My Valentine’s Day Gift to You!

Once again, I’m bringing my readers a gift, by popular demand…a Mini Memoir of a day in the life of Yasmine and Zachariah!

If you’ve read Jaded, you’re familiar with the ups and downs of their relationship, and know that it was work for these two characters to find their happily ever after. But now it’s Valentine’s Day. How do they handle it? Check out this short story to find out!

And don’t forget to mark your calendars! Kaitlyn’s story, Lonely Heart will be here in 21 Days!!!! 

Autumn landscape

Valentine’s Day

Yasmine

 

“Yasmine, I looooovvvee it! As always, you know exactly what looks best on me!”

“Just doing my job.” I smiled as Mrs. Hill continued to model the strapless black dress, with the simple short sleeved jacket, I selected for her.

“Harold is going to be blown away,” she chuckled as her cheeks turned pink.

I laughed, too. Mrs. Hill was in her fifties and had been married for nearly thirty years. One of my most loyal customers, she’d been with me since I decided to start my own fashion consultant business a year ago.

“But, we both know the dress is not what’s going to blow him away. It’s what hidden beneath,” I teased.

Mrs. Hill’s attention turned to the sexy red lingerie hanging on the dressing room door. A mixture of excitement and trepidation appeared on her face. “Are you sure about that? I don’t have the body of a twenty-year old anymore.”

I inclined my head, putting one hand on my hip. “When have I steered you wrong?”

She wrung her hands. “Never…it’s just…it’s been a while since I’ve worn something sexy to bed.”

“Who said you had to wear it to bed? You and Mr. Hill are empty nesters. With Melody gone to college, there are no more kids in the house. You can christen your home all over again. Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time.”

A girlish laugh emerged as she covered her mouth with both hands. “I don’t know…”

“Look at it this way…at least you won’t get pregnant.” I slid to the end of the chair, gripped the armrest, and pulled my pregnant body out of the chair.  Sitting next to the dressing room made it easier to see my clients as they went through each wardrobe change. My hand went to the small of my back.

Carrying twins was kicking my butt. Six months into my pregnancy and I was twice as big as I had ever been. My breasts were swollen and feet aching. How in the world was I supposed to make it for three more months?

“You know, you’re right.” She eyed my belly and smiled. “I remember those days…aches and pains. After four kids, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have two inside at one time.”

I rubbed my belly as my son and daughter took turns kicking, and smiled. “Never a dull moment and I’m never alone.”

“So true. Okay, I’m going to take this off now. Do I need accessories to go with it?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll select a few pieces while you change.”

Mrs. Hill nodded, then slipped into the dressing room.

I made my way to the jewelry department of the store to select pieces to compliment her outfit.

Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year when couples were expected to declare their love for the world to see.

I lost my love for the holiday years ago.

After dealing with men on friends-with-benefits bases, for years my February 14th routine involved soaking in the bathtub with a glass of wine, followed by a double date with my two favorite men, Ben and Jerry. A pint of Karamel Sutra ice cream, and watching my DVD collection of Criminal Minds, filled my evening, taking my mind off of romance completely.

Well, except for imagining what it would be like to be with Shamar Moore.

But this year was different. I was no longer alone. Besides being pregnant, I was married to my best friend and the love of my life. Zachariah was everything I’d secretly wanted in a husband and more. What would I do without him?

I knew the answer too well. After our brief separation, it was obvious; being apart from him would devastate me.

Now that we were together again, why didn’t I feel the same way he did about the holiday?

For the past week he’d walked around the house humming; alluding to some secret surprise. I had no idea what it was, but knew it involved leaving the house for the night and having dinner at some romantic restaurant. After that, I’m sure coming home and making love was the next thing on his list.

I forced my attention back to my job and selected a platinum choker and matching earrings. Mrs. Hill would love it.

My client was set, but what was I going to wear tonight?

Over the past few months, my collection of maternity clothes had grown. Being a fashion consultant meant I had to look just as good, or better, than what I did for my clients. Even with a hurt back and swollen ankles.

I had several outfits to choose from, but honestly, I was too exhausted to be in the mood for anything else other putting on my comfortable night shirt and cuddling with my husband in bed.

“Oh that is perfect!”

Forced out of my thoughts, I turned to find Mrs. Hill standing next to me. I held the jewelry next to her dress. “Do you like it?”

“Absolutely!”

“Good, let’s go find a pair of shoes.”

****

“I’ll be leaving work soon. I can’t wait to see you. Our dinner reservations are for eight,” Zack said, his voice full of excitement.

I kept my sigh hidden, sat on the edge of the bed, and kicked off my fashionable flats. “You’re not going to tell me where we’re going, are you?”

He chuckled. “No, then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

I smiled and shook his head. His enthusiasm was infectious. “Well, I’m going to take a shower and freshen up a bit. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

My husband’s picture stayed on the screen for a few moments before the cell phone shut down to conserve power. I walked to the closet and searched through my wardrobe. Zack would be expecting something sexy…

I chuckled. With the thirty added pounds to my breasts, butt, and hips, sexy was the last thing I felt. Zack, on the other hand, loved every inch of my swollen body. He constantly wore the expression of a man proud of the fact that he’d been virile.

We were on our honeymoon when I suggested we not waste time starting a family. Zack had been eager to become a father. It wasn’t long before I got pregnant.

I selected a hot, red number guaranteed to make my husband happy. The maternity dress was a short crossover knit that featured a V-neck drop, allowing my bosom visibility.  I searched the closet floor for the perfect pair of shoes to go with it, deciding to put on a pair of pumps that accentuated my long legs. Those shoes would only be worn from the car and into the restaurant. In-between I’d wear my flats.

In the bathroom, I stepped into the shower, making use of the fragrant body wash that made me feel sexy. By the time I got out, my muscles were so relaxed, I needed to lie down. According to the clock beside the bed, I had at least forty-five minutes to take a nap before getting ready for our date. That would be enough time to rejuvenate for the evening my husband had in store.

 

 ##########

 

Valentine’s Day

Zachariah

 

“I need two dozen calla lilies.”

“Lucky lady,” the florist said, dollar signs in her eyes. “And this is for Valentine’s Day?”

“Yes, for my wife.” I would never get tired of saying that.

“Ahh…how long have you been married?”

“Eight months.”

“Congratulations. Is this is your first Valentine’s Day as a married couple?”

“It’s our first, ever.” The florist eyebrows rose in surprise. “It’s a long story,” I added.

