A Little Sneak Peek…(from Love on the Highlight Reel)

Jun
24
2016

LOTHRsampleUnedited. Subject to change. Coming soon…ish. Let’s say mid-summer.

I have officially lost my mind.

That was the only possible explanation for why I was sprawled naked across Jordan’s bed, not even twelve hours after I’d realized how stupid it was for me to spend so much time in his home.

A shiver rushed through my body as his fingers brushed over my skin, and I reflexively angled myself in his direction. His hand ran up my side, then buried in my hair to turn my face toward his. “You’re hungry aren’t you?”

I closed my eyes as his lips pressed to my forehead. “Yeah,” I nodded, then squealed as he moved his hand down to squeeze my ass, pulling me closer to him. “How did you know?”

“That calm ass climax you just gave me. You always get quiet on me when you’re hungry. I’ve got you though.”

He kissed me again – a little peck on the nose that made me want to wrap my arms around his neck and keep him close – then lumbered out of the bed. I just laid there, admiring the beauty of his sculpted, mahogany-toned body as he found his boxers and pulled them on.

“Sushi okay with you?” he asked, running a hand over his thick hair.  I nodded, and he grabbed his phone before heading into his kitchen to look for the menu that had come with our last order.

As soon as he was gone, I flopped onto my back again, hating myself for how good this moment felt to me. Amazing sex, the way he knew me and my body, the fact that he already knew what I would want to eat…

This was swinging into dangerous territory way too fast.

“Twenty minutes,” he said, stepping back into the room after he’d placed our order. “We’ll have to actually go in and eat one day.”

A weight settled onto my chest, and I sat up, tucking myself under the covers. “Yeah… about that.”

“What’s up?” Jordan looked up from his phone to meet my gaze, and I forced myself not to look away.

“Umm… that’s probably not such a good idea, is it? For us to be seen together like that? You know, people would probably start talking. Especially if anybody has seen us going back and forth to each other’s place like we have been. That’s probably another thing we need to kind of… chill on.”

Jordan’s eyes narrowed, and filled with an unease that made my throat ache. “So what are you saying, Cole?”

I actually flinched. Who knew being called by your preferred name could feel so impersonal?

“I… just that I don’t want to be put under the media microscope. We haven’t even defined anything yet, and I don’t want to have to deal with that kind of attention.”

“Right. So, what should we do?” he asked, in a flat, unaffected tone. “Should we not see each other?”

“No!” I said, raising my hands, hoping to pacify him. “It’s not that. I’m saying that maybe we should be more careful. Start meeting somewhere neutral, like a really private hotel or something.”

“So you want to hide?”

I sighed. “Don’t think of it like that. It’s more like. I want to figure this out before the media starts trying to do it for us. And can you imagine what’s going to happen if the team finds out? I’m not ready to have a conversation about this with my father! Can you understand that?”

“I don’t have a problem understanding that, but what I don’t want to happen is us doing this hotel shit as a way for you to keep your distance. That’s not a game I’m going to play with you.”

“It’s not about a game, I swear!”

Jordan stared at me for a long moment, then looked away as he let out a deep sigh.

“Come here.”

He watched me as I peeled the covers away, then eased out of his elevated king-sized bed. My bare toes sank into the plush carpet as I padded over to him, completely nude, but not at all uncomfortable. My shoulders dropped in relief when he wrapped his arms around my waist to pull me against him.

“Your ass is spoiled,” he mumbled into my neck, then kissed me there. He pulled back to look me in the eyes. “We’ll do it your way… for now.”

“Thank you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, chuckling as I nuzzled my face against his chest. “You wanna grab a shower before the food gets here?”

I nodded. “It’ll be the last one before you fly out with the team.”

I bit my lip as soon as those words left my mouth, but Jordan’s mouth spread into a grin. “Oh, shit! You said that like you’re gonna miss me.”

“Stop.”

“Hell nah.” He cupped my face in his hands, tipping it up toward his. “Tell the truth. You gonna miss me?”

I swallowed hard, trying my best to keep my expression neutral. I wanted, badly, to be able to deny it, but…

“Yes.”

What the hell was wrong with me, that it physically hurt just to be honest with him about my feelings? That one little word, a simple yes, ripped me in half. And if that wasn’t bad enough… the kiss he gave me after I said it seemed like it was putting me back together.

I pushed myself up on my toes, trying to get closer. Jordan’s warm laughter vibrated against my mouth as I looped my arms around his neck and hooked a thigh around his waist, literally climbing him.

