Chapter One

Chapter 1

“This is the last time I wear this dress.”

“Oh, please, Ebony,” Yasmine, my best friend and roommate, yelled in my ear.

The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible to hear her.

“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” she added, winking at the bartender who handed us our drinks.

No matter how many times I adjusted the hem of my dress, it was impossible to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of my thighs as people pushed past me in the crowded bar. It would take more fabric to keep my shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.

“Thanks.” I slipped money into the bartender’s tip jar, and he rewarded me with a gorgeous smile. “For the record, I am uncomfortable.” I turned to face Yasmine. “Freakum dresses are your thing, not mine.”

Yasmine laughed. “True, true, everyone’s not blessed with a body like mine.” She ran a hand over her hips, striking a pose. “Besides, I love showing mine off.”

I smirked before sipping my margarita. Yasmine’s light-skinned complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cup breasts suited her personality.  There were times I wished my body was more like hers, though. It would make shopping for clothes a lot easier. As it was, I had been blessed with the shapely figure my Nana called ‘bootylicious’.  According to her, and her photo albums, I looked just like her when she was my age, with caramel-colored skin, perfectly proportioned hips, a butt that drew major attention, and D-cup breasts, making it hard for a man to look me straight in the eye.

I groaned while making another wardrobe adjustment. The jaw-dropping cleavage of my dress threatened to give my ‘girls’ their own airtime.

“I love my body, too. I’d just rather not show it to everyone.”

Yasmine shook her head while my attention went back to the patrons of the club. A wide variety of men lined the dark walls, standing just out of range of the overhead lights, making it impossible to pick out their faces in the smoky room. No doubt, many were on the hunt, looking for an easy lay. It shouldn’t be hard; one scan of the room revealed potential opportunities in every direction. Nearly every woman in the club wore a dress so tight it appeared to be a spray on, with skirts stopping just below their hips. I cringed. That sounded like my attire. Self-conscious, I tugged on the edges of my dress again.

The next time we go out, Yasmine is not selecting my outfit.

“That dress is going to get you some major action tonight. You’ll be thanking me in the morning…or afternoon.” She laughed.

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t have time to get into a real relationship right now. Finishing this last year of college is my focus. I’ve got to get that veterinarian job at the zoo, I’ve worked too hard to mess up now. Besides, I don’t need a man to take care of me.”

Yasmine smirked.

“Financially,” I clarified. “Having a nice body to lie against is a different story.”

She laughed and held out her hand for a high-five. “That’s my girl. Look around tonight. I bet you’ll find someone.” Her attention went to a dark skinned guy headed in our direction. He glanced over, smiled, and kept walking. “There’s one right there.”

He was attractive all right, but not the physical type I preferred. I was attracted to men who were tall, had thick lips, and eyes that peered into the depths of my soul. A man with the body of a sex machine, yet had no problem working hard for a living and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

One of the first things I noticed about a man was not his shoe size, but his hands. If they were too pretty and soft, the man didn’t believe in hard work. If they were overly calloused with visible dirt under the nails and full of scrapes and bruises, those were signs that a man didn’t take care of the little things, which meant the rest of him would be questionable. Now, a man with hands somewhere in between, calloused from work with no traces of dirt under his nails, those were signs of a hardworking man who could clean up nice. Everywhere.

I shook my head and sipped my drink. “He’s not my type.”

“Stop being picky. It’s only going to be a summer fling.”

“Even so, if I’m going to give a man my body and my time, I should at least be able to hold an intelligent conversation. Everything doesn’t have to happen between the sheets.”

Yasmine shrugged. “Suit yourself.” She resumed drinking her wine.

I scanned the crowd to find my other roommate. “Yaz, have you seen Kaity?”

“What?” Yasmine shouted back.

 I leaned closer. “Kaity, have you seen her?” My voice cracked. Clubbing could be fun, but it wore out my vocal cords.

Yasmine pointed to the opposite end of the bar. “She’s over there talking to some guy. Look at Miss Texas.” Yasmine gestured to Kaitlyn with her plastic cup of wine. “She comes to the club to hang with us black girls and the guys go for her first.” She shook her head. “I’m not mad at her, though. You work with what God gave you.”

