Southern Fried Honeybee Query

Here’s a copy of my query for the thriller Southern Fried Honeybee! now AVAILABLE on B&N

southern fried (adjective)

definition: crazy, ambitious and/or driven; term of endearment.

SFH is a thriller mystery about local celeb chef Charlie Daniels, an African American woman from Biloxi, MS who is being hunted by an unknown enemy. Full of diverse characters, SFH is unlike anything that is currently on the shelves. When I first wrote it, Charlie was a complete figment of my imagination. However, now I “see” her as a Tabitha Brown type just without the vegetarian restrictions 😉 .

No southern belle, dynamic Charlie Daniels is owner of the hottest restaurant on Biloxi’s Gulf Coast. Known as the place for good food, good fun, and good friends, the Southern Fried Honeybee is the talk of the town and poised for national success. Charlie has worked hard to cultivate a sweet as pecan pie image but she has an enemy that not only wants to kill her dreams but her too. With the support of her family of friends, Charlie fights to save her life and her dreams- southern fried style!

GET YOUR COPY NOW BELOW (click pic)

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/southern-fried-honeybee-sonja-renee/1141725005

Southern Fried Honeybee (**completed Novel) Now on BN.com

The place for good food, and good fun!

A page turning suspense thriller Southern-Fried Honeybee (previously published as Southern Fried Honeybee by alias- Alexandria Butler) has it all: romance, mystery, sinfully good food and murder. Chef Charlie Daniels is the talk of the Biloxi Gulf Coast’s foodie scene. Everyone knows her restaurant, the Southern Fried Honeybee. However, the ambitious restauranteur has enemies despite her sweet as pecan pie persona. When freak incidents threaten to destroy all she’s worked for, Charlie partners with her handsome competitor, Trace Johnsonne, to find the culprit before she loses everything.

CLICK ON PIC TO BUY! 🙂

Learning Curve (WIP)

This started as a thriller, but turned towards romance. I’m still working on it…

Jessica Stone, real estate magnate, is not all she seems. Beautiful, smart, and talented she seems to have it all but she’s hiding a secret. When she meets Detective Robert Snow he threatens the safe world she’s built for herself.  With a killer on the loose, she must rely on her deadly skill set or risk losing everything she’s worked for including all hopes of a normal life.

Learning Curve-Miami Heat: Crash and Burn

“Better to burn than to rot.” ― Paul Russell, The Coming Storm

Chapter 1

All I ever wanted was to be normal.

Married, single, whatever as long as I was happy and normal. I wanted a nice normal life in a nice normal neighborhood doing nice normal things.

Yes, I, Jessica Stone, regardless of what my exes might say, was just like most women in the world, I wanted to be loved by a man who knew how to make me feel good. I wanted a man who said what he meant and meant what he said. I wanted a man who regardless of the situation acted like a man and not a little boy. I wanted a man who spoke the truth even when it wasn’t convenient. I wanted a man who gave a damn!

Was that too much to ask for?

I didn’t think so, but it seemed fate had other plans.

I’d worked my entire life to get to where I was at, so now at the successful age of twenty eight I wanted to know where my happily ever after was.

I’d had plenty of men of all races, backgrounds, and yes, sizes. Yet, I couldn’t find one to stick and…stay.

What the hell happened?

Where was the life I’d thought I’d have by now?

More importantly, where was my prince?

Hell, I’d take a prince in waiting at this point because all I seemed to be catching was frogs. Frogs with wives and many, many, many tadpoles.

I knew I looked good. The baby fat had melted away long ago, and the awkward period that had lasted longer than any human being should ever have to endure was over.

I’d finally mastered womanhood and all its mysterious vexes and vices. I knew my body and what made it rock. I was at the top of my game physically and mentally.

My 5’8 body was toned from years of yoga and kickboxing. Not to mention I had long caramel colored hair and honey brown skin, which insured I never had a problem getting a man. The problem was finding one I wanted to keep.

My last foray into picking a man had me doubting whether I would ever have a real, long term relationship. Since then I’d run into a dry spell that I couldn’t seem to break. I mean it was bad like Sahara Desert bad, and I was mad as hell about it.  

My last relationship had been a real doozy. His name was Daryl St James. I’d met him on vacation in Bali about a year ago. The attraction was there from the start plus we had a lot in common. We were both business owners with an independent spirit that loved activity, art, and exploration- in all its many forms. We also both lived in Miami.

It felt like it was fate that had brought us together on the other side of the world.

We spent the entire week together, fucking and eating, and then fucking some more. Then we spent another week together a month later in San Cabos doing about the same thing along with a failed paragliding attempt that put Daryl out of commission for a couple of weeks.

Still I’d had more fun with him than a lot of my past boyfriends who were less accomplished and a lot younger than him.

Daryl was fifty but he was an extremely fit fifty. Either way the age difference never bothered me. He more than made up for it in the bedroom. I mean I was more than satisfied.

Before I knew it we were spending all of our time together. He was always up for travel and fun. Having a bank account that surpassed mine more than made up for any strange looks we sometimes got when were together, or so I thought.

We dated for several months before things started getting serious. That was when he’d dropped the bomb on me that he was not only married but had children- children who were almost my age.

Like I said age was never an issue with me, nor were children, but marriage, well, that was a deal breaker.

Although he hadn’t broken my heart, he’d broken my trust which in my book was way worse. From the moment I found out, I was done with him. However, my ego couldn’t let it go.

Strangely I could forgive him, but I could never forget what he’d done. I was never one for letting someone get over on me. He had to pay. It was only fair.

A few weeks had passed before he called me again as I knew he would. They always did. He invited me for dinner.

“One last evening”, he’d said, “for old time’s sake.”

However, the restaurant he picked this time wasn’t like our usual fare when dining in Miami.

Out of town, Daryl was fearless taking me to the best and most expensive places. However, in town Daryl always took me to some dark out of the way place way off the strip where neither of us would run into someone we knew.

That should have been my first sign that he wasn’t legit, but to be honest I wasn’t looking to introduce him to my friends yet either so I didn’t say anything. Besides the sex in the beginning was still good and that was all I cared about.

So for our last night I’d dressed in my tightest shortest black dress with the reddest highest fuck me pumps I could find. I wanted him to know what he was missing, and from the look on his face when he saw me he did.

His eyes never left me not for one minute, and boy did I play it up. Playing footsy under the table then pleasuring his hard cock until I felt a telltale sign of dampness leaking through his expensive slacks. He begged me to stop, but his body said otherwise. I savored the way he adjusted himself several times beneath the table when he thought I wasn’t looking.

He was fifty but like I said we never had problems in the bedroom. He was always hot and ready for it. That’s how I wanted him that night so every chance I got I fanned the flame.

Flash of thigh here, lick of the lips there, I was shameless with the innuendos. He was eating it up. Everything was going to plan.

I wanted him to be frothing at the mouth and just when he couldn’t take any more- leave him high and dry with a little something extra.

Payback served. I planned to leave him stewing in his juices hot and hard just in time for his wife, Etta, to slip in.

The look of disappointment then shock on his face was almost comical when I stood to allow Mrs. St. James to take my place at the table.

I would have laughed had we not been in the middle of the most popular and famous restaurant in all of Miami.

The mayor of the city was less than ten feet from us, and a quarter of the Miami Heat was holed up in a corner by the grotto. I watched his dark face grow ashen as his wife fixed her laser steady stare on him.

Etta truly was a fascinating woman. Etta had been a power broker on Wall Street back in the day so she was no dummy. However, she’d given it all up to get married and have her dream life. She had the perfect home, the perfect family, but after a few decades she realized something was missing- her husband. You see she knew before I came along Daryl was dipping outside of their marriage.

It hadn’t taken but a single afternoon to cultivate a partnership. I’d learned I wasn’t the first, but I promised Etta with her help I could definitely be the last. It was with that the plan to teach her wayward spouse a lesson was launched.

Now that justice was delivered, I did as promised and walked away. However, it was with some flair, of course. I sauntered out of that restaurant like Angela Bassett dropping the mic without a second glance leaving a sweating Daryl to try and explain to his wife of twenty plus years what he was doing there with me and a wet crotch.

It might have been cruel but maybe he’d learn to let his wife handle his business in the privacy of their bed room from now on or be prepared to hand over his business to her in divorce court.

Either way I felt avenged. Besides the wife had a right to know, right?

Brazen I know, but he deserved it. No one messed with me without catching hell. He just best be glad I only bruised his manhood and hadn’t taken it off completely for lying to me.

Truth be told in my past life I’d done much worse for less reason. Not many people knew that side of me.

Luckily for him, I hadn’t gone helter skelter on his ass. If you ask me I’d let him off easy. Just the thought of all the things I could have and would have done to him years ago made me tingle in all the naughty places you weren’t supposed to talk about. If I’d met him in my other life before I had anything to lose things would have ended very differently.  

I don’t know maybe I wasn’t up for normal. My life to this point had been a roller coaster of extremes and maybe that was my lot. To be honest I couldn’t complain, not really.

I had a skill set that not many women could boast of, that enabled me to retire with a nice little nest egg. Although I still benefitted from time to time in my new life from what I’d learned during that period it was definitely over now. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the reason I was alone.

Men said they wanted a woman who could take care of themselves, but did they really? Everything I’d seen said that they didn’t. Unfortunately some habits were hard to break.

Then I met him.

Chapter 2

Robert

 Robert was movie star handsome the type of man who was used to having his pick of woman, but also knew how to treat a woman right.

He was a man’s man through and through. Never one to carelessly start something, he also never backed down from a fight. He was both a gentleman and a lion, king of whatever domain he occupied.

He taught me the fun of the game, but he didn’t play. He knew what he wanted and he expected his women to know the same. The game was as old as time. It wasn’t a battle of wills but a test of them.

It was the dance between man and woman which was what they used to call courtship in the good old days. It was a way to get to know your partner before you really got to know them.

Before him I didn’t understand how much fun that could be. I thought the sex was the best part, but he showed me it was actually the build up to it.

I used to be a good girl before I moved to Miami.

Now let me define good girl. I wasn’t like a good girl as in a freak in a bed and lady in the streets. I was a real honest to God legit good girl.

I didn’t cuss, I didn’t smoke, and I didn’t even drink. I most definitely did not have sex on the first date, or the second or third. Hell, there were entire relationships where I didn’t have sex.

It wasn’t because I was some religious freak or anything like that. I just believed what my parents told me, and I listened to them. When they told me to always make men treat me with respect I did exactly that. Of course, it didn’t take long once I was out of their house to realize it was all fantasy. If I followed by their rules I’d never have a man let alone have sex.

