Excerpt for Breathless: In Love With an Alpha Billionaire by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Breathless: In Love with an Alpha Billionaire

Part 1

by Shani Greene-Dowdell

© Shani Greene-Dowdell 2015. All Rights Reserved

Smashwords Edition



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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.






















CHAPTER ONE


DESTINY


What in the Hell?




What is it about Jacob Turner? I wondered, as I sat naked in the center of his circular, king-sized bed in his presidential suite at the Marriott Marquis. I'd left my office to go get a cup of coffee around noon. Coffee. Then, explain to me why hours later a stranger had literally charmed my panties off. If anyone told me I would bump into the heir of Turner Enterprises and be in the billionaire's bed by nightfall, I would have cursed them out for suggesting something like that about a respectable woman such as myself.

Turner Enterprises was the nation's number one commercial construction conglomerate passed down for generations through the Turner family. It had offices all over the United States. Turner Enterprises constructed every substantial piece of business property in the U.S.

I could see how Jacob was such a persuasive man in business and in life. His family groomed him since he was old enough to walk to take the helm of the business. He was powerful and damned sure influential. He had manipulated me into forgetting all my values and coming back to his suite after only a few hours of mentally stimulating conversation.

When I looked around the lavish room with gold trimmings, high back chairs and other regal furnishings, I suddenly felt out of place.

"Jacob, I don't think I should be here," I said, while scooting to the edge of the bed. I scanned the room searching for my clothes.

Jacob pulled me back flush to him, hard. My cool skin collided with his burning hot flesh instantly warming me to my core.

"Stay," he breathed onto my neck. "We don't have to do anything you don't want to do, but please stay the night with me. I could use the company."

I looked into his hazel green eyes of privilege. He was used to getting what he wanted, and he wanted me…to stay with him. Jacob could have any woman he desired. Why me?

Questions floated through my mind but dared to leave my lips. I crossed my arms over my bare chest to cover my breasts.

"Okay, I’ll stay a little while longer, but only under one condition.”

“Anything.”

“I need to put on my clothes.”

It was my ex-husband, Montie's, weekend to have visitation with our children, so I really had nowhere to go. I just didn’t want to sit naked with a man I hardly knew.

Jacob slid over to the edge of the bed so that he was sitting closer to me. Turning my face to his, he placed a soft, lingering kiss on my lips. His breath absorbing into mine and becoming a part of me made me forget that I wanted to put on my clothes. Instead, I had the urge to straddle his lap and swallow him completely inside my being.

While running my rogue fingers over his smooth, tanned back, I struggled to maintain control of my actions. A deep sigh escaped my lips as I pulled away from him and looked away, breaking our intense stare. I was uncomfortable with how fast we were moving, and he sensed it.

Jacob stood up, went to the closet, and returned with a robe. "Put this on."

His protruding erection spoke his salacious desires loud and clear. But he respected my wishes enough not to press the issue, at least not at the moment. He sat on the sofa on the other side of the room and turned on the television.

“What do you like to watch on TV?” he asked, while scrolling through the many channels available.

“I don’t really watch much TV,” I admitted, my eyes never leaving his ruggedly handsome face, covered with a curly dark brown beard.

"What is it about you, Destiny?" he asked as he watched me watch him.

"What do you mean, what is it about me?"

He bit down on his bottom lip. "I mean, what is it about you that has me so thrown off. I've never had a woman in my hotel room, unless it was for… you know. But with you, I'm satisfied with just watching you sit there."

"You will have to tell me what it is. You're the one who invited me to your room, Jacob."

"I invited you here, because I know what I want when I see it. And, I didn’t want our conversation to end at the coffee shop. I wanted to see more of you…needed to see more of you." His eyes raked over my body showing a strong need that I wasn’t sure he would be able to contain much longer.

I needed to get the hell out of there before I did something I would regret. Let’s face it; I didn’t have what it took to screw a stranger. How I made it this far into this encounter was mind boggling to me. I stood up, put on the robe, and stood beside the bed.

"Well, you’ve seen all of me. Are you happy?" I joked, as I tightened the robe around my waist.

"I’m the happiest man alive.”

“Yeah, right,” I mumbled. He really thought he was fooling me with the whole ‘act like she’s the shit’ game he was playing. “I’m sure you say that to all your ladies,” I added.

“Come sit beside me," he said, patting the spot beside him. It wasn’t a request, but an order.

“No, I’m fine right here, thanks.” I finally found my voice and started to use it for the first time since I got to this damn hotel. He was fine and all, but if I wanted any chance at not coming off as another thirsty female, giving it up within twenty-four hours of meeting him wasn’t the way to go.

“Don’t make me get up and bring you over here.”

“You’re making me uncomfortable talking to me like that,” I said.

“Destiny, I just want to talk to you. It’s completely innocent.” He threw his hands in the air and the most harmless expression covered his face.

“Uh, huh…” I said and walked slowly over to where he sat. He pulled me down onto the couch and pulled the string to the robe to release my bare flesh for his eyes to partake of, again. “Completely innocent, Jacob, this is not…”

My words drifted away as he ran his fingers over my neck, admiring it as if it were a perfect sculpture. He then ran his fingers through my hair and pulled my face to his. Looking into my eyes, he crushed his lips against mine.

Erotic moans escaped my throat alerting Jacob to my satisfaction. Too much time had passed since I’d been touched this way. The war of sexual frustration within was being won by the flesh that wanted what it wanted from the first moment I saw him at the café.

