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God Don't Like Haters 2

God Don’t Like Haters 2

 

By

 

Jordan Belcher

 

Shakespir Edition

Felony Books, a division of Olive Group, LLC,

P.O. Box 1577, Belton, MO 64012

Copyright © 2015 by Jordan Belcher

Cover Model: Destiny Anderson

Hair Stylist: Stacy Powell

Makeup Artist: Jessica B.

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

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Felony Books, P.O. Box 1577, Belton, MO 64012.

For information regarding new and upcoming titles, please contact Felony Books at www.felonybooks.com

 

 

 

God Don’t Like Haters 2

 

By

 

Jordan Belcher

Chapter 1

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

Now wasn’t the time to cry. I could barely see the road because of the rain, and constantly wiping tears from my eyes wasn’t helping one bit.

I was driving my Mercedes-Benz in a downpour, driving way faster than I should have been according to the speedometer (me and my lead foot again). But that was the thing about German aerodynamics—I could go faster and faster and wouldn’t even feel the difference. Testing the car, I pressed harder on the gas.

I was flying.

My windshield wipers were working double-time, and so were the tears coming down my cheeks. Why would Archie set me up? [_I really thought he loved me. _]

The first thing that came to my mind was the gambling. He must have gotten into some trouble that he didn’t want to let me in on. He hired some people to rob us, maybe to buy some time to come up with the right amount of money. Hey, Mr. So-and-So, I got robbed, _]I could hear Archie explaining to whoever he owed. [_Give me some more time to come up with the cash. No, I really got robbed. I’m serious. They pulled guns on me and my girl Kirbie.

That was the only reason I could think of that would explain why I wasn’t let in on the fake robbery. He didn’t want me to know he was in trouble again. He didn’t want me to do something stupid again. He knew I would kill whoever he owed. He knew that. He knew I was his ride-or-die and wouldn’t hesitate to go after whoever he was in debt to.

But he lied to me. And he let another man put a boot on my face.

I started crying more, feeling like I was dumb for being so loyal to Archie. But his friends used to call him dumb for taking me in while I was so young. What kind of woman would I be if I turned my back on him when he needed my help?

I started to slow down, not feeling so in a rush to kill Archie now.

My phone rang.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Where the hell are you at, Kirbie?”

Coras Bane. He sounded pissed.

“I’m in traffic,” I said. “Why? Am I supposed to be at the studio?”

“I just got a call from Evan saying my girl just pulled a gun on him. I ask him who and this muthafucka tells me you! Did you take that man’s phone?”

Shit! I forgot I took Evan’s cell from him in the club.

“Yeah, I got it,” I said.

“Why would you do some dumb shit like that? I know Evan ain’t the one that robbed you, is he?”

“No, but—”

“Give me that man’s phone so I can give it back to him. You’re lucky he didn’t call the police.”

“Where are you?” I asked.

“You know where the fuck I am.”

He hung up, and I threw the phone in the passenger seat angrily. I hated that Coras didn’t have the sensitivity or awareness to realize I had been crying. I was stressed the fuck out and didn’t need his ass yelling at me.

But for some reason I needed to be in his presence right now. In the rain, I turned down 63rd Street and headed to Gee’s studio. I’d deal with Archie afterwards.

 

***

 

As soon as I walked down the basement steps into Gee Beats’s in-home studio, I saw Coras standing in the middle of the room in a tank top and his gold Cuban link chain around his neck. His tank was partially wet, as if he’d just come out of the rain too.

Gee Beats was sitting at his work station, eyes glazed over with inebriation. He nodded hello, I nodded back.

Coras had his hand out, waiting for me to hand him the phone. As I neared him, he had a hateful look in his eyes as if he was about to hit me. I placed the phone in his palm, expecting him to. Maybe if he put his hands on me I wouldn’t be so damn drawn to him.

“That man called me nearly in tears,” Coras started in on me. “That was some reckless shit you just did. Evan is a fan of ours. He supports Swope Records. He buys everything we put out. He even buys weed from me and pills from you. Now what would possess you to take this man’s phone?! That’s asinine!”

“You don’t know what happened,” I stated.

“Tell me then.”

“He took a picture of me and wouldn’t delete it.”

“So what? He’s a fan, Kirbie! That’s what fans do! When you become a celebrity are you gonna be one of the ones who snatches cameras from paparazzi? You need to be embracing any and all attention. Or shit, at least wait until you become famous before you start doing that dumb shit. You’re trying to lose the little bit of buzz you already got.”

“I wouldn’t have cared if he took the picture if I wasn’t—”

He cut me off. “I know what you were doing in that club. I told you not to go in the first place. You need to decide if the streets are more important than the music.”

This felt absurd coming from Coras. He was more street than me, sold way more drugs on average than me and Archie put together. And that was because he had a different, more exclusive product than us: OG Tahoe. I was finding it real hypocritical that he was telling me to choose one over the other. He needed to take his own advice first.

“The reason I was in the club was because of music,” I said, asserting myself. “Those pills I was trying to get back pay the bills.”

“I’ll pay your bills,” he said.

I blinked. I didn’t have an immediate response to that. But his offer had me feeling warm with excitement and intimacy. Lately, almost everything he said to me would give me these pleasant, girlish chills.

Gee Beats broke the silence. “Ay, I got bills too, my nigga.”

We ignored him.

I said to Coras, “I don’t need you to pay my bills. That’s not what I stand for. If you ever listened to any of my songs you would know that I’m independent and I can take care of myself on my own.”

“The music and real life should be two mutually exclusive things,” said Coras. “Is that what you’re trying to do? Live out your lyrics? Music is a muse. Not a life manual.”

I thought of the lyrics he wrote about me on the song Convenient For Me, where he spoke of nearly shooting Archie over me and having sex with me in the future. Was that just muse?

“The last thing I need is you catching another case,” he went on. “That whole process will put our movement on hold again. You’re not just sabotaging yourself when you move recklessly. You’re sabotaging the whole team—me, Gee, and Ashleigh.” Coras reached out and touched the bottom of my hoodie, lifting it enough to show my gun tucked in my jeans, which was an utter invasion of my personal space (but I didn’t mind it). He pointed at the weapon, as if that was the problem. “You need to retire that thing right there. It’s gonna get you in trouble.”

“Retire yours,” I countered.

“I know how to use mine. I know when to use mine. I’m not at clubs pulling it out on people who support me. Did you at least pull it out on the right person tonight?”

“Sort of.”

“What’s that mean?”

I saw Gee Beats turn in his chair to face us. He took a swig of Hennessey and set it off to the side, then looked at me intently. He actually rolled a little closer to us. He loved a good story.

“I followed the guy with the gold teeth into the men’s bathroom,” I said. “I pulled my gun out while he was peeing. But I didn’t go through with it.”

“Why?” Coras asked.

The feeling of being betrayed started winding up in me again. I was suddenly hearing Archie’s voice through the robber’s phone in that bathroom, and his voice was beginning to mix with old images of when he first took me off of the streets and taught me how to hustle. The hurt was unbearable. I felt like he cheated on me.

I started crying in my palms.

As I cried, my body began to feel too heavy to hold up. I felt like I was going to fall. But just in time, Coras stepped forward and took me into his arms. Then I felt Gee’s arms wrap around me too. After a moment of my pity, I heard Coras whisper to Gee, “Give us a minute, fam.” Then Gee was heading upstairs.

“What’s wrong?” Coras asked me.

I was struggling to find words. “I … I know who … set me up. It wasn’t a random … robbery.”

“Who set you up, Kirbie?” he asked. Then he said: “Was it Archie?”

My head jerked up. I was staring him right in the eyes, shocked.

Coras had a knowing grimace on his face. “It was Archie, wasn’t it? That sounds about right.”

“How did you know?”

“That nigga been hating on you since I met you, Kirbie. I’ve been telling you that for the longest. He wants to see you lose.”

“It’s not about him hating on me. He just needs help. He has a gambling problem and I get caught up in his schemes—”

“I bet that robbery didn’t have anything to do with gambling. You need to look past your love for him. He set that robbery up to prevent you from having the money to put into this music. Every time you’re late for the studio you tell me it’s his fault. When is it gonna dawn on you that he’s intentionally trying to crush your dreams?”

I feared Coras was right.

“He loves me, Coras. He brought me up from nothing. Why would he do that?”

“The same reason any man would if they had an incredibly talented, good loyal woman like you—it’s to ensure that you never leave him. If you succeed in the music industry, he feels like he’ll have to compete with the successful men you’ll end up being around. He knows you’ll leave him when you find out what’s out there. He’s insecure. I hate it had to come to this for you to stop fucking with that nigga.”

“I don’t know if I can leave him alone,” I muttered.

“What?!”

“I’ve never been alone before.”

I was hoping Coras could read between the lines. Steal me away from Archie! Please, Coras? This is your chance to steal me. I’m vulnerable.

He said, “I could’ve sworn you just told me you’re Ms. Independent. Now you’re talking about you don’t wanna be alone?”