The real world didn’t play by Mommy and Daddy’s rules. The real world expected you to pull your big girl panties on and handle your business. I’d made some mistakes, gotten into some messes that forced me to grow up in some good ways but in some very bad ways as well.

In the real world you had to get yours or die trying. So I learned quickly to use what I had to get mine. Yet a solid relationship eluded me.

It was a big learning curve I had to learn with Robert. In the beginning the biggest roadblock was learning how to handle him. He was different from the other men I was used to, smoother around the edges, yet still rugged like some old school urban cowboy. I knew from the beginning he wasn’t like all the others. Luckily just like in school I was a fast learner.

Chapter 3

Sitting at the bar in the lobby of the hotel I was staying in, I checked my watch once more. It was later than I thought but I still had time to enjoy the rest of my drink before the next conference meeting. It was some fruity thing that the bartender totally judged me for the two seconds before it took me to tell him to mind his own damn business.

I was in Tampa on a late Tuesday morning for business as usual. I’d had an early start this morning so I’d slipped in to have a little pick me up. In between meetings and starving I should have ordered food, but shoulda coulda, right? 

Unfortunately, now I was a little buzzed which never boded well considering my love life, or lack of love life had me fiending for a different kind of fix.

So I’d missed breakfast, and it wasn’t afternoon yet? What of it. If I wanted a drink, then why the hell not?  I was a grown ass woman, and if a little nip would set me right before I headed back into that jungle I’d deserved a little nip. Oh shit, maybe I was drunker then I thought.

The fact that I was trying to rationalize a strawberry daiquiri with an extra shot of vodka at 10 am in the morning told me I needed to put something in my stomach before I headed out. The problem was nothing on the menu was going to satisfy my taste buds.

I needed something a little spicier, and fortunately the man at the other end of the bar looked like a freaking buffet.

Six two about two hundred pounds of sinew and muscle, he was a tall glass of water and I was severely dehydrated, but I didn’t call him over.

He’d noticed me when he first walked in, I was sure of it, but he’d kept his distance sitting on the opposite end despite all the empty chairs. I liked that he wasn’t pressed.

I also liked I didn’t notice any rings on his finger, not that it mattered. Still it gave a girl hope.

I watched the way his muscles moved beneath the perfectly tailored navy blue suit he was wearing as I waited for him to make his move. I waited and waited.

To say I was surprised when I looked up a few minutes later to see he’d disappeared was an understatement. I’m not going to lie it threw me for a second, but I quickly shook it off. It was his loss.

Besides maybe he was married, or gay. It had to have been a pretty extraordinary reason he hadn’t picked up on my signals because I knew I looked good today. Hell, I looked good every day.

The bartender looked at me and I realized I’d just spoken out loud. Luckily he smiled and nodded letting me know he agreed with me. Still, I grabbed some nosh from the bar to eat during the meeting. I was beginning to believe I was a drunker than I thought.

I paid my tab then gathered my briefcase to head to the next meeting on my itinerary glad when I found the room easily.

I’m not going to lie the entire way to the conference room I was looking for the guy from the bar, but he’d all but disappeared. It was weird, but I shook him off as I entered the room I’d be in for the next hour.

Thankfully the speaker was on time and started off strong. I had my pen out and was scribbling in my notepad some of talking points from the PowerPoint the speaker was following.

I saw a shadow fall across the table.

“You mind if I sit here,” a deep rich voice smooth in my ear, but I was too busy taking notes to look up. The speaker was at the podium talking about my specialty- corporate real estate.

If there was any time to pay attention it was now for me, but the moment I caught a whiff of the man’s expensive cologne my attention was piqued. I couldn’t help taking a look.

When I turned all I saw was his proud profile but it was enough to recognize him. I was gone.

“Can I help you?” he asked without turning to look at me. I cleared my throat, finding it difficult to swallow.

Say something, stupid, I thought to myself, but my words got stuck somewhere in my throat.

“Well?” he said, turning to me with a smile on his face. It was something in his eyes that made the lioness in me raise up and growl.

He was cocky for sure, and oh, he thought he had me figured out, but he was wrong, so wrong. I went with it though.

“Just wondering how you could just take someone’s seat like that.” He frowned. My challenge had thrown him off, which made the lioness grin then stretch as she watched for her chance to pounce.

“I’m sorry,” he said his brow furrowed. “I thought you heard me ask.” It was my turn to smile then.

“Okay,” he said. “You got me. Robert,” he said as way of introduction before holding his hand out. I took it returning his firm grip. One of his eyebrows arched.
            “Jessica,” I said withholding my last name as well. I could tell this was all part of his game, and I was more than ready to play.

“It’s okay?” he said leaning in close enough for me to feel his body heat. A deep part of me wanted to purr at the closeness then to get closer. “You’re not saving this seat for anyone, are you?”

“Of course not,” I said turning back to the speaker. I was able to follow along for the remainder of the speaker’s presentation, but not because I wanted to. Luckily they were selling tapes at the end of the session. I’d planned to purchase a set for later reference anyways.

The speaker this year was actually fascinating giving great advice, and within a few minutes I was back taking notes.

Real estate in Miami was big business, and this particular conference was a popular annual event and really worth the money I’d spent on it for me and two of my staff members to attend. The opportunity for networking alone was worth its weight in gold.

My employees were in two of the other sessions and we planned to meet up at the end for lunch. Then later in the evening we’d get together again to discuss all we’d learned. We’d done that the previous night as well. Tomorrow we’d head back to Miami after a final brunch.

The folks who’d planned the conference this year really had their stuff down and made sure all the attendees got their money’s worth. This was my second year in a row coming, and I intended to come back a third.

Now that I’d met Robert it was just an added bonus. Maybe this year I might have an opportunity for a little pleasure with business. God knew I needed it.

All work and no play made Jessica a very dull girl, and unfortunately it had been a very long time for me.

However, at the end of the lecture I was surprised when Robert stood quickly as if he was leaving. I’d hoped we’d have a little time to talk between lectures, but I guessed I’d read him wrong.

There were several times I felt his eyes on me during the conference. There was definitely some touching above as well beneath the table when his knee or hand briefly brushed against me. It wasn’t too much to where I felt uncomfortable, but just the right amount that pulled my interest.

“Thanks for the seat,” Robert said. I looked up at him as I picked up my suitcase from under my chair.

“My pleasure,” I said smiling.

“Your pleasure, huh?” he said looking down at me. He was definitely interested, but he also seemed distracted. I knew I looked good in my designer suit, but I knew I looked even better standing- so I did. His eyes traveled down my body all the way to the strappy pumps I wore.

“No, the pleasure was all mine,” he said bright white teeth shining as he chuckled. He stared at me a few seconds too long to be an accident, but I held back. Something told me that was how he liked it. Everything in me screamed to make a move, but I knew he wouldn’t appreciate it. He was going to have to work for this.

He wasn’t like the men I usually went for. He wasn’t a player, not exactly. He actually seemed like a good guy, but I could tell there was a dark side lurking beneath waiting to be unleashed.

It was that dark side that I recognized. I wanted that dark side, but I knew in order to get it, I couldn’t be me.

Instinctively I knew I had to be someone else.

Normally, I did the chasing. I didn’t believe in waiting like some romance novel virgin feigning disinterest. If I wanted something I went after it full speed in business and in pleasure. However, I could tell Robert wouldn’t be turned on by that.

To get him I had to be the type of woman who opened the gate to that dark side but waited for him to emerge on his own steam.

“Well, I’m sure we’ll be running into each other again,” Robert said frowning slightly as if he wasn’t sure what to do next. That was just how I wanted him.

“Really?” I said. “Well, I hope so, Robert.”

“Me too, Jessica,” he said as if he savored the sound of my name in his mouth. I wanted that mouth on me, but I forced myself to hold back.

Not many men knew this, but women could tell almost instantly when they were going to bed someone. It usually happened in the first five minutes of meeting a man something few men knew. I’d already made my decision. Hell, I’d made my decision over an hour ago in the bar before he’d even spoken a word to me.

Everything was going just how I wanted, but then his eyes left mine. It wasn’t long but long enough for me to know he wasn’t going to make a move- not now.

Smiling, he excused himself, and then he turned and walked away. Then just like that he was gone.

When the door closed behind him suddenly I noticed the other people swarming around in the room. The place was still packed with other attendees networking and preparing for their next session.

While I was talking to Robert it was like we’d been the only two people in the world, but now that he was gone the spell had been lifted. It was amazing. No man had ever had that effect on me. I prided myself on my gift of observation. He’d actually made me unaware of my environment and the people in that environment.

It was scary actually considering it was a skill I’d depended on heavily since leaving my parent’s home. It had been the only thing that had kept me alive on many occasions and he’d all but obliterated it for the few minutes we’d been together.

Disappointed and a little confused I picked up my bag then gathered my notes to put them away. It was then I saw a small white card flutter to the ground. I picked it up automatically reading it.

On the front it had business information, the name of a real estate company and phone number. On the back there was more.

The words there made my cheeks burn and my insides tingle.

“You are the finest woman I’ve met in a long time. I would love to see you again, and then make you understand just how much I want you.

Call me ~Robert”

His personal number was listed along with a home phone number.

Game on.

Chapter 4

Tuesday, 1:23 pm

My white Mercedes ate up the highway with ease. I knew exactly where I was going. Traffic was good and the breeze running off of Miami’s hottest beaches made the normally humid weather somewhat pleasant.

Today was going to be a good day. I planned to have a sale to add to my long lists of conquests before the sun went down. I was on my way to meeting a very important client with a lot of money to burn. There was nothing that could dull my shine as I turned the volume up on the satellite radio blasting salsa music. The smell of leather filled my nose along with the sea breeze light scent.

I wore a simple blouse and crème slacks with matching pumps. The blouse was in my signature color- lemon yellow. I looked fresh and hip just what I wanted for this business meeting.

I was headed to the latest penthouse being built on the strip. Only the wealthiest and trendiest were able to get appointments on this side of town so I had to look the part.

On paper the prospective client was a twenty something tech guy trying to buy a bachelor pad for himself. He’d traveled to Miami for the weekend from Cali to look at some property.

I had two more places scheduled for him to see, but I expected him to jump on this one.

I certainly hoped so at least, because that meant I could have the rest of the afternoon free. I’d been working nonstop and tonight it would be nice to go out and sample what was new on the party circuit scene.

It had been a while, but that only made me hungrier for it. That’s how I was. I couldn’t go to the clubs unless I was really feeling it.

Otherwise I ended up being irritated by all the tourists and big spenders looking to impress whoever they thought was watching. I had to be in the mood for that and ready for it. If the next few hours went how I wanted, I just might finally end that dry spell tonight.

“Good morning, Ms. Stone,” the valet attendant said his eyes sliding over my body.