Kaity’s choice of club attire made her stand out in a sea of women wearing barely-there dresses. Tonight, she’d opted to wear a form fitting dress, which stopped just above her knees. The olive satin fabric matched her green eyes, and she’d pinned her long blond hair away from her face.

Along with her outfit, Kaity’s bubbly laugh and infectious smile attracted men like a magnet. Her large breasts on a slender frame didn’t hurt either. Somehow, her country twang seemed to fascinate the men in southern California.

Yasmine stared at me questioningly. “Why are you still here? This whole night is about you. How are you going to get laid if you just stand there?”

“I’m still looking.”

My gaze centered on a man across the room who appeared to be watching me. A quick appraisal revealed a nice-looking guy with the appropriate build and a cute smile. He fidgeted with his drink more than I did with my dress. Every time our eyes connected, he looked away. Oh, well, if he couldn’t man-up, it would be his loss.

My search resumed just as the music blaring from the speakers ceased. The colorful strobe lights continued to twirl, painting the room with a blue, red, and yellow glow, while the house lights dimmed, cloaking the smoke-filled room in near darkness. Lights now centered on the stage as the club MC came on. After thanking everyone for coming out and making the obligatory remarks about the bar, he introduced the house band, Diverse Nation.

“Javan said his roommate is in this band,” Yasmine informed me.

The club we were at came highly recommended by him, who of course was one of her hook ups. I never understood what she saw in him. The man was too GQ. Besides, he made me uncomfortable every time he came around.

I wondered what category Javan’s roommate would fit.

Only one way to find out.

The band came onto the stage; their name suited them. The different members represented every nationality, it seemed. My attention immediately went to the drummer.

He had dark mahogany skin, but it was impossible to judge his height, since he stood on a stage. His build was exactly what I liked – shoulders the width of a doorframe and muscles bulging through his t-shirt like the Incredible Hulk.

He took his place on stage, tapped his drumsticks together, and proceeded to drum out a rhythm, making the crowd go wild. Impressive. Within minutes, the dance floor filled with gyrating bodies, moved by the music.

I pointed to the drummer. “Is that Javan’s roommate?”

She shrugged. “I’ve never met him.”

“Come on, Yaz, let’s dance,” I said, draining the last of my drink.

“No thanks. Like I said, tonight is about you.” She tipped her cup toward the floor. “Besides, girls in packs don’t get picked up easily. Go shake what your momma gave you.”

“So you’re going to leave me all alone?” My hands were on my hips while I tapped out a rhythm with my heel.

“Hey, my job is done. I picked out the dress, brought you here, and planted the seed of suggestion in your thick head. The rest is up to you, sister.”

I searched the end of the bar, looking for Kaitlyn. Maybe she would join me on the dance floor. Unfortunately, she entertained the same man. I was on my own.

I rose to the challenge and made my way onto the crowded dance floor, through the sea of gyrating bodies – again, adjusting my dress’s hem – with one goal in mind. Meet the drummer.

After securing a spot near the front of the stage, I raised my hands in the air and began to dance. For the first time in months, I forgot about books, the stress of my internship at the zoo, and work at the clinic. I closed my eyes and got lost in the music, letting it guide my body in sensual movements while telegraphing my desire, hoping the drummer would notice my body language.

The song ended, and I opened my eyes to cheer with the rest of the crowd. I was noticed all right. Various men in my immediate vicinity threw out catcalls and whistles, which were flattering, but the drummer paid me no attention. In fact, no one in the band seemed to notice me, except for one man.

One of the guitar players watched me intently. Astonished, I nearly stumbled in my heels. He was attractive but… he was white, not what I was aiming for. My lips tilted in a small smile before I moved out of his line of sight, placing myself in front of dancers who’d moved closer to the stage blocking my view of the drummer.

The next song played, and again, I tried to get lost in the music. My eyes closed, it was impossible to find my groove again without feeling stalked. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, drawing my attention down the length of the stage and to the guitar player, who once again, watched me with a predatory gleam in his eye. When the song ended, I worked my way back to the bar.