She nodded, then walked to the refrigerated portion of the shop where a variety of fresh flowers were on display. “Your wife obviously likes calla lilies since you’re not asking for roses.”

“Yes, she does.”

“Since this is your first Valentine’s Day gift, I suggest you do something a bit more unique. Remember, this will set the standard for the next celebrations to come. Tell me about her. What else does she like? Is there something significant going on in your lives? Any accomplishments she’s proud of or that you are proud of?”

This was a no brainer. “She started her own business a few months ago, one she’s been working hard for since the day we met.”

“That’s good. What does she do?”

“She’s a fashion consultant and works with women who need help building their wardrobe and self-esteem.”

Her eyebrow went up. “Hmm…I could use help freshening up my wardrobe.”

I smiled. “I’ll be sure to give you her number.”

The florist perused the flowers, reaching in to select a few stems. “Anything else?”

“She’s pregnant with twins. A son and a daughter.” My chest poked out with pride.

“Oh, now that is something to celebrate. Congratulations, papa!”

“Thank you.” Even though the pregnancy was planned, I felt as though we’d hit the lottery. Twins ran on her side of the family, though, according to my mother-in-law, it had been years since a set were born.

“The perfect floral arrangement should represent her dreams, your children, your marriage… and your future.” She studied the flowers. “How about this, instead of calla lilies, we use Stargazer lilies. The full, vibrant blooms and rich pink color will represent your wife’s ambitions. We’ll accent it with traditional red and soft pink roses for friendship and passion, and…,” she searched around some more, then pulled out a few more flowers. “White Gerbera daisies for the innocence of your unborn children.”

I studied the assortment of flowers she held in her hand. “Wow, I’m impressed. That’s perfect.”

“Good. I’ll put these together for you. It should be ready in say…twenty minutes?”

“Enough time for me to go next door and look for a card to go with it.”

I left the flower shop and went to the grocery store next door. This evening was going to be perfect. I secured reservations for a dinner in advance of the holiday. The restaurant we were going to was special. It was the Italian restaurant where we had our first date.

I chuckled at the memory.

In truth, it was anything but a date. Instead, it was a last minute decision to go out for dinner to thank her for putting a smile on my mother’s face for her birthdate. At the time we were acquaintances; neither of us had any intention of getting involved in a romantic relationship.

Who know a candlelit dinner would lead to friendship, then love and marriage. And now, a family.

I checked my watch, then searched until I found the card bearing the perfect sentiment and imagining Yasmine’s reaction. Tonight was going to be perfect.

****

 “Yasmine, baby, I’m home!”

There was no answer.

I balanced the large vase of flowers in the crook of my arm, then closed and locked the door behind me. The house was dark and silent. Not the greeting I expected. She was usually in the kitchen or sitting in the living room watching TV or reading a book.

On instinct, I walked through the house, my heart racing, checking every room, forcing myself to ignore the flashback of the night we found my mother nearly unconscious.

The moment I reached the bedroom and turned on the light, I took a deep breath.

Yasmine laid on the bed, clothed in her bathrobe, slippers on her feet…and fast asleep. I sat the vase of flowers on the dresser and walked over to the bed, easing down beside her so as not to wake her.

Her hair was damp; her clothes for the evening lay at the foot of the bed. Apparently she decided to rest after getting out of the shower and instead fell into a deep slumber. I checked the time. There was no way we’d be able to make our reservation. A part of me felt disappointment; the other half understood my wife needed time to rest.

After all, she was carrying our babies.

I reached out to run a hand over her belly and was rewarded with a slight kick. I wished there was a way to tell which one of our children had attempted to say hello.

After a moment, I turned out the light and went into the kitchen to scrounge something up for dinner. When Yasmine woke, she would be hungry. Ravenous was the correct statement.

There was a Bertolli frozen meal for two in the freezer. Homemade Italian would work. I went into the living room and turned on a CD, letting the smooth sounds of Kem fill the house while I put together a salad and chilled a bottle of apple juice.

Once dinner was ready, I checked on Yasmine again; she was still asleep. Instead of waking her, I slid into bed behind her, slipping my hand around her belly, cradling her and our unborn babies once again.

Yasmine stirred when I nuzzled her neck. “Zack, baby, what time is it?”

“After eight,” I said, and then kissed her shoulder.

Her hand went to her forehead. “Oh man, I’m so sorry. I ruined everything.” She turned her head in an attempt to see me over her shoulder.

I kissed her lips. “You were asleep when I came home. I didn’t want to wake you, so I decided to make dinner instead.” I massaged her belly. “How are my babies?”

She smiled and placed her hand over mine. “Fine, and starving. It smells good. What did you make?”

“Shrimp Scampi and Linguine, salad, and garlic and cheese bread sticks.”

Her stomach growled, making me smile. “Dinner is simmering, so there’s no need for you to rush to get up.”

“Thank you,” she said, resting her head against the pillow and settling her back against me. “Oh wow, Zack, are those for me?”

I followed her line of site to the vase of fragrant flowers sitting on the bedroom dresser. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh, they are beautiful. Now I really feel awful. I didn’t get you anything. Between work and being tired…trying to figure out what you would want got pushed to the side. Then I come home and go to sleep…”

Yasmine had a lot on her plate. Managing her business, running our household, and managing her health while carrying our children. I could only imagine how worn out she would be once they were born.

“It’s okay, really.” I brushed the sting of disappointment aside.

Yasmine turned in my arms to face me, her expression pained. “No, there’s no excuse. I’ve already failed you once as a wife. I promised never to do it again, and yet…here we are.”

“We were both wrong then, and the past is the past.” I kissed her lips. “There’s no looking back, remember?”

“I know.” She sighed heavily, then looked down at her hand resting on my chest. “To be honest, Zack, I didn’t know how to handle Valentine’s Day. I’ve always spent it alone. Besides, spending money to tell someone you love them is overrated. If you love someone, you show them every day. There’s no need to go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money. Do you know how many relationships are ruined over the type of gift someone did or didn’t buy?”

“True, but that’s not us.” I ran a hand over her check, brushing her short locks away from her face.

“I know, I’m just saying, that’s how I feel. I guess since we’re married, there’s no need to feel like that anymore.”

I chuckled. “It’s funny, you’re anti-Valentine’s Day, and I’m willing to go all in.”

“And that’s what I love about you, Zack. You wear your heart on your sleeve, even when you think you don’t.”

“Only when it comes to you. You and our children are my future. I’m nothing without you.”

“I know what you mean. I can’t imagine being without you, either.”