We were both laughing by the time he pressed me against the cool, stone-tiled wall of his shower.  I closed my eyes, basking in how right it felt to be with him like this, hot water streaming over us as he buried himself between my legs.

This is how you end up falling in love.

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Trailer – Connecticut Kings series

Jun
14
2016

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The Music – Connecticut Kings Series

Jun
06
2016

One of my most favorite things to get me in the mood to write, to put me into a certain head space for my characters, or clear my head of distractions, is to listen to music.

Obviously, it helps if the music is applicable to the project!

For your listening pleasure, here is the music that Love and I have been soothed by, inspired by, incorporated, all of that, into the books that make the Connecticut Kings series, presented in no particular order, and not divided by project. No spoilers, lol!

CK Soundtrack Promo

If you’re a spotify user, the full list (with the exception of “Love Drought”, which is not available on spotify) is located here – https://open.spotify.com/user/1260206154/playlist/2t5JYunDtaSYvBnTMex9J5

Enjoy!

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Connecticut Kings Series – Coming Soon!

Jun
01
2016

Who? Jordan Johnson and Trent Bailey, one of the best wide receiver + quarterback duos the league has ever seen.

What? TWO full length novels, (One from Love Belvin, the other from yours truly!) following two couples and their journey through life and love.

When? THIS SUMMER.

Where? A kindle near you!

Why? Because why not?

I am beyond pleased to announce that a collaborative project between me and my “author bae” Love Belvin will be coming to you soon! (THIS SUMMER!!)  This is the (HOT) result of many hours spent planning, and discussing, and laughing and ultimately, coming together to bring you the stories of Trent and JJ, the Connecticut Kings’ Ineligible Receivers!


 

Love on the Highlight Reel

LOTHRsample
First impressions don’t have to be everything.
But second, third, fourth impressions create a reputation, and those are hard to break. In the public eye, where everybody is tuned in to your every move, and behind the scenes, where certain people are privy to the real you… or at least what they perceive you to be.
Jordan Johnson is a man under pressure – from his teammates, fans, family, and the one person who wants to see him succeed as badly as he wants it for himself. He’ll do whatever he has to in order to not let anyone down… and maybe find an unanticipated connection along the way.
Nicole Richardson is a woman with a purpose – prove herself worthy of her place in a male-dominated field. Fiercely competitive, wielder of tough love and motivation, and terrible at dealing with things outside of her control. Between making sure the players are thriving, and coping with a changing family dynamic, a relationship isn’t even on her radar.
Denying their chemistry would be a waste of words, but giving in isn’t an option.
A season on the line.
Reputations at stake.
The threat of seeing their personal lives played out on the evening highlights.
With all of that swirling around them, Jordan and Nicole have to decide if it’s worth the effort to make the play… or take a knee.


 

Love in the Red Zone

LITRZsampleCan you tell the difference between a distraction and a blessing? It should be simple, but sometimes what we think is a distraction can actually be a turning of the tide required to bring life full circle, to a place of blessing.

Meet Trent Bailey, who is fighting for the right to continue his stellar professional football career after enduring striking legal woes in the recent past. Trent cannot and will not blow his second chance for anyone; after all, this is the blessing he’s been praying for. After receiving confirmation that staying focused is all he needs, it’s what he aims to do. No distractions. That’s until he bumps into two unexpected overnight guests.

Jade Matthews is doing everything she can for herself and her young son, Kyree. After journeying through her own bumps in the road, she’s finally getting it together. She’s doing what she has to do to make sure her family of two stays afloat. Life’s setbacks won’t stop Jade from providing for her little one, even though she fumbles each pass thrown at her.

What starts out as a temporary favor turns into rapid passion. There’s one agenda here, but getting to the same meeting point has never been more difficult. Fighting their way through trust and self-esteem issues, the two must meet in the right zone; the red zone, where you may think you’re safe, but life has a way of intercepting blessings and…turning the tide.

 

 

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Sample Sunday – Put Your Eyes Out

May
29
2016

jordan1Unedited. Subject to Change.

I hated Wednesdays.

Especially the week after a loss.

Media all over the locking room for damn near an hour, saying whatever the fuck they wanted. After a win, whatever. I could handle it. But if we didn’t? The motherfuckers went for blood – which I could also handle.

The team just didn’t usually like the way I handled it.

“Jordan Johnson, Kendra Fulton with WAWG Sports.”

With a heavy sigh, I tightened the towel around my waist and turned around, already mentally bracing myself for bullshit. I was tired – mentally and physically – from practice and morning meetings, and I was barely out of the shower, but apparently none of that mattered.

