Monday, May 1, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Text 'Yes' If You Love Me

Ever felt unloved by a parent? Nikki Graham had a miserable childhood. Now an adult, she fights the same social awkwardness she suffered as a child. Then after a heated argument with her mother, a strange text to her phone shakes her life up. Will it bring her out of her shell or make her more of a reclusive?

Sold exclusively on Amazon. Read for free with kindleunlimited or 1-click for $2.99.…

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Sexy Sneak Peek: On Top Of The Mountain - A Special Christmas for Daniel Coming December 21, 2016. Preorder Available at

(WARNING: Contains Adult Language Inappropriate for Children Under the age of 18) 

Avery jolted awake up when the aroma of coffee and food became too much for her to keep her eyes closed. Her stomach growled loudly and she grabbed it remembering it had not been fed since yesterday morning. The orange juice and granola bar she’d eaten before going to the airport had worn off long ago.

The strong smells drifting into the room and her stomach demanding food wouldn’t allow her to stay in bed. She sat up and winced from the aches attacking her body. Still naked she saw the marks on her thighs and stomach from Daniel’s hands.

She dropped her head embarrassed at her behavior. She had never talked dirty or told a man what she wanted him to do in bed, sex had always been traditional. Jon’s moves were sexy and soulful but he never put variety in their lovemaking.  With Daniel sex was hot, steamy and erotic. He wasn’t afraid to use his tongue in places Jon wouldn’t dare go.

Shaking the sinful thoughts from her head she managed to stand up without collapsing to the floor. Her legs were weak and a dull throbbing between her legs had her walking tenderly to get her suitcase.  A hot shower would fix her up good as new.

After her shower, Avery chose the sheer black negligee to wear and put on the silk red robe. Checking her refection in the mirror making sure her makeup was not smeared something was missing.

Twisting her ponytail in a knot, she put on the sweetheart necklace and matching dangling silver earrings. “That’s what was needed,” she said approving her appearance. She walked over to the bed to close the suitcase. Chuckling she picked up the box of condoms and took one out slipping it in her pocket. She wanted to give Daniel a good laugh.

Walking down the stairs Avery got a look at the living room and the decorations since it was daylight and they were extensive and impressive. The cabin was more like a house but had that rustic feel with the exposed rock and wood. The fresh plants and colors set off the Christmas theme.  The only thing missing was the tree.

She heard a noise from a back room and followed the sound. There in the kitchen was Daniel standing at the stove. She didn’t say anything but watched him.  He was shirtless but wore plaid pajama bottoms. His muscles flexing as he took a pan from the oven.

“Mmm, something smells good and looks good in here,” she said as she sashayed over to him.
“Morning, babe. I thought you might be hungry since we didn’t make dinner last night,” he said as he took off the oven mitts.

She gave him a quick peck on the lips and looked down at the golden brown gooey cinnamon rolls bubbling hot in the pan, and what looked to be a breakfast casserole sitting next to it. It took everything in her power to stop her stomach from gurgling.

“I’m starving and the food looks good. I thought you said you didn’t cook?”

“I don’t. Jas made the meals and left instructions on reheating them.  She’s a professional chef and owns a bakery and diner. Her cooking is what got Chase’s attention.”

“It smells fabulous and I can’t wait to eat,” she said inhaling the fragrance.

He scooped food onto plates and carried them to the table. “Everything is ready.”

As they ate, Avery had to stop herself from eating the food in gulps. It was the best food she’d ever tasted. “Oh, my goodness, this is good,” she exclaimed.

“Jas is the best. She introduced me to soul food too. I’d never had collard greens or baked mac and cheese before. My mother is Irish and my dad was Italian so we pretty much ate those types of foods.”

“I see. She opened you up culturally too.”

He looked at her and she melted like butter from the love she saw in his eyes. “She even made a soulful dinner especially for you. I didn’t want you to miss your mom’s cooking on Christmas.”

“Daniel, you are so sweet and thoughtful. I cannot imagine you being the person you said you once were.”

“I’m not proud of it, Avery.”  He ate a forkful of the casserole and said, “Staying in Cleveland has reminders of my past on every corner. That’s why I’m willing to move to Portland.”

She had thought about him wanting to get away.  A person with an addiction would want to be away from the temptations of their past. “Okay, you’ll come to Portland. It’s important to me that I help you maintain your goals, Daniel. I’ll find another job in Portland and I’ll be close to Jackie still.”

“Glad you brought that up. What were you plans if you’d gone to college?”

The coffee was strong and robust when she took a sip. “My dream was to become an optometrist. When my dad left I had to work to help my mom with bills so she could finish school.”

“Would you still want to pursue your dream?”

Avery gave Daniel a side-glance. “What are you plotting in that head of yours?”

“Well, I don’t want to do homework alone. Won’t it be fun to do it together?”

She laughed. “It would, but I have to work to eat and live indoors Going back to school part-time will take forever to finish.”

“Not if I buy a house. You’ll have a roof over your head, no bills to pay and a support system to keep you motivated. I think that’s a damn good deal.”

She nodded. “It is but we haven’t discussed living together yet.”

Daniel chuckled. “We haven’t discussed a lot of things yet that aren’t debatable.”

She raised her brow. “Excuse me?”

“Number one being we will make our relationship work. In a year or two, we’ll be married and the following year we’ll welcome our first kid. Let me warn you that Chase has triplets. Not sure if that runs in our family or Jasmine’s.”

Whoa! The talk about marriage and babies caught her off guard. Avery put her folk down and cleared her throat. “Obviously, you’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Daniel, while I admire you know exactly what you want and the timeframes you want them to happen ,but you left out a lot of contributing factors.”

He drank from the coffee mug looking over the rim at her. “Such as?”

“Umm, me? What if I don’t agree? Do you have a stand in for me?”

“Nope, because you won’t disagree,” he said confidently and bit a piece of the cinnamon roll. “Mmm, you gotta taste these. They melt in your mouth.”

Avery got up from the table and walked over to him. “Are you listening to me?” She put her hands on her hips, it caused her robe to open slightly revealing the top portion of her negligee.

Daniel looked up at her and smiled. “Ooo, black sheer. I see your nipple.”

She closed her robe. “Daniel, stop playing, this is serious.”

“And so is this.” He pushed his plate away and scooted the chair back as he pulled Avery onto his lap.

“No, no, we aren’t doing this.” She breathed as he buried his head between her breasts. She got up to leave the kitchen but he was quick and stopped her.

“Don’t worry, babe,” he said, his voice low. “To you it seems I’m moving too fast. To me; I’m not moving fast enough.”

She heard his words, but it almost seemed as if they’d come from someone else. “I care about you and want the same things too. Can you give me some time to let it sink in, Daniel?”

“Our days are not guaranteed, Avery. We wait and wait and before you know it, we are no more.”

 “We can’t live with dread hanging over our head,” she said, reaching for his arm and sliding her hand down to close her fingers around his.