I sat up and kissed my wife. The soft feel of her lips and fragrant smell of her skin was all I needed to know my wife loved me. “You know, there’s only one gift you can give that will forever mean the most to me.”

She studied my eyes as if getting the answer meant the difference between life and death. “What’s that?”

I rubbed her belly again. “Our children. Speaking of which, we need to decide on some names.”

“We already have two names. Belinda and Charles. I promised your mother her granddaughter would be named after her.”

“True, and I thank you for it. But don’t you think those names are a bit out dated?”

Yasmine smiled. “You sound just like your mother. She said the same thing.”

“I am my mother’s son. Why don’t we use them as middle names?”

She inclined her head in thought. “I can do that. I’ve been thinking…do you want to have a junior?”

“I thought about it, but since I’m not a junior and want my son to have my father’s name, I’m willing to wait until the next time I get you pregnant.”

Yasmine laughed. “Who said there would be a next time? I’m knocked up with twins. Our hand will be full for a while.”

“True, but I’m willing to bet after a year or two, I can convince you to try again.” I grinned and wagged my eyebrows.

“Yeah, well, I guess you could, especially since you know exactly how to turn me on.” I groaned as my wife ran a hand over my chest.

She had no idea how sexy she was. Full breasts, wide hips, and just the right amount of flesh on her already sexy behind…I loved my wife’s pregnant body. While I would love to have her back at her pre-pregnancy physic, a part of me was going to miss this.

“So, if we don’t name him Junior, and Charles will be his middle name, what do you think about Jayden?” she asked.

“Jayden? I like that.”

“So our son’s name will be Jayden Charles Givens. What about our daughter?”

“Well, I imagine her being as strong-willed as you, so she needs a strong name. I like Mackenzie.”

“Wow, that’s different. Mackenzie Belinda Givens?” Yasmine mulled over my suggestion.

“You don’t like it?”

“Actually, I do. Zack, do you realize in three months we will officially be a family? Your mother would be proud.”

I felt tightness in my chest. “I know, my father, too.” I kissed my wife, grateful yet again for the blessing bestowed upon me and for listening to my mother’s advice. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Yasmine.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.”

 

The End

####

I hope you enjoyed this brief peek back into the life of Yasmine and Zachariah. For their full story, read Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs). Be sure to check out the character bios, and diary post! Look out for book 3, Lonely Heart, which will be available from 5 Prince Publishing on March 6, 2014! Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs. Happy Reading!

 

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this story, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow my blog!

MJ

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

Family for the Holiday- A Ebony and Brian Short Story, Part 5

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

Part One- The Meeting- December 23rd- Brian

Part Two- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Ebony

Part Three- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Brian

Part Four- Christmas Day- December 25th- Ebony

Christmas Day- December 25th

Brian

 

“Merry Christmas, Brian!” my sisters sang as I entered the kitchen.

The room was filled with the aromas of Christmas dinner and sound of my sisters singing Christmas carols off key.

Andrea and Lisa assisted my mother as she finished making dinner. Caroline sat at the kitchen table, bottle feeding her newborn son. Bridget danced around everyone doing absolutely nothing, as usual, except use the wooden spoon as a microphone. In the middle of it all was my fiancée and her mother. Mrs. Campbell sat at the kitchen table nursing a cup of coffee, bewildered and amused. Ebony seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

I walked among the group and kissed them each on the cheek. To my surprise, Ebony’s mother allowed me to give her one as well. After her standoffish greeting at the airport, we had yet to have a one-on-one conversation.

Maybe her husband’s talk with me the day before won her over. Either way, I would take whatever she wanted to give.

“It smells good in here,” I said. As tempting as it was to sneak a taste of the dishes lining the kitchen island, I knew better.

“Thank you,” my mother responded.

“Do you guys mind if I borrow Ebony for a moment?”

“No,” my sisters sang.

Ebony followed me out of the kitchen and into the dining room. My mother’s fine china, used only for special occasions, sat on the table along with other decorative items used for family gatherings.

The minute we were out of sight of my nosey family, I pulled her in my arms and kissed her. “Want to sneak back outside tonight?”

Her arms went around my neck as she laughed. “I don’t know. I had a hard time sleeping last night.  It was a combination of wanting more and guilt.”

I chuckled. “Hey, you’re the one who started it. I’d rather think the wanting is what kept you up. Did you make the call?”

She nodded. “Yes, and everything has been worked out. Now we just have to make the announcement.” She inhaled deeply. “I’m not sure how they’re going to take it.”

“Neither am I, but it’s our decision.” I pulled back to so our eyes met. “You and me?”

She smiled. “Me and you.”

****

With dinner time nearing, everyone was either in the living room, kitchen, or my father’s man cave watching television. I snuck out on the back porch for a few minutes of silence. The last few days of being with my family was inspiring. My mind was in creative mode, toying with rhythms and notes to recreate the melody in my head.

Brian, can I talk to you for a minute?”

I turned to find Mrs. Campbell standing behind me

“Sure. It’s a bit chilly out here. Do you want to go inside?”

“No, here is fine.”

I waked over to the patio set and pulled out a chair for her.

“Thank you.” She sat down, tugging the edges of the shawl she wore around her shoulders a little tighter. “I can’t believe how much warmer it is here than it is back home. It’s still chilly, but at least you can walk outside without turning into a Popsicle. Weather like this will make you want to stay in California.”

“Yes, ma’am, it will. Are you enjoying your visit?”

Her attention turned to me. “Yes, I am. It’s been more than I expected.”

Not sure how to take the comment, I remained silent.

“Let me rephrase that,” she inclined her head. “You’re more than I expected.”

I thought back to conversations held with Ebony when we started dating. She told me her mother made a habit of pointing men who were ‘talk, dark, and handsome’ in her direction, playing matchmaker from afar. If anyone was thrown off by her decision to be with me, it was her mother.

“Brian, do you really love my daughter?”

I looked her in the eye. “Yes, ma’am, I do.”

“Then forgive me for asking this question, but I must. Ebony mentioned you were in a relationship with a black woman before. So I get it, this isn’t new for you, but it is for Ebony. She says she’s ready to tackle anything life throws at you, and I believe her. But I can’t help but wonder…what happened to the last woman?”

Momentarily caught off guard, I kept my mouth shut. My first instinct was to tell her it was none of her business. What happened with my previous girlfriend had nothing to do with my relationship with Ebony.

I sat back in my chair. “You think I’m trying to replace my ex with another black woman?”

Mrs. Campbell tilted her head as if studying my body language. “Are you?”