I lowered my head and tried to wipe my tears on my hoodie.

His voice softened. “You’ll never be alone, Kirbie. You got Swope Records. You got me, Gee, and Ashleigh.”

I stared at him and sucked my teeth. “Did you really just say Ashleigh? That bitch hates me.”

“No she doesn’t. She’s just tough on you. Some people need that tough love, and you’re one of ‘em. She tells me all the time how much she sees in you.” He saw the doubt on my face. “I’m serious,” he added, and I couldn’t tell if he was hiding a smile or not. “She wants you to win just like she wants me to win.”

Ashleigh, believing in me? C’mon now. Her being my manager was a joke. 

Behind us, we heard someone coming down the steps. It was Gee Beats, making a reappearance. “Don’t mind me,” he said, as he came over and grabbed his Hennessey bottle. He turned and went back upstairs.

I pointed after him. “Did that fool just interrupt us for his damn liquor?”

Coras laughed, then sat down in Gee’s swivel chair. The producer’s chair. Coras’s smile was weak, as though he still felt bad for me. “Kirbie, what do I have to do to convince you to leave that nigga Archie alone?”

I gulped. He was holding his crotch. And he had on sweatpants so there was an obvious bulge. Is that why he sat down?

“Tell me what I gotta do and I’ll do it. I’ll do anything. You want me to kill him for you?”

I gasped. “No!”

Was he serious?

“I didn’t think you would,” he said. “And that’s sad to me. Did you listen to the lyrics from my verse on Convenient For Me?” I paused. And I must have took too long to answer because he said, “Don’t play wit’ me. You heard my shit. And I heard your shit too. You said you wanted to show me how much of a freak you can be.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You did too. Why are we playing games? Do you want me to play the CD right now for you?”

“It’s just music,” I said mockingly. “Music is a muse. It’s not reality.”

He chuckled. “Sit down, Kirbie.” He patted his thighs. “Come fuck wit’ a real nigga one time. Just one time. C’mere.”

My face was pretty dry by now, but I still wiped away what tears were left with my palms. I sat down in his lap, more so on the edge of his knee. But he took my waist and pulled me into him. Now his dick was in my ass practically. I sighed, as if he was doing too much, but inside I was thinking, Oh my goodness, is this his dick poking me or a goddamn spare tire?!

“I flirt wit’ you, you barely ever flirt back unless it’s on a song,” Coras was saying. “We can’t keep playing with each other like this.”

“You already have your hands full,” I replied, referring to Monifa and Ashleigh. “And I’m loyal to Archie.”

“Your loyalty should be expired, Kirbie. It’s run its course.”

“I owe him.”

“I wish I was the one that found you when you were fourteen. Then I’d have that loyalty. Difference is, I would know what to do with it. You never cheated on him, have you?”

“No. Can I get up?”

“No. You may not.”

His hand caressed my thigh, and I watched his fingers roam curiously. He was making his way between my legs and I didn’t stop him because I had on jeans and there wasn’t much he could do. But then he rubbed against the mound of my pussy not-so-gently and I felt a jolt of invasive bliss. Reflexively, I snapped my thighs closed, trapping his fingers.

“Unhand me, young lady,” he said.

“No,” I said.

He yanked his hand free and grabbed me by the neck, forcing me to turn my lips toward his. He stared at me for several heartbeats, then he kissed me. Instantly I felt fireworks exploding inside of me.

Our first kiss! 

But it ended before I got a chance to enjoy it.

WHAT THE FUCK?!”

We turned and saw his girlfriend Monifa Chavis standing at the base of the basement steps. I jumped off of Coras’s lap. A second later Gee was stumbling down the steps with his bottle, as if he’d tried to prevent Monifa from coming down but got ran over.

“So this is what the fuck you been doing in the studio?!” she yelled at Coras. “I knew it! I fuckin’ knew it!”

She frantically started going in her purse—and my instincts told me she had a gun.

“Monifa, chill!” Coras shouted, springing out of his seat.

I lifted my hoodie and grabbed my own pistol. This was about to get ugly …

Chapter 2

 

La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor

 

 

“This is my home,” said Sundi.

As she shut the door behind me, I walked carefully into the living room of her lavish townhome in quiet awe. Though I wouldn’t let my expression show it, I was amazed by the modern splendor before me. Fine-cut white stone and masterful exposed brick was the theme. It was spacious and strikingly well-lit. And there was no sacrifice of taste and culture in the design principles. Afrocentric carvings were moored in the wood beams.

When Sundi told me she lived in Brooklyn, I was thinking Bed-Stuy or Brownsville—two of the poorest neighborhoods in the borough where crime and failing public schools correlated with low household incomes—not here on Willow Street in affluent Brooklyn Heights where she was a hop-skip-jump from Pierrepont Street and its authentic mansions.

I used to live on Pierrepont.

“Can I get your jacket?” she asked me.

I started taking it off, and she helped me. “Nice place,” I said.

“It’s a’ight,” she threw back nonchalantly, then added a little laugh. “No, I love it. I really do. I’m blessed.”

I helped her with her coat. As I stood behind her peeling it off, my fingers brushed her shoulders that were left bare by a plunging halter top. Her skin was butter soft and magnetic. I immediately thought back to our reunion kiss in the alley moments ago, and how we were shooed off like kids by a beat cop who had discovered us.

“Would you like a drink?” she asked me.

“Certainly.”

“Red or white?”

I frowned. “So … uh … are you admitting that you forgot what I like?”

She rolled her eyes playfully. “It’s been seven years, La’Renz.”

“That’s no excuse,” I said back, flirting. It felt [_so good _]to flirt again. “But I’ll forgive you this one time. Red, please.”

I watched her pour the drinks at the kitchen counter, paying careful attention to her womanly figure. There was a time, pre-prison, when her body wasn’t this advanced. During our affair days, I remembered gripping her small hips from behind and stuffing her tight pussy with all the dick I had, all that she could take. I’d play with her titties, which were half the size as they were now, while she sucked me off. It was fun then; and I could only imagine what life inside Sundi Ashworth was like now.

We sat in her living room in rustic armchairs made of cow hide, drinking and catching up. I had my legs crossed as I sipped and listened to her tell me about her part in helping Mount Eliyah ENT rise in the ranks. It pained me to hear this, but I listened respectfully. She said that Eliyah had no real key to success other than knowing how to hire the right people.

[_He got that talent from me, _]I thought.

“I don’t think you should quit working at Mount Eliyah,” I said. “Not just yet.”

“Why?” She took a sip of wine, then gave me a conspiratorial eye. “You want me to be your spy?”

“Yes, I do. But the other reason is because I’m not sure I can afford to sustain your lifestyle. You really have obtained some nice things. This place is incredible.”

“Thank you. Are you saying that La’Renz is broke?”

“Oh, you know better than that. The media says I’m bankrupt but I have plenty favors I can call in.”

“It looks as though you already called in a couple favors. You show up in a Balenciaga suit … And is that a Hublo watch you’re wearing? I could never afford that.”

“Good eye,” I smiled. “But yes, I made a few calls on my first day out. It’s also within my legal right to sue some of the major companies—Sony, Coca-Cola, Walmart—for hundreds of millions. They owe me unpaid endorsements. Guaranteed I could settle in the tens. But I refuse to do that because it’ll make me look desperate in the media’s eyes. I’d rather collect from former associates and ask for favors under the table.”

“How much longer do you want me to work for Eliyah?”

“Just until Taylor Music Group gets its first number one record. I’ma need you to keep scouring those submissions, giving the best ones to us. If an artist doesn’t want to fuck with us, destroy their demo. I don’t want Eliyah to have a chance to have ‘em either.”

She nodded and took another sip of wine.

“How is your and Thomas’s relationship?” I asked.

“Thomas Dyer? We’re still friends.”

“When the time is right, do you think you can convince him to come back to Taylor Music Group? He won’t listen to me. He tried to stab me in his office.”

“I doubt he’ll listen to me either. He keeps his nose in Eliyah’s ass.”

“Literally?”

She shrugged one shoulder. “Probably. They’ve been featured in magazines together. Thomas throws parties in Eliyah’s name. They golf together.”

“Thomas never played golf.”

“He does now.”

“We could really use Thomas. He’s a very dedicated business man. I need you to work on him while you’re still employed there. Sow the seeds of doubt. Let him know that his talents can be better utilized elsewhere. Just don’t let him know where that elsewhere is yet.”

“Got it.”

I told Sundi a little bit about my stay in prison. I omitted the part about me suffering from cocaine withdrawal and crying my eyes out in my cell alone because I couldn’t snort a line. I didn’t want to seem weak in her eyes. But she was still spellbound by my dark stories of solitude, the subhuman conditions, my favorite meal (Ramen noodle pizza), and she literally laughed out loud when I told her about my fight with a flaming homosexual who had nicknamed himself Jazzmine Short. It would have been an easy fight if I hadn’t been worried about making the she-man bleed.

Prison was hard for any man. But twice as hard for a celebrity of my magnitude.