“Good morning to yourself, Julio,” I said lowering my shades a bit to read his name tag. I watched the young man blush enjoying his sudden bashfulness. He was new. I hadn’t seen him before.

The other valets watched me as I prepared to hand my keys over. I decided to give them a show. I held the keys for a second dangling them over Julio’s trembling hand.

“You’ll take care of her for me, won’t you?” Julio swallowed hard his eyes on my red lips.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said swallowing hard as he cupped both of his hands to receive the keys. He caught them when I dropped them. Holding them like they were precious cargo his eyes watched my every move.

“I’ll be checking, when I get it back now,” I winked to let him know I was kidding, not that it mattered. I could tell he was a centimeter from cumming in his pants.

If I had the time I might have seen if I could make it happen, but I was already cutting it close. Julio scrambled to get in the car as I walked away. I heard laughter and a few wolf whistles as Julio inched his way pass the other valet staff.  At that rate, by the time he parked I’d be calling for my car. Laughing I walked through the glassed in reception area.

Waving at the guard he buzzed the elevator so it was waiting for me by the time I made it across the lobby. I’d forgotten his name, but they all knew me here. Protocol was to sign in and out, but my company did enough business with them to where they didn’t require it.

I’d just pressed the elevator button for the top floor when the guards face appeared on the screen. The man’s bulbous head shined in the little window as he grinned back at me.

I’d almost forgotten about the closed circuit monitor in all the elevators. The security staff was so proud of it. Every time I came in the guards made sure to make use of it whether they needed to or not.  

“Can I help you?” I smiled looking into the screen after a few seconds. The guard smiled back stars in his eyes.

“Yes, Ms. Stone,” he said looking down at his clipboard for a second. “Your client, I just wanted to let you know he’s already waiting for you.” I frowned slightly, but just as quick it was gone.

“Did you let him in?” I said wanting to know. I’d told security protocol if for some reason a client got there before me. It had never happened before, but to tell the truth I was surprised with this particular client. Still I didn’t like that my instructions hadn’t been followed.  

The reason for my strict instructions was practicality more than anything else. Usually I liked to check the showroom since there were other brokers who were selling too and sometimes used it.

Typically the showroom had a few people going through it every week and you never knew who might leave a mess. I frowned.  

“No, the manager walked him up personally,” he said. I nodded. Of course, Thomas had. The punk had been trying me for the past month.

“Thanks,” I said then the screen went black. I stepped back from the screen glaring at the doors. What the hell was Thomas doing now? He knew good and well this was not how it was supposed to work.

As soon as I got a hold of him I was going to tell him this was not how we were doing business. Nobody cut in on my clients- nobody, especially not some self-important condo manager.

I didn’t care how nice the building was; I managed my sales from beginning to end. Two reasons- One: I didn’t share commission and two: a relationship between broker and client was sacred and the last thing I needed was anybody getting in between me and how I handle my clients.

I was hot as I walked off the elevator. I hoped Thomas was still inside because if he was he was going to wish he’d never interfered with my business.

Even if I had to show my ass in front of Christian I would to make sure that Thomas never did this again.

I didn’t want to lose a possible sale, but the future of my business was more important and Tommy-boy needed to know his place.

When I got to the apartment the first thing I noticed was the doors were all closed. It was strange, but not surprising. I usually closed the door to units I was showing too most females did. Sometimes I even locked them if we were in a deserted area. However, with Thomas I wasn’t surprised. He was an arrogant son of a bitch.

Although I only showed to high end clientele nowadays, you never knew who might wander in off the street. It only took one time. Plus it was old habit from when I first started out.

My clients and the properties I showed when I first started weren’t the classiest. In fact some of the neighborhoods were in the process of being gentrified so it was sometimes a mixed bag when it came to safety. I was glad those days were far behind me.

The entire floor was vacant. There were only four units, but for now it was just being used for the purpose of showing potential customers what they would be getting if they decided to make the towers their home. I had the last unit 1133.

As soon as I unlocked the door and stepped inside I knew something was wrong. My old survival instincts kicked in. I reached for my phone and pulled it out. I had security on speed dial.

“I need someone to come up to 1133,” I said in a low calm voice.

“Right away,” the guard said recognizing my voice. The phone clicked dead. It was then I saw the balcony doors were wide open. I took a step forward. As I did I saw a flash of movement to my left and a second later I was on the ground. Instinctively, I kicked out, but my attacker was already gone. The door slammed behind them.

“What the hell?” I said scrambling to lock the door. I didn’t know if there was anyone else, but I didn’t want whoever had just pushed me down to come back in on me.

That’s when I heard it. It sounded like a groan coming from around the corner. I stood hesitantly taking a step towards the master bed room.

I stuck my hand in my purse relief coursing through me when I felt the cool metal in my hand.

“Help,” a voice called out weakly. “Help me please,” it said again. It was a man, at least I thought it was. I dialed 911. “I need a cop there’s been a break in,” I said. Then I looked down and saw a bloody footprint. “And an ambulance.”

I pulled the small pistol from my purse releasing the safety. Slowly I rounded the corner not surprised to see a bloody handprint on the white wall. The apartment hadn’t been staged so it was all white walls and hardwood floors. I was thankful there wasn’t any clutter in case I needed to run. A few steps later there was another handprint and then another leading into the master bedroom.

“Help,” the voice called out again but it sounded weaker even though I was getting closer. I rounded the corner to the master bedroom my gun raised gasping at what I saw.

Blood was everywhere on the door, the walls, the floor. All of the splatters lead to a pool of blood in the center of the room coming from a guy barely moving on the floor. He wore a hoody and blue jeans with a pair of vintage white converse sneakers.

He was holding his neck but the blood still flowed from him. He tried to say something but only a gurgle came out. It was Christian.

I ran to the young man on the ground and he grabbed my arm with both hands letting go of his neck. Blood spurted everywhere. Instinctively I placed both of my hands on the puncture wound to stop the flow. There was a loud noise behind me as the front door crashed open. A second later a security guard stumbled into the room

“What the hell happened,” he yelled.

“I called the police and an ambulance already. Call downstairs, and tell them to lock the building down,” I said. The guard his eyes huge and white. “Do it!” I yelled. Once I heard he was following through with my order I turned back to the young man whose grip had fallen away. Minutes that felt like forever passed as I applied more pressure.

“Hold on, man,” I yelled pressing harder, but I could tell I was losing him. “Hold on.”

There was a noise down the hall, and a second later the ambulance techs flew into the room. They immediately started working on the man.

Within minutes they had him stabilized and on the gurney, but I could tell from the looks they gave me it didn’t look good.  I watched them running down the hall then disappear on the elevator.

“What the hell happened,” the guard yelled again, but I ignored him. Now that the place had cleared out I walked back into the bedroom still unable to believe what had happened.  My mind was swimming with questions as I tried to look at the scene with new eyes. All I saw was blood.

Who would do this to Christian? Sliding to the ground one thought ran through my mind, it could have been me. I was the only person who was supposed to be here this early. Christian was set to arrive for almost another half hour.

“What the hell happened,” the guard said again. The man was grating my last nerve, but then he walked in.

“Jessica?” he said his eyes confused and alarmed at the same time. I looked down at the blood on my blouse, my hands realizing suddenly I was shaking. Taking several deep breaths I tried to pull myself together.

“Who are you?” the guard asked.

“Robert,” I said trying to pull myself up to stand.

“Detective Snow, MPD Homicide,” Robert said. 

Chapter 5

I watched the police as they set about their work. Detective Robert Snow had already asked me a million questions, but answered none of mine. Like when did he become a fucking cop. He hadn’t written anything I’d said down, but I doubted he forgot anything.

There were a few times he repeated his questions, and I knew it was just to see if I’d trip up. I didn’t even in my condition. Every time I thought about Christian I felt sick.

I was trembling but I was fully aware of everything going on. I had to be.

After he’d asked me to take him through my steps one more time up to right before I walked into the master bedroom he took down all of my contact information. Finally, I thought but it was too little too late.

I’d made sure to give him my cell phone number only, but he hadn’t asked for more than that. I answered all his questions, but I didn’t volunteer anything extra.

There were a few times I caught him staring at me strangely, but he never said anything untoward that made me think he didn’t believe me.

This wasn’t my first time dealing with the police, but it just made it more obvious to me that Robert knew how to do his job. It made me uneasy because it made him dangerous.

Forensics had come in taking samples of whatever they could find. There didn’t seem to be much. It was all hardwood and the only item left was the victim’s baseball cap. It was the same red one he’d worn at our first meeting.

Considering Christian Blount’s choice of clothes and age no one suspected he was rich. But having created a super successful startup in Silicon Valley a couple of years ago before he even graduated from college, Christian had actually amassed quite a fortune.

He was single, young and finally ready to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor. For this to happen seemed like some cruel joke.

“You can use the bathroom to change,” Robert said handing me two brown paper bags.

“One has a change of clothes,” he said softly. “We’re going to need your clothes.” I looked at him quickly. “Just protocol,” he said, but I didn’t believe him. I knew how these things worked, and how quickly it could turn against me.

“Sure,” I said calmly. I knew fighting him now would not be smart. I took the bags and closed the door behind me. Looking in the mirror I nearly gagged.

Blood was everywhere, Christian’s blood. I took a deep breath forcing myself to calm down.

“You can do this,” I said to myself. Hearing my voice made it all more real forcing me to move. I wanted out of there and the sooner I finished the sooner I could leave. I stripped quickly putting my clothes and shoes in the bag as Robert had told me to do. I was glad to see there was a towel inside the second bag along with a pair of brown workmen’s overalls.

I scrubbed at the blood with my hands and did my best to scrub the blood away with the towel. When I was finished I pulled on the oversized overalls and the pair of flip flops that were also in the bag.

I walked out the bathroom handing my clothes over to the forensics team.

“We need your purse too,” Robert said towering over me.

“You’re not taking my purse,” I said drawing myself up to my full height. I felt better now that I was out of the bloody clothes, and I wasn’t going to allow him to just steam roll over me.

“We need,” he started but I cut him off.

“Am I a suspect,” I asked.

“It’s protocol,” Robert said frowning.

“Am I a suspect?” I asked again.

“Not yet,” Robert said stubbornly.

“Well, let me know when I am,” I said putting my purse on my shoulder. “And call my lawyer while you’re at it.” Robert’s face turned from frown to glare. I turned my back on the detective and headed for the door.

“Ms. Stone,” he called out. I stopped but I didn’t look back at the detective. “I’ll be in touch so don’t leave town.” I nodded then made a beeline for the elevator. As soon as the door closed, I exhaled loudly falling against the cool chrome walls.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I said my voice echoing in the empty box. Just when I thought I was solid. Six years, six years I’d been in Miami. Six years of living straight and this had to happen. “Fuck,” I said kicking the wall.