I gave in to the sexual tension that grew between us. My arms flew around his neck as our tongues danced. Tension mounted to epic proportions. Both of our desolate hearts awaited a long, overdue release.

I hadn’t had sex in months, and the way he owned my lips said he hadn't felt real passion in just as long. I wanted Jacob in a bad way, and that insatiable craving of this man unnerved me. Being helpless to the overwhelming sensitivity emerging between my thighs pissed me off and drove me crazy, at the same time. My hands ran freely over his body, leaving no place that I could reach untouched. Once I reached his bulging erection, he pulled my hands together and placed them on my legs. He moved my hands to my own lap.

"Touch your sweet pussy."

Caressing each slowly, I moved my hands over each of my breasts. My right hand cascaded over my stomach, then to my thighs. Then, I propped one leg up on the sofa and inched my hand down to stroke my hottest spot, but he stopped me.

“Stop right there,” he growled out and replaced my hand with his much larger one. Two of his thick fingers eased inside of me, going deep enough to bring my full attention back to his intense stare.

The greediest eyes I'd ever seen searched my soul, even as a part of me struggled to come to grips with what in the hell I was doing. What kind of mind control did this eccentric, hairy, green-eyed Caucasian man had over me?

I fell back on the sofa and began to wriggle my booty, thrusting my pelvis toward his ravishing fingers. When he intensified his strokes, I screamed out, "Jacob… oh… that feels good!"

"I want it to feel better than good," he said as he removed his fingers, dropped down onto the carpeted floor, and slid my ass to the edge of the sofa. His face disappeared between my thighs, and he tongue kissed my lower lips, pressing his tongue hard against my clit and moving it back and forth in measured strokes.

Jacob held my legs firmly in place, so I could not move, as a violent orgasm poured into his mouth. I jerked uncontrollably, experiencing some type of outer-body state that had never happened to me.

"You are sweet, Destiny. Give me all of that sweet cum." He moaned his pleasure as he lapped up my nectar, not leaving one drop behind.

He sprang to his feet and removed his boxers, as the last ripples of orgasm went through my body. He was bigger than Montie, which made me think hard about whether I wanted him to thrust his unyielding sword inside of my damn near virginal sex.

Before I could say anything to the affirmative or negative, Jacob pulled me into his embrace and seized my lips. "I want to fuck this sweet pussy so bad," he said, rubbing his finger against my clit.

"I want you, too," I said, taking in his magnificent physique. Strong jawline, broad shoulders, toned abs and thighs. He looked kingly as he stood up and walked to his drawer to get a condom out of his wallet.

As I watched this perfectly sculptured, almond milk colored man walk away, I looked at my darker thighs that had lines of cellulite from when I was heavier, dimples and other imperfections. I sat up on the sofa and pulled the robe tight around my body.

"What are you doing?" he asked as he walked back to me.

"It’s cold in here. I just need to stay covered up," I lied while avoiding his gaze.

As he applied his condom, he continued to study me.

"Cold?" he said as he walked over to the temperature gauge and turned on the heat. He came back to me, took me by the hand and walked me to the bed. Standing in front of the bed, he kissed me so sweetly that I moaned recklessly into his throat.

This. Us. He was confusing to me. I could’ve easily gotten it twisted and thought he actually gave a damn about me, if he kissed me like that one more time. I couldn’t resist my blazing attraction to him, and that was dangerous.

I didn’t even notice him removing my robe again, until he threw it across the room, as if he never wanted to see it again.

"I want to look at you while I make love to you," he said as he laid me down on the bed.

I scooted to the center of the massive bed and opened my legs wide enough to accept him. He crawled on top of me and pushed my legs back further with his arms.

"Oh!" I screamed when he entered me with precision, ripping my canal open without warning.

"Shit, you're tight," he said, as my body gave way to the pressure of his size. Within seconds, he possessed me with every slow and deliberate stroke. I quivered with every thrust, with what seemed to be a constant orgasm.

"What the hell are you doing to me?” I managed to ask between the jerking and quivering that once again, had, taken over my body.

He sucked a pebbled nipple into his mouth.

I trembled and released the hardest orgasm known to women. My release covered his condom clad dick and spilled over onto the bed. He bucked relentlessly inside of me, as my vaginal muscles contracted and released him uncontrollably.

"Oh, shit you’re taking this cum from me. I'm coming right with you, baby! Ugh!" he said and collapsed down on top of me, holding me in place, as he jerked out his release.

“Oh, Jacob,” I moaned my pleasures as I watched this amazing creature’s body move in awe.

"Stay with me tonight, Destiny.”










CHAPTER TWO


DESTINY


Breathless



Earlier that day, before I “fell in bed with Jacob,” I walked out of Tazi's Cafe in downtown Atlanta, with a piping hot cup of coffee in my hand. Jacob approached the store walking with a measured stride. My surprised brown eyes zoned in on his soft, hazel green gaze. But that wasn’t all that had my attention. It was the gush of fresh air flowing alongside him, captivating me.

"Here, let me get that for you," he said, handing me my briefcase that had, unbeknownst to me, fallen from my hand. His gesture of kindness snapped me out of the stupor I had fallen in to.

Perfect.

I looked like a bumbling idiot in front of a guy who had surely just stepped out of a sexy male catalogue.

"Thank you. I can be so clumsy at times," I told him, scrambling to retrieve my belongings from his outstretched hand.