I put on a smile, hoping that a little flash of dimples would grant me some mercy.  My shoulders dipped in relief when she smiled back – a pretty smile, at that, so I grinned even harder.

“Just a few questions today Jordan,” she said, gesturing to her camera guy to start filming. “Is that okay?”

She was cute as hell – nice little body, big brown eyes.

“As long as you plan to take it easy on me,” I flirted, suddenly not so pissed about Wednesday. I hadn’t seen her around here before.

“Now what fun would that be?” she said in a low voice, obviously not intended to be heard by the mic as she held it away from her face. Her eyes grazed my bare chest and then went lower, before they came back. She winked at me, and then brought the mic up.

“We’re here with star wide-receiver Jordan Johnson today, subject of recent controversy after video surfaced of him partying in a local gentleman’s club. You seemed slower than usual during the game this past Sunday – do you think it’s the result of your frequent wild, late nights?”

I narrowed my eyes. “I wasn’t slow, at all. I actually had my best receiving game this season last Sunday, you may want to check your facts.”

She smiled. “I’m well aware of the facts, Mr. Johnson. You also had your most incompletions, and a fumble in that game. Were you hungover from Saturday night, or are you still struggling with your shoulder? We know you had surgery on it in the off season – are you not yet at 100%?”

“My shoulder is fine, and you may to review the game film if you’re trying to pin this loss on me, Ms. Fulton. I get on that field and do my job every damn time, no matter what. Not everybody can say the same thing.”

“Are you saying your teammates aren’t pulling their weight?”

“I’m not saying anything except what the fuck I said. And I’m done talking.”

I turned away from her to emphasis my disinterest in finishing the conversation, choosing instead to start getting dressed for the second offensive meeting of the day. Behind me, she spoke into the camera to finish her clip.

“There you have it. Connecticut Kings wide receiver Jordan Johnson denying that he’s not recovered from the rotator cuff surgery he had this past March. He also staunchly denies that his habit of patronizing strip clubs and heavy drinking have any effect on his performance.”

“I like how you’re spinning that. That’s impressive,” I muttered, shaking my head.

“Also, as you heard, he pinned the responsibility of the loss squarely on his team, confirming rumors that he is unhappy. I can’t help but wonder how that will effect the team’s morale.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, turning around after I’d pulled my tee shirt down over my chest. “I didn’t confirm shit, how about you not put words in my mouth?”

“I am just stating the obvious conclusions from the information you gave.”

“Yeah, keep your fucked up conclusions to yourself and report the facts if you’re gonna talk about me.”

She sniffed. “There’s no need to be hostile, Mr. Johnson.”

“This ain’t hostile, Ms. Fulton,” I said, giving her a pointed look as I grabbed the edge of my towel. “Now unless WAWG wants the viewers to see my dick, you may want to get that camera off me. Don’t wanna put any eyes out.”

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Teaser Tuesday – Put Your Phone Down

May
24
2016
cole1

This Summer :)

Unedited. Subject to change. This summer 😉

“Can you put your phone down, and talk to me please?”

“Yeah, gimme a second.”

I rolled my eyes as he kept his attention focused on the little device in his hands. One minute stretched into two.

“Jor—”

“Just a second, damn,” he said, holding up a finger to… shush me? Was he shushing me? He chuckled loudly at something on his screen, and I let out a sigh. If this was how he wanted to play it…

I reached up, pulling the pins out of the simple bun I’d pulled my hair into before I rushed out of the door. Stylish, black-rimmed glasses were tossed onto the desk, hair fluffed out and around my shoulders, and I took down enough buttons on my shirt to show off an ample peak of the deep gold, lace trimmed bra I wore underneath.

“Jordan,” I said – damn whispered, in a breathy, sexy voice.

He immediately looked up to see me balanced on my elbows as I leaned across the desk toward him. His eyes dropped to my cleavage, then slowly raked back up to my face, and I hated that a tiny, hopefully-only-perceptible-to-me shudder ran through me. No matter what else I could say about Jordan, there was no denying that he was a gorgeous man. Deep chocolate skin, thick lips, immaculate facial hair, perfectly sculpted face, and those damned dimples.

I bit my lip – to seduce, and to bring myself back to reality – and leaned a little further.

“There’s something you and I desperately need to discuss.”

He lifted an eyebrow, his phone hanging limp and momentarily forgotten in his hand. “What’s that?”