“I can’t live without you.” His hand closed around hers, the sensation so reassuring as the it was the first day they met.

Emotion swelled in her chest. Tears burned her eyes.  “I love you, Daniel.” The words came out right. They sounded real. “But it’s happening so fast, and I’m confused. My father uprooted us from our home without asking my mom.  It tore my family apart.”

He pulled on her hand, drawing her close. His other arm wrapped around her waist. “What are you saying, Avery?”

Why did she feel like she was dangling over a ledge? “I don’t want to lose you because I’m resistant to make a decision on a whim based on what my mother went through.”

“I’m not your father. I’m in this until the end, baby.” His hand found her face, felt along her temple, her cheek, until he found her jaw, then drew her up. His mouth covered hers, and Avery whimpered, kissing him back, seeking his tongue. He tasted her for one long moment, then broke abruptly. “Is there anything you need to add?” he asked.

She knew what he meant, and the warm sensations flowed through her. “I know there’s a lot I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn. And all that matters to me is that I love who you are now.”

“Avery, that’s all I ask.”

“I don’t.”

“Oh, Avery…”

Her name was more of a groan than a word before his mouth closed over hers again. And so much emotion filled his kiss, Avery could taste it. She was too short without heels and stretched against his body to get more of his mouth, more of everything.

The hard ridge of him rubbing her low belly made her crazy, and she stroked him through his pajamas.

“Avery… baby…” He pulled her hand away.

She kissed his jaw, his throat, pulled at the drawstring on his pants.

Daniel might have been holding the hand that had been stroking him, but now he was rubbing his erection along her hip bone. “Avery, you make me insane.”

She whimpered against his neck. “Please…”

On a growl, he picked her up by the waist and carried her toward the exposed rock wall of the kitchen. He pressed her back to the cold stone, kissed her deeply as his hands ran up the backs of her thighs.

 “Christ, Avery.” His hands roamed over the silk panties and gripped her ass. “That’s so hot.”

 “I need you.” Avery opened found his cock, and took him into her hands with a groan.

“Shhh,” he murmured against her lips.

She reached in the pocket of her robe and found the condom she stashed, and ripped it, rolled it on his hot length. It was one of the studded condoms, and the rubber nubs nipped at her fingers.

Daniel lifted her while she was still fitting it. Pressed two fingers inside her from behind with a growled, “Move your hands.”

Avery had barely lifted them to his chest when Daniel guided himself halfway into her, pressed his mouth to her neck, and muffled a deep groan of pleasure. He filled her, stretched her, the extra friction from the condom raking fire along her walls.

 “Daniel, Daniel, Daniel.” She was so ready she rose to climax before he’d fully penetrated her. “Oh God!”

Daniel’s hand closed over her mouth, and his hips plunged just as the orgasm peaked. Her muscles squeezed. She arched against the cool wall. Daniel thrust, thrust, thrust, never stopping. When her cries dimmed to moans, he exchanged his hand for his mouth and kissed her as if he were starving.

 “I crave you… love you… so damn much.”

He drove into her, pulling her hips to meet his, fingers digging into her flesh. He felt so good. Filling her. Completing her. Feeding her craving. She hooked an arm around his neck, pressed one hand to the wall, and lifted her legs to wrap around his waist.

His pelvis hammered her clit on every drive, his cock so deep she felt the orgasm build until her throat tightened with the thrill of it.

 “Oh shit…” was all he got out before he broke, his thrusts coming fast and so hard and wild he pumped another orgasm from her. She completely lost herself in the intensity of sensation for long, long moments. Moments filled with Daniel holding her tight, moving inside her, cool wall pressed against her skin.

Perfection. Ecstasy. Bliss. Daniel collapsed, crushing Avery against the wall. She didn’t care. All she could feel was pleasure spiraling through her body. She wanted to loll in the beauty of it, keep her head against his shoulder, kiss his jaw, but Daniel was all business.

She pulled his face to hers and stopped his mouth with a kiss. He groaned, then kissed her back, sighing into her mouth. “God, I love you.”

The words burned across the surface of Avery’s heart. She pulled back and pressed her hand to his lips. “I love you.”

Daniel  wrapped his arms around Avery, and pulled her up against his body hard, as if he were afraid she’d disappear. He said, “Nobody is going to love you like me.  Nobody, Avery.”

Avery hugged him, believing he meant those words.

Copyrighted material and cannot be printed, copied or used without the prior written consent of the author and TLB Publishing. The following material has not been edited and may contain errors.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Never Leave Me Again is Live on Amazon!

Never Leave Me Again is now live on Amazon. Follow the rekindling romance of Josh and Tasha.

Josh and Tasha were best friends who became inseparable. As college came to an end, so did their budding romance. A job opportunity moved Tasha to Atlanta. She was a little perplexed when Josh didn't attempt to dissuade her from leaving him, and she left with a broken heart.

Josh returned to Cleveland to make his mark in the legal world. Along the way, he never shed his partying ways. Bouncing from one-night stands to short-term relationships, he never found the right woman to settle him down. The one woman who could was no longer around, and it was his fault.

Now, Tasha is back, and she is a prosecutor for the County of Cuyahoga. She’s also working on his brother’s case. Will Josh be able to rekindle the flames he never lost for her, or will Tasha shut the door in his face, unable to forgive him for letting her go?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Waiting For Josh's Story? Well, Take A Peek At The First Three Chapters of Never Leave Me Again

Never Leave Me Again

Chapter 1 

Josh checked his watch once and then twice as he twitched in the uncomfortable conference room chair. Ergonomics was not the benefit behind the design of the chair as much as keeping the attorneys uncomfortable and awake during these long and boring meetings.

He didn’t have the patience for it this morning. Time was ticking and the early morning meeting was taking forever to end. Corporate law was his passion, but lately, he’d been dipping on the criminal side due to recent family problems.

Three months had passed, and Penny remained on the lame. The last sighting of her was in Indiana. She could be lost in the cornfields of that state for years before being spotted again. Jerry has sworn he has not heard from her and suspects the FBI has his phones tapped in case she does call. Neither here nor there, Penny’s legal troubles have destroyed Jerry’s home life. But, on the other hand, the brothers have come to bond together again.

That came about after Jason’s surprise marriage to Peyton. The Green brother’s made amends during their grand reception. Jerry’s heart-felt toast surprised the hell out of both of them. For him to stand in front of hundreds of strangers and admit his faults, brought the women in attendance to tears. Ever since the brothers have been closer than ever.

Larry Dumas finally sat down. He’d been standing at the podium for over an hour going on and on in a voice so drab it would put a Hyena asleep. Josh sat up straight in the chair. He tucked the many handouts in the folder that was given to him when he entered the conference room. He assumed the meeting was over.

“Are there any question?” Larry asked. His eyes scanned the room waiting for any one of the twenty attorneys to respond.