As soon as the door opened I was once again my cool composed self. I walked across the lobby then outside the front doors. There were flashing lights everywhere. I even saw a few news trucks off to the side.

The valet had my car waiting for me. There was no flirting this time when I got in the car. There were no words at all.

            I drove several blocks before I pulled over on a side street rolling the windows down so I could catch my breath. My hands were shaking as I reached for my phone. I didn’t want to make the call, but I knew I had to.

“Dammit,” I said hitting the steering wheel with my closed fist. I had to get my shit together. This wasn’t supposed to happen, not now. I was legit now. I’d gone straight.

Everything had been perfect. Perfect! Suddenly Robert came to mind. He was the reason I had to make the call. Something told me he wasn’t going to let this go. He was like a dog after a bone. He might as well have had relentless tattooed on his forehead.

If it had been anyone else I probably wouldn’t have been worried, but him? If he caught a whiff that my past wasn’t as sturdy as everyone believed, it could mean the end of everything.

I had to stay ahead of it, but something stopped me from calling Carlos. If Carlos got involved things would get messy. No ifs ands or buts about it. If I called Carlos someone was going to end up dead.

I put the phone back in my purse. Unzipping the front of my overalls I reached inside my panties and pulled out the pistol then placed it on the seat next to me.

I had a permit for the thing, but it wasn’t real. The permit wasn’t any more real than my name and social security number.

I’d paid good money for both six years ago, but you never knew how those things would hold up. The last thing I needed was for Robert Snow, MPD to go digging in my past. Detective? Why’d he have to be a detective, dammit!

I turned the key in the ignition. I’d give it a day, maybe two. Maybe this would all blow over. Maybe I was overreacting. Either way I knew that I had to stay away from Robert Snow.

He was a handsome man, but no piece of ass was worth my freedom. I’d hold off on calling Carlos for now, but if Robert showed even a hint of a sign that he was getting close to uncovering my secret all bets were off. I’d learned my lesson once before.

Chapter 6

“Carlos, oh God,” I moaned. I was already about to finish, and we hadn’t even fully started yet. “Ooh baby you you’re going to fast,” I panted, but he didn’t relent.

“C’mon baby, you know how I do,” he said removing his fingers and nudging my thighs wider. “You want this baby, don’t you? God you’re so wet.” He entered me with a groan closing his mouth over mine holding both my hips as he stroked deep.

His back grew more rigid with each stroke as he touched all the right places deep inside of me. The ride was hard and fast, but that was how Carlos did everything. His broad shoulders were solid beneath my hands as I melted into each stroke.  

Again and again he bucked over me until he started the final climb. I felt him shudder right before I arched moaning as I gave myself up. Seconds later I heard his low, guttural moan as he joined me and found his release.

Several minutes passed before he rolled off of me hundred dollar bills still sticking to his sweaty chest. I peeled them off one by one.

“How much you think we got this time,” I asked.

“Enough to not care about how much,” Carlos said laughing.

I woke up with a smile on my face, but a second later it disappeared when I realized where I was. Groaning I sat up in my bed in the luxury apartment I’d lived in since I came to Miami. It was the home I’d bought and paid for with my money.

My heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest, but it wasn’t from fear. That familiar excitement I used to chase years ago like a bad habit was the cause of it. I thought I had left all of that behind me, but Christian’s attack had brought it all back with a vengeance along with the relentless Detective Snow.

God, I hadn’t thought about Carlos like that in years. I knew he’d be mad if he found out I didn’t call him after yesterday, but I had to see if I could handle it first. If Carlos came in it would be like introducing a wrecking ball to my life. Hell, I wouldn’t have a life after he got through.

No, I’d let the police handle this. It was probably just a simple case of wrong place, wrong time. Christian was still alive, and I was sure once he woke up he’d be able to identify his attacker or at least tell the police that it was some vagrant or something. That was what I hoped for at least.

Putting my legs over the side of the bed I could feel the telltale wetness between my thighs. God, how long had it been since I’d had some- a couple of weeks?

Suddenly I remembered. It had been a month ago. Some one night stand on a business trip I’d taken. It was soon after I’d first met Robert at that conference.

I barely even remembered the guy’s face let alone his name. Even when I was in bed with him my mind was Robert, the one person I now knew I couldn’t have.

“Jesus,” I said getting out of bed trying to ignore the throbbing in my breasts. I thought about taking care of my problem myself, but one look at the clock told me I didn’t have the time. Besides being horny kept me alert, and something told me where I was going I needed all the help I could get.

There was a possible killer on the loose. Late last night I’d gotten a call from Robert telling me Christian was still hanging on, but he’d also given me a warning.

“We know you didn’t see the perp’s face, but the perp might not know that,” Robert said. He didn’t have to spell it out for me the possible danger I was in. It was something I’d already thought about, and the reason I’d slept with my gun beneath my pillow last night.

I understood that I could be in danger which made it all the more important for this case to be solved ASAP. So when he asked me to come into the station, I said yes. I figured it was the best way for me to find out everything the police knew so far.

I didn’t have anything for him, but cooperating seemed the best thing to do- for now. I just hoped Christian pulled through for all of our sakes.

Chapter 7

I walked into the police station in a bad mood. It only went downhill from there.

“Didn’t we agree on nine am,” Detective Snow said as soon as he saw me. He looked bigger than usual, but that didn’t intimidate me. In fact it seemed to fuel my smart mouth.

“If we did then I would have been here,” I said returning his glare.

“Okay, I guess you two have met,” a chipper older man dressed in a wrinkled white shirt and dark pants. “My name, however, is Stan Hope. You must be Jessica Stone,” he said with a winning smile.

“We really appreciate you taking time out of you busy schedule to come down here, Ms. Stone.” The man continued talking the entire time steering me into an interrogation room. He was good as well, but I’d seen better. “Can we get you some coffee, something to eat.”

“I have coffee,” I said raising my cup, “and I ate already. After all it is eleven a.m. as your friend over there so astutely pointed out.”

“Astutely,” Stan smiled appreciatively. “We’ve got a smart one here.” I didn’t return his smile. Luckily, he got the point, and got on with it.

“Ms. Stone we called you down because we wanted to ask you a few questions. But first yesterday I’m sure was quite a scare for you. Were there any questions you had?” His question actually surprised me, but I kept my face passive and shook my head.

“Well, I know some of these questions are repetitive since you were already interviewed by Robert, but please bear with me. How did you know the victim?” I looked from Stan to Robert than back to Stan again.

“Are you serious?” I said. “I told him multiple times yesterday how I knew Christian.”

“If you could just,” he began but I cut him off.

“No, I can’t just,” I said standing. “Do I need to call my lawyer? Is that what this is? Are you going to keep asking me the same questions and then arrest me because I used the wrong pronoun or something?”

“Ms. Stone, I didn’t mean to upset you, but this really is important to the case,” Stan stood but he didn’t move forward. I looked to Robert who hadn’t moved.

“What do you geniuses want from me?” I said and Robert moved.

“How about sitting down and answering the damn questions,” Robert said his eyes on fire. Even Stan stopped to look at Robert on that. That looked told me everything. This sort of outburst was out of character for Robert.

That damn lioness in me rolled its neck in recognition again. I hated to admit it but I liked to see him lose control like that. Especially since something told me it didn’t happen often.

“Or what?” I said unable to resist pushing him further. Robert took a deep breath as he attempted to get control of himself.

“Or you can leave,” he said. The tone was even, but I could still see a little bit of the fire still there in his eyes.

“You’re free to leave at any time Ms. Stone,” Stan said softly. “You are in no way obligated,” he continued but I waved him off.

“I’ll stay,” I said. “But I want him to ask me the questions,” I said pointing at Robert. I knew it before I said it that I was playing with fire, but it was too hard to resist.

            The two men switched places. As soon as Robert sat down I could smell that familiar cologne. I knew the name of it this time. I’d made a special trip to my favorite store soon after we’d met.

L’estat was the name very French and very expensive. It made me wonder how he could afford it and costly conventions like the one we met at.

Either detectives made more than I remembered or his sideline business as a real estate broker was doing pretty well.

            “I promise this won’t take long,” Robert said his eyes cool once again.

            “You’ve got twenty minutes,” I said smartly. This time Robert smiled.

Exactly nineteen minutes and fifty eight seconds later we were done. A lot of the questions were the same, but one surprisingly did seem to garner some more information.

Yesterday had been stressful as Stan had said, but I was able to remember some important information.

“You said the perp bumped into you when he ran out?”

“Yeah, he tackled me basically. We both went down.”

“Did you notice anything about him anything? Like his clothes, his voice, his smell?” I shook my head then I thought about it again.

“He smelled like peppermint,” I said. “When he grabbed me he breathed like right in my face. I don’t know how that helps. I was looking down so I didn’t. Wait,” I said suddenly realizing I saw the guys hand. “I saw his hand,” the two detectives leaned forward.

I thought about lying, but I didn’t see any reason to do that. I wanted the guy caught, the sooner the better. “He was white, or at least pale. Most definitely not a black guy or dark person. In fact I saw freckles.”

“Freckles?” Stan said smiling. “Well, that narrows it down.” Robert looked at the man until the smile fell away.

“Thank you so much Ms. Stone,” Robert said looking to me once again. “Is there anything else?” I thought on it hard, but that was all I had. Plus I was ready to go.

I’d done my duty and cooperated. Now I hoped this would be the end of it. As fine as Snow was I couldn’t afford pursuing anything further.

Robert insisted he walk me out despite my protests. I forced myself to remain on my best behavior but I walked as fast as I could to get away.

If he made a move I didn’t know if I’d be able to resist responding. Unfortunately, he kept up with me even following me to the parking lot.

“I got it from here,” I said before ducking into an alley, but I didn’t make it to my car. I felt a pair of hands grab me from behind. Instinct made me go slack falling to the ground.

“Get up,” the stranger said, “get the fuck up.” But I didn’t move. A second later I saw his blade. I heard footsteps behind me, but I knew I didn’t have much time. A picture of Christian flashed before my mind.

The last thing I wanted was to feel the blade in my throat. My reflexes kicked in and I dropped back into a judo position. I could clearly see my attackers face, but I wasn’t interested in anything but his eyes. They told me everything.

Before he even lunged at me his eyes shifted letting me know and I was already ready with a swift kick knocking the knife away. Then I went about making sure he was down for good.

I felt the satisfying crunch of his arm when I broke it. He screamed but it was cut off by a quick uppercut that sent him on his back. He was out cold. Free, I turned back to my car ready to get as far away as possible. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone.

