house next door. The yard would not need maintenance for another week. Unfortunately, my mother wasn’t home. What I wouldn’t give to snag a piece of homemade apple pie kept in the fridge for my dad.

From time to time, I missed home and my four obnoxious sisters. There were plenty of good times shared in my childhood home:birthdays, holidays, and just flat out fun. My father made sure that as the only boy in a household full of women, we spent a lot of time together. My mom and sisters taught me how to treat a woman while my dad taught me how to be a man. Work hard, and never, ever take no for an answer. Words I lived by on a daily basis.

We’d reached the front of the subdivision when my cell phone rang. I jotted down notes before snapping the phone shut. “It looks like we’ve got one more job.”

Groans erupted from my passengers.

“Hey, you want to get paid, right?” I glanced over my shoulder while punching the address into my GPS. “This is how it’s done. You guys want money for dates; I need money for my girl, too.”

“What girl?” Peter blurted.

Dylan cackled from the back seat.

“I have a girl. Unlike you guys, my girl isn’t high maintenance. She loves it when I hold her, and it doesn’t take much for me to make her sing.” I grinned so hard my face felt like it would split in two.

Dylan pretended to puke.

“Dude, you seriously need to find a girlfriend. I can’t stand listening to you talk about your guitar like it’s a real woman,” Peter said.

“Yeah, man, you need help,” Dylan chimed in.

“No, what I need is a new guitar. That will take my playing to a whole new level.”

Peter snickered. “Maybe, but your love life is gonna suck.”

I smirked, ignoring the ribbing. These young guys just didn’t understand. There was more to life than chasing after women.

Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the new customer’s address. There were no cars in the driveway. According to the woman who called, her roommate was on her way and would be responsible for payment. The guys waited in the truck while I surveyed the property, walking the length of the lawn, tossing small rocks to the yard’s edge. The last thing I needed was to pay for a customer’s broken windshield caused by a rock thrown by the lawnmower.

The two-story house had a decent sized yard. There were a few large shade trees in the front. A quick assessment showed the roots shouldn’t get in the way of the lawnmower blades. My height allowed me to peer over the high, wooden gate of the backyard. It was less than half the size of the front. We’d be able to knock it out in no time.

Peter and Dylan were out of the truck when I returned, so we went over the game plan. We’d just wrapped up when a car pulled into the driveway. I exhaled deeply before turning back to fill the weed whacker with gasoline. Our drive would not be a waste of time.

I heard the slam of a car door, followed by the opening of another. Light footsteps crunched on loose gravel in the driveway as my customer approached. I turned to introduce myself in full customer-service mode.

I paused; thankful my customer’s attention focused elsewhere, and quickly shut my mouth. It was Ebony, the woman from the club.

Her attention appeared to be on something in her purse as she walked my way, so she hadn’t seen me yet.

She was not dressed as she was Saturday night. Her hair wasn’t flowing over her shoulders, tempting my fingers to get lost in its waves. Her legs were not bare, nor did she wear a skin tight, short dress, showing off shapely calf muscles, as she had the other evening. Instead, she wore a baggy shirt over pants with some kind of printed design, something like standard medical wear. She wore her hair in a ponytail, and her feet were in tennis shoes. She struggled to balance an armful of books of various sizes and a book bag over her shoulder.

Ebony was still sexy as hell.

“I’m glad you haven’t got started yet. My roommate called me at the last minute and told me you were coming. I don’t have any cash on me. Do you take checks or−?” Her voice faltered when she saw me. “Brian? What are you doing here?”

I caught a hint of fire in her eyes and something else. Maybe guilt for not meeting me in VIP?

“I’m here to cut your grass.” I screwed the top back on the gas can, fighting the urge to laugh at the irony of the situation.

Play it cool. I was not about to let her know how disappointed I’d been sitting alone. What happened a few nights ago had nothing to do with the money she was about to put in my pocket.

“I thought you were a musician.”

I pulled goggles and gloves out of the driver’s side door pocket. “I am, but it doesn’t pay the bills just yet. This is my day job.”

Ebony’s eyes traveled to the truck and my cousins before settling back on me.

“This is my business,” I added, watching her thin eyebrows arch.

Since I hadn’t questioned her about the VIP incident, she seemed to relax. The sound of a lawnmower cranking up broke the awkward silence.

“Well, I’ll get out of your way.” She backed away from the truck and headed for her house.

It dawned on me I did not answer her question regarding the form of payment. At least it would give me something to talk about when we were done.

Saturday night, Ebony disappeared like Cinderella, without leaving a hint of a glass slipper. Now, barely two days later, I found where she lived. What were the chances? This was fate.

I took the opportunity to appreciate every inch of her hidden under baggy clothes. The image of her in the black form-fitting dress revealing every curvy inch of her body had haunted my dreams.

Outside the club, in natural light, Ebony did not disappoint. Her almond shaped eyes were a rich shade of brown, dark and mysterious. She wore no makeup on her caramel skin, and her lips were naked, with no hint of gloss.

I chuckled when she finally got her front door unlocked. It appeared she’d run into some trouble with her key. Flustered perhaps?

I hoped so. With a little luck, I just might have a chance to get her to talk to me about more than grass.

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If you haven’t read the Amazon Bestseller, A Heart Not Easily Broken, buy your copy today! It’s $3.99 and available for Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and on Smashwords. If Paperback is what you prefer, find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! 

AHNEB FINAL COVER

Ebony is a smart, sexy, career-oriented black woman who wants nothing more than a summer fling with a man who challenges her mind and body. What she doesn’t expect is a blond-haired, blue-eyed bass player—who won’t take “no” for an answer—to accept the challenge.

When Ebony’s attempt at a brief fling turns into more, despite negative reactions from friends and family, she finds juggling love, family, and career are nothing compared to the ultimate betrayal she endures. Now her dreams spiral into lies and secrets that threaten her future and her best friend’s trust.

ONE CLICK for REVIEWS, FREE CHAPTER READS, ALL SALES LINKS!

For more information on The Butterfly Memoirs Series and a sample of the next book, Jadedvisit this link! 

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MJ

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