A handsome smile spread across his broad face, as my hand touched his. “It’s not a problem. It’s always my pleasure to help a pretty lady.”

I smiled. "I’m on my lunch break and was rushing to get back. I’m so sorry," I added, embarrassed.

"No need to apologize. The pleasure truly is all mine," he said as his tongue slid noticeably across his lips. His gaze was piercing as he ran his eyes over my body, inch by inch. Tazi’s was a small joint with a house full of regulars, so to see an unfamiliar face, his unfamiliar face, was refreshing.

"I haven’t seen you here before. Do you work downtown?” I asked.

"I'm from Atlanta, but I live in Florida. I’m only in town for a few days visiting my grandmother at her retirement home. And, she told me that I had to check out Tazi before I left Atlanta, so…" He humped his shoulders. "Here I am. What do you suggest off the menu?” He ran a hand through his silky, dark brown hair, as his eyes fixated on me, awaiting a response.

Suggest? What if I suggested the sexy creature have me for lunch? I could’ve lain across the counter and let him feast upon me until he was full. My thoughts ran rampant with lust, until I remembered my mantra. Yeah, I was saved and single. Ever since I divorced Montie Brown, I walked the straight and narrow line of avoiding relationships that would lead nowhere but to the bedroom. So far, I did an impeccable job of avoiding fake love.

I took a deep breath of his fresh air, because yes, all of the air surrounding me belonged to the man standing before me. I silently meditated for strength to breathe on my own.

"So what do you recommend?" he asked again, to which a throaty voice I didn’t recognize belted from my lips.

"Oh, I guess, the three-layer chocolate mousse cake is a winner," I replied with a firm clearing of my throat to rid myself of the imposter in my vocals.

“I’ll definitely try the chocolate,” he said with a wink.

An awkward moment passed between us, and I felt the need to fill the dead space. "Are you originally from Atlanta?" I asked.

"Nah, my family has roots here, but I was born and raised in Miami."

"Oh, well enjoy your first visit at Tazi's. You're going to love it." I took one last look at the sexy man and stepped around him.

“I didn’t get your name,” he yelled out as I reached for my car door handle.

“Destiny.”

“I’m Jacob.”

“Nice to meet you, Jacob.”

"So, have you tried the three-layer chocolate mousse cake before?" he asked, as he strolled over to me.

I pulled my treat out of the small box inside my briefcase and said, "Yes, this is a smaller ‘to go’ version of the cake. I order mine this way, because I can't afford the calories of an entire slice."

His eyes lit up, and I became self-conscious under his glare. I was about to open the door and jump in my car, when he said, "Every calorie looks good on you.”

“Thanks.”

“Would it be too much for me to ask you to share a chocolate mousse cake with me?”

I looked around at all of the skyscrapers downtown. Somewhere in the distance, my empty home office was waiting for me to get back to a pile of work.

“I wish I could, but I really have to get back to work.”

“You look like you could use a break, and I could use the company."

I studied his chiseled, tan face and considered his offer. Something hid behind every word he spoke; something intriguing enough to make me drop my keys back inside my purse and say what the heck. It was a public place. It was just dessert. Just conversation.

"Sure. I’ll have dessert with you."

I entered Tazi's with Jacob and soon found out the reason he had me at hello. Our personalities meshed like yin to yin and yang to yang; we had so much in common. We just clicked as we laughed, talked, and ate dessert before ever sharing a meal together.

Before the end of the night, I was entangled in his covers listening to Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks sing their duet, "No Air," on Pandora. I shook my head at the thought of being unable to breathe without a man. It was laughable. Something as essential as air was nonnegotiable for me, until Jacob Turner took my breath away.

After our night together, I had soul searching to do. I had vowed to spend time enjoying the single life with the return of my maiden name, Destiny Baker. I planned to take some much needed time off from the thing so many people called love.

And I was good without love. I had a fulfilling job, beautiful home, dependable car and two charming kids. I was newly divorced, and my ex-husband was an awesome co-parent. With all things considered, I had it all.

But as each day and night passed by, since the day I met Jacob, it was so hard for me to breathe when I wasn’t with him.










CHAPTER THREE


JACOB


Standing in the Gap



"That will be all, Henry. I'm going to stay here tonight," I said to my driver as he pulled up in front of Justine's condo. It had been a month since I invited Destiny back to my hotel and made the sweetest love of my life. I missed her. I yearned to see her again, but, as a man in charge of a massive enterprise, many working nights and days flew by at the speed of light.

"Okay sir. I will see you in the morning, unless you call before then," Henry said with a tilt of his hat.

I exited the Bentley and Henry drove off. I walked up to my dear friend’s doorstep. Justine called me earlier sounding like she had been in a train wreck. I was in the middle of a meeting and couldn’t talk, but, when she said she felt like she wanted to commit suicide, I immediately dropped everything and came to her house.

I could’ve called her parents or an ambulance, but I knew she would freak out if I didn’t show up in person. Therefore, I cut my meeting short and rushed over to check on her.

I was no fool, though. She probably just wanted me to spend the night. She wanted me to make love to her. She wanted our relationship to be the way it was before I broke things off, when I realized that I loved her, but only as a friend.

In the last month, I attended hundreds of meetings about offices opening in Wyoming and Delaware, which were the only two states Turner Enterprises didn’t have a local office. It had been busy time for me with lots of activities going on at Turner, so I didn’t have time to talk to Justine. That was probably why she was in meltdown mode.