Sundi had set her drink down, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees as she soaked up my prison narrative. Her wonderful cleavage was showing now, even a hint of bra. It was distracting.

So I said what the old La’Renz would have said: “How big are they now?”

She followed my eyes, looking down at herself. “My breasts?”

I nodded, then sipped more wine.

“I’m a D now,” she said.

“You hit a growth spurt.”

She laughed. “They’re my gift and my curse.”

Then she did something that nearly made me spit out my drink. She pulled her bra down and showed me her nipples. Prettiest pair ever, just like I remembered them. She smushed her right breast in and up, exposing the flesh underneath. I set my drink down and leaned forward for a better look. She was showing me some kind of dark brown birthmark.

“Remember this?” she asked.

I didn’t. Squinting, I said, “No, am I supposed to?”

“You did this during what was supposed to be foreplay. You were high on cocaine. You bit me so hard you busted a blood vessel, and when I screamed you still wouldn’t stop. When I finally got you off of me I was bleeding and missing skin.”

I leaned back into my seat, fiddling with my necktie nervously. I felt horrible. I honestly didn’t remember that episode.

She fixed the cups of her bra and covered herself back up. “La’Renz, promise me you’re done with the cocaine,” she said. “If I’m gonna be on your team again, I need you to look me in the eyes and tell me that drugs won’t be a part of our operation this time.”

“I promise,” I said without hesitation.

She seemed startled by my immediacy.

“I filtered out all the negative aspects in myself while behind bars. It took time, but cocaine is no longer my demon. I’ve changed. I spent years disciplining myself for this moment when I could take back what’s mine. I won’t let anything stop me. Especially some stupid drug.”

“Is it your passion for music driving you, or your hate for Eliyah?”

I hesitated. “It’s the music. Always has been, always will be.”

“Do you wanna see the rest of my house?” she asked, not smiling.

I was eager, but I didn’t smile either. “I sure would, ma’am.”

“Follow me, sir.”

Like adults, we stood and she took my hand gently and led me to her room. We kissed inside the doorway—it was her who initiated it—then we fell on the bed together. I really had a thing for this woman.

I stood back up and began undoing my cuff links. “Would you like me to refill your glass of wine before we commence?”

She finally gave me a smile. “Just half full, if you don’t mind. I’m a lady.”

I took our empty glasses to the kitchen and set them on the counter. Then I went back into the living room and peeked around the corner to see if she could still see me.

I was in the clear.

Quietly, I went inside my suit jacket that she hung on the coat rack and I fished out the pack of cocaine that mafia boss Julian Beltrán dropped in my pocket at the club earlier. I took the coke to the kitchen and cut the wrapping down the middle with a knife. Sprinkles of powder dropped onto the counter.

I took my pinky finger and pressed it into the cocaine as if I was fingerprinting. Then with the residue that was left on my fingertip, I put it onto my tongue. The taste was explosive! Definitely good shit. I didn’t know if Julian had refined his product or if it had simply been so long since I dillydallied in coke that anything I tried would have tasted good.

I wanted to snort a line. I really really really did. Just one line. Fuck! I thought I was more disciplined than this.

“La’Renz, I’m reaaa-deee!” Sundi called from the bedroom in a sing-songey voice.

Sundi Ashworth. My new partner. My gorgeous new partner. The only person that believed in me right now.

Resolutely, I started shaking the cocaine out into the sink. “Don’t get sidetracked, La’Renz. Stick to the plan,” I said to myself. “If you don’t, Eliyah wins.”

The coke was sticking to the wrapping as if it didn’t want to go. But I forced it out. Then I cut the faucet on and watched all the powder swirl down the drain.

Chapter 3

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

 

Monifa really did have a gun. It was a black 9mm. Coras grabbed her wrist and wrestled it out of her hand just in time. Because if he hadn’t, I would’ve shot that bitch.

“Coras, let me go!” Monifa screamed.

Coras passed Gee her gun so he could free up both hands and wrap her in a tighter bear hug. She was trying to charge across the room at me. But coming at me would do her no good. I still had my .380 out.

“Calm down, Monifa,” Coras growled in her ear. But she wouldn’t stop struggling. “You don’t wanna go over there. Gee, help me out!”

Gee moved into action.

“If you put your drunk-ass hands on me, Gee, I’m telling my brother Milo!” Monifa shouted.

Gee stopped.

“Grab her!” Coras ordered. “Grab her!”

Gee finally helped out. They pinned her to the ground. She seemed possessed. My heart was pumping fast. I wanted to fight for Coras too. I wanted to shoot her or beat her ass.

“Let me go!” Monifa was in full tantrum mode. “Kirbie ain’t got the balls to shoot me!”

“Yes, she does,” Coras snapped at her. “You know she does. Calm down!”

“No! You’re down here fucking her every day and I’m thinking you’re actually in the studio working! I’m gonna fuck you up, Coras! Let me go, Gee!”

“We were working, Monifa.”

I didn’t understand why Coras was explaining himself. Why didn’t he just tell the bitch the truth and send her on her way?

“You think I’m stupid? She was sitting in your lap and you were kissing her!”

“We were just acting out a scene for a video,” he explained. “I don’t fuck wit’ Kirbie like that. That’s lil’ sis.”

My jaw dropped? Lil’ sis? When did I become lil’ sis? I wanted to shoot Coras now.

“I love you, Monifa. Don’t act like you don’t know that. All I need is you. What you saw was acting. We talked about how I’m gonna take acting classes after I blow up in the rap game.”

“You practice on me and only me!”

“Okay, whatever you want.” Coras looked at me like I was the enemy. “Kirbie, put that gun up. Get out of here.”

My mouth was still hanging open. “You want me to leave?” I said in disbelief.

I didn’t understand. I recorded here. I made hits, not Monifa.

“Kirbie, you see she’s gon’ crazy. Leave! She won’t calm down until you leave!”

I felt tears welling in my eyes. We just shared our first kiss and now he was kicking me out? I felt foolish to believe he’d drop her and choose me. I had finally opened my heart up to him. He took what he wanted and closed me back up.

“Kirbie!” he said viciously. “Get out!”

I stormed past them, up the steps and out the house into the pouring rain. Once inside my Mercedes, I sat for a moment looking ahead through my rain-swept windshield at Monifa’s car that was parked in front of me. I wanted to do something bad to it, like shoot her tires out or break her windows.

But then I realized how stupid that would be. I wasn’t anything to Coras. My feelings for him were wrong and misplaced.

So instead of violence, I decided on posting a status to my profile page to sum up my anger.

 

Kirbie Amor: Sometimes you think you’re more important to somebody than you really are. Tonight was a wake-up call. We hate those calls, but we have to answer ‘em sooner or later.

Chapter 4

La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor

 

 

With Sundi, I enjoyed missionary sex, holding her legs up and back and out. I loved to watch her face twist and contort as I fucked her. I could always tell by her strange facial expressions when I was going too hard. The “tight-lipped, squinted eyes” look meant I was in her comfort zone. She loved this zone. The “bared teeth, squeezed shut eyes” look meant I had entered no man’s land.

I favored this zone.

It was warmer at the bottom of her womb.

“Baby, eaaaasy,” she hissed.

“Seven years, you expect me to be easy?”

“Try, please try.”

I let her legs come forward some, so she wasn’t forced to stretch as much. “That better?”

“Uh-huh.”

A moment later she was on top of me, riding me in an aggressive rhythm that seemed to be challenging the way I had just fucked her. She was trying to outdo me! I wanted to reach up and squeeze her big pretty breasts, but from my flat position, that dark brown scar would wink at me every time her titties bounced up and down. It was a scary reminder of my past cocaine addiction.

I opted to squeeze her booty instead. My fingertips found the fine hairs in between her cheeks. It was moist here.

After an hour, we both collapsed into each other’s sweaty arms.

“Oh my goodness you’re the devil,” she said out of breath.

“You wanna know who the real devil is?”

“Who?”

“Eliyah Golomb.”

“Let’s not talk about him. Let’s talk about us.” She kissed me on the cheek. “He’s not allowed in my bedroom.”

I thought about the picture of her and Eliyah together on her Site page and wondered how true that statement was.

“I don’t plan to live here very long,” I told her.

She looked offended. “Why?”

“I’m gonna need my space. I’ve had to share my space with other people for seven years and I just need to be alone for a time. I need to get my thoughts together.”

“That sounds like a cop-out. They were male inmates, I’m a woman.”

“It’s not about gender. It’s about human contact. Sometimes a man just needs to be alone. Needs to be able to think, uninterrupted.”

“My home isn’t a prison cell. There’s plenty of nooks and crannies in here and in this neighborhood where you can get lost. You don’t have to move out.” She kissed me again, three pecks. “Please stay? I’ve missed you, La’Renz.” 