Josh sucked in a deep breath. He had nothing to add. The underlined scolding Dumas threw at the newer attorneys didn’t affect him. He was on the verge of making Partner and his billing hours were exceptional. Not only that, he had brought several new clients to the firm in the last year. And they weren’t just any clients. The work he’d billed to these clients so far had netted the firm over $10 million dollars and with ongoing work ahead of him, the firm stood to rake in millions more.

Certain, the meeting was over, Josh stretched to release the strain from his back thanks to the chair. In mid-stretch, Amber Kelly raised her hand with a question.

“Crap!” he swore under his breath. Amber had the tendency to be as long-winded as Dumas. With the two of them going back and forth, he would be stuck in the conference room for another hour or more. He saw Dumas react to the groan that escaped the mouths of several attorneys. Two and a half hours had been wasted on the meeting so far. Time was everything at a law firm and by it being the end of the month, billing was due. The secretaries hated when an attorney would hand them a month’s worth of time to enter and billing summaries to correct at the last minute.

That wasn’t Josh’s fret. He kept track of his time and entered it daily taking that responsibility away from his assistant, but he did have bills to give to her. But that wasn’t his issue; he didn’t want to miss Tasha’s call. Since he acted as liaison for the family, she stayed in contact with him regarding anything about Penny.

Mentioning her name gave him chill bumps. Their reconnection had been awkward. The moment he laid eyes on her, feelings from the past washed over him. Tasha Overstreet was the one that got away, and it broke his heart. That cold winter day that they met for dinner she was dressed to kill in a black power suit, he knew the passion that was inside of her. He’d seen it firsthand. He just hadn’t handled it very well back then. In those days, he hadn’t handled a lot of things regarding her well, he thought with a frown. Young and buck wild, partying was more important than settling down with one woman.

Though he partied a lot, he kept his grades up and stayed on the Dean’s list as well as Tasha. They were both shining stars in college and estimated to do well in the legal field. They fed off each other, complimented each other well. She was his best friend and always there when he needed her. Yet, he let her leave Cleveland without her knowing his true feelings. It was the biggest mistake of his life.

Never did he think he would get a second chance with her. There was still doubt it would happen. Tasha hinted about a relationship, but it was in trouble. She wouldn’t go into details, and he didn’t press her. He got the feeling she was unhappy in her current relationship by her body language and how vaguely she spoke about the mystery man.

He took a sip of water to calm himself. If he missed her call, he would have to wait until any news of Penny surfaced again. As wrong as it felt, Penny was his way to get to Tasha. Using his niece to his benefit seemed evil, but something good could come from it. He could get the love of his life back.

Josh snapped back when he heard his name called.

“Mr. Green, are we boring you?” Dumas asked snidely.

Josh cleared his throat. “Excuse me?”

“You seem bored. Ms. Kelly asked you a direct question, and you ignored her.”

“I’m sorry, it wasn’t intentional. I was thinking about a case I’m working on and didn’t hear her.”

“Well, as long as your mind is on company time, I guess that excuses you. I’ll ask Ms. Kelly to repeat her question.”

Condescending sonofabitch, Josh said internally. He had worked with his share of arrogant lawyers but none as bad as Dumas. He had a stick up his ass for any attorney that overshadowed him. Josh’s work had been recognized by Super Lawyers and he’d also been featured in Corporate Stars magazine recognizing successful people under the age of 40. Larry Dumas hadn’t hit any strides with the firm lately and took that out on anyone in his path.

Amber adjusted the large round glasses on her face and looked at Josh. “I was saying, I believe we should work on the Pillar project together. With my knowledge of contract law and since your family owns a contractor business, if we put our heads together, we could avoid a messy court case. We could save the client thousands of dollars.”

When given a project, Amber would take it further than necessary; sometimes more than he’d appreciated. Long drawn out briefs were tough to read and revise. It doubled his workload when working in a crunch. There was an incidence where Amber had caught a minor mistake on his part. Since then, she’s been itching to work more closely with him or offering to proofread his briefs.

As it was, it had taken him a while to connect with her. He didn’t doubt Amber’s abilities; she was smart and knew contract law, but she was pushy and overbearing. His laidback attitude doesn’t mesh with a person like her. Plus, rumor had it she was interested in more than just working with him.

A blue-eyed blonde with a curvy build, Amber had always been attractive, especially to other male attorneys. But he wasn’t a big fan of office romances. He had seen it happen too often that when the courtship ended, so did the ability to work together in the same place. However, he did socialize with female attorneys but never slept with any of them. Actually, since Tasha’s return to town, he had cut down on his philandering ways.

Josh tapped the end of the pen on the glass table. “Amber, we can work together, sure. However, I refrain from using my family's business as a way to battle the Pillar lawsuit.”

“Why, Josh? We have first-hand knowledge at our fingertips. Plaintiff is claiming they breached the contract due to poor construction. Do you understand the complexity of this case and how an expert from Green Construction could impact it?”

He nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“Okay, then having expert testimony from a reputable company like Green Construction could blow Plaintiff’s case out the water. Why don’t you want to use that opportunity to help our client?”

“Plaintiff could counter back with seeding a jury since the experts we’re using are in close relation to me. It doesn’t matter what worker is on the stand. In my opinion, the experts we use should have no connection to me or Green Construction.”

She wouldn’t let it go, and he was losing his patience with her. “That is crazy,” Amber said frustrated. “This an out-of-state case. No one can connect the two unless it is leaked.”

He sighed. “You are assuming plaintiff’s counsel is stupid. Don’t think they won’t investigate our expert witnesses since we have to turn over the list to the court as part of our discovery. There is no hiding or slipping that past them. So, no; I will not allow Green Construction to be used as an expert witness. Bring in another construction company and I’ll consider working with you on the case if time permits. I have a pretty heavy plate right now.”

She turned to Dumas for support.

Josh looked at his watch. Tick…tick…tick.

“I have to agree with Josh. Find another expert witness that doesn’t have any connection to anyone in the firm. I expected you to know better, Amber,” Dumas said. “If there are no more questions, this meeting is adjourned.”

Josh rushed out of the conference room before anyone else had a chance to make a single peep. Back at his office, he dropped the folder on Janice’s desk. “File this with the rest, please.”

Janice looked up from her computer and smiled. “I’ll drop it in the recycle bin with the rest.”

“Thank you. Did I get any calls?”

“Um, yes. Your phone constantly rings but no calls from Ms. Overstreet. I promised to text you if she called.”

He couldn’t suppress his grin. “Is it that obvious?”

“Josh, I’ve worked with you since you were a first-year associate. I have never seen you act this way about a woman. So, yeah it’s obvious.”

He entered his office with Janice on his heels. Sitting behind his desk, she sat in the chair in front of his desk. He glanced through the pink telephone slips to see if any of the calls required his immediate attention. Jason had called and so had Jerry. The rest were calls from clients he wasn’t ready to return yet.