I preferred to finish my business for the day, but I had to be sure Justine was safe before I dismissed her suicide claim as just another one of her tricks to spend time with me. I didn’t know what to expect when she opened the door.

"How are you, Justine?" I asked as I stepped upon the doorstep.

"Better, now that you are here," she said, showing a glimpse of her flawless smile. "Come in."

She turned and walked away. I followed her into the living room that the best fashion designer in Miami crafted for the two of us, when we were a couple. A blend of white and beige colors matched Justine's regal personality. A splash of red and orange in a floral portrait over the fireplace fit her sometimes eccentric behavior perfectly.

"Justine, you called me like you had an emergency. What's going on?" I asked.

She sat down on the sofa and stared off into space.

"Talk to me, Justine!"

"Do you want something to drink?" she gestured toward two wine glasses and a bottle of Henri Jayer sitting on chill in the middle of the coffee table.

My mouth watered for my favorite wine, but I shook my head. "No, thanks. I don’t want anything to drink."

She lit a candle in the middle of the coffee table.

"Will you tell me what the matter with you is? You were in tears and saying you wanted to kill yourself when you called me, and that's why I’m here," I got straight to the point.

"You left me alone, Jacob. I can’t survive like this," she cried, tears welling up in her sky-blue eyes. "How could you just up and leave after all we shared? If nothing else, we were friends...and you…you," she wept as her words caught in her throat.

I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed.

I sat down beside her on the sofa.

"I didn't just up and leave you, Justine. We started out as friends and we will always be friends."

She sprang from her seat and wagged her finger in my face. "I don’t want to be just your friend! How can we just be friends, after what we shared? I gave you all of me and you left me alone!"

I stood up and looked at her anguished face. I loved her dearly and respected our friendship, but I didn’t have time to spare on this type of stress. If she had been anyone else, I would have had Henry double back so fast that her head would be spinning.

Justine meant something to me, though. She had been my best friend since kindergarten. She defended me when other kids picked on me, and she added acceptance to my life before I understood dividends and assets.

"Justine, stop crying." I hugged her close. "I’ll always be here for you. I love you, girl."

A sparkle of hope gleamed in her eyes. "If you love me, why are you treating me like this?”

She tilted her neck, and I knew she wanted a kiss. I gave it to her—a more than friendly kiss on her lips, then pulled away and kissed her forehead. I thought of the best way to tell her I was falling for another woman.

"I don't want to see you hurt like this. It's just that…"

"What, Jacob?" she asked as her light eyes darkened.

"You know what, it’s not important. Go get yourself all dressed up and we’re going to go do something fun. Like back in our college days," I said, unable to bring myself to crush her when she was already so fragile.

"Like old times?" she asked, as she grinded her thin body against mine.

"Justine, go get dressed." I sighed. I hated the feeling that I was giving her false hope. I had to find a way to let her know it was over romantically, and to get my friend back.

"It won't take me that long to get dressed." She shrank away from me and pranced toward her bedroom. “Thanks for spending time with me, Jacob,” she turned around and said humbly.

“No problem, Justine. Now, go get dressed.”

Giggling, she ran off to her room, leaving me to figure out how we got to this place.

We spent twelve years at St. Mary's Catholic School. We attended sleepovers, family dinners, and parties through elementary and high school. I consoled her, after a creep that was supposed to be her soul mate left her at the altar. I stood in the gap that her fiancé, Rick, left wide open. One thing led to another after I gave her a ride home from the chapel that day. By nightfall, Justine and I melded into one, releasing deep tensions our past lovers left behind.

Soon things were hot and heavy between us. Our parents were happy, and even though our romantic relationship had been a rebound affair, she was safe for me. She had been by my side since kindergarten. She wasn’t just another chick trying to get the Turner name, and that was good enough for me, until Destiny walked into my life, stole my attention, and demanded my affection.

Destiny’s beautiful smile lit a fire inside of me. Her sensual moans awakened every part of me. I had been a one woman's man, but something about Destiny made me want more than a safety net. She made me want to walk on the dark side of love, where only my heart guided me. I didn't want a best friend; I wanted burning passion. It would crush me if Justine ended her life because I followed my heart. I didn’t want to let a part of me die on the inside, either.

I stared at Justine’s closed bedroom door and thought about how I would tell her that it was over for us. I planned to take her to hang out and then come back and sleep on her sofa. It would be a night out amongst friends, something she would have to get used to. Then, I would tell her everything in the morning.

My vibrating cell brought me out of my thoughts.

My heart leapt in my chest as I answered.








CHAPTER FOUR



DESTINY


Crave


I walked with a high stride, when I stepped off flight 1087 in Miami, Florida. I claimed my bags from baggage claim, retrieved my rental car from Avis, and was on the highway headed to my hotel within thirty minutes. Just knowing I was in the same city as Jacob made me all giddy. I dialed his number.

"Hello," he answered on the third ring.

"Hey babe. Are you busy?"

"Not too busy for you. What's up?" he asked.

"I bet you can’t guess where I am. I just bet you can’t," I beamed, as the big ole country grin on my face caused a driver passing by to smile, as well.

"In Miami?" he asked with not quite as much enthusiasm as I would have expected. Given our heated phone call the night before, I thought he would be turning corners already, since we had a chance to see each other in the flesh.

"Yeah…" I answered slowly, gauging his response, "I'm meeting a Miami client tomorrow, so I thought I would surprise you."

"You thought you would surprise me?" he said as more of a question.