She said this to me before. I’ve missed you, La’Renz. _]It was when the lid got blown off of our affair by sources connected to GabbyTV. A video recording of me and Sundi having sex in my mansion popped up on the internet. Somebody filmed us through an open window. I staunchly denied my presence on the tape, and so did Sundi. To cut off speculation I stopped going out with Sundi after work, stopped sleeping with her altogether. Paparazzi had become rapacious vampires, so the no-sex stint lasted months. Jazzmine had to conduct interviews where she was questioned about my infidelity and she stood behind me—[_that wasn’t my husband on that tape, she professed. But behind closed doors I had to feel her wrath. And she let the world know subtly that she was on to me by singing her heart out on chart-topping songs about unfaithfulness.

When things died down and me and Sundi finally hooked up again, she said these words to me: I’ve missed you, La’Renz.

“I think I found my next Jazzmine Short,” I said as I came out of my thoughts.

Sundi smacked my chest, offended again. “Jazzmine’s not allowed in my bedroom either.”

“No, this isn’t about her. This is about a singer I stumbled upon. Her name is Kirbie Amor. She’s dope.”

“How’d you find her?”

“Those submissions I stole from your boss.”

“I thought you didn’t find anything.”

“I found Kirbie but when I called, her manager blew me off. I was gonna leave the whole ordeal alone but then I heard DJ East spinning her tonight. I got inspired all over again. I think it’s manifest destiny that she’s gonna be my first artist.”

“Why did you call the manager and not the artist directly?”

“Only the phone number for the manager was listed.”

“Yeah, La’Renz, but every artists’ contact info is almost always listed on the back of the CD. Maybe not a phone number, but there should have at least been a Site contact.”

“The Site? Social media?”

“Yes, social media is a legitimate, professional form of contact next to e-mail now. Things have changed since you’ve been gone. You should have seen a small ‘at’ sign, the lowercase ‘a’ with a circle around it”—she made small loopty-loops with her finger—“in front of her Site name. That’s a contact.”

I was almost certain I had seen it. “The Site?” I said again, being sure.

“Yes!” she insisted.

Galvanized, I sat up quickly and swung my legs out of bed. Sundi grabbed my arm.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“Back to my hotel to get the CD,” I said.

“It’s almost three o’clock in the morning. Are you crazy?”

“We both know a lot of successful people that are crazy.”

“La’Renz, we’re not going all the way over to Manhattan at this time of night. We’ll go tomorrow. Or, since today is technically tomorrow, we’ll go later.”

“We’ll go now. I don’t want Kirbie to get away.”

Sundi rolled over and grabbed a coin off of her nightstand. It was a silver half dollar.

“Let’s flip for it,” she said. “If it’s heads, I’ll drive you to Manhattan right now. If it’s tails, you stay and make love to me for another hour and we sleep in and then we wake up and make the trip to your hotel to get all your stuff.”

I chuckled. Back in the day we used to flip a coin for everything—who was going to pay for lunch, which single to leak online, who was going to perform oral sex on who first. Her fun side hadn’t changed much. I took the coin from her to make sure both sides weren’t the same.

“You think I’d cheat you?” she said.

“Women are creatures of guile.”

“So are men.”

“I’ll flip it. Or no deal.”

“Be my guest,” she said.

With the flick of my thumb, the coin twirled in the air. Together, we watched it spin and land in my palm as I whammed it on the back of my other hand. I didn’t lift my top hand right away. I wanted to give her a little suspense.

“C’mon, let’s see,” she laughed.

I removed my hand.

Tails.

Chapter 5

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

I stood at the front door of me and Archie’s home, not prepared to go in. I had been crying the whole way here. Coras had just made me feel cheap and used. He had treated me like I meant nothing. He chose Monifa over me.

As I tried to wipe my tears away, I knew it would do no good. I looked a mess. And I felt worse. I knew what I had to do on the other side of this door, but I wasn’t sure if I could follow through. I took a deep breath, then I put my key in the door and turned the knob. Archie heard me enter.

“In here, baby,” he called out from the dining room.

I adjusted my .380 to be sure it would stay put in my waist, then I followed his voice to the dining room. I was surprised to see he had cooked another elaborate meal, which was laid out neatly in the middle of the table. And I was utterly shocked to see my father sitting across from him.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I went to pick up your father,” Archie smiled.

“I see.”

But you also went to go pick up our pills from the fake robberyyou dirty muthafucka.

I looked at my daddy.

My father said, “Archie told me you wanted me over here for dinner. Said you had a surprise for me.”

I glared at Archie.

“Okay, I told a lie.” Archie’s smile got bigger. “But it’s all for a good cause. Sit down, Kirbie. No wait, go change first. Take that hoodie off. You look like a thug.”

Archie wore a burgundy knit sweater with a shawl collar. My father had on a plaid workman’s long-sleeve and a puff vest. They both looked like gentleman, while I could pass for a vagabond.

I sat down anyway—in the chair next to my father, not near Archie. Archie gave me a curious look as if to say I was in the wrong seat, but then he stood and got our plates together. He decorated our salads by hand, leaning over our shoulders to sprinkle cheese and croutons atop lettuce. When he was done, he kissed me on the cheek and I didn’t move a muscle. I was still dazed by how wicked Coras had yelled at me.

Leave! She won’t calm down until you leave! Kirbie! Get out!

“I take it you’re looking down like that because you didn’t find the niggas who robbed us,” Archie whispered in my ear. “I told you to leave it alone. Now you’re disappointed.” Then he poured our drinks—bubbling beer-brown champagne—and this time spoke loud enough for my father to hear too. “But I got something that’ll cheer you up, Kirbie. And make Mr. Capelton happy as well.”

He scurried to the other side of the table, poured his own drink and held his glass in the air. “I’d like to call a toast. To the beginning of a new day in all of our lives.”

My father glanced over at me as he grabbed his glass to raise it up. When he saw my motionless trance, he set his drink back down and put his arm around my chair. He looked at Archie. “What did you do to my daughter?”

“Nothing, sir. She’s just been having a bad week and I’m trying to cheer her up.”

“Did you hit her again?” Then my father turned to me. “Did he hit you again?”

“You told him I hit you?” Archie asked me angrily.

I was tuned out. Tears started to flow down my cheeks. Coras, why did you stick up for Monifa and not me? I had always thought that if it ever came down to it, Coras would choose me over any other female without batting an eye. 

“Oh hell naw, my baby’s crying.” Daddy shot to his feet and pointed at Archie rudely. “Did you put your hands on my daughter!”

“No, sir.”

“Let me find out you put your hands on my daughter again … I’ll kill you! She stopped me from putting a bullet in yo head the first time.”

“Who the fuck are you to talk, nigga?” Archie set his drink down. “Do I need to remind you how many times you put your hands on Kirbie?! I hit her once. One time. You beat her almost every day of her whole fucking life.”

“That’s none of your business, boy!”

“It is too my business. I opened my doors to yo daughter when she had nowhere else to go. I taught her how to get money. You should be thanking me!”

“Thanking you for teaching her how to peddle drugs? You don’t get a thank-you for that. Teach her about the Word and I’ll thank you. Teach her about all the vital truths that God revealed to man and I’ll—”

“Don’t come at me with that shit! You just learned that shit yesterday. Speak on what you really know, and that’s abuse. Alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse. You ran—”

STOP!” I screamed.

“No, Kirbie, he needs to hear this shit. He done got me going.” Archie took a quick sip of champagne. “If it wasn’t for me, your daughter would’ve ended up just like your wife. Wandering somewhere around this country probably begging for change or having sex for food. And you know what? Your wife is probably better off now than she was with you!”

My father snapped. “You don’t know shit about my wife! Not a fucking thing!” Veins bulged in his neck. “My wife is one of the most successful women in the music world and has been for the last SIXTEEN YEARS!”

I looked at my father strangely. What the hell was he talking about?

I knew it was about to come to a fistfight so I grabbed Archie and pulled him into another room.

“He needed to hear that,” Archie said to me, breathing hard. “You okay? Stop crying.”

Archie hugged me, cradling my head.

“I’m sorry you had to hear that,” he said. “But I had to tell it like it is. Kirbie, I told you I’ll always protect you from him.”

I was crying softly. “Who’s gonna protect me from you?”

“What?”

“Let me go, Archie.”

“Baby, stop crying first. It’s okay.”

When he felt the muzzle of my .380 press into his stomach, he slowly released me, leaving his arms open wide in surrender.

“Kirbie, all I did was yell at the man,” Archie said apologetically. “I was only sticking up for you.”

“This isn’t about the argument with my father,” I said, teary-eyed. “This is about the robbery!”

“You’re upset because I didn’t help you find those niggas? Is that it? Kirbie, don’t shoot me again. Please, baby …”

“You set that robbery up, Archie. I know you did. If you lie to me, I’ll shoot you dead right now.”

He glanced down at my gun. He was probably deciding if he could take it from me. But he knew better.

“Tell me that you set it up!” I hollered.

He licked his lips, then came clean. “I set the robbery up,” he stated.

“Why?! I thought you loved me!”

“I do love you, don’t you understand? That’s why I did it. I was trying to prevent you from taking the pill money and wasting it on that music shit. It’s the same thing you did for me by calling the casinos and putting me on the gambling anonymous lists.”