I sat forward in my chair, rested my elbows on the table, and linked my fingers. I kept my eyes trained on hers. “My feelings for Ebony have nothing to do with any woman from my past. The night we met, I wasn’t looking for any one. She caught my attention as a beautiful woman I wanted to know. Skin color, race…none of that stuff mattered. I fell in love with the woman she is. Period.

“Mrs. Campbell, I don’t take relationships lightly, nor do I play with anyone’s emotions. If you’re worried I’ll get tired of her and leave…believe me that will never happen. I’m in love with your daughter. I don’t know what else to say. And to be honest, my job is to make sure Ebony is satisfied with what we have. Outside opinions don’t matter. Not yours, your husband’s, and not my parents. I hope you can understand where I’m coming from. I mean no disrespect.”

Both of Mrs. Campbell’s eyebrows rose as she sat back in her seat, her lips pursed. A part of me wanted to apologize, but I hadn’t said anything to offend her. If anything, her question had offended me.

After years of watching my brother-in-law’s deal with my mother, I learned one thing; as the husband, there were times your foot had to be put down in order to gain the respect of your wife’s mother. Since I wasn’t the one Mrs. Campbell selected for her daughter, I had to make her see me for who I really am: the man who loves her daughter and the father of her future grandkids.

“I know my daughter, Brian; it takes a lot to win her heart, especially if she’s got her mind set on reaching a goal. She would have moved back home a long time ago if it weren’t for the job opportunities in front of her. Can you promise me that you will continue to make her happy and support her, not just financially, but emotionally?”

“Until the day I die.”

She nodded slowly. “Then there’s only one thing I can say,” she rose from her seat, walked over to where I sat, and opened her arms wide. “Welcome to the family. And you can call me Mom.”

****

 “I am stuffed!” Ebony pushed back from the table, both hands on her belly.

I looked over at her plate; there was food left. “Are you going to eat that?” I pointed to the stuffing and cranberry sauce.

“Have at it.” She pushed her plate over and I devoured the remains. There was nothing like my mother’s homemade stuffing.

“Where on earth do you put all of that food? If I ate like you do, my hips would spread.”

I swallowed, then followed it up with the soda sitting in front of me. It was the only thing that had not received a re-fill since dinner was served. “I burn it off. And don’t worry, if it goes to your hips, I’ll help you get rid of the calories.” I winked; she laughed.

“It seems like everyone is nearly done. Are you ready?” she asked.

I held up a finger and ate the last of the dressing.

As I chewed, my gaze went around the table. Nearly everyone was here. My parents, her parents, my sisters and their husbands, and my grandparents, which was a blessing. All six of the grandkids were seated at the table in the kitchen.

I wiped my mouth on a napkin, then picked up my glass and tapped the side with my fork. “Excuse me everyone, can I have your attention?” I stood as everyone quieted down.

Ebony stood, too.

“First of all, I’d like to say thank you to the wonderful hands that prepared this evenings meal,” I rubbed my belly as everyone murmured their appreciation. “And to anyone who is unable to finish their plates, I have containers with my name on them in the kitchen. No doggie bags will be allowed to leave the premises.” Laughter erupted; I waited for it to die down.

When it did, I reached for Ebony’s hand and kissed it. “This year, we have had the pleasure of having new guest join us. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, and my beautiful fiancée, Ebony.”

“Thank you for having us,” Mrs. Campbell said.

My parents raised their cups and saluted them.

“I appreciate you guys welcoming my soon-to-be in-laws into our family. I know every Christmas won’t be celebrated this way, but this was a great start to our future. I can’t tell you how much Ebony and I appreciate your continued support.  With that said, we have an announcement.”

I turned to Ebony, but didn’t miss the anticipation on the faces of every woman in the room.

“For the past three days, Brian and I have received advice about love and marriage, even kids,” Ebony laughed; I chuckled. “Between our parents, that over sixty years of experience. We love you for it.”

Around us, my sisters and their spouses’ clapped in agreement.

“And with that said, we’ve decided on a date for the wedding. April 5th!”

More clapping and cheering.

“And…,” she gripped my hand for reassurance as the din called down, “we’ve decided on a location. Mom,” she looked at my mother, “and Mom,” she addressed her mother, holding her gaze. “We talked about the locations you suggested, but have decided to do this our way. Our wedding will be held at the Phillips Family Inn. They have several beautiful rooms that will be perfect for the ceremony and reception. There’s also a spacious garden that will be perfect for pictures. We chose this location because it is significant to us. We built memories there and want to add one more; our wedding day. We hope you guys understand and respect our decision.”

There was a moment of silence as our mothers looked at each other across the table.

“If this is what you want, Ebony, then I’m happy. I’ll buy our tickets for the flight out as soon as we get home,” her mother said.

“I agree. Whatever you need, let me know. I’m sure Anita and I can coordinate over the phone or Skype, or whatever! Isn’t that what technology is for?” my mom added.

Both of our mothers got up from the table to hug us.

“Dad’s, I could use some help footing the bill,” I said and received hearty laughs from both men.

My niece, Hannah, tugged on my arm. “Hey, Uncle Brian, can you play us a song?”

“That would be great!” Ebony said. “I’d love for my parents to hear you play.”

“Well, it is tradition for us to sit down after dinner and sing a few Christmas carols. Let me get my guitar.”

Before long, everyone was squeezed into the living room. The children were on the floor, while the adults sat in every available seat, including chairs brought out of the dining room.

I took my customary place in front of the fire place while Ebony sat with her parents. I played a few carols we loved to sing, laughing at the off key notes sang by my sisters, some of it done intentionally. All the while, the notes that had been playing around in my head since before dinner came to mind.

“I’ve got one last song to play. It’s my Christmas gift to all of you.” I announced. “It’s a bit different and there are no lyrics, because honestly, I just made this up. It was inspired by my crazy, loving, and sometimes annoying family. I wouldn’t trade you guys for a thing. And this is also for you, my new family.” Across the room, Ebony and her parents smiled.

I closed my eyes and let the notes flow from me to the strings, humming the melody as I remembered Christmases past and revisited the conversations had with my future family.

Most of all, I thought of the love I had for Ebony and the un-known future lying ahead of us.

When the song ended, the room was silent. I opened my eyes to see my mother wiping tears while my father smiled, full of pride. Ebony’s mother had a hand over her mouth, while beside her, her husband nodded in appreciation.

Ebony walked towards me. “Brian, that has to be the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard you play. Thank you.” She threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.