“Yeah, but if you’re busy this weekend, I definitely understand.”

"You are just full of surprises, aren’t you, Ms. Destiny?"

“I try to keep things popping," I said with a laugh.

"You definitely do that. Who do you have a meeting with?" he asked.

"Susie Alexander from Museum of Contemporary Art? I’m hoping to start doing some marketing for them."

"Oh, yeah. Susie is a good person. Do you want me to call and put in a word?"

"No thanks, sweetheart. You’ve done enough by introducing us. I can handle her on my own from here," I said, thankful for his willingness to help. "But… I do want you to come and put in a good night's work with me," I teased, smiling from ear to ear.

"Destiny…" he began to speak, but I was so excited I continued to talk.

"You can meet me at the Embassy Suites at the Airport. It's not a presidential suite or anything like that, but I really want to see you."

There was a long pause on the line, as if he was thinking about whether he wanted to spend the night with me.

"That’s okay, if tonight is not a good time for you."

"Yeah, it's bad timing. I have a lot going on," he finally admitted in a dry tone.

“I need to get rested up tonight, anyway,” I said, and it took everything in me to not sound disappointed.

"How about I take you to lunch after you meet with Susie tomorrow?"

"Lunch will be fine," I said as the wind deflated from my chest. A long, drawn out pause loomed over the line.

"Sorry Destiny."

An apology wasn’t enough to ease the unexplainable feeling of rejection that came over me. He had nicked my ego, but I would be fine. I steered into the hotel's parking lot and found a parking space. "No, it's okay, Jacob. Tomorrow is fine. I'll see you then."

After late night texting, X-rated phone calls, and fantasizing about what we would do if we were in each other’s arms again, we were only a few miles away and he had something more important to do. I tried to understand that he was the brains and brawn for his family's beloved company. But, he had hundreds of employees at his disposal. He should be able to get any of his qualified workers to free him up for one night. I couldn’t think of one logical reason why he couldn’t make time for me.

"I'll be there as soon as you get out of your meeting tomorrow, Destiny," he promised.

"Sure, you will."

"Destiny?"

"Yes," I said, ready to hang up the phone, take a hot shower, and sink into the comfort of my hotel bed. At least, the bed would be there to hold me tight, all night.

"I'll make this up to you," he said with his voice low, as if he were whispering his words directly to my heart. "I hope you understand."

"I understand," I told him, and part of me did understand. He couldn’t stop his life just because I popped into town – never mind that I arranged a business meeting almost eight hundred miles away from home two weeks before Christmas, just to see him. I was used to men putting work ahead of me. My ex-husband Montie did it for years.

Me being in Miami was obviously nothing extraordinary. Jacob was a powerful executive, with many willing women at his disposal. Hell, we'd had sex on our first night.

After taking a deep gulp to swallow the growing lump in my throat, I disconnected the call, threw my cell phone into my purse, and attempted to remove the huge dagger that hung from my chest.






CHAPTER FIVE



DESTINY


I'm in Love


Instead of sitting around sulking, I called my cousin, Tasha, who lived on the upper east side of Miami. She had been asking me to come to Miami so we could hang out. Maybe she could show me a little bit of the city where the magic happens, since my plans to be with Jacob were a bust.

"Hey Tasha," I feigned excitement when she answered on the first ring. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy to talk to her; I was just let down by Jacob.

"Hey girlie!" Tasha beamed through the phone. I could hear the love and surprise in her voice, at once. "To what do I owe the pleasure of speaking to my favorite cousin this evening?"

"Well, earlier when I was breezing through the streets of Miami, headed toward the Embassy Suites, I thought I'd give my bestie cousin a call and see what we could get into."

"You've got to be kidding me right now! Who, what, when, where, and how did you end up in Miami?"

I laughed at her silly butt. "You’re still a mess. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming to town, but I’m most definitely here. I have a meeting tomorrow, but I'm free to have a good time tonight."

If things had gone my way, I had no intentions of coming up for air the entire weekend, much less hanging out with Tasha. Yet as I talked to her, I couldn’t imagine coming to her city and not hanging out with my cousin.

"So…you came all the way to Florida, and conveniently forgot to tell me you were coming?  What’s really going on?" she asked with a playful attitude.

"I have some business to handle with MOCA, and that’s why I’m here. In the meantime, we can get together and have a few drinks.”

“Did you say drinks? I can definitely use a drink, after the week I’ve had,” she said.

“Can you meet me at the Embassy Suites by the airport at six?"

"Embassy Suites at six. Yes, ma’am. You already know I'm there. They have that free happy hour, too... I am so there. Where are my shoes?" I heard her snap her fingers for emphasis.

I imagined Tasha frantically searching for her shoes and shook my head. My kinfolks were something else.

"Ha. See you then, girl. Love you," I said.

"Love you too, sis," she replied before disconnecting the call.

I entered the hotel and checked into my room. The first thing I did was go to the bathroom, freshen up, and put on something comfortable.

As soon as Tasha arrived at six, we headed down to the bar area. I was so happy to see her, but I had to force a smile when I thought about the fact that it should have been Jacob with me. Once Tasha and I had our first round of drinks in hand, we found a table to sit and relax for a while. It was then that she gave me a suspicious once-over.

"So, are you going to tell me about this guy, or what?" She shot me a “and don’t lie” look.

"What are you talking about?" I almost choked on my drink.

"I’m talking about this guy that has my cousin a thousand miles from home on a Friday night, acting uptight and, if I could call it, a bit sad at the moment."