Josh felt the heat of Janice’s eyes on him. He looked up at his assistant. She was a very attractive woman to be over 50. Not only that, Janice has been his confidant and gave him advice when he needed it. He could talk to her better than he could to his mother. Their strained relationship just kept growing. Once Jason started his construction company and hired Jerry as Project Manager, the remaining crew members at Green Construction quit and joined P&J Construction.

Lew Green went ballistic and banished his boys from his life. Green Construction teetered on the edge of bankruptcy until Lew regrouped. He was now running the company and had hired a new crew to replace the loyal group of men that had made Green Construction a household name.

The rift in the family had the two construction companies bidding on same jobs with Jason coming out on top. That infuriated Lew. So, even though Josh had no direct link to Green Construction any longer, the real truth is he didn’t want to deal with his father and the reason he shot down Amber’s suggestion.

“Why are you staring a hole in me?” he asked without lifting his eyes up from the paperwork in front of him.

“I’m curious, Josh. You’re a handsome young man, smart and have the world in the palm of your hands.”

He chuckled. “Since when do I have the world in the palm of my hands?”

“You could if you wanted.”

“All right, I could. So what is itching at your curiosity?”

“I’m an old lady so appease me. Tasha Overstreet. I don’t know too many white women with the name Tasha unless that is short for Natasha.”

He leaned back in his chair. “You are not old and can easily pass for 35; 40 tops.”

She gave him a side-eyed glance. “Yeah, whatever you say. My birth certificate says 57 and my aching bones confirm it.”

“Well, you look gorgeous for your age. Anyhow, Tasha is African American. We went to law school together. She was my best friend. We got into all kinds of shit together.”

“That is sweet, Josh. But, I feel there is more than you are telling me.”

“I was in love with her, Janice. I let my ego stand in the way and watched her walk out of my life.”

“Were you scared to date her because she was black?”

“Hell no, but my parents wouldn’t approve. I let Tasha walk out of my life because I was immature. My partying and hanging out with the fellas was more important than telling Tasha how I felt.”

“Well, women mature faster than men. It’s a proven fact.”

“True. But she got offered a great job; I couldn’t let her miss an opportunity like that because I wasn’t ready to grow up.”

“Now you want her back. Does she still have feelings for you?”

He shook his head. “I think she has a man in her life.”

“I didn’t ask you that,” Janice said in a motherly-like voice.

“She didn’t react to me the way I expected. She was cool as a cucumber, and I’m sure I acted like a love-sick puppy dog.” He took a deep breath to refocus. “She’s as beautiful as I remembered.”

“Hmm, sounds like she has you by the tickle stick already. Listen, if you aren’t sure about her status, you need to ask. Be honest with her.”

Tickle stick? He shook it off. “I can’t just ask her about her status. I got game, but I have to be careful when to use it.”

“Honey, your lack of game will cost you that girl again. Don’t beat around the bush with this. Ask her if she has a man. Wouldn’t you want to know now rather than later?”

He would, but her answer could be detrimental to his health. He scrubbed a hand down his freshly shaven face. “You’re right. We were good friends; I should be able to talk to her.”

Janice nodded. “You should. Anyhow, lawyers are intrusive so ask her the dang question. Besides, as cool as a cucumber as she might have appeared, I bet she was shaking in the knees when she saw you.”

He grinned. “Janice, I value you more than just an assistant. I could never have this conversation with my mother. Thank you.”

“You know where to find me.” She got up to leave but stopped. “Evaluation time is coming up.”

He clicked his tongue, “I got your back.”

Chapter 2 

Tasha was reminded of the painful reality that five years ago, she left behind the only man that accepted her for her. Walking away from Josh, who was secretly the love of her life to take a high-profile job in Atlanta, was the biggest mistake she’d ever made. She adjusted the tilt of the computer to block the sun’s rays that hit the screen that filtered in through the window. It would have been easier to get up and pull the blinds down, but the last time she did that, the blades fell out one at a time like a broken accordion.

She vowed to never touch those blinds again. Her assistant ordered her a shade to be installed in the colder than an icebox office. She cranked up the tiny heater under her desk. She had forgotten how cold it could get in Northeast Ohio. Living in Atlanta had spoiled her when it came to weather. She loved the hot summers and could deal with the one or two streaks of cooler weather that would be more like spring in Cleveland.

The Android phone lying on the desk vibrated. Looking at the screen, she was tempted to toss the phone in the trash. Instead, she read the text message.

Ashton: Think you can run away from me? Think again, Tasha. I’ll win you back. We are not over.

Tempted to respond, Tasha didn’t. She was tired of the fighting, and the arguing, and the spying. Life with Ashton had turned to hell in a flash. The man that got her over Josh turned out to be a major asshole. The wealthy Georgia businessman was the honest to God definition of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Their first two years together he treated her like a princess. Nothing was too good for her. Ashton took her on expensive trips. They stayed in the most expensive hotels, and he even chartered private planes to whisk her away to exotic places just to have dinner.

Ashton Merriweather, a handsome billionaire and the answer to every woman’s dream was her man. And she was the black woman hated by women of every color for snagging Georgia’s most sought-after eligible bachelor. Little did she know what was in store for her. She had often questioned why a wealthy white man pursued her so strongly. She didn’t come from wealth, so he had nothing to gain from dating her.

She had everything to gain if she married him. The wife of a billionaire that would give him heirs to his fortune. It was a fairytale in the making but in reality, her life was a living hell after the first two years. She knew then she wanted out and started plotting it before the wedding took place.

The phone went off again. She turned it off and stuck it inside the desk drawer. She would not be bullied. She didn’t accept it from men of lesser status, and she refused to accept it from Ashton. As far as she was concerned, she had moved on. Living in Cleveland put distance between them. Her sister Trisha was living in Cleveland. Plus, working for the Prosecutor’s Office, she had protection if necessary.

Over the years, she had struggled to keep the memory of anything good alive. Josh fit firmly into that category. He had always brought out the best in her, except that day when he didn’t seem affected by her decision to leave him. The silence could have been more awkward if it hadn’t been for Trisha yapping in her ear. Overly excited at the thought of moving south with her sister and finishing dentistry school there.

Tasha recalled the day. She, Trisha, and Josh were vacationing at a rented beach house in Florida. They were enjoying a hot summer day at the ocean when Tasha got the call about a job offer in Atlanta. To get an offer like that straight out of college, she knew not to snub her nose. The law firm even gave her time to make a decision to join their firm. Trisha was all for her leaving Detroit and moving south with hopes of going with her. Josh, on the other hand, did not try to talk her out of going but congratulated her instead. He actually encouraged her to take the job.

That hurt. After all, they’d been through, she thought there was a deeper connection between them that extended past lovers. Apparently, she had mistaken his affection, and he thought of them as nothing more than friends with benefits.

A knock on the door and her assistant walking in, interrupted her trip down memory lane. Mya set the evidence box on the end of the desk. “A courier dropped this off.”

Tasha removed the envelope taped to the lid of the box. “Great. More evidence to sift through. We have more than enough evidence to put Penny Green in jail. All we need is her, and I can close this case.”