Around us, our family clapped.

“Merry Christmas, baby,” Ebony whispered.

“Merry Christmas, to you, too.”

The End

####

Thank you for taking this journey with Ebony and Brian, I hope you enjoyed this brief peek back into their lives as much as I did writing it!

If you love The Butterfly Memoirs and would like to stay in the loop of what’s coming next, please sign up for the monthly newsletter. And above all, tell a friend! If you’ve read A Heart Not Easily Broken or Jaded, take a moment to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Your thoughts and opinions go a long way and are much appreciated. 🙂

The next book in the series, Lonely Heart, will be available March 6, 2014, so mark you book buying calendars! Sample Sunday excerpts will be starting in a few weeks so be sure to follow the blog as well!

Stay safe, Happy Reading, and Happy New Year!!!!  

MJ

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs!

#####

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Family for the Holiday: A Ebony and Brian Short Story- Part 3

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

Part One- The Meeting- December 23rd- Brian

Part Two- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Ebony

Christmas Eve- Part 3

Brian

 

My father jumped out of his recliner as his favorite football team scored. “Go, go, go….yes! See, Brian, I told you! Pay up!”

Beside me, my future father-in-law shook his head. “That was just luck.” He dug into his wallet and pulled out the money to pay his debt.

“No, that was an athlete who knows how to play the game,” Dad said, laughing as he collected his winnings.

I dug into my pocket and gave my dad a dollar before glancing at Clarence. He appeared calm, even though his team was losing. The good-natured bets going back and forth between us was an easy way to study the temperament of my future father-in-law. After last night’s handshake, I was still on edge.

He sipped his beer and studied my father’s movie posters on the wall during the commercial break. “Nice man cave you’ve got here, Winfred. I’ve tried to get Anita to let me have one inside the house.” He shook his head. “You’d think after thirty years of paying the mortgage I would have earned a room. Instead, I got pushed out to the garage.”

Both men laughed.

“What we won’t do for the women we love, eh?” My dad supplied.

Clarence raised his bottle. “Here, here.”

Both men looked at me. I held my bottle up in agreement then gulped.

A soft knock on the door drew everyone’s attention. Ebony peeked into the room. “Excuse me, Brian, your mom would like you to run to the store before they close.” She held up a sheet of paper.

I tried to hide my relief. “Sure.”

If I was lucky, Ebony would be able to sneak away with me. After my mother’s invitation to spend the week at the house with everyone else, Ebony and I had gone to our respective homes and grabbed enough clothes for the week. Our original plan had been to spend the rest of the holiday at our new home.

Three weeks had passed since we signed the lease. Ebony came by periodically to help unpack and set things up. A few of her personal items had made their way over. Her official move-in date was a few days after Christmas. Regardless, my attempt to convince her to spend at least one night at our new home and come back in the morning hadn’t worked. She insisted on not disappointing our parents. In the end, not only had I slept alone, I slept in my childhood bed.

My mother insisted we sleep in separate rooms because we weren’t married. She knew we had sex, but my parents were old fashioned. ‘Unwed? No sex in my beds!’ was her motto.

Imagining my fiancée sleeping down the hall in addition to the intimidation of being in the same room with her father made a good night’s sleep hard to come by.

I joined Ebony in the hallway. “How are things in the kitchen?”

She walked over, slipped her arms around my waist, and laid her head against my chest. “Up until twenty minutes ago, fine.”

I caught the change in her voice; she was no longer as excited as she’d been at breakfast.

In need of physical connection as much as she apparently did, I held her tight. “What happened? Is everything okay?”

Before she could reply, I heard the door to the man-cave open behind me.

“Hey, Brian, do you mind if I ride with you? I could use a bit of fresh air.”

Clarence’s booming voice forced me to jump away from Ebony as if we were teenagers caught red handed. My back was turned to him so he couldn’t see my initial cringe as I squeezed my eyes shut.  “Sure. I’ll be ready to leave in five minutes.”

“Let me grab my shoes.” Clarence walked by me, stopped at Ebony, who’d stepped away from me, and kissed her cheek before heading for the stairs.

Ebony watched as he disappeared, then turned to me. “I saw that look. Things aren’t going well in there either?”

I shrugged. “They’re getting along fine. Men are easy. Beer, sports, everything is all good.”

She cocked her head to the side, studying me. “What about you?”

“I’m hanging in there.” It was my turn to study her. “How about you? You guys seem to be getting along great. We can hear the laughter over the T.V.”

Ebony ran a hand over her head. “Woman can be touchy, especially when the subject of weddings and babies comes up.” She shuttered.

I was about to ask for details when I heard her father’s heavy footfalls on the stairs. I kissed her quick. “We’ll talk tonight after everyone goes to bed, okay?”

“Sounds like a plan. Be safe.” She kissed me again and headed for the kitchen.

“Ready to go?” Clarence said.

“Yes, sir.”

***

We were in my truck, merging into the main street traffic when Clarence spoke.

“Brian, I have to be honest. When my daughter told us she’d been dating a white man and that you were engaged, I had my reservations. Even after she told us about what you’ve done for her, I still was wary. Things were different when my wife and I got married, but times have changed. We raised our children to be open-minded, loving, and honest individuals. As a father, it’s hard to imagine your little girls growing up and being involved with a man. You worry about how well they’ll be treated and if the guy really loves them…” His voice drifted off as if in remembering something.  “Then one day they say, ‘Pop, I’m getting married.’” You learn to handle it and move on, but it’s never easy.

“Ebony has always been strong minded, hard-headed, and determined to have what she wants. Ever since she was a little girl.” He chuckled. “I can’t tell you how many times she almost gave her mother a heart attack by bringing injured animals home and hiding them in the garage.”

I smiled, trying to picture Ebony doing those things. Then I felt Clarence staring at me. My smile dropped.

“You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve come off as rude. With everything my daughter has told us over the last few weeks, it was quite a shocker. What happened to her…what you did…the engagement…that was a lot of information to process at one time.”

“And the fact that I’m white.” I glanced over in time to see him crack a small smile and nod.

“And there’s that. Can’t lie and say we weren’t shocked.”

I braced myself for what he was about to say next.

“But since meeting you and your family, I can understand why she loves you. You’re a good man and come from a good family.”

My mouth fell open. I risked a glance as I drove to make sure I hadn’t heard incorrectly.

Clarence watched me, an enormous smile on his face.

“Thank you, sir,” I stammered.