“Hey,” I heard a voice behind me. I groaned when I turned and saw it was Snow. The look on his face told me he’d seen everything.

“You could have helped,” I yelled out.

“You seemed to have it under control,” he said frowning. He stood over the guy looking at the damage I’d done. Walking around the guy splayed on the ground, his eyes never left mine.

“Who are you?” he asked a strange look on his face. My belly dropped, but I didn’t have time to respond.

A second later the alley was filled with officers. The man was out cold, but when an ambulance came to take him away a couple of officers climbed in back and another followed.

“So,” Robert said some time later, “karate?” he asked.

“Judo,” I said looking at my watch. I’d already called my office, since this was taking way longer than I expected. As much as I wanted to leave, I’d had no choice but to file a report.

“Judo,” he said. “You’re good.”

“I know,” I said.

“What happened yesterday? Why didn’t you kick that guy’s ass?”

“Because the last thing I expected was for someone to come running full speed out of a guarded luxury apartment I was trying to sale. That idiot out there wasn’t trying to get away, he was trying to take me with him.”

“Take you?”

“Yeah, he was actually trying to drag me somewhere.”

“Where?”

“How the hell do I know? As soon as I saw the blade I didn’t really care what he wanted.” Robert sighed.

            “I’m sorry, I know this is difficult.”

            “You don’t know jack shit,” I said. Robert looked at me strangely. I wanted to laugh suddenly. Don’t let the designer clothes fool you, I wanted to say, but I stayed silent. It was obvious he didn’t expect someone like me to talk like that, but he didn’t get it.

The person who he thought I was didn’t exist. She was a figment of my imagination and with all that had gone down the past two days the real me was having a hard time staying hidden.

“Just finish asking your questions and let me out of here.”

“I’m done,” Robert said his eyes fixed on me as if he was trying to figure out a puzzle. He could try all he wanted. He wasn’t going to see anything I didn’t want him to see and the sooner he figured that out the better.

He glared at me and I glared right back until he was forced to turn away when his name was called.

“Robert,” Stan walked up quickly. “The chief is looking for you,” he said and just like that he was gone. Robert’s head dropped.

“Damn,” he said standing his eyes looking over my shoulder.

“Detective Snow,” a gruff voice said. “I understand you just got an add on to your case.”

“Yes sir,” Robert said. I turned to see a heavy set man looking up at Robert. There were two other men with him both in suits. They were obviously Robert’s superiors and he was not happy to see any of them.

“You got a new lead,” the chief said but it was a statement more than a question.

“Yes sir,” Robert answered. “We’ve got him in custody and as soon as he’s released from the hospital we’ll bring him on back for booking.” The chief nodded then turned to me.

“You’ve had quite a couple of days haven’t you,” the chief said his eyes just as assessing as Robert’s. Cop eyes is what they were and my guard went up.

“Until we have this perp in custody, I think it might be good for some added protection,” he said. Everything in me wanted to scream ‘no’, but I held back. This was getting too deep. Maybe it was time to call Carlos.

“Detective Robert, I want you to assign detail to Ms. Stone,” he said. “Just until we have more information from this nut. Anyone who’d attack a woman in broad daylight a block from the police station has to be either crazy or desperate.”

Robert nodded and I had to agree, but the idea of police officers following my every move did not sit well with me.

“Ms. Stone actually did a pretty decent job of protecting herself,” Stan said. “Didn’t she detective,” he said. “Snow said she put some judo moves on him.”

“Ms. Stone subdued the criminal?” The chief looked at me with new eyes. I didn’t know what he was thinking behind those dark brown eyes, but when he spoke my heart dropped.

“You know what Snow, I want you to stay on this one. You take the security detail. I want you to handle this case personally. We wouldn’t want this getting out of hand like Quanto,” he said. Robert didn’t speak but his back stiffened. I could tell from the look on his face this was the last thing he wanted and for once we were both in agreement.

He nodded woodenly at the chief. Satisfied the chief and his shadows slinked away. Robert gave Stan a glare that could melt iron.

“What man?” Stan said laughing. “This way you get to carry it all the way,” Stan said clueless to the fact that neither I nor Robert wanted to spend another second with one another let alone an indeterminate amount of time.

“Shut the hell up,” Robert said sitting down. His head dropped in his hands as he rubbed his temples.

“This isn’t exactly a picnic for me either,” I said and Robert groaned. If it wasn’t for the fact that I couldn’t afford Robert getting too close to me his frustration would have been comical. However, what he didn’t understand is I had more to lose. I had a schedule to keep, clients to see.

“How much longer here? I’ve got some meetings that I’ve already delayed because I was trying to help you out.” Robert looked at me for a second then burst out laughing. Stan and I both looked at each other confused.

“He’s finally lost it,” Stan said. Robert quieted then looked at me.

“There are no meetings, there is no running around town,” he said. “We go to the safe house and we wait.”

“Really?” I said my chin raising an inch.

“Really.” Robert leaned back in his chair. He had spoken and his posture showed he expected me to fall in line.

Well, we’ll see about that.

Chapter 8

“Would you like coffee, tea,” Timothy asked the sour faced detective. Robert shook his head.

“How long is he going to be here?” Mary, my assistant, said from the seat across my desk. We’d been spying on the ornery man through the one way glass surrounding my office. He’d been staking out our front desk area for the past fifteen minutes, and he was not happy about it.

“He’s scaring away customers,” Mary said.

“We don’t have any walk in customers,” I said watching the man glare at the wall in front of him. He’d fussed the entire way here, but since I was in the driver’s seat and he was following me, he’d had no choice.

Killer or no killer there was no way I was going to leave my staff high and dry for lord knew how long. Especially not for some weak ass buster like the one that had grabbed me earlier.

I hadn’t said anything to Robert, but the guy had been so green he almost croaked. Any muscle guy worth his metal would have at least gotten a few licks in.

That told me either this was just a situation where the guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or whoever he was didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

The latter actually seemed the most plausible considering how messy they’d been with Christian, if this was related which I realized was an actual big but. A true professional would have completed the job and Christian would have died before I even got to him.

“Boss,” Timothy walked into my office closing the door behind him a worried look on his face. “How long is the big guy gonna be here?”

“Why?”

“He’s scaring away customers,” Timothy said and Mary started nodding as if to say ‘I told you so.’

“There are no customers,” I said finally turning away from my perfect view of Robert.

“Well, okay,” Timothy said. “He’s scaring me. When did the police start recruiting henchmen.”

“He is not a henchmen,” I said. “He’s actually a very respected detective. At least if you heard him tell it.” I couldn’t help putting the dig in.

I didn’t want him here anymore than they did, but until that idiot got patched up and was able to talk, I had to have Robert following me around.

Since I’d gotten to at least come in to the office, I promised to send my other agents to take care of the on-site meetings I had scheduled for today.

Knowing they’d get a percentage of my sales, they didn’t mind, but I did. I didn’t like having to get someone else to do my work. I was proud of my reputation with clients, which was why they kept coming to me and sending their friends. They knew that Jessica Stone would stay with them from first greet to close making sure they didn’t get stuck in real estate hell.

For the first time in my career I was having to step back and it didn’t feel good.

“Look, he’ll be gone tomorrow,” I said although I wasn’t sure if that was the truth or not.

“Promise,” Timothy said taking another worried glance out at the waiting area. I smiled as way of answer.
            “I don’t know,” Mary said. “I wouldn’t mind if he stayed a little while longer. He’s actually kind of cute.” I didn’t like the tone of her voice, but I didn’t say anything. “And what about Christian? You know a reporter called this morning.”

“A reporter,” Timothy said. “Try a dozen.”

The staff had been freaking out all morning, but I had done my best to assure them we were safe.

It didn’t help that Robert was standing over my shoulder glaring at everyone, but by the time I finished they looked more relieved. However, I did leave out the run in I’d had at the police station this morning.

I didn’t want to cause a panic until we knew more. Luckily Detective Stone kept his mouth shut and let me handle it.

“Alright, guys,” I stood letting them know break time was over. “Let’s get back to work. Those properties aren’t going,” I began.

“To sell themselves,” the pair finished for me. I laughed as the two left my office. Grabbing some files to complete paperwork, I returned to my desk. I worked for a full five minutes before my eyes drifted back to the detective.

He really was hot. Even in the rumpled button up and gray slacks he looked better than most men in the magazines Mary kept on her desk. Although he wasn’t dressed as fine as when we first met, I now understood why after visiting the police station.

Everyone there looked like a different shade of the cheap suit he wore today. Just like I had to dress in designer wear to be taken seriously, he had to dress his part. I got it.

A few weeks ago when we first met I never in a million years would have believed we would see each other again especially under these circumstances.

Hell, if I’d known then he was MPD I would have forgotten him on the spot. It would have been hard, but self-preservation would have kicked in, at least that’s what I told myself.

 I felt like I’d been tricked. The universe was playing with me by dangling a piece of candy in front of my face and then telling me I couldn’t have it.

“Shit,” I heard Robert shout before he jumped up out of his seat. He had his phone to his ear his head bent as if he were listening intently. Timothy looked alarmed, but he didn’t try to stop the big man when a second later he was headed my way.

“We gotta go,” he said stuffing his phone in his pocket.
            “I’ve still got work to do,” I said shaking my head. I didn’t jump for anyone especially not without an explanation.

“Jesus woman does everything have to be a fight with you,” he roared. I folded my arms in front of my chest. Robert closed my office door. A second later I was glad he had.

“Christian is awake,” he said. “The other guy, the one you pummeled is in surgery, but they’re both at the same hospital. I just got a report that a gunman was spotted there two minutes ago.”

“Oh shit,” I said.

“Exactly,” Robert said picking up my purse. “I’m taking you to the safe house.”

“But we’re right here,” I said snatching my purse from him then grabbing my jacket. “We could swing by the hospital then maybe go see Christian.”

“Are you crazy?” Robert said grabbing my arm. I pulled back.

“Don’t call me crazy,” I said forcefully. Robert stopped to look at me. He’d hit the one button I had.

Carlos used to call me crazy and for a while there he’d had me half way convinced I was. It wasn’t until after I left his crazy ass I realized just how fucked up our relationship was.

“I apologize,” he said. “You’re not crazy, but thinking that I’m taking you to the hospital where there is a gunman currently roaming the halls is a little nuts.”

He was write it did sound crazy, but not getting to Christian when he was lucid and able to talk was ridiculous. He might have the answer to this whole thing.

“Look, there are officers surrounding Christian right now. He’s on a locked ward. No one can touch him.”

I heard what he was saying but I still wasn’t convinced. I’d seen Carlos pull much more dangerous stunts when he had a job to complete. Nothing got in the way of a job- nothing. No one knew that better than me, but Robert’s face told me he wasn’t giving in on this one.