“That’s not the same thing!”

“Well, it is a little different but it’s still the same intent. I was trying to help you. I set up that whole thing to help you. That should tell you how much I love you and what lengths I’ll go to for you. You know I fucking love you, Kirbie. I was just trying to prevent you from having your dreams crushed. And I’m tired of you getting played by that phony record company you’re signed to.”

Coras was right. Archie had been trying to hold me back all along. But now I was wondering if Archie had good reason to. I had spent a lot of money over the past year and I didn’t even have one mixtape of my own to show for it. Just singles, and features on Coras’s mixtapes. Maybe I was getting played. Maybe Coras was using my voice for his hooks to get noticed faster. That would explain why he kept Ashleigh around. She was his scapegoat.

“I’ll show you how much I love you,” Archie said. His eyes were starting to fill with tears too. “Can I reach in my back pocket?”

I didn’t answer him, but kept the gun on him as I tried to wipe away my own tears. He carefully reached in his back pocket and pulled out a small black box.

“This is why I wanted you and your father here together. I wanted to ask his permission to marry you. But I know that’s not gonna happen now. And I don’t think I even need it. He was never a father to you.”

As Archie slowly got down on one knee, his tears began to trickle down his cheeks. My gun was pointed at his head now by default. He held the box up and gently flicked the top back. I cried harder, as I stared at the most beautiful diamond ring I had ever seen in my life.

“I put a down payment on this ring and was gonna sell the pills you thought were stolen to pay off the rest of it. This is a fifty thousand dollar certified diamond.” He cleared his throat. “Kirbie Amor Capelton, you have two choices: you either kill me dead right now, or accept this ring and be my wife for eternity. There is no other option.”

Chapter 6

Monifa Chavis

 

 

“Where’s Milo?!” I shouted.

The doorman, a big ol overfed boy in a black tanktop and covered in tattoos, stared at me like I was fresh meat. Then he actually leaned against the door like it was a high school locker and he was about to spit a line at me. He smiled a set of straight teeth, then looked right down my low-cut shirt. This was why I hated coming to my brother’s dope house. All of his workers were thirsty.

I flung my hair over my shoulder with my hand. “Take a picture; it lasts longer.”

“What do you need Milo for?” he asked. “I can take care of you.”

I had to admit—his voice was deep and sexy. But that didn’t matter.

“Is Milo here or not?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. That depends on who you are.”

“I’m his sister, Monifa Chavis,” I stated.

He immediately straightened up. He knew he fucked up by trying to talk to his boss’s little sister. But since he was halfway cute, I wouldn’t tell on him. Milo had been overprotective of me since I was born. When I started dating he’d beat my boyfriends up for no reason at all other than to send a message. It was irritating at first but as I got older I learned how to use it to my advantage. I could keep my boyfriends in check. Once, when Johnathon Williams, a grade above me at the time (and a white boy), chose to dump me right before prom and take another black girl in my place, I lied and told Milo that Johnathon called me the N-word and spat in my face. I expected Milo to hurt him bad, enough for Johnathon to not want to show his beaten face at prom. But what happened was far worse than I imagined. Johnathon didn’t show up for prom all right—because he’d been shot to death in his parents’ house during a “random” home invasion the night before.

That day, I learned firsthand that my brother didn’t play about me.

And Coras knew this. So why did he cheat on me with Kirbie? He must have stopped valuing his health. Even though Coras apologized and tried to deny what I had seen with my own two eyes, he still needed to be punished. There had to be consequences when you broke the rules in a relationship with me. Maybe next time he’d think twice before letting another bitch like Kirbie sit in his lap. 

The big doorman let me inside the apartment, where there were more thuggish negroes. A heavy stench of marijuana smoke invaded my nostrils before I even took three steps in. I started fanning the air in front of me, coughing lightly at first then it got worse. The guys in the living room started laughing.

“Too loud for you?” one joked about the cloudy smoke.

I caught my breath and noticed that a couple of them I recognized from being “friends” with my brother on The Site. It was weird because this was my first time seeing them, yet I felt like I knew half of them because I had frequented their pages so much. The dark-skinned guy sitting on the couch in sweats and Nike slides was named Oyeah Mason on his Site page, and I knew almost his whole life story—he graduated from Lincoln Prep four years ago, got seven college credits from Rockhurst before being expelled for drugs; his baby momma’s father got him a job at UPS (which was still listed as his place of employment on The Site ), but he got fired six months ago for, in his own words, “doing my job fuck them I’m not doing nobody else’s work.” And according to a status update posted by his baby momma last week, he was also delinquent on child support payments. But I checked a county court website that was updated daily and saw that he was only behind a hundred and fifty bucks. His baby momma always tried to make him seem worse than he really was.

I could have probably named three more people in this weed spot by their Site names, if not on the first guess then the second.

“Where’s my brother?” I asked. I singled Oyeah Mason out with my question because he was the most familiar. And the most handsome.

“Upstairs,” he said, pointing down the hall.

He didn’t question who I was. That let me know he knew my business too. The Site worked both ways.

As I marched down the hall, I heard the female moans of sex, and I could smell it too. It wasn’t a bad smell or a good smell, it was just … unsettling. Probably because I knew it was a half mix of my brother’s scent. I knocked on the door where the moans were coming from. I beat on the door hard.

“Who is it?” Milo. Angry. And the sex had stopped.

“It’s Monifa,” I said, trying to sound heartbroken. “Milo, I need to talk to you please.” I was in character, about to put on a show. Like I said, I knew how to work my brother’s emotions. I took a deep breath, trying to gather tears. “It’s your sister. Are you busy?”

“Hold on.”

A second later the door thrust open. My tall, handsome brother was standing there panting in complete nudity. I hadn’t seen him naked since we bathed together as kids, and that was millennia ago. His wiener, which was dreadfully darker than the rest of his brown skin, began to slowly pulse-shrink as the seconds passed. I stared, lost in the magic of male shrinkage, as an odd thought occurred to me: I wonder if this is what our daddy’s penis looks like.

“Monifa, up here.”

I looked up. “Huh?”

“What’s wrong?”

I looked past him at the girl on the bed he’d been fucking. She had a cute sew-in and innocent doe-like eyes, and from what I could see of her body that wasn’t covered up by the sheets, she was also full-figured. My brother had a thing for thick women.

“I’m sorry I came here,” I said, and sniffled. “You’re busy.”

I turned to leave and he grabbed my arm and pulled me into the room, just like I knew he would. He snapped his fingers at his plaything, jerked his thumb toward the door and she sprang to her feet and collected her clothes and scurried out of the room. Milo was pulling on a pair of dark jeans when he asked me again to tell him what was wrong.

“It’s about Coras,” I said sadly.

“What? He get shot or somethin’?” Milo was halfway into pulling his shirt on when he saw me shake my head no. He paused, then slid his shirt all the way on and sat me down on the bed. “He hit you?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“He cheated on me.”

Milo sighed, then pulled me into his arms. He held me and kissed my forehead.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.

“I know you told him that if he ever broke my heart you were gonna fuck him up but please don’t do anything to him.”

I was smiling inside. Reverse psychology.

“You don’t want me to fuck him up?”

“No,” I whimpered.

“Okay,” he said, “are you gon’ be a’ight?”

Did he just say okay?

I pulled away from my brother and looked at him sideways. “You’re not gonna do anything to him?”

“No, not if you don’t want me to.”

I almost blurted, You killed Johnathon and I didn’t want you to! but I caught myself.

“Monifa, I didn’t really like that nigga Coras when you introduced him to me but I served him product because he fucked with you and treated you right. Then, he turned out to be one hustling ass nigga. I make a lot of money off of selling him weight. I’m not gon’ break off a good relationship with him because he cheated on you. Now, if he hit you, that’s a different story.”

I knew if I lied and told my brother that Coras hit me then he’d kill him. I didn’t want that. I loved Coras. But I wanted him to be punished somehow.

“His friend put his hands on me,” I said desperately.

“Who?!”

“His producer. Gee Beats. He threw me on the ground when I caught Coras with the other girl. I told him not to touch me and his drunk ass slammed me.”

This got my brother riled up.

And before I left the apartment, I was sure something was going to be done to somebody.

On the car ride home I looked up Oyeah Mason on The Site and thumb-tapped his profile picture to enlarge it. He was sure easy to look at, with some of the softest-looking skin I had ever seen (and this clearly had to be due to a Site-generated photo effect because he didn’t look this blemish-free in person). Still, he had a nice set of lips that looked moist and kissable, and his brown eyes sparkled with sincerity. He should have been a professional model, not selling drugs for my brother.

I clicked Like on his picture.

 

Monifa Chavis: In time, everybody gets what’s due to them. Call it revenge, call it karma, call it whatever you like. Just don’t get mad when it comes back around and punches yo punk-ass. Nobody does me wrong and gets away with it.

Chapter 7

Andre “Coras Bane” McDougald

 

“Did you see what Monifa just posted?” Ashleigh asked me.