"What do you mean, Tasha?"

"Look, I know that you love me. I also know you didn’t travel into town a day early for a Saturday meeting, just to surprise me with free drinks at your hotel. You're a planner and you’re cheap. You would have called me to stay at my house, unless you had other plans."

"You think you know me, huh?"

"Like a book. You plan your business so that every minute is accounted. If you wanted to hang with me tonight, we would have had a game plan. You might as well go ahead and spill your guts. You sounded a bit pathetic when you called me, too." Tasha tilted her wine glass toward me and continued. "Go ahead and give it up. Give up the who, what, when, where, and how about this gentleman. If my gut feelings are correct, you may need a coochie intervention."

"A coochie intervention? You know what; I'm not even going to chase that one." I ran my fingers around the rim of my glass, while deciding what I wanted to share with Tasha. I could have lied and said there was no man involved, but what was the use? We grew up in the same house, like sisters. Tasha knew when my emotions were all over the place, even though I was trying to hold it together.

I remembered when I was a little girl and I took my first five-finger discount. It was a bag of chips from Red and White’s grocery store. She looked at me with crumbs all over my face and said, "You didn’t have no money for that."

I finished off the chips and threw the bag in the trash.

"Yes, I did! Grandma gave it to me," I answered, before swiping my tiny hand across my lips to wipe away the crumbs.

"‘Who, what, when, where, and how did Grandma give you money and not give me any? I'm gonna go ask her. And you better not be stealing." Tasha stomped back to Grandma's house, just as aware then, as she was sitting across from me at the bar, of what was going on with me. Whenever I was messing up, she would say who, what, when, where and how. I hated that her second-grade teacher taught her the five "Ws."

"Well…" I looked around the serene dining area. I had to give her answers, but how could I admit my situation? My heart swelled, and a tear threatened to roll down my cheek. "I think I'm in love."






CHAPTER SIX


DESTINY


Opposing Magnets




After telling Tasha how Jacob made me feel alive, I told her about his family business, the fact that he was a very affluent white man, how we met and continued to communicate for the past month. In Tasha, I had an outlet. She didn’t judge me. Eventually, she would give me her honest thoughts and keep it real, but she simply listened.

“Is he at least fine?" she asked, and my eyes glazed over thinking about how sexy Jacob was.

I felt remnants of his touch all over my body as I remembered every inch of him. I was never the type to fall so hard, so fast. It was unusual for me to be in love with a man I had only known a month.

"Yes Lawd, he is so fine. He makes this sister speak in tongues."

Tasha shook her head. She knew I was gone. "Girl, I think you're going to need more than that coochie intervention. We may have to do an exorcism to get Jacob out of your system."

"Whatever." I waved at her. “It’s not like that.”

"Destiny, you should have told me about him as soon as you met him. I could have been checking him out to make sure he's on the up and up. Now, you’re all in your feelings and it may be too late."

"I didn’t want to start a new relationship playing games. I want to be able to trust my man."

"That's all fine and well, but the truth shall set you free from all binds. Just like tonight, you have no clue as to what he is doing or who he is doing it with, while you are sitting here with your cousin that you’ve been neglecting for years."

"You're right," I admitted. “On both issues.”

"I know you’ll always love me,” Tasha gushed. “I just don’t want you to get caught up with this rich guy," she added in a serious tone.

"I don't want to get caught up either. I have so much going for myself right now. Being drawn back into a relationship where I’m doing the most is the last thing I need. And, being head over heels for a man that puts work, and whatever else, before me and my kids is like going back to Montie."

"Yes, and you know how that story ends. You need to stay grounded. The last time we talked, you said you rededicated yourself to church. Use your faith to keep you on the right track."

"Yeah." I sat frozen.

I wished I could say my infatuation with Jacob hadn’t altered my newfound spiritual walk. I wanted to say my faith kept me pure. Aside from the one sin of reliving my fantasy of falling into Jacob’s bed at the drop of a hat, I had been walking the straight and narrow.

I wanted to say many things that I couldn’t, because they simply were not true. I spent the past four Sunday mornings lying in bed, seduced by Jacob’s voice. He'd offered to fly me to Florida on his private jet, but I managed to keep the distance between us, afraid of falling deeper in love with him.

Tasha tapped her fingers on the table. With a half-smile, she said, "Okay Destiny, you need to get all of this off your mind for a while. Let’s go dancing. Then tomorrow, when we’re not sipping on the devil’s water, we’ll have a heart to heart about if Jacob is healthy for you."

"That sounds good, except I'll pass on dancing." I shook my head. I loved to dance around in private, but I could not dance a lick.

“Come on, Destiny. Let your hair down and let’s have some fun.”

"What are you trying to prove by getting me on the dance floor, anyway? Don’t you think my pride has been damaged enough for one day?" I laughed and she joined in with my laughter.

The hotel's deejay, who had been playing what sounded like elevator music all night, put on Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”, and Tasha began gyrating in her chair, grooving to the beat.

"Oh, honey, it’s true you have no rhythm, but that’s not what dancing is about. It’s about your body becoming a piece of fluid artwork and losing yourself in the music. It doesn’t matter how you look doing it, as long as you feel good doing it."

"I don't know about that," I said and took another swig of my drink.

"I promise, if you go out with me, you will feel better in the morning." Tasha flipped her long, straight hair over her slim shoulders. “You can even praise dance, if that will make you feel better about it.”

