Unedited. Subject to change. Coming… soon. Happy reading!
“Tariq, I thought you told me Kora wouldn’t be available for lunch since she likes to stay around the theater?”
“Yeah,” I said, taking a drink from my water. “That’s how she’s always been.”
My grandmother lifted an eyebrow. “But… that’s her, right over there, isn’t it?” She pointed over my shoulder, but before I could turn around, she’s already stood up, and whisper-yelled, “Kora!” across the restaurant. A big smile came over her face, and by the time I could wipe my mouth and look behind me, sure enough, Kora was walking our way, looking…
Hair perfectly styled, makeup flawlessly applied, body looking like the definition of sin in skin-tight jeans and high-heeled boots that came up to her thighs. The white blazer she wore made the outfit a little more conservative, but that was canceled out by very few closed buttons on the shirt she wore underneath, putting her cleavage on full display.
Maybe I was exaggerating.
Honestly, it wasn’t over the top. She looked amazing, and she hadn’t crossed the line into being overly sexy for a restaurant – especially one like Butter, which was frequented by celebrities – in the middle of the day. Still, a vein began to throb at my temple and my fists clenched, because I saw who she was with, and I knew she’d dressed for him.
Kora’s gaze was locked on my grandmother, and she wore a huge smile as the two women embraced.
Paul’s eyes were on me.
I was suddenly glad I hadn’t had that whiskey, cause with a little liquor in my system, I was very likely to have punched him in the face. Instead, I met his smug ass expression with a bored one of my own, only smiling when Kora was finished hugging my grandfather, and then turned to address me.
“Tariq… you didn’t tell me your grandparents were going to be in town today.”
And you didn’t tell me you were being all cozy with Paul.
I smiled. “Because I expected you to be busy preparing for the show. I didn’t want to infringe on that, but I see you aren’t as busy as I thought.”
I caught the slight narrowing of her eyes before she turned to Mama Tamille again. “I am so sorry to have almost missed you. I wasn’t expecting to see you guys until the opening next week, but I definitely would have made time for lunch with you.”
“Obviously,” my grandmother said, with a glint in her eyes that I recognized well. “I see you made time for a lunch… date.” She looked over Kora’s shoulder to Paul, who pulled a smile to his face, and gave a little wave.
Kora’s eyes went wide. “Oh! Um… you guys remember Paul, right?”
Mama Tamille’s nose wrinkled. “Hm. Of course. I remember your ex… husband. It’s wonde… it’s nice…” she sighed, then nodded. “We see you, dear.”
Kora bit down hard on her bottom lip as my grandmother gave Paul a sugar-free syrupy smile, then retook her seat, busying herself with the dessert menu. My grandmother loved Kora like she was her own, so I knew Paul’s presence had everything to do with the dismissive air she was giving off now.
“Well,” Kora said, her eyes still wide. “I do need to get back to theatre, so we’re going to head out, but you guys are still joining us at the cast party next week after the show, right?”
“As long as you’ll have us, sweetheart.” My grandfather kissed Kora’s cheek before returning to his seat.
After a few more exchanged goodbyes, Kora and Paul moved on, but I’d be lying if I said my blood wasn’t boiling as I sat down again. What the fuck was she doing with him? I knew Kora had probably taken a car, so I slipped my phone from my pocket to send her a text.
“Thought you said you were NOT getting back with ole boy?”
“So she’s back with him, huh?” Mama Tamille’s voice broke into my thoughts as I waited for Kora to respond. I ran my tongue over my teeth, then shrugged, and she shook her head. “I really thought you two would have stopped this silliness by now, and gotten together. What exactly is the hold up?”
“I—” My phone buzzed, and I glanced down to read Kora’s response.
“Who said anything about being back together? We had a meal, we talked. – K.O.”
“What could his ass possibly have to say to you? He filed the papers, right?”
“Tariq, are you going to answer my question?”
I looked up at my grandmother’s stern expression, and swallowed hard. “I… Kora and I just seem to work better as friends.”
She rolled her eyes. “So it has nothing to do with that little Mexican girl you were in those pictures with?”
“I’m fully aware that Paul initiated our divorce. We talked about the same stuff you talk about with Julissa I guess. Do you need a copy of the minutes from the conversation? – K.O.”
I sighed, then returned my attention to the table. “Julissa isn’t Mexican.”
My grandmother lifted an eyebrow. “She looks Mexican. And the headline said—”
Former football star gets cozy with Latina hottie.
Yeah, I knew exactly the headline she was talking about, featuring pictures snapped of Julissa and I as we left dinner a few nights before. I’d cursed when I first saw them, after Stephen emailed me the link to the story, where the writer was referring to us as an “it” couple, and saying that we must be close to engagement because of her analysis of our body language.
We hadn’t even discussed being official or exclusive, and I wasn’t anywhere near ready for us to have that conversation. But that’s not what the media said.
“I saw it,” I said, thinking about that whiskey again. “But Julissa is Dominican.”
“Whatever the little heifer is, is she why my Kora is sharing oxygen with that silly assed ex-husband of hers?”