I’ve been called a slut, a ho, easy… and a few other words that I refuse to even write on paper.
Since middle school, people have taken one look at my light skin, grey eyes, and the shape of my body and assumed that’s who I was.
The first three letters of the word described them. How dare they judge me? Nobody is perfect.
It has never mattered what I’ve done in my life. Being the daughter of a bi-racial marriage has always haunted me. With my fusion of graceful features I’d inherited from my white mother – the slender nose, cat-like eyes, vibrant smile – and the take-no-shit attitude of my black father, people didn’t know how to deal with me.
Guys in school wanted to date me as if I were a trophy. Girls hated the color of my eyes and the texture of my hair.
Things got worse as I got older. Why? Because I love my body and I love sex.
But I never used either to earn money or favors from any man. I am a confident, educated woman who goes for what I want, regardless of what anyone around me has to say. If that means I want a good lay every now and then, I’m damn well entitled to it. But one thing I’d never be is a home wrecker.
My philosophy on love and relationships is simple: sex isn’t love, but it’s nice while you’re waiting.
Well, that’s what I used to think before the man that I fell in love with trampled all over my heart.
And raped my best friend.
Love will never happen for me. No man will ever understand me. The real me.
Not my parents, not my brother, not even my best friends.
My life, my experiences – both good and bad – are what define the real me.
“Dad is going to kill you for being late with this week’s report again.”
My younger brother’s words went in one ear and out the other as I typed furiously. “Why don’t you do it then, Brandon?” I spared him a glance.
He sat in the chair opposite of my desk with one leg across his knee, and tapped an impatient rhythm on the bottom of his shoe. When he frowned, he looked like our father did when he was disappointed.
“It’s not in my job description. As Assistant Manager, my job is to—”
“Assist the manager, which is me. I’m busy. Therefore it would be in both of our interest if you performed your job duties and assist me.”
Most people would have cowered at my glare; Brandon ignored it.
He sighed heavily. “Yasmine, I love you and would do anything for you, but this is ridiculous. If you were working on anything else I would. This,” he waved his hand at the papers scattered across my desk, “has nothing to do with the hotel and everything to do with you. I’m not covering your ass this time.”
I stopped typing and glared at him. “Then if you’re not helping, stop bitching about it and get the hell out of my office.”
Brandon blew out a deep breath. “Yasmine, you have family obligations. Mom and Dad put you in charge of this hotel because of your superior business and customer service skills. You’re supposed to be training me to manage the new location.”
I groaned. Hearing about the third Phillips’ Family Inn was not on the top of my list of things to talk about. I appreciated the family business, especially since we sacrificed so much to open the original location twelve years ago. Since graduating college, I’d been in charge of the daily ins and outs of the second location. I ran the place as if it were my own. However, it was not what I saw myself doing five years from now.
My dream didn’t have anything to do with hotel management.
For the past year, arrangements to expand the Phillips’ Family Inn Bed and Breakfast chain had been in the works, and were now months away. I applauded their work. In fact, my parents’ example inspired me to follow my own dream.
Besides, after all the pain I had experienced in the past two months, I deserved to have something that was mine. Lately, it seemed no matter which way I turned, everything dealt with someone else’s wants and needs.
The phone in my office rang. Both of us looked at it. Brandon checked the time on his watch, a smug expression on his handsome face. I loved my brother, but sometimes, I wanted to slap him silly.
“Are you going to answer that?”
I rolled my eyes. “Phillips’ Family Inn, this is…oh, hi, Dad.”
“It’s after three-thirty. You’re late again,” my father said, irritation in his voice.
I ignored my brother as he mouthed, ‘I told you so’.
“I know. I spent most of my day trying to locate someone to cover Ms. Rose…again.”
Brandon muffled a laugh. Okay, so I embellished.
Ms. Rose has been a family friend since before I was born. She’s in her mid-sixties and in no hurry to retire. My father met her thirty years ago when he worked as a bellhop at one of L.A.’s oldest hotels. Ms. Rose worked in housekeeping, which is the same thing she does here. When my parents opened the hotel, they offered her a job as Head of Housekeeping. She did a great job…on the days she came to work.
My father sighed. “What’s the problem this time?”
Oh, where to begin?
“Apparently a pipe burst in her apartment building, flooding the apartment next door. The apartment complex manager advised her to keep an eye on her floors in case it spread to her place.”
“Hmm…” He huffed.
“I called everyone who had the day off, but nobody was available. In the end, Susanne came in even though she’s on vacation. It’s going to cost though.”