“She could be anywhere at this point,” Mya said.

“Right. Indiana State Police aren’t sure if she or the boyfriend are still there. It’s been weeks. Someone should have spotted them by now.”

“That’s funny they would say that. If they were actually looking for her, maybe they would have found her.”

“Come on, Mya; be fair. They are doing me a favor by staying in contact. They don’t have to do that.”

“I feel they and the FBI are not taking your case seriously since the victim refuses to press charges. It’s like they are wasting their time to bring her to justice.”

“She is young and their family. I understand them not wanting her in jail but in a treatment program.”

Mya put her hands on her thick hips. “Is that the prosecutor talking or the love-struck woman with a crush on the family’s liaison?”

Tasha frowned. “You are out of line, Mya.”

“Am I? It’s clear as day that there is something between you and Mr. Green. He loses control of his spine every time he comes to the office. I’m surprised he can stand up on those jellyfish legs.”

Tasha sifted through the evidence in the box to keep her hands busy. “I told you about Josh. We are nothing but friends. Besides, I’m in no position to get involved with any man.”

“Oh right, your rich fiancĂ© you left in Georgia that you say you dumped, but he won’t let you go,” she said sarcastically.

Tasha didn’t care for Mya as a person or an assistant. She found her to be crass and insubordinate when it came to authority figures. It wasn’t just her that got whipped by her sass, but others around the office received the same bashing. By her being the new boss on the block, Tasha wanted to wait until the yearly memo came asking for suggestions on how to curb administrative costs. She didn’t need an assistant. She used to be an assistant in college and wasn’t above typing or copying. In fact, she preferred to do her own work. That way she had control over everything.

She pinched her brows together and addressed Mya. “Mya, why don’t you concentrate on your job and not so much on my private life? You’ll see we’ll get along a lot better if you do that.”

“Hey, I’m not making this stuff up. It’s coming from your mouth. I heard you talking to your sister.”

“Our conversation did not include you. If you value your job, you need to start doing it and stop eavesdropping on me.”

“Are you threatening me, Tasha?”

Mya’s demeanor angered Tasha. “Not a threat but a promise. You seem to forget who I am and what power I hold over you. I am not your friend but your boss. Stop crossing that line.”

Mya straightened her back and lifted her chin. “Excuse me for being a personable person.”

“You are confusing personable with nosy. There is a huge difference between the two.”

A door creaking open distracted her from Mya. Josh’s head popped in “Hey, I hate to interrupt…”

She fixed a smile on her face. “Josh, come on in. Mya, we’ll finish this later,” she said excusing her assistant from her office. Mya let the door slam as she exited. Tasha saw Josh wince.

“I guess she’s having one of those days,” he said in a joking manner.

Tasha missed that about him. Josh had a way of making her laugh when she wanted to cry. Whenever she was sad, he’d cheer her up with flowers or treat her to a banana split. It’s a wonder she hadn’t gained massive amounts of weight from the treats he used to gorge her with.

“My assistant is a nosey-rosy. I had to put her in her place.” She walked back to her desk to sit down. Her knees suddenly threatened to buckle under her weight. “So, what brings you here today?”

Josh took a seat and crossed a leg over his knee. “I need a reason to see you now? We’re still friends aren’t we?”

Tucking her hair behind her ears, Tasha stammered, “Of course, we’re still friends. We should get together to catch up and not just to discuss Penny’s case. Which reminds me; I owed you a call today.”

“I’m free tonight,” Josh was quick to say.

“Oh, tonight…um”

“Tasha, what’s the problem? Is there someone else preventing you from spending time with me?”

She opened her mouth to come clean but closed it and shook her head. “No, I just have a lot of work. I don’t know what time I’ll get out of here tonight.”

“I’m not on curfew. I am allowed to stay out past midnight,” he chuckled. “Seriously, though; I feel the disconnect between us. I don’t like it.”

“What did you expect, Josh? We haven’t seen each other in years. We didn’t keep in touch, and my first case involves your family. If that hadn’t had happened, you wouldn’t even know I was in Cleveland.”

“Yes I would. Nothing gets by me.”

“You still have that since of confidence about you.”

“And you still have those beautiful eyes, flawless sandy skin, and snappy wit. God, I’ve missed you, Tasha.”

She lowered her eyes to the desk not looking at anything in particular. Now was not the time to wimp out and treat him like a stranger. “Then why did you let me go, Josh?”

His brow shot up. “What?”

“Why didn’t you ask me to stay.” She got up from the desk. “I just knew you would talk me out of moving to Atlanta, but no. You let me leave without blinking an eye.”

She melted inside when he bit down on his lower lip. “What can I say? I was young and stupid. Believe me when I say I regretted letting you go. I was never the same, Tasha.”

She walked over to the window and looked out. The people below looked like colorful moving dots with the different color hats. The season was between the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Cleveland held onto cold weather worse than any city she’d ever been in. Days would start cold and end warm or start warm and end with a spring blizzard. It was a coin-toss when it came to Cleveland weather.

“I don’t believe that for a second.”

Josh laughed. “Did you have someone following me around? Trisha maybe.” Josh’s velvet tones washed over her, making her sink further into her skin.

“Like I had nothing to do but keep tabs on you.” She couldn’t keep the sarcasm from her voice.

“There was a time you kept tabs on me. I’m sure you can’t wait to do it again.”

She snorted. “Don’t bet on that.” His clean, woodsy scent filled her with a longing she wanted to deny. Being close to her college sweetheart, the one love of her life, was dangerous on so many levels.

Conscious of the rising silence, she glanced over to see that Josh was watching her. He smiled. “Let’s go to lunch.”

She moved from the window. “Okay, but you’re buying.”

They walked across the street to a diner for lunch. They talked for a while about nothing but the weather and changing laws which were standard conversations. He told her about the meeting he’d been on that morning and how boring it was.

Knowing that Josh was a ladies’ man back in the day, she had to know if he still had those traits. “Who’s your latest conquest?” Tasha asked him.

“I’ve given up on women.”

She rolled her eyes and laughed. “Oh lord, you are not going there.”

He laughed. “No. I’m serious.”

“I know you, Josh; so what’s her name?”


“Your latest conquest?”

“Well, actually I haven’t been with a woman seriously since you left.”

Her eyebrows rose. She’d never known Josh to be without a date. Before they hooked up, he always had some girl in tow.

“Why not?”

He shrugged and didn’t say anything. Tasha’s gaze lingered on him for a moment.

He cleared his throat. “What about you? Met any successful dudes while you’ve been away?”

She thought briefly of Ashton, considered whether to mention him, then discarded the option again. “Nope.”

“No one at all?”

“Not high on my list of priorities. Especially, with me not having many friends and no family in Atlanta. I had to be cautious.”

“I’ll buy the last part, but I don’t believe you.”

“But I’m supposed to believe you? Come on, Josh. If you are with someone, I can handle it. I didn’t expect you to grieve for me or not get involved or married, ever.”