His thunderous laugh reverberated in the car. “You were scared, huh? I must say, you did better than my other son-in-law. Poor boy nearly pissed his pants the first time he met me, and he’s black.”

I found myself laughing. “Well, I didn’t have problems with my bodily functions, but my hand still aches.”

“Sorry about that. I hope it’s not one you play with.”

I shook my head. “It’s fine. I’ve done a lot worse. When I first met Ebony, I did yard maintenance for a living. There were numerous times when I had cuts and bruises on my hands and had to go to the club to play that night. Professionals learn to do what you must for the show to go on.”

He nodded. “True. Which is what I want to talk to you about.”

Something about his words set me on edge. “What’s on your mind, sir?”

“You can call me Clarence, or Dad, whichever one you’re comfortable with.” He watched me nod. “My daughter comes from a family of hard workers. You’ve seen it for yourself. She’s worked hard to get where she is in her career.”

“Yes, sir. I support her with anything she wants to do. That’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with her.” I watched him nod with my peripheral vision.

“So I’ve heard. I understand you have a pretty good work ethic, too. You’re a musician and own your own business. How do you balance the two?”

“I’ve got family; my cousins are running the business for now. I join in when I have time. But working for the record company pays well, too.”

“How long do you plan on staying there?”

“Excuse me?” I gave him my full attention when we reached a red light.

“Musicians tend to move from job to job. It’s not like working for a corporation that pays for your health insurance and gives you a 401K. There’s no retirement fund. What happens when Ebony gets pregnant and you guys need a bigger place? What about when you have a second or third kid? Life won’t get easier. I know my daughter is going to get the job at the zoo she wants, but how long will she be able to work once she’s pregnant? What if she takes off from work and decides she’d rather stay home with the kids. Will you be able to handle the expense with the job you have now?”

Clarence looked at me full on. Nothing about his facial expression or body language said he disliked my choice of careers. He was asking real-world questions based on the reality of the commitment Ebony and I were going to make.

“To be honest…” I gripped the steering wheel. “I don’t know. I’ve thought about some of it, but right now, children are not high on our list.”

“Do you guys have a five-year plan? Ten year? Anything?”

I shook my head. The plans Ebony and I made were about our jobs and getting married. Now that I thought about it, even that was unfinished. We had yet to set a definite date.

“We’re moving in together this weekend.” My eyebrows furrowed. “I guess with everything that’s happened, we’ve skipped ahead a few steps.”

“I’m glad you’re willing to admit it,” Clarence said. “There’s one thing I want you to remember.” He paused, waiting for me to look in his direction. “Nothing is set in stone. Plans can be broken, updated, and reevaluated at any time. Trust me. I’ve been married to Ebony’s mother for over thirty years. Sometimes I knew where we were going in life. Other times, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I didn’t always share the ups and downs with Anita because the stress would have made her worry too much. There were times when I carried the burden alone. As men, that’s what we do to take care of our families. Remember that. But don’t just take my word for it, ask your father. I’m sure he’s got some stories he’ll be able to tell,” he chuckled, “especially when raising five kids. And four daughters?” He whistled. “Two was enough for me.”

I smiled then got lost in thought.

Clarence had given me a lot to think about. While Ebony said she was supportive of my career, how long would it last? We avoided the baby roulette game once, but what if it happened again? We’d welcome our baby, no doubt about it. But what about everything it would take to care for my family?

Insurance. Housing. Daycare. Stay-at-home mom? Could my current career handle all of that on one income?

Yes, Ebony and I were definitely going to talk tonight.

####

Come back tomorrow for Part 4!

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online! If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Family for the Holiday: A Ebony and Brian Short Story- Part 2

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

***Miss Part One? Follow this link! ***

****

Christmas Eve- December 24th, Part 2

Ebony

My mother-in-law to be led us into the kitchen. “Ebony, Anita, we’re going to have so much fun!”

My mom and I laughed at Mrs. Young’s enthusiasm. We’d spent the day going from store to store, picking up last minute gifts and ingredients for her Christmas breakfast and Christmas dinner dishes.

The Young family’s customs were nothing like my family’s. I watched my mother all day as she stopped herself on several occasions from suggesting where the other woman should place a decorative item or exactly what meals should be on the menu. I had to say…she was a trooper.

This was the first time my mother would not be hosting Christmas dinner at our family home. Every year, no matter where we were, our family dropped everything to be together. Especially since Trevon and I graduated high school and went to college. I’d moved to California while my brother, Trevon, attended college in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon graduation, he made the city his home. My older sister, Lashana, and her husband and daughter were the only ones living near mom and dad.

I snuck a peek at my mom as she accepted the aged recipe from Laura’s family cook book. She scanned the ingredients and plastered on a smile. It wasn’t a dish she was familiar with. When it came to something new, my mother had to be prodded to accept change. I could tell she longed for the dishes she customarily made back home.

I felt a momentary pain of guilt. Once again, my decisions affected those I loved. If I had opened up about what was going on in my life, things would be a lot different now. I would have been home, and Brian would be with me, meeting my entire family. Instead, he had obligations to attend to that kept us in town.

But when I thought about it, things were working out the way they should. Soon, Brian and I would be starting our own family traditions as a married couple. Between my family across county, and his large family in town, deciding where we spent the holiday would be interesting.

Having my parents meet my future in-laws now instead of on our wedding day would make the decisions we made much easier.

“Oh crap, where are my manners?” Laura said. I looked up to see her watching my mother. “We were out all day, so I didn’t ask if there was something you’d like to make for dinner. I’m so sorry.”

My mom smiled. “Oh, it’s not a problem. Everyone does things differently.”

“Yes it is. It’s probably too late to plan a meal. Would you like to make something for dessert?”

My mother’s eyes brightened. “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not.” Laura smiled. She walked over to the refrigerator where a mini notepad and pen were stuck on with a magnet. “Write down what you need. Whatever we don’t have, I’ll send Brian to the store to get.”

“Okay, wow, I’m not sure what to make!” My mom put her hands on her hips, deep in thought.

“How about your famous Banana Pudding? I haven’t had it in ages,” I suggested.

“Perfect!” both women said in unison.

My mother jotted down the ingredients from memory.

“Laura, what time is Bridget going to be here?” I asked.

“Bridget?” My mom looked up from her notes.

“She’s one of Brian’s sisters. You’ll love her, she’s a riot.”

“That’s right, I remember you telling me about her. Laura, how many children do you have?” my mom asked.

“Five. Four girls and one boy. Brian is the baby.” Laura selected a pot out of the cabinet, then put her hands on her hips as if reviewing the inventory. “I hear you have twins. How fun was that?” She glanced over her shoulder.