“Well…” I leaned in a little bit further, and his gaze stuck to my breasts. “Before we start, I just need you to… Give me this goddamn phone,” I said, back to my normal voice, as I snatched it from his unsuspecting hands. I promptly stuck it between my breasts, because I knew he wouldn’t dare try to get it from there, and was already re-buttoning my shirt by the time he’d hopped up from his chair.

“Jordan Johnson, you sit your ass down and listen to me. Or have you forgotten that I am responsible for your contract?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean, Nicki?”

I ignored his use of that hated nickname. “It means, that unless you at least try to act like have some damned sense when you aren’t on the field, I don’t think you’re going to be very happy with the way your negotiations go.  You only have a few months left, Jordan. You want to see more money? Then I want to see this team improve.”

“Then you need to talk to these other motherfuckers,” Jordan snapped, pacing in front of my desk. “Just like I said two nights ago, I’m already pulling all of the offensive weight on this team. Why the fuck does everything fall to me?”

Because you’re all we have.

I knew it.

He knew it

Everybody knew it, but he was the only one who was about to say it out loud.

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On Characters

May
17
2016

Recently, someone commented to me that it was “amazing how I stay so true to my characters”. That comment was borne from the Mother’s Day short I posted, featuring Carter and Viv, who I haven’t revisited in …. a year and half? Something like that.

I appreciated this, (and promptly hit the like button and proceeded to act like it never happened because i’m awkward and bad at accepting compliments) because as i’ve blogged before, staying true to my characters is something that’s SUPER important to me.

But I don’t know that I would call it hard.

The difficulty is, I guess, in putting these people down on the page in a way that properly reflects their realness in my head. Like, it’s easy to “see” them, but conveying them…. is another thing all together.

Staying true is the easy part, because they’re real to me.

Jason and Reese are the princess and the mechanic. They’re smart, and smart-mouthed, Jason is a little gritty, Reese is a little sharp tongued. And they’re funny, and fun. Jason has real physical scars that don’t hold him back, has experienced the world at a pretty young age, and has developed a broader perspective from it. He uses “nigga” and drops “g’s”, but will talk literature and engineering with you. Reese is still dealing with a personal loss, that she may never be “over”, that she might always need to cope with. But she still has a desire to live, and help others live, and teach people how to authentically share their words.

Because nobody is any one way.

Devyn and Joseph, nurse and doctor. Career-driven, compassionate, bright. Joseph is a simple guy – a good balance for Devyn, who has a little more happening, and Devyn is warmer, almost bubbly. Compliments Joseph, who can be a touch uptight. Joseph doesn’t have any deep personal trauma that he’s still navigating – he channeled the loss of his mother into honoring her through his work…. and he still lusts after a fat ass and a cute smile. Devyn has internalized, normalized a certain treatment by men, and has to work through that. The two of them have to deal with an unexpected responsibility being thrust on them, and in turn… kinda rush into a relationship.

Because shit happens, and we deal.

Still says book 2.... cause it was supposed to be. Not finished working on this cover lol.

Still says book 2…. cause it was supposed to be. Not finished working on this cover lol.

Toni and Justin – this fall – are besties. Or, were. My author and my publishing professional. I’m still figuring them out, but I know their chemistry as friends is nuts. They love 90s R&B, and did a talent show together as “dark skinned baby girl” and “not quite Ginuwine.” I know they have a playful set of rules they’d developed together. I know they desperately want their friendship back… and might discover more. I know they both have to navigate their changing roles with their aging parents, and learn how to coparent, and all of that.

Because they’re human.

Fictional or not.

So, the characters do their jobs. They reveal themselves, their TRUE selves to me, and I take it seriously every time. I’m super serious about my craft, super serious about my work, super serious about my people. I may not write any certain way, or tackle certain topics, or do a certain word count, whatever, but i’m SERIOUS about these characters.

And I so, SO appreciate that it can be seen.

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Mother’s Day with Carter & Vivienne

May
08
2016

mothersdaycarterviv

Relief.

That was the first emotion that flooded me as I stepped into my darkened bedroom to find Viv sprawled across the bed, with our daughter, Bellamy, tucked close. The nightlight was plugged in, casting a warm glow across both of their perfect, sleeping faces.

My girls.

They’d fallen asleep nursing – a normal occurrence, with no way to tell who’d passed out first. Viv’s breast was exposed – minus the nipple rings that had fascinated me so much – and Bella had her little arm draped protectively over it, as if someone might take it from her in the night. Viv had her arm draped over Bella, as if someone might take her.