He raised his finger. “Marriage is not a part of my vocabulary. I admit, I’ve dated, but I am not involved with anyone now.”

“I’ll come clean too. I did date in Atlanta. Hell, I was lonely.”

“Understandable, Tasha. You’re a beautiful woman and men find you attractive. I can’t be mad about that.”

“Thank you. You didn’t turn out so bad yourself. You look great in a suit. I love the short hair and clean look. You finally grew up, Josh.”

“It took a while, but I finally put on my big boy pants and became a man.”

“I never questioned your manliness,” she mumbled.

“Let me rephrase then, I became an adult.”

She grinned. “That’s a better account.” He’d looked like he normally did when she talked to him— sexy as hell. For a woman who’d been in love with him for as long she could remember, it stung they were acting like complete strangers. “Shall we order lunch?” she asked looking over the menu.

The crooked grin on his face turned devious. “I’d rather take you to my place and eat lunch off you.”

She raised her brow. “That brings back memories.”

“In a good or bad way?”

She licked her finger and reached over and touched it to his lips. His tongue slightly caressed the tip. Her core heated instantly making her nipples pucker. Thank heavens she had on a suit jacket to hide her arousal from showing through her blouse.

In a sultry voice, she said, “I’ll let you decide.”

“Damn, Tasha. You can’t do stuff like that and not expect me to respond.”

“All I see is a blush on your face. What else is wrong?”

“Come sit on my lap and you’ll feel what else is wrong.”

She shook her head releasing a slow and greedy smile. “As tempting as that sounds, I have to decline due to our current surroundings.”

Really? Who wouldn’t want to sit on the lap of a 6’2”, 180-pound muscular man? Hell, she did. Not only did she want to sit on his lap, but she wouldn’t mind having him on top of her again. Their lovemaking had always been explosive.

He wasn’t her first sexual encounter but the first white man she’d ever slept with. Back then his hair was longer, and she was hooked on him the first time she ran her fingers through his sandy brown hair and stared deeply into his sexy dark blue eyes. Josh was a gorgeous man and had a hot body that filled out a designer suit as well as he did boxer briefs.

His eyes were focused on her again, then he asked? “Did I offend you somehow? By flirting?”

“No, I still find that very charming.”

“All right, then, tell me why you don’t want to see me.”

Tasha studied him. The rose color from the cold weather accented his high cheekbones. God, he was handsome. She drew a deep breath. “Josh, I’m hungry. Can we order now?”

“Yeah; I need to drink a lot of cold water and think about bad things before I’m able to get up from this chair anyhow.”

Chapter 3

Josh grinned like a Cheshire cat as he remembered lunch with Tasha last week. She was still the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, and their flirtation only heightened his desire to get with her more intimately. Whenever he gazed into her light brown eyes, he became mesmerized. Tasha was a woman black, or white men went crazy over. Her whole being, from her soft brown hair, smooth skin, and bright smile, hypnotized him.

She wasn’t too short or too tall, but just the right height when they would snuggle in bed to watch television or after lovemaking. He would hold her against him and not smother her with his height or crush her with his weight. How he longed to do that again only, she was holding back. He had to find out what was causing her to move so cautiously with him.

As he strutted down the hall to his office, he entered to find Amber occupying it.

“Good morning. You seem full of sunshine,” Amber said with a big smile. She tapped a black pen against a large black binder she was holding, drawing his eyes to her face.

His smile turned creepy, but it was either smile that way or let his jaw drop to the floor. He blinked. Something was different about Amber. Her breasts were about to spill out of the top of her blouse. God help him. His whole body was blue from lack of sex. Between Tasha’s teasing and now Amber dressing in clothes to show off her curvy assets, he was a time bomb waiting to go off.

Her smile wobbled a little, then she pressed her shoulders back and said, “Need some coffee to start your day? Guess what? I happened to have you a tall cup of java right over here. Strong and black just like you like it, right?” She sashayed over to an accent table by the wall, her black stiletto heels clicking on the hardwood floor.


His weakness. There was something about a woman wearing heels so high that they pushed out her ass and breasts making stumbling easy and a man ready to catch and do very dirty things to her. What was he saying? This was bash-my-head-in-until-my-brain bleeds, Amber, not Tasha.

She kicked up one foot as she reached for the cups. The black, narrow skirt she wore rode up her thighs and revealed a delicate piece of underclothing unfit for the office.

“A garter—seriously, just stick a fork in me now,” he muttered to himself and bit his knuckle, willing his very inconvenient erection away while she chatted on, about something he wasn’t paying attention to. Damn, he was a sick sonofabitch for what he was thinking and least of all about Amber.

Standing to his feet, he grabbed his coat. “I have to go to court. I forgot about a mandatory status call scheduled this morning in Judge Gall’s chambers.”

Amber turned to face him, a little frown on her pouty lips. Lips so pouty that he wanted to bite the bottom.

“But we have the Pillar case to go over. I have a list of potential expert witnesses to use. And what about your coffee?”

“Sorry, gotta go!” No way in hell could he concentrate on work with her dressed like that! He’d send her to Dumas or another female associate that wouldn’t be affected by her new look. She’d be safe with them. Besides, he didn’t relish the notion of having to be disrespectful to Amber. It was obvious her change in appearance was to get his attention. She succeeded today, but he still wasn’t interested in dating her. Blue balls or not, he had to hold out for Tasha.

Twenty minutes later he entered Jason’s office. He was glad his car was parked outside because he had nowhere else to go. He’d lied about the status call and needed to be gone for at least an hour or more to make the lie believable.

“Hey, are you busy?” Josh asked as he walked into Jason’s office unannounced.

He looked up from the material he was reading. “Shouldn’t you be at work?” Jason asked as he leaned back in the chair and crossed his feet on the edge of the large desk.

“Shouldn’t you be working?” Josh shot back, then sat down and propped his feet up on the opposite end of the desk.

Jason’s new office setting was bigger, more efficient and modern. It was still plunked down in the middle of an open lot and surrounded by other trailers converted into working pods, but each had a hint of beauty to them. Inside Jason’s trailer, there was no wood paneling as often seen in these types of trailers or metal file cabinets. Jason had remodeled the doublewide trailer to have a separate room for files located behind him. There was also a showroom and a separate office for subcontractors to use.

The new setup didn’t have the feel commercial like most contractor businesses, but it was cozy and welcoming.

Jason cracked a grin. “Since you’re here and not at the office, who are you hiding from?”

“I’m not hiding.” Josh snorted, his dark blue eyes rolling.

“Yeah, right. I’ve been in operation for almost three months, and this is only the second time you’ve stepped foot in my office. What gives?”

Josh threw his hands up in disgust. “Hey, I’ve been busy.”

“But not too busy to stop by in the middle of a Tuesday morning?” Jason shot back.

He knew it was a bad idea to hide out at Jason’s office. Of all people, he would see right through him. Leaning back in his chair, Josh smirked. “I got it like that. I’ll head back to the office in about an hour.”