I giggled and tossed back the rest of my drink. "You are too much, Tasha. That would be blasphemy."

"Yeah, but honey, if we can't have fun in this life, what's the use in living it?" she asked.

Looking at her gyrate and groove in her chair made me remember why I loved Tasha so much. She was the most carefree person one could ever meet. She had a way of making people feel like their problems could be talked, drank, danced, or bible-quoted away.

"You do know you are committable to a mental hospital, right?" I told her with a wave of my hand.

As my hand waved in the air, I examined my empty ring finger with mixed emotions. I was no longer Montie's wife. The budding relationship I thought Jacob and I had now was questionable, at best. I felt single and alone.

"Shoot, after a good dance partner puts his moves on you, you may be committable to a mental hospital, too. It may help you forget all about what’s his name?"

"Jacob," I said, imagining the way his handsome face contorted as he eased inside of me the first time. Forever imprinted in my mind was the image of the pleasure in his hazel green eyes. I couldn't shake him if I wanted to. The thought of him had me buzzed in all the right places. "It is Jacob, and honey the way that man flows through my veins, I doubt I will forget him anytime soon."

"Just hopeless," she said, grabbing her purse. "Come on, let’s go."

"Okay," I relented. I dropped a tip on the table and we walked to the car. When we got to the car, Tasha stopped by the driver's door without unlocking it.

"What is it?" I wondered what made her stop and stare at me.

"I hope you are keeping in mind that Jacob could be some privileged man that's only looking for a little exotic fling. Those types of men have a different girl every day of the week. They get their fantasies fulfilled by us, and then go and marry a white girl."

"I've thought about that. I don't think Jacob is like that."

"I'm just putting it out there for you to think about." She popped the lock to the car and got in.

I didn’t appreciate her insinuating I was some exotic fling for Jacob, but what if she was right? I flung the passenger door open and plopped down on the seat. I didn’t speak a word as we took the drive to Lapidus Lounge. I didn’t know if Tasha took the scenic route, so I could think, or so we could clear our minds and sober up, but it was definitely a long ride.

"We're here," Tasha said, as she pulled up to the lounge. She touched up her makeup in the mirror.

I took out my makeup bag and freshened up my face, as well. I was a little uncomfortable with the scenery once we walked in. The mixed crowd was thick and kind of bourgeois; a little different from the parties I was used to, where down to earth people greeted you with a smile.

Ritzy acting chicks looked me up and down, as if I didn’t belong in their atmosphere. Preoccupied men looked right through me as they laughed and talked amongst themselves. I’d just as soon be in my suite going over paperwork for my meeting the next day than standing around with this bunch of assholes.

Tasha, on the other hand, didn’t seem fazed by the reckless eyeballing by the women. The first tall, dark and handsome guy to come along and offer her a drink had swept her away. I watched as she did everything from the salsa to Mediterranean dances, for the next thirty minutes. I was just about to go get her to tell her I was ready to go, when I felt a familiar breeze blow right past me. I turned in the direction of the draft and sure enough found the source.

Jacob.

My mouth flew open with surprise.

I didn’t know whether to be excited or pissed the hell off that he was in the lounge, and not busy working on some highly important project.

Gravity pulled me toward him. Gliding in his direction, I paid close attention to the company he kept. I didn’t want to barge in on his group and have them think I was some mad, black woman, but who could work against gravity?

I definitely couldn’t.

I continued toward him with a feeling of mixed emotions. On one hand, I couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around him and kiss his greedy lips. On the other, I wanted to tell him a piece of my mind. How could he think hanging out at a club was better than hiding out in my hotel room for the weekend?

My eyes popped open when an impeccably gorgeous woman, with flowing blond hair, slid forward and sat on his lap. She didn’t just sit on his lap; she straddled him and draped her thin arms around his neck. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought the woman, who looked like she just stepped out a model catalog, owned him. He held the mini-skirt clad, long-legged beauty in a loving embrace, as she clung to him. Their admiration for each other equally matched. Her milky skin glistened under the dim chandelier hanging over their table. Her long hair flung to one side as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his lips.

He didn’t notice I was there, as the woman drank, uninhibited, from his lips. I stood in shock as the reason he wasn’t with me was blatantly obvious. I suddenly felt naked standing there in a plain black dress and heels with a natural coat of makeup.

Jacob and I became opposing magnets, as then I felt pushed in the opposite direction. I carefully shrank away, remaining unseen. I rushed to find Tasha. When I found her, I opened my mouth but sound failed me. Words failed me. I could not speak. I just held my mouth open gasping.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" she asked, concern etched on her face. "You look like you’ve seen a ghost."

I struggled to breathe. I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the door, her feet dragging behind her. When we reached outside, I coughed the crisp night's air into my lungs. She was right. I had indeed seen an evil ghost.

"Destiny, what’s going on?  You’re scaring the shit out of me," Tasha asked, placing her hand on my back. "Do I need to call an ambulance for you?"

"Ja…Jacob…I just need some air."

"Is he in there?” she asked, but I couldn’t reply. “Come on, Destiny. I’m going to take you back to your hotel." She directed me to her car, and we rode in silence.

I watched as the cars passed by, with no one in Miami caring that my love life was spiraling away. That woman clutched Jacob as if he was her next breath. And, I knew what was going on.

Tasha pulled into the parking lot, put the car in park, and rushed around to help me out of the car. I walked around in a daze. I truly felt lost. I casually directed her to my hotel room, barely acknowledging where we were going. She dug in my purse to remove the hotel key and let us in.