“C’mon, let’s go,” he said. Reluctantly I left my office but not before giving specific instructions for the rest of the week in case I didn’t get to come back before the weekend.

I could have called it in, but I was old school in that I liked to give my orders face to face so there was no room for mistakes.

I followed Robert to his car parked out front. I’d parked my car in the garage as usual, but Robert said it was best to leave it until the morning and just take his. For once I agreed. Luckily I had a change of clothes in a suitcase I kept in my car so I was ready for at least a couple of nights away. I had another change of clothes in the office in case I needed more. As soon as we got in the car Robert’s phone went off again.

“What now,” he said answering it. “This is Snow.” He listened for a few seconds then started the car and put his lights on. He threw his phone in my lap.

“Excuse you,” I said picking up his phone. Robert said nothing his eyes fixed ahead. I knew whatever it was it wasn’t good.

“What happened Snow,” I asked. He didn’t respond as he took a corner going way over the speed limit. “Slow down and tell me what the hell happened.” I looked out the windshield as the hospital came into view, but Robert said nothing as the car surged forward.

“Tell me what the hell happened, dammit,” I screamed and Robert slammed on the brakes at the front entrance of the hospital.

There were people running all over the place some in white and some in blue uniforms. I heard through the window someone yelling. “Officer down, officer down.”

“Stan’s been shot,” Robert said throwing open his door.

Chapter 9

The hospital was a madhouse, but Robert pulled me right into the fray. He told me to stay close, but it was harder than it looked. He showed his credentials and we got up to the surgical floor. Security was tight, but Robert would not be stopped until he saw his partner.

“Stay here,” he said leaving me in the waiting room with about two dozen police officers. I suddenly understood the method to his madness. The safest place I could be right now was here.

He was only gone a few minutes, but when he came back he addressed the entire room. “He’s out of surgery, and they said he’s resting fine. Looks like we got lucky today,” Robert said and the entire room seemed to exhale. After speaking with a few officers, Robert made a beeline for me.

“C’mon,” he said. I was beginning to get sick of being dragged around, but after everything that had happened over the last two days I didn’t have the energy to fight. However, it didn’t stop me from asking questions.

“Did they catch the guy,” I said matching him step for step. Robert pressed the up button for the elevator then turned to me.  

“Yeah,” he said, “he’s dead.” My hope that this might be over came to a crashing halt. “But Christian’s awake,” he said, “and very much alert.”

“Yippee,” I said sarcastically, “shouldn’t I be headed to the safe house?” I didn’t think it was possible, but the thought of a bed, any bed, sounded good to me after today.

“He’s asking for you,” Robert said stepping on the elevator. Stunned I stepped on the elevator and Robert pressed the button.

“Me?” I said confused. “Why is he asking for me?”

“That’s what we’re about to find out,” Robert said as the doors opened again. Lining the halls was a sea of blue uniforms. I could see they weren’t taking any chances this time.

I doubted there was a single officer left on the streets with all the officers staring back at me. Several officers greeted Robert as we passed, their eyes reflecting both respect for Snow and curiosity about me. It was exactly what I didn’t want.

Chapter 10

“Hey there pretty lady,” Christian greeted me as soon as we walked in the room. A stunning young Asian woman stood next to his bed.

Pale and tired he looked horrible, but he was awake and talking. In my opinion you couldn’t get any better than that considering all he’d gone through.

“What the fuck happened,” I said. I saw Robert’s curious glance my way, but this was tame to how we usually spoke to one another.

“There she is,” Christian smiled wincing. “I told you she was a firecracker, honey,” he said to the woman at his side.

Honey, hmmm, I thought looking at the girl. I guess he wasn’t as single as I thought.

“Jessie this is Kym.” I nodded at the girl who could barely take her eyes away from Christian. It was nothing like an attempted murder to bring out one’s true feelings. It looked like the bachelor pad was a thing of the past which was probably for the best.  

“So you’re not dead yet?” I said walking to stand next to his bed. Robert positioned himself at the foot. I felt his eyes on me but I ignored him. Christian wasn’t just my client. He was my friend too.

“I guess not. The doctor said I might actually make it to thirty,” he said shuddering.

“You should be so lucky,” I laughed along. “Quite a bandage you got there,” I said pointing to where the puncture wound was covered by gauze and a large white bandage.

“Hurts like a motherfucker too,” he said wincing.

“The doctor said a centimeter more and he would have completely bled out,” she said her eyes watery. I felt Christian’s hand on mine.

“Thanks,” he said his eyes serious. “They told me you were the one that found me.” I nodded.

“Let’s not do that again,” I said trying to lighten the mood. “Aw, you know me. I wasn’t going to let you cheat me out of my commission,” Christian laughed at that until the pain got too much.

“Fuck, you gotta stop making me laugh.”

 “Man, you look like shit, but you’re here.” Christian smiled his already boyish face looking even younger.

“Christian, I’m Detective Snow,” Robert said. “We’re all glad to see you making a recovery. I’m heading your case and I just had a few questions if you feel up to it.”

“I don’t know, I’m feeling kind of tire,” Christian said looking at me then back to Robert.

“I understand, but if you could we might be able to figure something out as to why this happened to you,” Robert said, but Christian shook his head.

“I don’t think I can right now,” Christian said. I felt him squeeze my hand.

“Maybe it would be better if we did this tomorrow,” I said shaking my head at Robert hoping he got the message to lay off. He didn’t.

“Look, I realize you’re still recovering, but people’s lives are at stake. One of our officers was shot and Ms. Stone here was attacked just this morning.” Christian turned to look at me shock and guilt flashed on his face. I was probably the only one to see it, but nonetheless I knew Christian was hiding something.

“I said, I don’t feel up to talking tonight,” Christian said and even Snow knew better than to argue at that.

            “We understand, Christian,” I said. I shook my head again at Robert and this time he looked ready to obey. “It’s late and you’re tired. We can do this tomorrow morning, okay?” Christian kept a hold on my hand, but nodded. “Give us a minute?” I said to Robert.

            “Sure enough,” Robert said. I could tell he was pissed, but to his credit he didn’t throw a fit. The room felt bigger once he did leave. Christian physically relaxed but he continued to hold on to my hand.

            “Kym why don’t you go see if the nurse can get me some more blankets and a pitcher of water.” Kym looked at me hotly for a second, but she played it cool. Christian wanted her gone for a reason, and her look said she knew it. Yet she didn’t fight it instead she smiled.

            “Sure, baby,” she said then left the room. She was a smart girl. If she played her cards right she could be a very rich woman soon as Mrs. Christian Blount. As soon as the door closed I sat down on the bed so that Christian and I were face to face.

            “Talk,” I said getting to the point.

            “I don’t know who did it, but I know why, I think,” Christian said. I rolled my eyes. “Seriously Jess, I’m not lying. Have I ever lied to you.” I looked at Christian with a knowing look. We both knew he’d lie to his own mother if it got him out of trouble. Still something about his words told me he was too scared to lie this time. Still I needed more or both of us could be in some serious trouble.

            “I thought we’d both gotten out of this shit, but I should have known better. We should have known better,” Christian said.

“Did you call Carlos?” I tilted my head to give him a look like, “bitch, please.”

            “C’mon now. You know if I had it would have been much worst then a cop getting shot.”

“What about you? That cop said someone got to you.”

“I’m fine. Just some sucka too stupid to know better. I don’t even know if it’s related to you.” It was Christian’s turn to look at me crazy.

“Give it up. Why do you think this happened to you?” I asked.

“You remember when I left here for Cali a few years back?”

“How could I forget?” I said remembering what I had to do to get Carlos to let him go.

“Well, Carlos didn’t exactly send me off with a parting gift,” Christian said. “I had to borrow a little.” I shook my head at Christian.

“Don’t tell me you went to Demarcus,” Christian looked away. “You fucking idiot, “ I said getting off the bed. “Of all the people you could have gone to you went to him? Don’t tell me you didn’t pay him back,” Christian’s head dropped lower. “You’re a fucking millionaire,” I said.

“I know but I thought he was dead,” Christian said his voice low.

“What do you mean you thought he was dead,” I said looking at the young man I used to call my baby brother before we’d both reinvented ourselves and moved on from a past that now seemed intent on catching up with us both. “You didn’t! Christian!”

“I thought if I could get rid of him then all of this would go away. All of our pasts, yours, mine, Carlos,” he said his voice pleading with me to understand. It felt like the air had been sucked out of the room as the truth of just how much danger we were all in became clearer.

“Who’d you get for the hit? Who, Christian!”

“Joey,” he said.

“And let me guess, you haven’t heard from him since,” I said.

“Not since December,” Christian said.

“And then you decide to move to Miami? Boy, do you have a fucking death wish.” I wanted to scream, break something, knock him out- something, but I had to settle on pacing the room as I tried to get everything straight in my head.

“I figured it must have been taken care of. The money was delivered, and from my channels, the ones that still talk to me, they all say Demarcus hasn’t been seen since December either.”

“So you figured it was all taken care of and one of Demarcus’ henchmen wouldn’t want revenge.”

“C’mon sis, we know how this works. You chop of the head of the snake ain’t no one coming for the person holding the knife. They just going to try and find a new snake.”

“Yeah, except when the person you think is dead, aint,” I said looking at him. “Who else could it be Christian? Please don’t tell me you done made more enemies since then.”

“That’s it, Jess. I promise. I don’t know,” he began but then the door opened and Kym poked her head in. Christian waved for her to come in and she smiled brightly as she carried her loot to him. She carefully covered him with a blanket and then poured him a cup of water.

“You’re so lucky to have someone take such good care of you,” I said as evenly as I could. My anger at Christian was eating me up, but I knew there wasn’t anything I could do about it right now.

“I’m the lucky one,” Kym said and Christian smiled up at her. I did my best not to roll my eyes at the two of them.

“Well, since he’s in good hands, I think I’m taking off,” I said. “I’ll try and stop by tomorrow,” I added, but the two lovebirds were already lost. Kym had climbed in bed with Christian as they fawned over each other.

For someone so brilliant I just couldn’t see how Christian, or Marlito, as he’d been called back then, could be so dumb. I’d known that kid since he was ten years old, but when it came to making better decisions it didn’t seem like he’d learned much. Of all the stupid things to do to take money from Carlos’ rival Demarcus and then try to have him bumped off. Even Carlos wasn’t that stupid.

Back in the day Demarcus and Carlos had once been tight. Partners running drugs through Miami’s south beach for years until they decided to go their separate ways. The decision came after Demarcus tried to take Carlos’ head off after a deal went bad. Since then the two had been sworn enemies.

For years they divided the region, but it was always a tenuous truce. It looked like Christian might have just broke it for good.