Neither Yasmine nor Kaitlyn were there.  They must have gone to the bathroom.

“What can I get you, miss?” the bartender asked, interrupting my thoughts.

Music from the loud speakers blasted again, after the MC announced the band was taking a brief intermission.

“Margarita, extra shot of tequila, please.” The bartender nodded and went to fill my order.

“Did you get a load of the blond guitar player? He’s hot!”

My attention turned to a busty brunette who’d taken up temporary residence in the empty seat next to me. I recognized her as being one of the women who’d been dancing next to me. She adjusted her boobs, primping while talking to her friend.

“He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going home with him tonight,” she continued. Her friend giggled.

Good luck. She had a better chance than I did of finding a man tonight.

“Here you go.” The bartender placed a napkin in front of me with my drink.

“I’ve got this,” a deep voice said close to my ear, making me jump. It was incredibly sexy despite the fact it scared me. It also sent a warm tingle down my spine. Intrigued, I turned and found myself face-to-face with the guitar player. The same one my barstool neighbor wanted to go home with.

Any sort of coherent words failed me.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Two dimples rested on either side of firm lips when he smiled.

Wow. The man looked good from the stage, but up close, his presence demanded my full attention. He was tall, probably a good six-two to my five-foot-five. His build reminded me of a well-built basketball player. The low lights of the club reflected off damp blond hair with dark undertones. His confident smile cocked to the side, revealing pearly white teeth. The blue shirt he wore complimented the color of his eyes, sparkling like waves of the ocean while hinting at mischief. Baggy shorts and a pair of clean black Converse completed his attire.

His attention went to the bartender. “Joe, put her drink on my tab. I’ll have the usual.” The bartender nodded before walking away. The blond focused his gaze back on me, watching before he spoke again. “You’re not going to thank me?”

I raised my eyebrows in annoyance at his comment. “I didn’t ask for you to pay for this.” I couldn’t stand a man who expected me to be ecstatic because he bought me a drink. I was capable of doing that myself.

Humor flashed in his eyes. “Excuse me for being a gentleman. Unfortunately, it’s too late for you to pay. Guess you’re stuck.” He reached for his beer when the bartender returned, twisted off the cap, and took a huge gulp.

Stuck? Is that what he thought? Passing the drink over to the brunette, saying it came from him, then ordering my own sounded like a good idea. But at five dollars a drink, I’d be a fool not to accept a freebie.

Instead of saying thanks, I said, “Don’t let this dress fool you. If you expect me to sleep with you because you bought me a drink, forget it.” My focus left him and resumed searching the crowd for my friends.

I turned back around in time to catch blue eyes exploring the length of my body.

“That was not my intention.” His eyes now focused above the deep cleavage of my dress. “Since we’ve gotten that out of the way, maybe you’ll answer this question.”

I smirked. “What?”

He chuckled. “What’s your name?” He extended a hand. “I’m Brian.”

My attention immediately went to his hand. Large palm, slightly calloused, sporting a deep tan, his nails were a little rough, fingers sporting a few cuts, but they were clean. I glanced back up at his face. This white man was hitting on me. I was flattered knowing he watched me dance, but buying me a drink and asking my name? What did he expect to happen next?

He waited patiently, his hand suspended in midair.

“Ebony.” I accepted his handshake.

“Ebony.  That’s a beautiful name.”

The tingle going up my spine from the way it rolled off his tongue, and the sensation of our connected hands, kept my lips from moving. This was unreal. I didn’t expect any kind of spark from him.

I studied his eyes; lust and desire weren’t visible, but there was something else. Something made him hold my hand longer than necessary. I squirmed involuntarily before being the first to turn away.

“Meeting like this is not the best way to get to know someone.” He released my hand before leaning down to talk to me without yelling quite as loud.

My body tingled at the warm caress of his breath near my ear again. The scent of his musky cologne mixed with sweat from standing under the stage lights was alluring, the heat from his body inviting.

Then I looked back at his skin. “You’re kidding right?”