I smiled.

Viv was obsessive about keeping the floors clean, so I’d already left my shoes at the front door. Bella was just starting to crawl, and had a nasty habit of putting her mouth on the floor if she made it off  her tummy time blanket. Carefully, I rolled my suitcase into the closet and took my jacket off before I approached the bed, still absorbing the scene in front of me.

It hadn’t even taken three years to make my life so much different.

So much better.

I sank onto my knees beside the bed and just stared. From this position, all I could see of Bella was the back of her head – already a mess of dark brown coils she’d inherited from her mother – and her little body clad in footed navy blue pajamas, printed with pink and silver stars. But I was looking right at Frenchy.

Her hair was pulled into a messy puff on top of her head, but several coils had broken free, falling across her pretty caramel skin. Her lips were slightly parted as she slept, and my gaze drifted down to where her chest was rising and falling. There was nothing erotic about her leaving herself exposed for the comfort of our child – I still remembered the early days, when she’d shed tears because nursing hurt so bad, remembered coating her nipples with lanolin to help them heal.

But still… arousal stirred.

Viv was beautiful – always had been, but even moreso now. Something about watching her grow, and nurture, and care for our child deepened that attraction for me. She was a mother, and she took it seriously. Maybe a little too seriously sometimes, but I could handle that if it meant we could show Bella something different than what my parents showed me.

Something better.

I don’t know if Viv would ever understand what a gift that was to me.

What a gift she was, to me.

Not my wife quite yet, but soon.

I reached out, covering her hand with mine, and she startled under my touch. Pulled Bella closer. Then slowly, opened her eyes. Big, beautiful brown eyes that held happiness way more than sadness these days – opposite of when we first met. Gradually, her face spread into a lazy smile, but the contentment in her eyes told the real story, one the gesture of a smile never could. She was glad to see me. Even when we had friction, she was glad to see me.

Again – I don’t know if she knew how good she was for my soul.

“Hey,” she murmured, moving her hand to thread her fingers through mine. “You made it back.”

“Yeah. Got Troy to come grab me from the airport, talked to him about the shop.”

“Did you ask him… about managing?”

The hopeful look on her face made me grin. “I did. Offered the position, and he said yes. So that will free up my time some… which means I can free up yours. Help with Bella more. As a matter of fact—” – I pulled myself up from the floor, and then gently slipped my hands under my little girl, lifting her from the bed – “Let’s get you in the bassinet, ma petite souris.

Behind me, Viv giggled quietly over my calling Bella the nickname she’d given her, in an awful fake French accent. It was something that Viv’s mother hated, borne from Bella’s rooting for milk at Viv’s chest. Her tiny nose would wrinkle, head bobbing, and Viv swore she looked like a curious little mouse, sniffing around.

Morgan insisted that her grandchild not be called a rodent.

So obviously, Viv only called her “ma petite souris”, never Bella, when her mother was around.

“Do you want me to do that?” she asked, from right behind me, as I cradled Bella in one hand while I pulled the stuffed toys from the bassinet. Her mouth asked a question, but her tone offered a request – let me do that. Because she was usually the one that did it, while I was at the shop, or locked away in my office.

“I’ve got it,” I told her, and gently laid our daughter down.  She stirred a little, then settled back into sleep as I stepped away from the bassinet.

Viv had moved up to stand beside me, so I slipped an arm around her waist, pulling her close as I turned to face her. “I missed you,” I murmured against her mouth, then pressed my lips to hers and buried my free hand in her hair. That wasn’t enough, so I slipped my tongue inside, savoring my almost-wife.

She responded eagerly, pushing up on her toes to get closer. I lowered my hands to her ass, cupping and squeezing as I lifted her off her feet and encouraged her legs around my waist. She obliged, allowing me to carry her into the bathroom of the apartment we’d barely been in a year. We’d wanted to bring Bella home to something new – something ours, chosen together.

“I’m sorry I’m so late getting back,” I said, when I stopped kissing her long enough to speak. Her skin was flushed, lips a little swollen, and I’d made a mess of her hair, leaving it half up, half down. She looked… incredible. I wanted my fiancé – I hated calling her that, was ready to call her wife – really damned bad.

“It is okay,” she said quietly, lifting a hand to run her fingers over the stubble on my chin. “You cannot control if a flight is delayed. It is not your fault.”

I grabbed her wrist, bringing her fingers to my mouth, and kissed them one by one. “I saw you got the flowers I sent. How was it, being alone with Bella? You managed okay?”