There was no way I couldn’t call Carlos now.

“Damn,” I said under my breath as I left the room. Unfortunately, Robert was right there in my face before I could close the door.

“What?” I said walking past him. He grabbed my arm, but I looked at him until he released it.

“You were in there long enough,” Robert said. I knew he wasn’t going to let it go, but I honestly didn’t know what to tell him.

Telling the truth was the last thing I could do, and lying would only further create problems that might make things worse.  Denial was my only option.

Chapter 11

“Welcome to your new home,” Robert said opening the door to the saddest looking apartment I’d seen in a about a decade.

“Really? This is the best that MPD can do?”

“I take it you don’t like it?”

“Like isn’t the word,” I said picking up a dusty vase that looked like it was a hundred years old. “Does anyone clean between visitors?”

“Now you’re just trying to hurt my feelings.” I looked at Robert who seemed to be looking at the place with new eyes. The place looked like some sad sap’s bachelor pad from the nineties. It was almost looked too lived in to be a temporary residence. I looked back to Robert who looked both dejected and defensive at the same time.

“Don’t tell me this is your place?” I said bursting out laughing. Robert looked peeved for a second, but then shrugged. “This is just sad. Really?” I said looking around at the old furniture and even older paint job. “You’re a grown man.”

“Enough!” Robert snapped. “It’ll just be for a couple of days until we can get everything sorted. Then you can go back to your mansion.”

“Well, do I at least get the tour?” I said wiping the smirk off my face. Robert gave me a long hard look before reluctantly leading me down the hallway.

“This is the master,” Robert said. I couldn’t help tossing one more dig.

“Where all the magic happens, huh?” Unfortunately, Robert didn’t rise to the bait.

“And this is the spare room,” he said stepping across the hall. “Where you’ll be staying.” He showed me the bathrooms, laundry and kitchen then left me to get settled. I closed my bedroom door and sat on the bed.

Actually the house wasn’t bad it was just the fact that he didn’t seem to care much about cleaning, or decorating, or fixing anything up. I could think up a hundred different ways to improve his house and increase the value within a couple of weeks.

I walked back to the front of the house to see Robert cleaning up the living room. I couldn’t help but smile.

“So how long have you been doing real estate,” I said sitting on a now clutter free couch.

“Not long,” he said. “I haven’t even got my license, yet.” Robert said. “When I went to that conference where we met it was just to test the waters.” I nodded. It made sense suddenly.

“So tell me,” he said sitting across from me in a chair. “Why didn’t you call me?” I smiled again.

“Because, I’m the girl,” I said.

“Ohh,” he said. “I was supposed to make the first move.”

“Exactly.” Robert’s stare lingered for a little too long. Long enough for me to realize he was still very interested in me. I knew it was a bad idea playing with fire, but I couldn’t help myself. It had been so long.

I tossed my hair over one shoulder so he could get a better look, and oh did he look. I felt my body grow hot from the heat of his stare.

“Hungry?” he said his voice rough and deep.

“Starving,” I said smiling wickedly.

Chapter 12

“Sorry I didn’t have more. Tomorrow if you’re still here we’ll order out or something,” I nodded. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of him.

When he asked if I was hungry I didn’t actually expect for him to pop a frozen pizza in the oven. It was simple, but sweet. It was also a nice change to eat in with someone.

Usually my meals were one of two options either I was at home by myself or out at a restaurant with friends.

Maybe it was the carbs combined with the disasterous last two days, but I was feeling vulnerable and reckless. All I could think about was bed, but sleep was the last thing on my mind.

I was tired of being responsible and safe. I wanted fun. Robert looked at me and from the way his eyes darkened I knew he could tell what I was thinking.

“Jessica,” he said a warning in his tone, but I couldn’t help myself. Standing I walked over to him taking the plate out of his hand. He shook his head, but he didn’t stop me as I straddled him. I grabbed his head and placed my lips on his firmly. I was tired of playing around. We were both adults and adults had needs.

It was obvious what Robert needed was a push in the right direction so this was me pushing. If everything I’d learned from him over the past couple of hours were correct he wouldn’t disappointment.

Sure enough I felt him harden between my legs. He grabbed my hips in both hands pulling me closer. It was good, but I wanted him to lose complete control. I deepened the kiss and heard him growl. Very nice.

The next thing I knew we were up and moving my legs wrapped around his waist. Robert carried me to his bedroom never taking his lips off mine. He was just as strong as I thought.

In the bedroom he threw me on the bed. I laughed but the excitement only grew as I watched him struggle out of his shirt. I unbuttoned my shirt but he stopped me.

There were no words. His eyes told me that he wanted the privilege so I dropped my hands.

The tiny hairs on the back of my neck prickled at the sensation of his fingers on my spine. My brain screamed to hurry, go faster, but I couldn’t- my brain said wait. I wanted to see where this was going. Suddenly, Robert froze.

For one horrible moment I thought he was going to deny me, but instead he moved to the bedside lamp. A second later the room was lit in a soft glow. I groaned. Somehow it had been easier in the dark, less intimate, but now with his face inches away from mine, it was too hard to ignore what I was doing, what we were about to do with each other. I wanted him more than I’d wanted anyone in a very long time.

My heart pounded as I pulled away to sit on the side of the bed. He was right there with me. His hand, big and rough, slid down my shoulder to my hip as he tugged me closer.

The heat of his palm burned through the cotton gown I’d worn to bed.  I felt a bead of sweat roll down my back.

We hadn’t even started and inside I could already feel a quivering begin. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, not with him, but it had been so long.

His breath felt hot on my neck as his teeth found my earlobe tugging gently. His tongue trailed down the side playing between the tendons until I felt his teeth settle in the curve of my neck marking me, restraining me.

It didn’t hurt in fact it was just the opposite as I felt his hands slip under my blouse. He withdrew them quickly to unbutton the cool silky thing I was wearing before flinging it on a chair. Then he unbuttoned my pants standing to slowly strip them off my overheated skin.

I saw him when he noticed them. He appeared fascinated by the pink silk panties I wore. He fingered me through the fabric before slipping one long finger inside.

When he found my center I knew I wasn’t going to make it his soft chuckle in my ear told me he knew too. He moved over me his body big and I couldn’t move trapped by my need and want.

The ceiling fan above whirred loudly but it did nothing to stop the heat building inside of me. My trembling legs were about to give out when he moved lower glazing his tongue over the place he’d held me prisoner.

He stopped. Cool air made my entire body shiver as he slowly removed my panties. Then he was back in an instant his face pressed against my center. Now with no barrier between him and my flesh he opened me like a peach so he could lap at the juice.

My back arched as I tried desperately to hold on.  My breathing was shallow when he stepped back. I begged for him to come back, until I heard him remove the rest of his clothes. He reached in the bedside table for a condom. Thankful he was prepared I smiled and then he was on me.

Gasping I moaned as he spread my legs further then thrust deep inside gripping my hips holding me where he wanted me. Stroking me slow then fast then slow again he stretched and filled me. Gripping his hips tightly with my legs I gave as good as I got riding him from underneath until we both exploded.

Several minutes passed. I might have slept, I wasn’t sure.

“Still hungry,” he asked a smile on his handsome face.

“Ravenous,” I said as I straddled him once again.

Chapter 13

I awoke to the sound of a phone ringing. Robert pulled himself to the side of the bed then left the room to take the call. Rolling over pictures from the night before rolled through my head. I didn’t regret a thing. We’d made love all night. It was everything and more than I expected.

Yes, we’d complicated things, but it was a complication that I greatly needed and wanted. Smiling I listened as Robert entered the room. A second later I heard the shower running.

It was back to the real world, I just didn’t know which world it would end up being. Would it be the one where I was the master of my domain or where I had to go on the run and start all over again?

By the end of the day I was sure I’d have my answer.

##

            “We need to go pick up your car,” Robert said. It was one of the few times he’d talked to me since we’d gotten up. I didn’t know what was wrong, but his entire demeanor had changed since the phone call. I wanted to know if he’d heard some news about Christian or Stan, but for once in my life I decided not to push.

            I watched the Miami shoreline through the car window as we sped through the city streets. It didn’t take long before we were at my office.

            “I’ll follow behind you to the station,” Robert said. I nodded before getting in my car. He wanted to play it cool, I could do that. If it was just one night that was fine with me. I’d gotten what I’d wanted and I knew he did too.

Still I couldn’t help the disappointment I felt in my chest every time I looked at him, or thought about last night. I hated this. I hated being- the girl. Maybe it was because it had been so long, or maybe it was because I actually liked him, but this, whatever it was, was really messing with my head. I didn’t like it.

            I never overstayed my welcome. In fact I’d always been the one to end it. However, this wasn’t like that. He didn’t say he wanted me, but he didn’t say he didn’t either. He just didn’t say anything. It was as if last night hadn’t happened. I drove through the streets and the closer we got to the station the madder I got.

            It would be one thing if he’d said he wasn’t into me, or sorry this wasn’t the best of ideas, but to just act like nothing.

            “Aw, hell no,” I said turning the wheel and then slamming on the brakes. I parked my car on the side of the road and jumped out to meet Robert’s car who’d pulled in behind me.

            “What the hell is wrong with you?” Robert said slamming his car door.

            “No, what the hell is wrong with you?” I yelled back at him. Robert took off his shades to glare at me. “What is this? All of sudden you’re too cool to talk. Is this how you do? You fuck them then forget them?” Robert looked at me strangely as if he couldn’t understand what I was saying.

            “Well,” I said when he didn’t speak. A second later he burst out laughing like really laughing- hands on his belly laughing. I wanted to hit him, I wanted to scream, then I wanted to take him back to bed and repeat last night all over again.

            “What is wrong with you?” I yelled finally giving in and punching him in his shoulder several times until he grabbed both my hands to restrain me. I heard a car slow as it passed us, but Robert waved them on releasing me.

            “Just calm down,” he said laughing until he saw the look on my face. He took a step back rubbing one hand over his face. I punched him again. I wanted to strangle him, but then he was kissing me and my mind decided that was much nicer.

            “You really are a firecracker, aren’t you?”

            “And you’re an idiot,” I said. We both stared at each other for several seconds. The lion and the lioness checking each other for signs of weakness. Finally, he pulled away to lean against his car.

            “This isn’t going to work,” he said. “You know it and I know it.” I took a step back. His eyes never left my face. Finally I nodded. We had different reasons but he was right, this wouldn’t work. Still I wasn’t ready for it to end, and his next words told me he wasn’t either.

            “You understand I could lose my job,” he said.

            “Like you give a shit,” I said and he smiled.

            “Actually, I like my job,” he said suddenly serious. I knew he was telling the truth, but it didn’t make it any easier.