Jason held up a hand and got up from his desk. “Don’t need to know why you’re hiding. Do you want a cup of coffee?”

Josh flipped him off, then his face grew serious. “No, but can I ask you something?”

He saw concern cover Jason's face. “Shoot.”

“Have you ever done something that you’ve really regretted? And I’m not talking about shit with dad or Jerry.”

“Um…are you forgetting who you’re talking too? Have you done something, Josh?”

“I almost did something really stupid today. I hate myself for even thinking about doing it.”

Jason set his coffee cup down on the desk. “Are you in trouble at work, Josh?”

“No, but I had an inappropriate thought about a female attorney that was in my office this morning. Damn, Jason, she was dressed in a way that said come fuck me. With my weakness, I would have if I had stayed. That’s why I’m here.”

Jason frowned and raised his voice. “What the hell, Josh? I thought your goal was to get Tasha back?”

“That’s the problem. Tasha is coming off as standoffish. She hardly answers my texts or my calls. And she’s hiding something; I feel it,” Josh grumbled.

“Oh, OK, then, that does give you a pass to sleep around again. How dare she be uncooperative with a man she hasn’t seen in five years. Damn, man.”

He heard the disappointment in his brother’s voice. “I’m not sleeping around, and I do want Tasha. I just don’t know how to get her to talk to me.”

“What do you talk about when you’re together? If it’s just about Penny, then you won’t unlock what’s in her head.”

“We talk about old times and how much fun we had together.” He sighed. “We’ve done some sexy flirting, but that’s as far as it’s gone. I’ve asked her out for dinner numerous times, and she declines. Lunch is about all she’ll do.”

“Maybe you are moving too fast for her,” Jason suggested.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe. Her damn mixed signals are confusing. One minute she seems interested and then it’s back to business only. I don’t know what to do.”

“I know what not to do—don’t sleep with other women until you’re sure there is no possibility of getting with Tasha. You have to restrain yourself, Josh.”

“I’m trying, but you know me.”

“I do, and that’s the problem. You have to give her time to adjust to you again.”

Josh raised a finger in the air. “Hey, you could be right about that. When she left I wasn’t as sophisticated as I am now,” he said popping the collar of his suit jacket. “She might not know how to handle my awesomeness.”

Jason scrunched his nose. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s it,” he said sarcastically. “Then there is a possibility she can’t get involved with you because you are too close to the person she wants to put in jail.”

“She’s acting on your behalf so that’s not an issue. And I personally believe Penny belongs in jail, you don’t want her there.”

“That’s where we differ. Anyhow, don’t rush her to make a decision about having a relationship just yet.”

Just as he was about to answer, two of Jason’s construction workers burst through the door, and the moment was lost. No way in hell they could continue to talk now.

One man shoved papers at Jason. “Look, if you need to talk more, come to dinner tonight; Peyton will be glad to see you,” he offered.

Josh flashed him a grin. “Nah… I’m good with the advice you gave me. Besides, you are still newlyweds and need that alone time after work.”

Josh left Jason’s office so he could get back to work. Getting inside his car he had an epiphany: Sometimes, you need to take chances and let the card fall where they may.

Starting the car, he released a long sigh. That would be wonderful if Tasha wanted the same journey. For a woman once so open and carefree, she had become one tough cookie to read.


Josh arrived back at his office after wasting hours at the lake. He did do some work. He returned calls, scheduled several meetings and sat in on a quick conference call with a client and opposing counsel. All in all, his work day wasn’t a total write-off.

He hadn’t sat down a minute before Amber stormed into his office. “I have to talk to you,” she said in a demanding voice.

He wondered where Janice had gone? Normally, she stopped unwanted visitors before they got to his door. “What’s the problem, Amber?”

“I checked. There was no status call with Judge Gall today. Why did you lie, Josh?”

He could get out of this…no problem. He’d lied to women before. He’d done it so well that there were times he believed the lies himself. But this was different. Amber wished to be a fiery, sassy type of woman but fell short; he didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her that. His mouth felt dry as he reached for the two-day-old bottle of water sitting on his desk and took a sip.

“Look, Amber. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about us.”

Her eyes narrowed and her lips thinned when she asked. “You don’t like me do you?”

“I do like you. I think you’re a brilliant attorney and have a great future ahead of you.”

“No, I don’t mean to like me as a colleague, but as a woman. I’m aware my attire is not appropriate for the office, but I wanted to show you that I can be sexy and alluring,” she said, slowly smoothing her blouse down and then her skirt.

He wanted to groan at the images that formed in his mind. Her outfit was very, very appropriate for what he wanted her to be doing to him if they were involved in that way. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his mind of her straddling his lap while he sat in his office chair, her skirt at her waist and his mouth on her creamy white breasts.

Sonofabitch! He had to think of something else. Grasping at straws, he asked, “Do you really see me as a person you want to be with, Amber?”

The light in her pretty blue eyes faded. “Yes, especially after—never mind.” She turned away, but not before he saw tears welling.

“Especially after what?”

“I see how you look at women, Josh. What’s on your mind you don’t have to say verbally; your eyes say it all.”

“I’m sorry, Amber. All I do is look.”

“It’s the look that every attractive woman gets from you. Heck, I saw how captivated you were with Valencia Smith. You were nearly drooling over every word that came out of her mouth.”

Ah, Valencia. She was the training instructor sent to teach them a new computer program. The woman had smooth, dark chocolate skin, and was built like a goddess. The class was boring as hell, and he didn’t learn a damn thing since all he did was stare at her. As pretty and hot as she was, he did not approach her because she was not Tasha.

Closing the distance between them, he put his hand on her elbow and turned her to face him. “So you see I’m not the type of man for you,” he said in a soothing voice. “You deserve a man that fits your style. A man you shouldn’t have to change for or worry about cheating on you.”

Her lower lip trembled as she nodded. “You are a dog, and I don’t know why I’m attracted to you. I dressed this way so you’d notice that beneath my shyness is a vibrant woman.”

“I noticed.”

She lifted her chin. “Even dressed like this, I don’t rev your engine?”

Josh let go of her elbow and rubbed the bridge of his nose, not trusting himself to speak at the moment since what he had to say contained a minor lie. “I make it a rule not to date women in the workplace, Amber. Plus, I’m sort of seeing someone. That’s why I didn’t pursue Valencia.”

“I see.” She paused and moved away from him. Tugging at the short skirt, he saw the embarrassment in her eyes when she said, “Please don’t tell anyone, especially Dumas.”

He smiled. “It’ll be our secret.”

She laughed shyly. “I’m going home to change out of this ridiculous outfit. I don’t know how women wear such uncomfortable shoes all day at work.”

“If it’s any consolation to you; I think the shoes look great on you. I’m a sucker for women in heels.”

Amber walked to the door. “Thanks for being kind, Josh. I envy the woman who has stolen your heart. She better treat you right.”