“It was three days, Carter. And Bella is five months old. I think I have gotten used to taking of our daughter by now.”

“I’m just making sure you’re okay. I know you make sure Bella is.”

She smiled. “Yes. I am okay. And the flowers are beautiful. I love them.”

“Good. Now that that’s out of the way… I missed you. I want you.”

From her seated position on the counter, she leaned back, opening her legs. “You ask for what you want, no?”

I grinned, then moved to stand between her thighs. “Can I have you?”

“You certainly can,” she whispered to me, draping her arms around my neck as I leaned in to kiss her. My hands went the thin straps of her gown, pushing them down her shoulders. Suddenly, Viv jerked away from me, holding her hands to her chest to keep herself covered. “Wait, the light. Can you…”

She let the request trail off, assuming that I knew what she was asking. And I did, but I made no moves to do it, because I didn’t want to turn off the lights – I wanted to see her. I hadn’t seen her since she had the baby.

We’d had sex, sure. But every single time, she was insistent about the light. No more shared showers, no naked Saturday mornings. No more of the bold, rather-be-bare Viv I’d grown used to.

“Are we really still doing that shit?” I said, and immediately wished I could snatch the words back out of the air. I wasn’t trying to be harsh with her about her body, but… shit. It had been five months.

Viv’s eyes were wide, surprised as she stared up at me, and I couldn’t blame her, because I hadn’t really said anything about this before. I let it ride, because I loved her, and I wanted her to be comfortable, and I never wanted to be someone who made her feel the opposite of either.

“Ah! Ahhhhbababa. Bababa!”

The sound of Bella – apparently wide awake – and testing out the sound of her voice, drew both of our attention away from the moment. Saved me, for now.

Viv climbed down from her perch on the counter, but I held up a hand to stop her.

“I’ve got her.”

“Are you sure?” Her voice was strong, but there was no missing the gloss of tears in her eyes. “She is probably hungry, and—”

“She can get a bottle, while you soak in the tub or something. Relax. I’ve got her.”

Viv nodded, averting her gaze to keep from looking me in the eyes. “Okay.”

I closed the door behind me as I exited the bathroom, and then took a deep breath.

How the fuck do you go across the country for three days, miss your wife the whole time, then come back and say some stupid shit?

Bellamy had turned to the side of the bassinet – which was really just a smaller crib, that we kept in our bedroom – and was looking at me with bright eyes, still babbling. She grinned up at me as I approached, and lifted her into my arms.

“Daddy messed up, B,” I told her in a singsong voice as she reached for one of my locs. She was always fascinated by them, so I wasn’t surprised when she closed one in her little fist, and tugged as she babbled. “Is that my punishment for hurting mommy’s feelings?”

Bella stopped babbling, stopped tugging, and simply stared in my face, her expression intense as her eyebrows furrowed. Suddenly, her little pajamas felt hot, and damp to the touch, and an unpleasant odor filled my nose.

“Oh. That’s my punishment for hurting your mama?”

She grinned.

Half a package of baby wipes and a quick bath later, Bella was in fresh pajamas, sucking contentedly on a bottle of warmed breastmilk in my arms. Her eyes kept drifting closed, but then they would pop back open as she stared at me, looking just like her mother.

Same golden skin, same hair, same lips, same eyes. Often, Viv joked that Bella had gotten looks from her, and personality from me.

“She is a little charmer,” she’d whispered to me one day, after Bella’s frustrated cries – and subsequent happy coos – had convinced me to let her treat my hand as a personal chew toy for her irritated gums.

“She’s teething,” I said, defending myself, which was met with an amused grin.

“We have more than enough soothers and teething rings around here.”

“My hands are clean, and this makes her happy.”

“Mmm.” Viv leaned in, pressing her lips to my cheek. “As I said, she is a charmer, just like her father. Physically, she is me. In here,” she ran a gentle finger across Bella’s forehead. “She is you. She even has the same proclivity for that quiet withdrawal… leaving everyone wondering what she is thinking. Unsure of what their role is in her world.”

And that was the thing that bothered me.

That even now, after almost three years, after a ring, after a child… I somehow still left Viv wondering where she stood with me. I did go quiet, I did sometimes keep my thoughts a little too close to my chest. And as much as I hated it, hated the memory… I’d hurt her before. I’d left her uncertain, and then broken her heart, made her believe I didn’t want her, when nothing could have been further from the truth.

I planted that seed of doubt, and had no idea how to dig it up.