            “Until this is over, we could just keep it quiet,” I said. “Is that what you’re saying?” He shrugged.

            I could tell he didn’t like the idea. It was because at heart he really was a good guy. I wasn’t used to good guys, but I wanted to get to know him. It was stupid and dangerous, but I was tired of playing it safe.

            “You know there are worse things,” I said leaning next to him on the car. “It really doesn’t have to be complicated. You call me? you call me. I call you. I call you. We can keep it really simple,” I said.

He looked at me for a second both eyebrows raised as if he wasn’t sure he’d heard me right. When he realized he had a small smile erupted on his face.

            “So, I guess the pizza was good last night,” he said.

            “Perfect,” I smiled wrapping my arms around him for a long hug.

            “Tonight,” he said, “we’ll do Chinese.”

            “Ooh, now you’re talking,” I said. He let go of me then we both went back to our cars to make the rest of the drive to the station. As soon as we parked, Robert got a call so I walked ahead to the station. As soon as I stepped inside I knew something bad had happened.

            The chief had the majority of the staff in the board room. Robert came in a second later.

            “Christian’s dead,” he said, “he was shot in the hospital parking lot.” I felt my stomach drop. Robert sat me down, but I knew instantly I was going to be sick.

            I was on my feet a second later. I barely made it into a bathroom stall before my entire contents of my stomach came up. After I cleaned myself up I looked in the mirror shocked to see the tired, worn looking woman staring back at me. I’d allowed myself to dream for a moment that I was normal, that I could have a normal life but fate had proven to me once again that it was impossible. People like me didn’t get normal. We didn’t get happily ever afters.

            When I walked back outside there was a female cop waiting for me. She walked me to Robert’s office. He’d joined the meeting with the chief, but she said he’d be with me soon before she left me alone.

            “Dammit,” I said to the empty room as my mind raced over whether or not to run now. I could just walk out the front door and keep going. By the time Robert even knew anything I could be out of state maybe. Just as soon as I thought it though I knew I couldn’t.

            If Christian was dead, that meant Carlos had to know already. That meant there was nowhere I could run. I had no choice but to face this head on.

            I just couldn’t believe Christian was dead. I still remembered the first time I’d ever met Christian. We hated each other initially, but we’d grown over the years into one of the longest running friendships I’d ever had. He was in California for years, but it hadn’t stopped me from thinking about him, missing him. Now he was gone forever.

            My phone rang in my purse. On instinct I reached for it and answered.

            “Hello,” I said into the receiver, but there was no reply. I checked the screen. It was still connected.

            “Hello,” I said again. I was about to hang up when I heard a voice. It was a voice I’d never forget.

            “Well, well, well,” he said. “It seems while the cat’s away the mice really do play.”

            “Carlos,” I said. My brain raced over how I was going to explain why I hadn’t called before, but Carlos saved me the trouble.

            “You’ve been busy haven’t you my love,” he said using his pet name for me. I knew better than to think it meant anything.

            “Business as usual,” I said going for casual. Until he told me what he was calling for I wasn’t admitting to anything.

            “Too bad Christian can’t say the same thing, huh?” My blood ran cold. He’d done this. Carlos had killed Christian, and now he was calling me.

            “What did you do?” I whispered.

            “Oh, my love,” he said. “I should be asking you the same thing.” I racked my brain for how I could get out of this. Carlos was stone cold crazy on his best days, but a madman when he felt wronged was dangerous.

            “Baby, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said hating the whine in my voice. “I’ve been good,” I said standing to look out the window. There was no telling where he was at. Even though I was in the middle of the police station I knew if he wanted me he’d get me, case in point- Christian.

            “You should have called,” he said. I didn’t know what to say then he spoke again in an eerie sing songy voice. “You should have called.”

            Then the line went dead.

            I closed the phone then rummaged in my purse remembering a second later I’d stashed my gun at the office.

            “Shit,” I thought as I saw Robert heading my way. He had a dark frown on his face, but I couldn’t take more bad news. I waited until he opened the door.

            “They have a suspect, but we aren’t sure where he is right now,” Robert said taking his jacket off. “The word on the street is one of our old usual suspects has resurfaced. It’s not good,” he said.

            Instantly, I knew who he was talking about, but I kept my mouth shut.

            “His name is Carlos Santino.” I felt my knees buckle but I held onto the desk then slowly lowered myself into a seat. My brain fizzed for a moment as I realized I was watching my life implode right in front of my eyes.

            Carlos was back, and I knew nothing, nothing was going to stop him from getting to me.

            My life as I knew it was over.

Check it out! Excerpt- Southern Fried Honeybee, a novel #free

“You are shitting me,” Rob said.

“You’ve got to be making this stuff up,” Sam added still laughing. Offended, Charlie yelled for Sue. A few seconds later the petite woman’s shiny dark head popped out of the kitchen.

“Sue what did we use to call the honeybees when I first started making them at USM.”

“Dick on a Stick,” Sue yelled back before ducking back in the kitchen. Charlie raised her eyebrows at the two stunned men. Shaking his head in disbelief, Rob reset the camera before hitting the record button again. Once again, the little red light came on and Charlie continued with her story.

“So, as I was saying the Honeybees initially were called Dick on A Stick mainly because of their, you know, phallus shape, and the cream- well, you get the picture. Now this was not Grand’s name this was something I came up with to sell them. You know how raunchy college kids can get especially late at night when they’re looking for something to get into. Everyone on campus loved the naughtiness of it, but, of course, as the treats gained a more shall we say, “off campus crowd appeal” the name became a problem. No matter how progressive a lot of people claim to be they don’t appreciate having to ask for an order of dicks on a stick. The imagery is kind of hard to get over. The college crowd didn’t mind but by then the non-college crowd was growing even quicker especially when I changed the name. Grand couldn’t stand the name either, so you know, got to do what granny says. Plus, Cyndi, my PR person, although back then she ain’t have no title. But it was her idea that if we wanted this thing to grow, we had to give it a more family friendly name. That’s when I decided to call them honeybees, in homage to my Grand, of course. The Southern Fried moniker, I thought, gave them a regional appeal, but it’s kind of taken on a life of its own. We, meaning my staff, all consider ourselves Southern Fried Honeybees. That really gave Cyndy something to work with too. She stepped it up big time with branding once I got set on a name. She slapped a honeybee on everything she could. So, with her marketing, and my cooking it became a big hit.”

“What about Sue?”

“Oh, Sue,” Charlie laughed, “she’s the brawn of the deal.” The men laughed considering the barely five-foot woman that had stepped out earlier. “No seriously, Sue may be small but she’s mighty. Sue makes sure we have what we need with all the buildings, contracts. And if we need some folks smacked around verbally to get them, in line, we send Sue in. If she were two feet taller and had a few more pounds on her she could probably do it for real too. Don’t get it twisted, Sue about that life.”

“I understand where the honeybee name came from, but what does southern fried mean?”

“Means you’re a little crazy, just a little nuts, and a lot weird, but it’s all love. You know like: that boy is southern fried as hell, but he’s still good people. That’s what southern fried means. It’s like crazy, but harmless crazy. You know us Southerners, we’re all a little southern fried, or touched in the head as my Grand used to say something to do with the heat and hurricanes you know. Not dumb, just different. I mean you got to be to live down here. Mississippi ain’t for the faint of heart, lord no.”




New Novel- You, I Like

BOOK BLURB:

YOU, I LIKE excerpt:

Welcome home, Indy.

People Get Ready

Chapter 1

It was bad. Unlike Run DMC it was bad meaning bad, not bad meaning good. The untimely demise of my life as I knew it occurred on June 4, 1986 at 1:11am. Two days later and me sitting in some old dilapidated bus station/welcome center hundreds of miles away from home confirmed it basically. Further proof of my massive fall from grace? A rusted out sign surrounded by a bunch of gigantic white magnolias. The sign read:  Welcome to Biloxi, Mississippi.

As soon as I stepped off the bus’s metal stairs I felt assaulted. It was like I’d been dropped into this weird technicolor nightmare. I felt like Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole but instead of Wonderland, I woke up in Mississippi. Maybe my sugar was low, I don’t know, but I swear the sun seemed yellower and the sky bluer and bigger. There was something to look at everywhere, strange shaped buildings and even stranger shaped people, and everything was so-damn-bright! It was stuff I’d seen before, I hadn’t gone crazy, but here it all seemed different and…strange. Even the voluminous bunches of pink azaleas surrounding the bus station seemed weirdly more vibrant, alive somehow. It felt alien, and I hated it. All of it. Even the smell was strange. It was this strong perfumy mix of scents that made me aware of every inhalation. Whatever it was, it combined with an overpowering smell of freshly cut grass, which back home I usually loved. However, here I resented every single breath. I hated the awareness it made me feel, forcing me to be present. I wasn’t used to that. I didn’t want to be aware of every little thing. It was Mississippi after all.

Nina Simone said it best, Mississippi Goddamn! I knew too much and what I knew was too much to take. I was a Black girl and from everything I knew they didn’t like us down here. So, yeah, I wanted nothing to do with anything down south and Biloxi, Mississippi was about as south as you could get without getting on a boat.

I was the last person off the bus, and that was only because the driver turned the damn engine off. Not wanting to die of heat stroke forced me out. It was hot outside too, but at least off the bus there was an occasional breeze. The sweet stench it carried made me want to scream, but unfortunately, a girl had to breathe. So yeah, day one and my parent’s mission to make my life miserable had been accomplished.

Blessed and bougie- that was me. Was. Because all of that was in the past now.

I’d cry if I thought anyone would care, but I knew better. Nobody cared. My life back in New York as I knew it, was over and I had no choice but to mourn its loss all alone. On a bench.

In Mississippi.

At a bus station.

——–

Written by Sonja Renee, You, I Like is set to be released in 2022. Follow author’s Twitter: YouILike11 for future release date and more info.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

New Book, Who Dis?

Southern Fried Honeybee- to be released 2021 on Amazon.

In the south to call something southern fried is a term of endearment. It can mean several things at the same time. Southern fried can mean crazy (in a good or harmless way), ambitious/driven, and/or slap your knee and laugh out loud funny. Between the heat and the hurricanes being southern fried is an expectation and a way of life.

Nouveau southern belle Charlie Daniels has the hottest restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi. Known as the place for good food, good fun, and good friends, the Southern Fried Honeybee is the talk of the Gulf Coast foodie scene and is poised for international fame. Charlie has worked hard to cultivate a sweet as pecan pie image but when a psychotic killer targets her, Charlie must let go of her picture-perfect image in order to protect all that she holds dear. With the support of her family of friends and an infuriating new beau, Charlie fights to make her dream of global domination come true southern fried style!