Heel…first-class heel. He couldn’t feel any lower than he did right now. “Thanks for saying that, Amber. I know the right man is out there for you, so don’t change to find a man that isn’t fit to be in your company.”

“Right,” she said as she left his office.

Josh slapped a hand across his forehead and flopped down on the edge of his desk. What he’d just done to Amber proves he has not grown up enough. Well, that was about to change.

Unedited Chapters 
Copyrighted by BooksbyToye and Toye Lawson Brown 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Something Different Is Making A Splash!

Some liked it, some didn't. Can't please everyone but readers at allromanceebooks are taking a chance on Something Different. It is an ARe Bestseller and continuing to climb. 1-click for $0.99 and judge Something Different for yourself.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Another Excerpt From Something Different - A Second Chance At Love Novel

Driving down her street Peyton saw Jason’s truck parked outside her house. She pulled into the garage and got out of the car. Unlocking the house door, even though she knew Jason was inside and the talk with her mother had her hesitating to open the door.

I know he’s not an ax murderer.

Peyton trusted her gut instincts, and her instincts were to trust him with the keys to her house but not her heart—but lately she wasn’t sure she could trust herself.

She opened the door, lowering the red flags waving loud and clear in her mind. She had no idea why her palms were sweating or her heart beating so rapidly. Yes, she did, she had a touch of a crush on Jason Green. Ever since she learned Celeste had an interest in him, she began to realize Celeste had the ability actually to lure him away.

She was sexy, cute, and let men know up front what she expected them to do for her. Celeste was also not afraid to use her womanly ways. Although not as curvy as she, Celeste could hold her own. The two had similar taste is style and did shop together often.

Once she decided to dress better for Stoney, she turned to Celeste for fashion tips and advice on how to keep a man happy. She felt she was learning from the best since she didn’t have any sisters to guide her.

She stepped into the kitchen and felt her cheeks flush at the sight of Jason, sporting a lazy smile as he looked up from the laptop at her. Sensuality rolled off his solid muscled body wrapped tightly in loose-fitting jeans and a t-shirt that hugged him like sprinkles on a sugary treat.


Like everything about Jason, his voice was deep and easy. “Hi.”

She felt her steely resolve slip away like melted butter. “I didn’t expect you to be here this late.”

He closed the laptop. “I wanted to see myself the surprise on your face when you saw the kitchen. What do you think?”

She hadn’t even noticed the kitchen. Jason’s presence was so huge he took up the entire space. But now that he mentioned the kitchen, she saw the work was done. The island had been installed. The floors were done, and he had installed the new cabinets.

Peyton was in awe. She couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. She walked over to the island and ran her hand across the cool white quartz admiring it. She touched the back of one of the swooped-back stool that sat under it. The soft gray walls worked much better with the white cabinets than the mustard-yellow color that was there before. The engineered hardwood floors looked like real wood.

“Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe how beautiful my kitchen is,” she said.

“Did you notice the appliances?”

Her hands went to her mouth. “You got them to fit. I’m at a loss for words,” she touched the stainless steel stove and then the side-by-side fridge. “This the kitchen I envisioned. When did you get it done? None of this was done this morning when I left for work.”

Jason smiled. “I know magic. I snap my fingers and the work is done.”

“I just might have to believe that,” she said choking on her words. Expressing her feelings used to be easy, nowadays it was harder, unlike Jason who was naturally easy and relaxed. Her nerves tied themselves into a hundred different types of knots, and she envied that about him.

“Peyton, I wanted to give you a dream kitchen. I hope you like it.”

“I love it. I absolutely love it.” Without thinking, she hugged him.

He placed his hands on the small of her back. A wave of heat pulsed beneath his touch. Peyton’s body was already humming with desire at the sight of Jason—and embracing him caused his masculine, musky scent to wrap around her and spark fires in all the right places.

This can’t be happening.

“I’m happy you’re pleased with the work, Peyton.”

Why did everything he say sound sexy? If someone else had said that to her, there would have been nothing sexual about the words or the touch.
Abruptly she moved away from him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that,” she said with a slight stutter.

He lifted a brow. “Don’t be sorry; I enjoyed it.”

“Jason, I don’t want to lead you on with the impression I’m looking for romance or anything like that.”

“Have I done anything to give you that impression? I feel I’ve carried myself in a polite manner when I’m around you.”

Peyton put some distance between them and moved to the other side of the island. Her eye caught the farm sink with the stainless steel touchless faucet and the white subway-tile backsplash lining the wall behind it. She turned in a complete circle and saw the backsplash was behind the stove as well.

She lost her train of thought. “Oh, my God, I didn’t see the sink! I saw those at Home Depot and fell in love. How did you know I wanted one?”

“Not my first go at remodeling a woman’s dream kitchen.”

“I can’t wait to show it off.”

“Do you cook or is the kitchen just a showpiece to go with the rest of the house?”

Peyton raised her brow. “I know how to throw down in the kitchen, thank you. I don’t do a lot of cooking since it’s just me. Anyhow, I don’t want to dirty up the newness just yet.”

“I understand not wanting to use anything just yet. So, may I have the honor of taking you to dinner tomorrow at Ja’Nell’s? I hope you haven’t been there before.” He brushed thick curls of hair from in front of her eyes with his index finger.

“I actually haven’t been in years.” The intimate gesture took her by surprise, as did his choice of where to go for dinner. She didn’t expect him to take her to a fancy restaurant own by a prominent local black family. Or was he taking her there in hopes of impressing her and getting laid?

At this point, she didn’t know what to think about Jason. She judged him unfairly based on her anger that night. If anyone should know better than to judge someone unfairly, she should. She never once judged Stoney; the man she should have kicked to the curb moments after meeting him.

“Is that a yes? I don’t want to read your mind and get my feelings hurt when you say no.”

“Ja’Nell’s is a very nice restaurant and patronized by predominately black people. Why did you choose that restaurant if I may ask?”

Jason shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I like the food and atmosphere they provide. I take a lot of my clients there to eat there—black and white. Is that a problem for you?”

“If you had answered differently, maybe. I’m going to be upfront with you. I have never dated outside of my race. I don’t have a problem with interracial dating but don’t try hard to show me you aren't prejudiced; I can make that judgment for myself.”

“Thank you for pointing that out to me. In the future, I’ll take my clients to restaurants that only white people use.”

She sighed. “See, this is why we can’t be friends. We twist each other’s words and end up arguing. Maybe you should ask Celeste out; she’s less argumentative and subject to give you what you’re after anyhow.”

He frowned. “Exactly what am I after?”

Not wanting to say it outright she shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re after, but I’m not the woman you want, Jason. I have too much baggage.”

“We all have baggage, Peyton. It’s how we carry it that defines us.”

“If I had to define how I carry mine; I’d be dragging it.” Turning her back to him, she ending their conversation by saying. “You need to keep looking.”

Copyright 2016 BooksbyToye 
(Unedited text)

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