I was donning my Cuban link chain in the mirror, getting ready for the performance at the Sprint Center tonight. The last thing I wanted to hear about was Monifa and social media.

“I don’t care what she posted,” I said.

“Look at it.”

“For what?”

Ashleigh put her cell phone in my face and made me read the status update. I looked it over and shrugged my shoulders. Ashleigh didn’t like that response.

She said, “Every time she posts some revenge shit, it’s about you. What happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Call her and find out.”

“No. Tonight is one of the biggest performances of my budding career and I don’t wanna kill my vibe by talking to her.”

I stared in the mirror at the gold chain and how it sat against my bare chest, hoping Ashleigh would drop the issue. She did, thankfully. She walked off, leaving me in her master bedroom alone.

I couldn’t tell Ashleigh what happened between me and Monifa, even though I knew she knew something was up. If I told her that Monifa caught Kirbie on my lap kissing me, I would be in the dog house with both of my ladies. I didn’t know exactly what Ashleigh would do if she found out. She’d be deeply hurt, to say the least. And when you hurt a girl deep once, she might still ride for you but the dynamic would change, if only slightly. I didn’t want that to happen.

I had spent the night here at Ashleigh’s impressive three-bedroom single-family home in quiet Olathe, Kansas, because Monifa wouldn’t let me come home to her. That alone was enough to give Ashleigh red flags because I rarely ever crashed here. And then the salty status update … it was clear me and Monifa were going through it.

Ashleigh came back in the room pouting. She put her hands on her hips, taking a stance.

Dammit! Here we go again.

“Are yall broken up or are you not gonna tell me?” she said with grief raw in her voice. “Because I don’t know how much longer I can put up with being the side chick if I can’t at least know what’s going on.”

“We got into an argument,” I said, finally.

“About what?”

“Something stupid.”

She stomped her foot. “About what?!”

“Monifa was mad that I’ve been staying at the studio all hours of the night, so she popped up on me last night. She was in her feelings, probably off of a pill, her and Kirbie almost got into it, it was late and everybody was tired—”

“Wait. Her and Kirbie fought? Why am I just now hearing about this?”

“They didn’t fight. Me and Gee got between ‘em before it got ugly.”

“How did it start?”

I sighed. Women always wanted details.

I talked Ashleigh into shaping up my hairline while she quizzed me further. She was pretty good with the clippers, I trusted her. And now she was concentrating more on making me look presentable than the near altercation last night. After she was finished, she put a mirror in front of my face so I could see her handiwork.

I smiled, rubbing my shaved cheeks. She did good.

“What if Monifa comes at me sideways like that and tries to fight me for no reason?” Ashleigh asked. “What are you gonna do?”

“Same thing. I’ma hold her ass back.”

“You better not make me leave like you did Kirbie. Monifa better be the one to go, I know that.”

“Why does it matter?”

“That’ll be disrespectful if you make me leave over her, whether she’s related to yo weed plug or not. She had no business being there. I can understand you doing that to Kirbie. But I’m not Kirbie. If you can’t stand up for me as your woman, then you better stand up for me as your manager. If not, what am I doing here?”

I hadn’t really thought about how Kirbie felt about me kicking her out until now. Ashleigh had a point. The studio was our zone. That was where we made shit happen. I should have made Monifa leave. I guess I was too caught up in diffusing the situation that I didn’t take into consideration Kirbie’s feelings. But I loved Kirbie. She knew that, right? She knew why I sent her out.

I decided I would text her as soon as Ashleigh got out of my face.

 

***

 

I was riding in the passenger seat of Ashleigh’s fuel-friendly Volvo SUV, on our way to pick up Gee, as I looked over my text to Kirbie. I was checking for errors and trying to read it from a different point of view to make sure it didn’t sound insensitive.

 

Coras Bane: I apologize if I disrespected you in any kind of way last night. Now that I think about it, I should have made Monifa leave and not you. I wasn’t thinking right. You had my mind jumbled all up from the … you know what (smile). I’ll see you in a few. We’re picking up Gee, then we’ll come pick you up. I hope you’re ready. Tonight is the big show!

 

It had been a half hour since I sent it and I still hadn’t gotten a response yet. She normally hit me back within five minutes or so. I was wondering if she misinterpreted the smile I inserted into the text as being facetious. Maybe I should have taken out that whole sentence.

Then a reply finally came through.

Her text back was … shocking:

 

Kirbie Amor: As far as last night, no harm no foul. I already forgot about it. And as far as the concert at the Sprint Center tonight, I’ll pass. Me and Archie have plans.

 

I wasn’t sure if I had read it right.

“What’s wrong?” Ashleigh asked me. “Who just texted you?”

I guess the bewilderment was written all over my face. “Kirbie,” I said to her, as I read the text again. “She said she’s not coming to the concert.”

“What?!”

“I know. That’s what I was thinking.”

“Call her now.”

I had already tapped the green-phone icon and was putting the cell up to my ear. She answered on the seventh ring. Anything after four was disrespectful to me.

“Hello?” she said.

“Kirbie, I just read your text. What’s this about passing on the show? Did you send that text, or is yo boyfriend Archie playing on yo phone again?”

“I sent it.”

She sounded irritated but I didn’t care.

“Explain that shit to me,” I flared. “You can’t cancel on a show like this at the last minute. What kind of shit are you on?”

“I’m not going, Coras.”

“Is it because I kicked you out of the studio?”

“No. I just gotta start focusing on what’s important in my life.”

“Music’s not important no more?”

“It used to be.”

“When the fuck did it change?!”

“Since I got engaged.”

I was shellshocked. My baby girl … engaged? Kirbie was supposed to be my wife one day. This was one hellavuh bomb. I couldn’t believe it.

What the fuck was she tryna prove?

In a fair and calm voice, I said, “Kirbie, I don’t know what Archie did to convince you that singing isn’t your future, but I’m here to remind you that it is. You’re the hottest artist in Kansas City. And I would say hottest artist in the world but the world hasn’t heard you yet. And if you stop now, they never will. I need you to—”

Ashleigh cut me off. “Don’t try to convince her to come. If she doesn’t wanna come, tell her to stay her ass at home.” Ashleigh said it loud so Kirbie could hear on the other end.

“See, that ho is one of the main reasons why I’m tired of that shit,” Kirbie fussed to me. “She’s a fake-ass manager that’s been hating on me since I joined the team. And you’ve been letting her hate on me, Coras. So I’m not sure where you stand either.”

“I have been in your corner and supporting you from the jump. With my own money, with my own time.”

“If you want me to reimburse you for whatever money and time you spent on me, I will.”

“You know I ain’t tripping off of that. I just don’t want you to quit.”

“Stop begging that bitch!” Ashleigh hollered.

I pushed my palm at Ashleigh and mouthed, Shut the hell up!

Kirbie barked in my ear, “Did she just call me a bitch? Tell her to say that shit to me the next time she see me. I’ll be the last bitch she ever sees.”

“Kirbie, just come do this show. If you still wanna quit after this, after seeing a packed house of over 19,000 people cheering for you, I’ll respect yo wishes and leave you alone.”

“That fucking show is a joke, Coras! I’m only featured on like one song. I’m not your fucking hype man! Don’t try to play me like you’ve been playing them other bitches. I’m not Monifa, and I damn sure ain’t Ashleigh! I’m done with that music shit. I’m a hustler. That’s what I was born to do.”

“So you’re gonna sell pills the rest of your life?”

“No, try cocaine. I’m moving up.”

“Kirbie, that’s the stupidest—”

She hung up on me. I couldn’t remember the last time I’ve been this angry in my life. I wasn’t as angry at Kirbie as I was at Archie for screwing up her head. Kirbie was the best thing to happen to Swope Records. I’d be damned if I just let her talent go to waste.

“Did that bitch hang up on you?” Ashleigh asked.

“Yep.”

“Forget her. She ain’t been nothing but a problem to us since she signed on. I hope she knows there’s no coming back this time. We’re done with her, right?”

“Nah, she signed a contract. She ain’t going nowhere.”

“What?” Ashleigh was so surprised she almost lost control of the wheel. We had started to cross into the next lane, causing a car in our blind spot to honk at us. “You still wanna keep her?”

“Make a left right here, Ashleigh. We’re going to Kirbie’s house first.”

“No!”

“I said make a left!”

“No!”

We passed where we were supposed to turn. I pulled my gun out, a 9mm Walther PPX with a polymer grip. I cocked it back.

“At this light coming up, make a goddamn left,” I said calmly but with no less ego.

Ashleigh started crying. “Are you gonna shoot me?”

“Stop being silly.”

“Are you gonna shoot Archie?”

“Not if I don’t have to.”

“Why do you wanna do this, huh? Is it business or is it something else? Tell me the fucking truth, Coras!”

“Kirbie is my artist, that’s it. I’m protecting my investment.”