“Why would I be joking?” He took another swig of beer, his gaze steady on mine.

I laughed lightly while raising my hand to break his line of sight, wiggling my fingers.

He studied it briefly. “I don’t see a ring. Are you married or in a relationship?”

He seriously didn’t get it. I glanced over my shoulder for a moment, wondering which corner of the club my roommates were hiding in while laughing at the practical joke they’d sprung on me.

“Are you color blind?”


“The lights in here are low, but you can’t say you didn’t notice. I’m black, that doesn’t bother you?”

A deep line creased Brian’s brow. “Why should it?”

I smirked.

He appraised me for a moment. “Does it bother you?”

“No,” I said a little too forcefully. I’d left myself open for that remark.

“So what’s your point?” He angled himself to look directly in my eyes.

I assessed him again. His cerulean eyes were sharp, studying me as much as I studied him. Sun-bleached hair set off his bronzed skin, a clear sign of time spent surfing, no doubt. Long legs led to a narrow waist and broad shoulders. I could only imagine what he would look like naked. Wait, why did I think that way?

“You’re not my type, and I’m not yours.” I put my cup to my lips and gulped, forgetting about the extra shot of tequila, I nearly choked.

Brian angled his head, apparently musing over my statement. “You have no idea what my type is.”

“What about her?” I nodded at the brunette who sat behind me.

She’d gone quiet the moment Brian came to the bar. I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw her lips were in a tight line as she glared at me. She didn’t bother to look away. If looks could kill, the coroner would have picked me up off the floor a long time ago. Fortunately, the music was too loud for her to hear our conversation.

When I turned back, Brian’s stare continued to be intense. The room felt as if it had shrunk to the size of a shoebox.

“If I wanted her, I wouldn’t be talking to you.”

Disbelief had me laughing. Of all the brothers in the club, none approached me. Yet, this man spied me from the stage and made his way over. I had to admit, he was bold.

“I want to get to know you. We could−” Annoyance flashed on his face when he acknowledged the hand on his shoulder.

I scoffed, nearly spitting out my drink. The drummer, the object of my suggestive dancing−and oh, my God, that body−stood next to Brian. He didn’t give me the time of day.

“Yo, man, the next set starts in five.”

Brian nodded. “Sorry. I want to continue this discussion, but they need me back on stage. Why don’t you meet me in VIP when I’m done? It’s a little less crowded. Plus it’s away from the speakers, so you can hear yourself think.”

As if to prove his point, a waitress caring a large tray full of empty cups bumped into his elbow. He managed to hold his beer without spilling a drop. “Tell security the Bass Man sent you. You’ll get in with no problem.”

“The Bass Man?”

“Yeah, I play bass guitar. You’d be surprised how many women try to get in there.” He nodded to the roped off corner of the room with oversized plush sofas under focused track lights. A few women were already lounging in the area. A man the size of Chewbacca and thankfully, a lot less hairy and dressed in black, stood, his arms crossed while wearing dark shades. He mean mugged the crowd, discouraging them from walking his way. My eyes must have bulged, because Brian chuckled. His laugh was as deep as his voice.

“He won’t bite,” he said with a wickedly charming grin. “’Til then, Ebony.” He toasted me with his bottle, drained the remnants of his beer before disappearing into the crowd, and then reappeared on the stage.

“Who was he?” Yasmine sat on the barstool Brian had left empty.

Well, well, my roommates found their way back. “As if you didn’t know.”

“Uh, no,” Kaitlyn replied in her country twang.

I eyed them suspiciously. “A guy from the band.”

“Really?” Kaitlyn stood on tiptoes to peer over the crowd. “He’s hot.”

That seemed to be the consensus.

“Did you get his number?” Yasmine asked when she finished her own study of his anatomy.

“No, but I did get invited to VIP.”

Two sets of eyebrows rose.

“So, are you going?” Yasmine studied me, no doubt wondering if tonight’s mission had been a success.

I stared at the stage as the music began to play, watching Brian in action. He looked in my direction and smiled.

“I haven’t decided yet.”


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