I sunk down in the chair the minute I touched the floor in my room. I could tell that she was scared to say a word.

"Destiny…" she began.

I eventually lifted my gaze to meet hers. “Yeah.”

"Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to go out, but what happened upset you?"

"Jacob…I saw him in the lounge." I closed my eyes as the words tumbled out into reality. "He was with another woman. She was all over him."

Tasha stared at me until she had to turn away from my miserable, teary face. "First of all, you’re going to put your chin up and realize that what you saw is for the best," she fussed. “And, I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear.”

"You don’t get it. I don’t know why I thought you would. No one will understand how I feel," I argued.

"You have known him, what…all of five minutes?" I rolled my eyes, but allowed her to continue. "He leads another life, and you were blessed enough to find out early. You should rejoice in that. If you thought you were the only person in his life, then you were naïve. And now you know the truth."

My mind wasn’t ready to accept that. I wondered if there was a logical excuse for him to be hanging out with a woman comfortably in his lap, kissing him. I cursed myself for even going there for him, when there was no excuse. I didn’t care if we had been together only five minutes, I didn’t deserve the lies.

"But, I have strong feelings for Jacob. I told you that."

She nodded. "Oh, I know you did have strong feelings for him, but now that you know the real him, things change. Isn’t it better to see this now?"

Tasha was right. I was relieved to know I hadn’t spent years wrapped up in his lies. But, I was far from feeling better. "I don’t want to be alone tonight," I confessed, getting up to go sit on the bed. I kicked off my shoes and lay on the bed on top of the covers. “Stay here tonight, Tasha.”

Tasha smiled. "I wasn’t going anywhere, anyway."

"Thanks bestie," was the last thing I said before remembering the look on Jacob and his lover's faces as they passionately embraced one another. The pain in my heart caused my lids to close and flutter until I slowly drifted off into a sorrowful slumber.






CHAPTER SEVEN


DESTINY


Against All Rationale




I woke up at eight in the morning. I opened my eyes to see Tasha sleeping across from me on the couch. I went into the bathroom to freshen up. I needed to make my ten o'clock appointment and there wasn’t much time left.

After stepping out of the shower and getting dressed, I walked into the room. Tasha was up stirring around.

"Good morning," I spoke, brushing out my hair. "Thank you for staying last night."

She smiled, shrugging, "Hush chile. It’s no biggie. Do you feel better?"

I hesitated for a moment, and then went back to brushing my hair. "I’m not completely over it, but in time I’ll be fine." I spoke the words, hoping I would soon believe them.

“You sure will be fine. Granny didn’t make us out of straw. She built some strong, brick house women and we will not let her down.”

“You’re right about that, Tasha.” She had our grandmother’s smile, and seeing it made me smile. I stepped into my stockings, and said, "I hate to jet off, but I have this meeting."

Jacob was still going to stop by and see me after the meeting. I didn’t know how I felt about that, but I would figure it out once I saw him.

Tasha stretched and popped her muscles in her arms and back, after scrunching on the sofa all night. She walked over to me and pulled me into a hug. "I have a few errands to run today, anyway. I’ll call you later," she said.

"Okay." I pulled from the hug and slid on my black pencil skirt. "Talk to you soon."

She left the hotel, and I finished dressing in a ruffled shirt, pulled my hair back into a long ponytail, and put on my glasses. I glanced in the mirror. Minus my weary eyes, I looked professional; I just hoped my best foot would move forward for the meeting.

I hurried out of my room and down the elevator, heading out to my car. Driving to MOCA, my heart beat fast as I thought about what I was going to say to seal the deal. I wasn’t usually nervous when it came to meeting potential clients, but this was a big deal. I had to make a good impression. A victory in business would counterbalance what was going on in my personal life.

"Arriving at address 125th Street on the right," the GPS voice said.

I saw the huge building and smiled. I parked and walked inside MOCA with confidence in my stride. Susie was at the door waiting for me, when I arrived on her floor.

"Ms. Baker, I’m glad to finally meet you.”

"I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me on a Saturday. You must be very busy, Ms. Alexander."

"No problem. I’ve heard good things about your firm. So tell me about all of this good press you plan to use to take MOCA to the next level," she stated, once we were past the pleasantries.

I took a seat in an oversized black leather chair that was in front of her oversized desk. She sat pensively in her boss’ chair with a Scarface-intense stare, expecting my response.

"By the time I’m finished recreating your image, you will not recognize your own company on paper, and that’s a good thing. I’m going to portray your art museum’s already great image as a source of art and literature on an international platform. People who have been here will want to come again just to see what they missed the last time. New visitors will flock to your museum whenever they travel to Florida."

"And how exactly do you propose to do…"

I cut her off expectantly. "First, I have studied your target audience to see what kinds of things they like to read, eat, and watch on TV, all the way down to the types of underwear they purchase."

"Oh…" she said, sounding impressed.

"I intimately know your customers so well that I can tell you who they are by name. Knowing who they are, what they like, and when they like it, I am able to pitch a message to them that says MOCA is the missing piece to your life’s puzzle. I will show them how consistently supporting MOCA’s functions will enhance their lives."

I opened up my laptop, turned on my sales presentation and went over all of the key products I would put into place for her company, including text messaging for museum lovers, calendar mailings, and trade shows. Once the final slide was up, Susie was ready to sign on the dotted line.


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