“Get another fucking investment!” Ashleigh hollered, and banged her hand on the steering wheel once. “As your manager, I have to do what’s best for your career. And what’s best is making sure you make it to the Sprint Center tonight. As your girlfriend, or side piece or wifey or whatever I am for right now, I won’t let you throw your life away for an ungrateful bitch that you clearly have feelings for. We’re going to pick up Gee and then we’re going to put on the best show this city has ever seen. And that’s final!”

I was looking down at my gun as I held it in my lap, finger curled around the trigger. I knew if I went to go pick up Kirbie right now I was going to commit a murder. I really wanted to kill that chubby muthafucka Archie, and that right there told me that now wasn’t the time to confront him. I had to be smart. I had to be calculating. If I wanted Archie out of the picture, there was a smarter way of going about doing it. I just had to figure out what that way was.

I took my finger off of the trigger, leaned back against the seat and sighed.

Ashleigh was relieved. “Please don’t scare me like that again,” she said.

A moment later my phone started ringing. I looked at the ID and saw it was from Milo Chavis. Monifa’s brother. My OG Tahoe plug. I knew it had something to do with what happened between Kirbie and Monifa at the studio and I didn’t want to hear about it right now. So I let the call go to voicemail. I’d postpone that talk until after the show. I didn’t need any more distractions.

“Was that Kirbie calling back?” Ashleigh asked.

I didn’t answer her. I just turned the radio on and zoned out as I practiced my lyrics to the songs I’d be performing later … songs I’d have to perform without the love of my life.

 

GabbyTV: There’s footage circulating on the internet that supposedly shows La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor attacking a bouncer in front of a popular nightclub in New York City on West 25th Street. He proceeds to break the bouncer’s fingers and then waltzes inside the club as if he owned the place. It hasn’t been confirmed that La’Renz is the one in the video, but if it is, I’ll be the first to tell you that this man is asking to be killed. You heard it from me first.

Chapter 8

La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor

 

 

“Why did you rent a hotel directly across the street from Mount Eliyah ENT?” Sundi asked with laughter in her voice. She was standing at the window, looking down at the Manhattan streets. Then she closed the curtains and turned toward me. “Have you gone mad, my friend?”

“Not mad,” I replied, as I looked under the bed for the Swope Park Gritter Vol. 2 mixtape. “Just determined. Where the fuck is the fucking CD case at?! Goddamn!”

I stood up and put my hands on my hips, frustrated. I turned my head left and right, looking around the room for where I put it. There was a pile of CDs on the floor I had searched through twice. I was starting to wonder if housekeeping found it and pocketed it. Maybe Eliyah knew I was staying in this hotel after all and he sent housekeeping (or a spy unrelated to this hotel) to retrieve what I had stolen from him. But why didn’t they take all the CDs, and not just Kirbie’s?

I looked up at Sundi as she crossed the suite toward me. Did she contact Eliyah last night and alert him that I had a potential artist named Kirbie Amor that I was looking to sign? Is that why she didn’t want me to come here in the middle of the night? So Eliyah would have time to send somebody in here and steal the mixtape?

Sundi grabbed my face in both hands and shook me a little bit. “Pull it together, La’Renz,” she said. “Where did you have it last?”

“I know where I had it,” I said. “I left the case on the dresser. I don’t understand why it isn’t still there.”

“I worked with you a long time, Mr. Taylor. You misplace things all the time. We just have to backtrack.”

“I misplaced things when I had a drug problem. I haven’t used cocaine in years. I know where I left the fucking case!”

“Baby, calm down.”

“Let me see your phone,” I said to her.

“Huh?”

“Let me see your damn phone if you don’t have anything to hide.”

She let my face go, searching my eyes for an explanation. “I don’t know what you’re excusing me of, and I don’t think I wanna know.” She reached in her purse and pulled her cell phone out, then grabbed my hand and forced me to take her phone. “There, it’s yours, do what you want with it. I’m going to finish searching for that mixtape.”

She bumped my shoulder as she brushed past me and began searching the hotel dresser drawers behind me. With one hand still on my hip and the other holding her phone, I looked over my shoulder at her. There was a time, a long time ago, when I had suspicions that she’d been deceiving me. I thought she was sleeping with one of our artists, Yayo Love. This was before Eliyah stole him, before the tape leaked that revealed me and Sundi’s affair. Bloggers had gotten ahold of a photo of Sundi sitting on Yayo Love’s lap in a popular Miami nightclub. He was captured kissing her on the cheek and she was smiling at the camera. The popular blogs, mainly GabbyTV, spun the picture as a love connection, and over the course of a few weeks the story started to gain ground.

I questioned Sundi about the rumors when we were having sex at Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva, Switzerland. I had her bent over an enormous bed in our upscale suite, fucking her in her then 20-year-old pussy from behind. I didn’t like what I was feeling. Her walls felt looser.

“Is he a better lover than me?” I had asked her then, right in the middle of sex.

She turned and looked at me with her brow creased in a fierce mask of sexual confusion. I was still pounding her as she stared and moaned.

“Answer me,” I said.

“You asked me a question?”

“Yes!” I thrust inside of her harder. “Is Yayo Love better than me? He must not be if you’re still taking this dick!”

Angry, she tried to break free from our sex position. But I managed to get a few more pumps in before she was able to twist her body and knock my hands off of her hips. She stood and smacked me across the face.

“Don’t you ever talk to me like that!” she yelled at me, pointing her finger in my face. “I am not a whore!”

“You’re not?”

She tried to smack me again but I grabbed her wrist.

“Let me go!”

“Are you fucking Yayo Love or not?”

“I won’t dignify that question with a response.”

I squeezed her wrist harder and she winced. “Answer me!” I ordered. “Did you fuck him?”

“No!” she screamed.

I let her wrist go, and she pushed me. I wanted to punch her right in her pretty little mouth, like I had done Jazzmine once, and ruin her purple MAC lips that she’d probably swallowed Yayo Love’s cum with, but I couldn’t pull myself to swing on her. I didn’t know if she could take a punch like Jazzmine could.

“I’m not a whore, La’Renz. If I’m sleeping with you, then that means I’m only sleeping with you. I may be young, but I still have my dignity.”

“You can’t have too much dignity,” I replied. “I’m married and you’re still fucking me.”

“Because I’m in love with you!”

She stormed off, heading for the bathroom. I caught up with her and grabbed her arm and spun her naked body toward me.

“What did you just say?”

“I’m in love with you!” she cried, as tears poured down her cheeks. “I can’t believe you, of all people, who knows those blogs are full of shit, are actually feeding into that crap about me and Yayo Love.”

“If you’re in love with me, then what were yall doing in that club together, huh? You were on his lap, he was kissing you …”

“You assigned Yayo Love to me as an artist, La’Renz! Does the cocaine have you that gone?”

“I wanted you to build his career, not his sex life.”

“Listen here, you arrogant son of a bitch. Yayo Love personally asked me to come to that club to celebrate his birthday with him.”

I scoffed. “He didn’t ask me to come.”

“He doesn’t like you and you know that.”

“Clearly he likes you.”

“He does. And when that guy asked to take a picture of us in VIP, Yayo pulled me onto his lap and kissed me right before the snapshot was taken because he was drunk. I smiled even though I felt uncomfortable as hell. But I never slept with him.” She was trying to stare me down, but her eyes were so full of tears she couldn’t stop blinking. “I thought you would be glad that the media suspected me and Yayo of being involved.”

“Why the hell would you think that?”

“La’Renz, if they think I’m seeing him, then they won’t see what’s really going on between me and you.

Because of my pride, I still threw her out of my suite that day. I actually pushed her in the back of the head on her way out of the room and slammed the door before she could get her lick back. We didn’t have sex again until after she did an online video interview for GabbyTV that finally put the rumors to rest. She did the interview of her own volition. She denied ever being romantically involved with the rapper Yayo Love. “He’s just an artist I represent as his A&R and we were having fun,” she said. “I’m actually in love with someone who I wish not to name.”

And now, seven years later, my doubts about Sundi Ashworth’s loyalty were starting to surface again. As the image of her and Eliyah’s snuggly Site pic danced in my mind, I felt like I’d been stupid to believe Sundi was on my side. Eliyah slept with my wife for God’s sake, so it was only fitting that he bed my mistress too.

I unlocked Sundi’s phone with the swipe of my thumb, as I heard her behind me searching the room for a mixtape that was probably already in Eliyah’s hands. I scrolled through her call log to see if she had made a call to anyone last night, particularly Eliyah Golomb. There were none. No incoming and no outgoing, at least not within the hours we’d been at her place. But that didn’t mean a thing. With today’s technology, she could have sent an e-mail or made a video call or tipped him off through an inbox on The Site. There were myriads of ways to communicate nowadays.

“I found it!”

I turned around and saw Sundi holding up the CD.

“Where was it?” I asked.

She pointed to my laptop bag. “It was stuffed in the side pocket, you idiot.”

Now I was really feeling stupid. My cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

She sauntered up to me, wagging the CD in the air. She was throwing her hips forward as she approached, a walk that used to be sexy by stage performers in the 1960s. I laughed.