Finally, Bellamy drifted off into sleep, with a trickle of milk running down her chin. As soon as I pulled the bottle from her relaxed hands, her eyes shot open, and she let out a loud burp before she closed them again.

Quietly, I chuckled as I went into her room to lay her down in her crib. I made sure the nightlight was on, along with the monitor, and then quietly slipped out, heading back to my own bedroom.

I hesitated at the bathroom door, with the picture of Viv, barely twenty minutes ago, still playing in my mind. Stung by my words, unsure of what to say… I didn’t like seeing her like that. That look she’d had when she opened her eyes and saw me there beside the bed… that’s what I liked to see.

I raised my fist, taking a deep breath before I gently rapped my knuckles against the door. “Can I come in?” I called out, hoping I wasn’t disturbing her peace. It took a few seconds, but she finally answered, inviting me to step in.

It had been a long time since she pulled out her L’occitane bath foam, but the bathroom was filled with the familiar lavender scent. As I approached the tub, Viv looked up from the bubbles, her expression guarded.

“Is Bella sleeping?”

I nodded as I sank to my knees beside the large tub, resting my elbows on the rim. “Yeah. Shitted everywhere, had a bottle, passed out.”

“I am not surprised,” Viv said, smiling. “When we fell asleep, she was nursing more for comfort than anything. She was not serious about it, just sleepy.”

“Well apparently she still was. But I guess she would normally be sleeping at this time anyway.”

She nodded. “Yes, she would.”

For a few minutes, there was only silence between us. Viv had her whole body covered by bubbles, but I could see her hands moving under the water as she massaged the oils from the bath into her skin. I watched her for a moment, then reached in to close my hand around her wrist.

“Viv…” I waited until she looked up at me before continuing. “I’m sorry for what I said to you earlier.”

She shook her head. “It is fine.”

“It’s not.” I reached up, using my dry hand to cup her cheek. Relief relaxed my shoulders when she nuzzled her face into my hand. “I can’t, and shouldn’t try, to force you to be comfortable with something you aren’t… but it’s been five months, gorgeous. We at least need to address it.”

She met my gaze, and the sadness in her eyes caught me off guard. Her lips perked into a little smile. “I am surprised it took you this long to make me talk about it.”

“So… there is an “it”?”

Another smile.

“Perhaps only in my head. But I am just… not myself.”

My eyebrows knitted together. She hadn’t been any different than the same Viv I’d always known – or at least, I hadn’t noticed.

“Do you mean like… baby blues, or something?”

“No,” she shook her head. “I love being a mother, love taking care of her. I have rarely felt overwhelmed in that area. When I say that I am not myself, I mean… physically.”

She averted her gaze when she said that, clearly embarrassed by the admission, but I… I didn’t understand.

“Do you need to go see Dr. Morris?”

“No, Carter. I am saying that I… the picture, in the bedroom. Me, naked, chocolate, remember?”

I grinned.

How could I forget?

I still remembered the first time I’d ever seen it, before she and I were together. She’d damn near killed herself trying to hang it up in her apartment. We were neighbors, and I came to check on her after hearing the commotion. She’d answered the door with barely anything on, and then invited me inside, where I helped her hang the picture.

Viv.

Naked.

Covered in chocolate.

Fine as hell.

“I am not that woman anymore,” Viv said, her voice shaky with emotion. “And I know that it is shallow, and maybe even silly to you, but I do not feel… good. I have to eat a certain amount to provide for Bellamy, so that makes it hard to lose, and just the act of breastfeeding is keeping extra pounds on. Do not misunderstand –  I love nursing her. Those moments are special to me, and I do not look forward to giving them up, but then again… I do. When I look in the mirror, I am not happy with what I see, and I cannot help feeling like there’s no way you could be either. Not when the woman you met is the one in the picture.”

I stared at her for a few moments before I shook my head. “Aiight, so that shit is coming down, tonight.”

She laughed, and I was happy to see her smiling even though tears were in her eyes.

“You laughing, but I’m dead serious. We leave that picture up in our room because yeah, it’s a memory for us. But Viv… I barely even look at it anymore. I’ve got the real thing now. I didn’t fall in love with that picture. I fell in love with you. I don’t give a shit about a little extra ass. I welcome extra ass. Who doesn’t like ass?”

“Stop it,” she giggled.

“I’m serious though,” I said, squeezing her hand. “I know you have to feel this for yourself, but for what it’s worth, I’m not tripping over supplementary ass, or a little pudge. I love you. I love touching you, love your skin, love the body that brought our daughter into this world. Okay?”

