Sample Sunday: From “Nothing But Love”

NBLcover(Fall 2014)

We waited a few more excruciating minutes for our server to return Jackson’s credit card, and I gathered up my purse, clutching it my shaking hands as he signed and left a tip on the receipt. This had been such a wonderful night.  Gorgeous restaurant, great food, and great company— Jackson was always great company. Well, that was usually the case, but then he had go and ruin it by asking me something he had no business asking me. He had a lot of damned nerve.

I nearly choked on my own tongue in disbelief when he dropped the slip of paper and pen back to the table, then without a backwards glance, got up and headed for the door.  Hurrying out of my own seat, I followed, catching him halfway across the parking lot.

“Jackson! What the hell is your pro—”

Two years, Kris,” he barked, rounding on me so abruptly that I nearly stumbled on my heels as I came to a stop. “You’ve been sidestepping me on this for two damn years.”

Eyes narrowed, I crossed my arms. “I don’t understand why you’re mad.”

“Because I would think that a gesture like that would mean something to you.”

“It does! But it doesn’t change my answer.”

He stared at me for a second before turning to shake his head in what I perceived as disappointment. A tiny part of me felt a little guilty, but again… this wasn’t my fault. I trailed behind him as he finished the distance to the car, where he remembered his manners and opened my door.  I waited for the ‘accidental’ brush of his hand against my ass as I lowered myself into the car.  I could count on his affectionate grabbiness the same way I could rely on eight o’clock coming twice a day.

Usually, at least.

This time, he kept his hand on the door, waiting for me to swing my legs inside.  I lifted an eyebrow at him, which he challenged with a cocked brow of his own.

“So it’s like that, J?”

“Yeah, it’s like that.”

Rolling my eyes, I buckled my seatbelt as he closed the door then went around to the driver’s side to sit down. On the awkwardly silent ride back to my apartment, I wondered how long he would be mad. Jackson and I rarely fought, so I didn’t really have anything to compare this to.  I couldn’t remember him ever being this upset with me, but I really, really can’t say enough that this was not my fault.

Nobody asked him to go and buy a damned engagement ring.

No matter how chic, and sparkly, and gorgeous, and expensive, and blingy, and— Wait, what was I saying?  Oh! Yes. The ring could have been universally voted best ring in the history of engagements — and damn, it was a pretty good contender— but my answer would have still been no, because as wonderful as Jackson was… I didn’t want to get married.

There. I said it. Kristin doesn’t want to get married again.  Was that really so bad?  I gave up fifteen years of my life to a marriage that ended in shambles, and now, at 35, I wasn’t interested in going down that road again.  Not even for Jackson, who was — quite frankly — everything I could possibly want in a man.  He was kind, and sweet, and gentle with me, but still firm, dependable, and strong.  Jackson was smart, successful, and open minded with the body of a broad-shouldered athlete swathed in rich dark brown skin.  A few months before, he had swapped his locs for a low cut fade, which, along with his goatee, only accentuated his handsome face.  More important than all of that was that fact that Jackson never gave me any doubts that — in his mind, at least— he was mine, and I was his.

But was I really ready to be had again?

I fully recognized that Jackson and Ahmad were different men.  Ahmad and I met when we were still kids really, at 18 years old.  Things for us got hot and heavy fast, and before I knew it, we were married.  My memories of our marriage are beautiful, fond ones.  We were as happy as two people who got married before they even knew themselves could be, and we learned and grew along the way.  Still, looking back, I realized that at some point, we had lost our way.  That must have been the point when Ahmad decided he wanted to act like he was single again. We devolved into a relationship of boyfriend and girlfriend, then casual sex partners, and then, obviously… strangers.

Jackson, on the other hand, had an unshakable sense of maturity about him.  He was — usually— level-headed and easy going, with a slow temper.  He was just cool, like Denzel.  From the moment we began officially dating, Jackson loved and cared for me like I was his wife, protecting and providing like he was my husband.  That’s probably why he was so upset.  For the last two years, he had been playing a role that I wouldn’t officially give him.


Sample Sunday: Chasing Commitment

CCcover“If you stare at her any harder, she’s gonna call the cops on you. Contrary to popular belief, most women don’t like being stared at by strange men.” My friend — and former almost-victim— Tori lowered the dessert menu, peering at me over the top with a raised eyebrow.  It hid most of her face, but I could tell that behind it, she was laughing at me.  I could see that shit in her eyes, and I wasn’t amused.