My mother laughed. “Honestly? Not as much fun as you would think during the first few months. Sleep was a commodity not easy to come by. Let’s not talk about potty training and learning how to walk.” She looked at me and shook her head.

“What?”

“Wait until you have your own kids.”

Laura laughed. “Do twins run in your family?”

“Yes, they do,” mom confirmed.

“And that’s why I’m not in a rush to start a family.”

Both women looked at me as if I’d used profanity. Neither woman lacked in the grandkids department. Laura had six and my mother had one. My twin brother and I weren’t in a hurry to add to the Campbell family tree.

“Does Brian feel the same way?” my mom asked.

“Um…yes, we’ve had this conversation.” A feeling of unease hit the pit of my stomach. A quick glance at my mother and seeing the expression on her face didn’t help. “We are both starting out in our careers and want to get stabilized first. I have a few more months until I graduate college, and he’s still making a name for himself at the record label. We’ve got three years until we turn thirty. We’ve got time.”

Both women looked at each other and smirked.

“Baby, I was twenty-one when I gave birth to your sister, and twenty-three by the time you and Trevon came along. I couldn’t imagine doing it when I was older than that.” My mother shook her head. “You have no idea how much energy it took to keep you two out of trouble.”

Laura laughed. “Tell me about it. I started young, too. It seemed like they just kept popping out. Give birth to one, look at Winfred, then I was pregnant again.”

I laughed along with them and ignored the momentary flash back to when there was a chance I carried Brian’s baby. Even then I was sure the Young men were potent. A twinge in my gut made me nauseous.

I pushed the reminder of the decisions of my past aside. There were some things Brian and I chose to keep private.

“When the time comes, I’ll be sure to do a conference call and let you both know at the same time.”

“Let them know what?”

We turned to see Bridget breeze into the kitchen, her arms loaded with groceries, her pixie cut hair tousled.

“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” I warned. One thing I’d learned about Bridget, she was in no rush to be attached to any man, much less have a baby.

She took a moment to study me, looked at the older women, then back at me. “You know…you’re right.” She went to her mother, gave her a hug. “You owe me, Mom. This is the last Christmas Eve where I go shopping. If it weren’t for the fact that Caroline just had her baby…” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I’m being rude. Hi, I’m Bridget.” She extended a hand to my mother.

“This is my mother, Anita,” I said, praying her appearance would speed up the change in subject.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Bridget walked over to the kitchen table and grabbed a bright red apple from the fruit bowl, rinsed it off, took a bite, then chewed. “Where’s Dad?”

“Your father, Clarence, and Brian are in your father’s man cave. When it comes to cooking, Winfred stays away from the kitchen, but if it has to do with grilling, that is his territory,” she advised my mom, who nodded in understanding.

“No surprise there.” Bridget took another bite and chewed. “Well, it’s obvious I’m here in time for cooking. What have I missed? Have we started planning the wedding yet?”

“No, but there’s no time like the present.” My mother’s eyes lit up. I knew exactly where this was about to go. “Ebony, I’ve talked to our pastor back home and he said he’s more than willing to perform the ceremony. All we have to do is notify him of the date and the church will be reserved.”

Laura looked up from the cookbook she’d pulled out. “I thought the wedding was going to be here in L.A. The church we attend is beautiful. There’s plenty of seating and all of my daughters have gotten married there. Well, except for Bridget.”

My future sister-in-law rolled her eyes and continued eating.

All eyes centered on me.

I bit my lip. “Well… with everything that’s been going on, we haven’t set an exact date yet, much less decided where to hold it.”

“Well, that’s a no-brainer. North Carolina is your home. You grew up there and have family and friends who haven’t seen you in years. What’s there to think about?” My mother stated.

“Brian has a lot of family here, too. If you have it in North Carolina, a lot of people won’t be able to attend. Andrea and Lisa have small kids, and Caroline just had the baby…”

Both women started going back and forth, listing the pluses and negatives of each location as if I were no longer in the room.

I was scared to utter a word for fear it would turn into World War III.

“Holy crap, I didn’t mean to start an argument,” Bridget murmured out of the side of her mouth when she joined me at the kitchen island.

Both of us watched our mothers, shocked at how fast the ambiance in the room changed from happy to nearly volatile.

“Have you guys decided what you want to do?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Not yet.”

It was apparent that whatever we decided, neither of our families would be happy.

####

Check back tomorrow for Part 3!

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online! If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Family for the Holiday: A Ebony and Brian Short Story- Part One

The Meeting- December 23rd

Brian

 

“Brian, my mom just sent me a text. Their flight just landed.” Ebony typed a response on her phone, then cursed. “I hate autocorrect. I typed ‘whoo hoo’ and it posted ‘whoop’. That’s what I get for typing too fast.”

I rested my hands on her shoulders and massaged. “Ebony, calm down, you’re tense. Everything is going to be okay.”

“You don’t understand, Brian. I haven’t seen my parents in nearly a year. And after all that’s happened…”

I reached over, pulled my fiancée into my arms, and kissed her forehead. “What’s making you nervous, having them here or them meeting me face-to-face?”

She looked up at me with her gorgeous brown eyes, her eyebrows furrowing. “Both?”

I chuckled. “I’m supposed to be the one who’s nervous.”

“And you’re not?” Ebony stared at me in disbelief.

“No, I’m not.”

‘Delta Flight 4224 has arrived and is now unloading.’

Ebony squealed with excitement at the announcement then covered her mouth.

I smiled. Seeing my fiancée this happy after the events of the past month was more than I could ever ask for. After the turmoil our relationship had gone through, it was a blessing to still be together.

And now I was about to meet her parents for the first time.

I pushed aside the thought of how long it took Ebony to tell them about us. It turned out her fear of their disappointment because I was white had been unfounded. It took them by surprise, but after what I’d done in retaliation of what happened to their daughter, her parents made it clear that race didn’t matter.

Ebony squeezed my arm. “There they are!” She ran to her mother, embracing while rocking back and forth. Beside them, her father stood, his smile wide as he took in the sight, waiting patiently for his turn.

I took my time walking toward the group, giving them a private moment to reconnect.

Ebony’s mother took a step back and held her daughter at arm’s length, appraising her as if making sure she was actually all right. I couldn’t blame her. The events of the past few months and Ebony’s decision to keep it secret were one of the reasons why they made the trip to California for Christmas. They needed to see for themselves that she was indeed okay.