She smiled. “Okay.”

I leaned in, and she did the same, allowing me to plant a kiss on her lips. “I’m gonna get in the shower. Can’t get in the bed until I do.”

“Or you can join me.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “You’re inviting me into your bath?”

“Yes. Why not?”

I wasn’t about to argue with her about that. I undressed and climbed into the tub behind her, then pulled her against me. She relaxed in my arms, resting back against my chest. Her head tipped back on my shoulder, looking at me.

“I am glad you made it back to me,” she murmured, then closed her eyes as I leaned in the kiss her again.

“I was pissed about the delay. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here.”

Quiet filled the room for a long moment, punctuated only by the sounds of the water moving as I ran my hands over her skin. Over her feet, her calves, her knees, up to her thighs. Over her stomach… up to her breasts. A whimper left her throat as I closed my hands over them, sliding my thumbs over her nipples. I pressed my lips to the back of her shoulder.

“I love you,” she said, then covered my hands with hers, gently tugging to pull them away. At first I was confused, but then she sat up, then stood up, completely exposing her body to me, except for the bubbles still randomly stuck to her skin.

To my eyes, she looked good as hell.

Our gazes met, hers uncertain, and I sat up, lifting my hands to run them over her body. No, it wasn’t exactly the same as what it had been before, but a few stretchmarks and a cute little pudge from carrying and feeding our daughter didn’t make her any less attractive to me, or any less beautiful.

“Come here,” I said.

She didn’t say anything. She simply turned around, and then sank down again, straddling my lap. She pulled a bath sponge from somewhere in the water and started sliding it over my skin, washing me.

“Isn’t this backwards?” I asked, chuckling.

She shook her head. “Nope. This is what I want to do.”

I ran my hands up her thighs, and back to her ass, squeezing. “Is that… all you want do?”

She laughed. “Apparently, it is all you want to do.”

“I told you I missed you,” I shrugged, then wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her against my chest. “Happy Mother’s Day baby.”

Her eyes went wide, and she smiled. “Thank you.”

“What, did you think I forgot? You thought I forgot, and all you were getting was those pre-scheduled flowers didn’t you?”

She laughed, snuggling closer to me in the water. “I… did not know. You haven’t said anything all day. You sure you didn’t just now remember?”

“Nah, girl. I wanted to say it in person for your first Mother’s Day. I have a gift for you too.”

She pulled back, so she could look at my face. “Really? Where is it?”

I chuckled. “You don’t believe me do you?”

“I will believe it when I see it,” she teased.

I nodded. “Aiight. Well, in the inside pocket of my suitcase, there are plane tickets. For us.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Plane tickets? To where?”

“France.”

Water went everywhere as Viv’s hand shot to her mouth, covering the loud gasp she’d let out. I smiled at her as tears welled almost immediately in her eyes. “Carter,” she said, muffled by the hand still cupped over her mouth. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, baby. I’m serious. We’re going. In a few weeks.”

Viv choked back a sob, then flung her arms around me, hugging me tight as she buried her face in my neck. Since she’d had Bella, she’d been wanting to go back home to be in her parent’s house, to have Bella there where she’d grown up. I hadn’t been able to take the time away, between getting my software development off the ground, and making sure things were good with the shop. I urged her to go alone – even though I didn’t want to be away from her and Bella, I knew it was something she wanted badly. But she refused to do it alone.

“I’ve just gotta get Troy acclimated as manager at Fresh Cuts. But all the arrangements are made. Your mother is ready for us.”

“Mama knows?”

I nodded. “Yeah. It’s been killing her not to say anything. All you have to do is make the arrangements with your employees. I planted the seeds with them, but obviously you have to do all the final steps.”

“Yes. I will. I… thank you,” she said, reaching up to cup my cheeks. The look on her face was so joyous that it made the happiness already in my chest swell. “I love you.”

I reached up, wiping the stream of tears from her face. “I love you too babe.”

She settled against my chest again, and I looped my arms around her waist. I was relieved, honestly, that we’d gotten past that moment of tension to get back to this.

“I can’t wait to make you my wife,” I murmured into the side of her head, then planted a kiss there.

She moved her hands between us, wrapping her hands around me as she drew back to look me in the face. “And I cannot wait to be your wife. Let’s practice for the honeymoon.”

Thanksgiving with Sean and Fallon –

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas with Roman and Simone – http://beingmrsjones.com/2015/12/the-night-before-christmas-eve-a-serendipitous-short/

 

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