“Time and a half pay in addition to her vacation pay. She worked for six hours.”
My father groaned.
Personally, I didn’t understand why Ms. Rose continued in our employ. Whenever I suggested she retire, my parents shot me looks as if I suggested firing grandma. I loved Ms. Rose, but constantly re-writing the schedule because of her absences took up too much of my time and was unfair to the other employees.
“Sorry, Dad, I did the best I could. The other option involved Brandon carrying a bucket and doing the job himself.” I smiled; his facial expression said, ‘yeah right’.
“I need those reports, ASAP. Your mother has an appointment with the accountant in the morning. She needs to review everything before the meeting. If it doesn’t get here soon, she’s going to be upset.”
Oh boy. Dealing with my mom when she was upset was not a pretty sight. I could already imagine her grey-blue eyes staring at me in disappointment if she needed to reschedule.
“Yes, sir. You’ll have them tonight.”
Brandon shook his head when I hung up the phone a few minutes later.
“It will be there.” I ignored him and typed up the last few lines of my business plan and hit save. My attention went to the research information on my desk.
The plan was for my business, Dreams. For as long as I could remember, I lived for fashion. I stopped dressing up Barbie dolls and began designing outfits for my cousins; the ones I could visit, that is. It was a shame; I was nearly twenty-eight years old and rarely visited my mother’s side of the family. Because of their intolerance, we spent more time with my father’s side of the family. They welcomed Brandon and me with open arms.
As we got older, I spent hours styling their hair, marveling at the difference in texture from my own. Make-up followed; before long, I gave tips on how to dress for their dates and the prom.
Even now, years later, I was the go-to person in my family for fashion advice. Why should I continue to do what I love for free? My research showed the demand for fashion consultants was on a rise, especially in Los Angeles, my hometown.
My paperwork filed away, I settled at my desk and opened the hotel’s accounting program. The screen went blank.
“Oh shit,” I groaned, and covered my face with my hands. “Shit, shit, shit…”
I sat up and flipped the power switch on the computer tower. A spark of energy flashed and the smell of smoke permeated the air. Brandon and I jumped; he lunged for the power cord while I ran for the fire extinguisher in the hall. By the time I returned, the flames had died down.
Brandon whistled and fanned the smoke-filled room. “I hope you saved that information on a backup drive.”
I grimaced. “No, I never got around to it.”
Not only were the hotel spreadsheets lost, my business plan was gone too. I was on the verge of tears.
He reached over and patted me on the shoulder. “So far, I don’t like the idea of being manager at the new location.”
“At this rate, you’ll probably replace me here.”
I needed to fix this screwed up situation, ASAP. The computer had crashed two months ago. The technician who’d serviced it recommended a replacement, even though he’d gotten it up and running again. My parents didn’t want to spend the money. Securing the permits, licenses, and the renovations of the third location tied up the budget.
The need for a new computer could not be avoided. Making an executive decision, I retrieved the warranty paperwork from the file cabinet. Sal-U-Tek had serviced our computers for years. The technician they sent over was considerate, knew his business, and was not bad on the eyes.
I dialed the number listed on the receipt and waited impatiently for someone to pick up.
“Thank you for calling Sal-U-Tek, can you hold?” a squeaky voice said and put me on hold without waiting for my reply.
I cursed, hung up, and called again. I cut the guy off before he spoke. “I need to speak to…” I looked for the name on the work order. His handwriting was hard to read. “Zachariah Givens.”
“Oh, Mr. Givens is on another line right now. Can you hold?”
“What choice do I have?”
Cheesy elevator music played. I spent the time trying to remember what the guy looked like. He was black, and if I remembered correctly, he was a few inches taller than I was, but not by much. I was 5’7”, making him short for a man of my liking. If I wore my favorite stacked heels, I’d probably tower over him. He had a nice body and wasn’t skinny or overweight.
His eyes were what I remembered most, though. I could envision his dark hazel eyes hidden behind black square frames. They were the sexiest eyes I’d ever seen on a man.
Not that it mattered. A relationship of any kind was the last thing on my mind.
Minutes ticked by. It was nearly four o’clock. According to the paperwork, the store closed at five. I didn’t have time to wait. I hung up the phone and dialed the number on my cell. The same voice answered and put me on hold again. I gathered my purse and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Brandon asked.
“I am not waiting for him to come to the phone. I’m going over there and bringing that Zachariah guy back with a new computer.”
“Good luck with that,” he said, opening my office window to let in fresh air.
I needed all the luck I could get.
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