“So, where is this young man?” her father bellowed, looking around the crowded area.

Ebony turned, looking for me. “There he is! Brian, come meet my parents!”

I paused only to avoid a young man dragging a large suitcase, then made my way across the tile floor. “Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, it’s nice to finally meet you in person.” I held out my hand to Ebony’s father. He took a second to look me up and down then accepted the handshake.

“I know it’s crazy to do this because you’ve talked on the phone, but I can’t help it. Baby, these are my parents, Clarence and Anita. Mom, Dad, this is my fiancé, Brian Young.”

Ebony’s parents were nothing like I imagined. Mrs. Campbell was the same height as her daughter, but a little thicker.  Her eyes were sharp as she appraised me in a cautious fashion.

Her father, on the other hand, was a large man and could not be missed. His salt and pepper hair and beard gave him the look of a genteel grandfather, but the booming voice and intimidating height said otherwise.

“So, you’re the young man who’s stolen my daughter’s heart.” His eyes bore into mine, and his grip was tight. Though he smiled, the meaning was clear. ‘I may be grateful for what you’ve done for my daughter, but you hurt her and I will kill you.’ It was obvious Ebony was daddy’s little girl.

My insides turned to jelly.  Message received, loud and clear.

“Yes, sir.” I smiled, keeping my fear hidden. I ignored the pain in my hand from his two-hand grip and turned to her mother. Looking at the women side-by-side was like looking into a mirror of the past and future. “Mrs. Campbell, I have no doubt Ebony will be as beautiful as you are as we grow old together.”

An unreadable expression passed over her face. “Oh, why thank you.”

Inside, I kicked myself. So much for assuming my charm and wit in person would have the same results as it did over the phone.  I had to remember, regardless of our racial differences, I was still a man who could hurt their daughter.  Though she wore my ring, they knew nothing about me.

Moments ago I was cool and calm, but between Mr. Campbell’s handshake and Mrs. Campbell’s appraising stare, I was thrown off my game.

Ebony seemed oblivious.

“How about we get your suitcases from the baggage claim? Brian’s mom has put together a great dinner. I hope you’re hungry.”

“Free food? Now you’re talking,” Mr. Campbell said, his attention turning back to his daughter. He walked toward the luggage claim. I followed, leaving Ebony and her mother to reconnect.

****

“Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, these are my parents, Laura and Winfried,” I said, after my mother let us into the house.

“Please, call me Anita, and this is Clarence,” Ebony’s mother said. She accepted my mother’s hug, while Mr. Campbell shook hands with my father.

“Please have a seat and make yourselves comfortable,” my mother said, slipping into hostess mode. If there was one thing she loved, it was entertaining. While everyone, including Ebony, moved to the living room, I brought in the luggage. Fine by me. I was trying my best to avoid sticking my foot in my mouth again. The ride from the airport to my parents’ home couldn’t have gone fast enough. While her parents were cordial, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were the chauffeur. The conversation flowed around me, full of laughter and questions as the family caught up on what was going on back in North Carolina.

“Brian, baby, are you okay?” Ebony joined me in the foyer, concern etched into those lovely features.

I cleared my throat and walked toward the front door. “Yeah, I’m good. Just getting the rest of the luggage.”

“You’re lying.” She poked my shoulder and followed me outside to the trunk of her car. “My father made you nervous, didn’t he?”

“No.” I popped the trunk and grabbed what had to be her mother’s bag. It weighed a ton.

Beside me, Ebony burst into laughter. “It’s okay to admit it. He’s a bit intimidating in person.”

Intimidating wasn’t the half of it. Mr. Campbell was not a little man. Though we stood at the same height and he had about twenty pounds on me, his booming voice is what did the trick. Though I’d talked to him for a brief period of time on the phone, it was something quite different to be face-to-face with the father of the woman I loved. For once, I could understand exactly why Ebony had been hesitant about telling them about our relationship.

I shrugged. “Maybe just a little.”

Ebony forced me to put the bag I’d pulled out of the trunk on the ground.

Her arms went around my neck. “Do you love me?”

“You know I do.” I leaned down for a kiss, taking my time to savor the connection with my fiancée. The woman I’d willingly sacrifice my life for. The woman I was ready to kill for.

“Then don’t worry about a thing. They’re staying with your parents, and from what I’ve seen, I doubt they will kill each other. It’s like you told me, everything is going to be all right.”

I let out a half-laugh. She used my words against me.

“You’re right. They’ll be here and you’ll be with me.” I kissed her again. “I can’t wait to get you home tonight.”

The sexy smile I loved appeared. “Me, neither.”

I pulled away to grab the suitcase off the ground while Ebony leaned in to grab the smaller carry-on pieces.

We entered the foyer and dropped off the bags at the base of the steps. I had no idea which room my mother wanted them in.

“Oh, there you two are!” My mom walked over, hugged and kissed Ebony. “We thought you got lost outside.”

“No, just getting the bags. Which room do you want them in?” I asked.

“You can put them in your sisters’ old room.”

“Okay.” I grabbed a bag and started up the stairs.

“Oh, by the way, we’ve all been talking, and Ebony, it seems so unfair for your parents to fly across the country for Christmas to see you, only for you to live thirty minutes away. We’ve decided it would be best if both of you stayed here for the week. We’ve got plenty of room in this house. Ebony, you can sleep in one of the spare rooms. Brian, you can have your old room.”

My eyes went wide. “What?” I looked over at Ebony whose eyes were lit up.

“Mrs. Young, are you sure?”

My mother reached over for Ebony’s hand. “How many times do I have to tell you it’s okay to call me Mom?” They both laughed. “Yes, it would be perfect. Not to mention it would save gas and time for us to all get together. Besides, Brian, it will give you a chance to know your future in-laws.” My mother pinched my cheek. “Don’t take too long; dinner will be served in fifteen minutes.” She left to join everyone else in the living room.

“Brian, this is going to be so much fun!” She grabbed the carry-on bag and started up the steps.

I stood at the bottom in shock. Why did I have a feeling this wasn’t going to be as fun as Ebony thought?

####

Come back tomorrow for Part Two!

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs! 

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

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

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#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.

####

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! 

#####

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

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A Heart Not Easily Broken- Chapter Two- What happened next?

Today I decided to do a little bit of sharing! For those of you who have visited my site and read the first chapter of A Heart Not Easily Broken, you know Ebony was  invited to meet Brian in the VIP area of he club.  After their initial conversation, what did she decide?

Read chapter two to find out….

 

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.

####

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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