“I’m not staring, so you can wipe that little smirk off your face.”

“Smirk?” she said innocently, snapping the leather-bound menu closed. “Me smirking at you would imply that I was teasing you, Brandon, and I would never do that to you.” She gave me a syrupy-sweet smile, but my eyes were already traveling back to the pretty waitress , who I’d been accused of staring at. I wasn’t staring at her, I was admiring the view of ample hips and ass as she passed our table to retrieve a pitcher, then came back to pour water for another group of customers.

Tori grinned across the table, shooting me a wink as she switched her half-empty glass with mine, just before the waitress turned to our table, noticing that the drink needed filling, and approached us with a smile.

“Would you like more water, sir?” she asked, in the same warm, polite voice she always used with customers.  Or at least, I hoped she used it with all of the customers.  One day I came to Izzy’s for dinner and she must have been just getting off, because she was standing outside on her phone, talking to — I assumed– some lucky bastard in a sultry tone that kinda made my dick hard just thinking about it.  So yeah, I chose to believe that she was holding back the sexy voice for everybody, not just me.

Truth be told, there was only so much sexy that Nadia could hold back.  That was her name, according to the engraved gold tag pinned above her left breast, just a few inches away from supple pecan-colored cleavage that I would have a much better view of if just one more of the buttons of her crisp white shirt had been left undone. Damn shame. I sat in her section as often as I could, hoping to strike up a conversation with her, but just like now, she was reserved, even though she was always friendly.

“Please,” I nodded, returning her smile as she leaned forward for the glass. Tori’s eyes brimmed with amusement as she watched me watch Nadia refill my glass.  When she was done, she turned to Tori to ask if she wanted dessert, and when Tori declined, told us she would be back with the check.

As soon as Nadia stepped away from the table, Tori smirked again as she switched our glasses back. She nudged me under the table with her foot.  “So… why don’t you ask her out?”

I shrugged. “Boyfriend,” I mumbled, even though I had no idea if she had a man or not. I wasn’t about to tell Tori the real reason I wasn’t eager to approach Nadia.

Tori tilted her head to the side, drawing her eyebrows into the middle of her forehead. “Wow. So you really have changed then, huh Brandon? It never seemed to matter to you when I was dating someone. You never held back on your little freaky propositions… until Avery.”

“Until Avery,” I agreed with a nod, biting back a twinge of bitterness as I tipped my glass in her direction before I raised it to my mouth. Sure, Tori was all brown-sugar skin, thick curly hair, and a banging body, but Avery was my boy. I knew her first, through a friend’s wife that she visited here in San Diego every summer,but he was the one who’d captured her heart, so I respected that.  Besides, Tori was a friend as well. If I’d ever gotten the vibe that she was serious about any of the clowns she was with before— her ex-husband included— I would have backed off. One look in her eyes when she talked about him told me Tori was really fucking serious about Avery.

“It’s too bad though, B. She’s really pretty, and she’s got a nice vibe. I can tell. I like her for you.” Tori was wearing a sneaky little smile I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with.

I lifted an eyebrow. “What do you mean you like her for me?”

“Don’t worry about it. But listen, maybe you should leave her your card or something.”

“Why would I do that? She— or her lil’ boyfriend— is just gonna throw it away,” I scoffed, shifting uncomfortably in my seat.

“No, she won’t.” Tori hesitated, rolling her eyes as if the next words were hard for her to say. “Straight women don’t throw away cards from… men that look like you, B. We tuck them away in a safe place for when we break up with our man and we’re looking for rebound sex.”

“And you know this because… you have a stash hidden somewhere?”

Tori sucked her teeth. “Of course not….”

“I’m telling Avery,” I teased. “You’re walking around looking all good and shit, collecting numbers for when he fucks up.”

“Trust me, if Avery messes up, the last thing he needs to worry about is me having another man’s contact info.  He’ll need to be more concerned about his bal….” She let her voice trail off without finishing the statement as Nadia approached the table to drop off the check with another one of her carefully measured smiles. As soon as she turned away, Tori kicked me under the table. “Leave a card. I’m not playing. And flirt a little, for God’s sake, what’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know what to say!”

Tori froze, with her top lip curled in disgust. “Who are you, and what have you done with Brandon? Are you serious right now?”