“Now can I have my phone back so I can send this Kirbie Amor girl a Site message?” she said. “Or are you not finished acting like a sad, jealous boyfriend?”

 

Sundi Ashworth > Kirbie Amor: Hello, Kirbie, my name’s Sundi Ashworth (A&R) and I’m sending you this message in regards to my interest in your musical talent. I’m a representative of a major record label, and I think you and your voice have the potential to become one of the biggest artists this industry has ever seen. This is not spam. This is for real. My profile page will confirm my authenticity. If you would like to further your career and become a household name, please reply as soon as possible. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Chapter 9

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

 

 

 

Night time in LA. And I felt good.

I was a back seat passenger right now. And that was fine by me; I could Site surf in peace. Archie and Mark Beltrán were up front. Mark, who had been supplying us with Purple Gorilla ecstasy pills since forever, was now going to introduce us to his cocaine connection. He was driving his Porsche Panamera Turbo across Los Angeles like it was supposed to be the only car on the road. He’d occasionally stick his head out of the window and curse out a slow driver in Spanish as we zoomed around him (or her). Mark was hot-tempered to people he didn’t know, but he was the best to me and Archie. Every now and then I would look up from my phone after hearing him curse someone and I would see a beautiful fan or feather-topped palm tree that caught my eye, but I had been back and forth to this city for so long that the landscape was becoming less and less appealing.

“I appreciate this,” Archie said to Mark.

“No problema,” Mark replied, as he shifted down to accommodate a red traffic light. The sound of the engine purring down was melodic. It reminded me of music, which I had sworn off.

But it was impossible to nix something overnight that you’d been passionate about your whole life. Right now I was scrolling through a trending feed on The Site where users were discussing the Sprint Center. I shouldn’t have been on this newsfeed—why are you torturing yourself, Kirbie?—but I was. I was curious, yet still glad me and Archie left town when we did. If I had been in Kansas City when I told Coras I wasn’t doing the Sprint Center, he would have probably showed up at me and Archie’s house, and who knows what would’ve transpired between my fiancé and my labelmate—er, ex-labelmate. And Coras wouldn’t have showed up because he loved me, but because I was simply his “investment.” How lame was that?

Fuck Coras, I thought. I’m nobody’s property.

As Mark and Archie talked up front, I continued reading the feed about the Sprint Center rap event:

 

Debra Mcree: I just saw Yayo Love backstage! #SprintCenter

Stylist Samara Mayes: Did the show start already? #SprintCenter

Cherri TooGrownForGames: No, they’re still seating people. It’s so unorganized right now. I’ve never seen this many people. #SprintCenter

Makea WorkingWoman Price: Yayo Love is my future baby daddy! #YayoLove #LoveChild #SprintCenter

Leonard Mathis: I have two tickets for sale! Front row seats! Inbox me. Serious inquiries only! #SprintCenter

Mitch tiredofballin Walker: All these bitches on here are screaming about Yayo Love. He ain't had a hot 16 in years! WTF??? Yall need to be supporting the Kansas City artist Coras Bane that's opening up for Yayo. That's the only reason I'm going #CorasBane #KC #SupportLocalArtists #FuckYayo

Mendi AplayasPlaya Robinson: Yayo Love look like a mufuckin uuuuuuhhhh

Natasha YoloLife Anderson: Lol! ^^^

Trillyoung Sav: I’m coming to see Coras too!

Danielle Bryant: Me too I know Coras from high school

SimplyTru Anjanette: I’m going to hear Kirbie Amor sing! I love that bitch. #MyFavoriteSinger #NextToCayleneHope

Peter Lewis: Kirbie and Coras are the shit!

Tabitha Alston: Yayo Love is cool. Can’t hate on him. He’s killing the Billboards right now.

Mitch tiredofballin Walker: Billboard ranking doesn’t equal talent! All that ranking does is tell you who’s popular. Coras Bane has talent. And I forgot about Kirbie. She’s dope too. #SprintCenter

Shan Lovingmeandhim Joseph: Kirbie can sing in real life. I’ve been to one of her performances. I’m anxious to hear Convenient For Me performed live. #SprintCenter

 

“Kirbie!” Archie said to me, pulling my gaze away from my phone.

“Huh?” I said.

“Are you paying attention?”

I hadn’t been. My heart was beating fast because Site users were commenting about me and Coras in a better light than Yayo Love, who was supposed to be the main attraction. It was an incredible feeling, but also a terrible downer because I wouldn’t be able to experience the event. I was over sixteen hundred miles away in “The Golden State” on a cocaine run.

Regret was started to gnaw at my conscience now. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be here.

“You need to be listening,” Archie grumbled at me. “Stay off that damn phone. Mark just said we can’t have our guns when we get to the meet.”

“Okay,” I said.

Mark, who was looking at me through the rearview, said to me, “Congratulations on the engagement. I knew you and Archie were soulmates.”

“Thank you, Mark.”

“When are yall gonna have babies?”

I laughed. “We don’t even know if we want kids.”

“We do,” Archie added. “We just know that right now isn’t the time.”

Mark nodded. “I understand a hundred percent. A baby would get in the way of Kirbie’s music career.”

There was an awkward silence.

Archie broke it. “Kirbie’s not doing music no more.”

Mark jerked his head at Archie, then up at the rearview mirror where he could see me in the back seat. His eyes were full of … disappointment. “Kirbie, say it ain’t so.”

“The music wasn’t going anywhere,” I said. “I was getting tired of it.”

“But you have real talent. Way more talent than me, and I can’t say that about a lot of people. If I could rap like you could sing, I’d be a billionaire by now.”

“Thank you, Mark.”

“Don’t quit, mami. I felt like quitting rapping too at one point but I’m still pushing. You gotta keep pushing if you know you’re good at something.”

I sort of admired Mark. He was a terrible rapper but he had the confidence of a skilled lyricist. I used to have that spirit inside of me. I wanted to tell him that people like us weren’t meant for the limelight, that we were born and bred for street hustling—but I couldn’t form the words because there was still a tiny light inside of me that was clinging to the music illusion. I wanted it to die.

“If I was living here in LA, maybe I’d still be pursuing it,” I told him. “But in Kansas City it’s too hard to get noticed. The music scene is dim compared to everywhere else.”

“That just means you have to work harder. Or move to another city.”

Archie chimed in. “That’s enough, homie,” he said, nudging Mark with his elbow playfully. “It took me forever to convince Kirbie to leave that music alone. I don’t need you to plant no more ideas in her head.”

Mark ignored him, and instead of looking at me through the rearview, Mark actually turned around and looked at me directly with eyes of the deepest brown hue I’d ever seen on a Mexican man. “Chase your dreams, mami,” he said earnestly. “Fuck what Archie is talking about. He’s a hater. He don’t understand music souls like us.”

It was right now that I noticed how handsome and kind-hearted Mark was. I felt really bad for not liking his music in return.

Archie tapped him. “Green light, nigga. Go.”

Mark turned back around, piloting the Porsche through the intersection and onward through the tight LA traffic. His eyes caught mine in the rearview again. “I’m serious. Chase your dreams.”

But my dreams have changed, I thought as I leaned back into the leather seat. I adopted Archie’s dreams. We were here in LA to cop some kilos of cocaine that would make us the biggest hustlers in the Midwest.

Then my phone chimed. I looked down and saw I had a notification from The Site. The link indicated that it was an inbox from a woman named Sundi Ashworth. Sundi Ashworth? That name rang a bell, but I couldn’t remember off the top of my head why it sounded familiar. I started to tap the link to read her message when I heard Mark mention something about the Beltrán cartel.

I looked up.

“They’re family and they don’t play,” Mark said. “I told them I was bringing two people that I trusted with my life and they’re still making me take all the necessary precautions.”

“Did you say Beltrán cartel?” I asked.

“Yes. That’s who we’re meeting up with. They’re family.”

I had heard of the Beltrán cartel. They were rumored to have a monopoly on all the drugs flowing through Hollywood. Some of the biggest conspiracies surrounding suspicious celebrity deaths were tied to Beltrán.

“You’re related to members of the Beltrán mafia family?” I asked in disbelief.

Archie gave me a warning: “You’re asking too many questions, Kirbie. I told you about that.”

But Mark was smiling at me through the rearview, happy to share. “It’s not obvious, mami? My last name is Beltrán. What, you just thought it was a rap name?”

Yes, I did.

“Those are my people on my daddy’s side. They’re blood. They got connections to the music industry but even I can’t get in through them. I tried to get my uncle Julian Beltrán to hand my demo to somebody, anybody, but he threw my disc on the ground and smashed it with the heel of his boot. Pinche culero, disrespectful as fuck. Their tight-lipped on that Hollywood shit. And that makes sense because they’re probably making billions off of them rich famous people. That side of my family only fucks with me as a street dealer. But I guess I’m cool with that. I’ll break into the music industry on my own.”

A thought occurred to me. Maybe if I gave them _]my [_music and told them about the following I already had then they’d be more receptive. Then I quickly dismissed the idea. This was a cocaine meeting, and nothing else.

Mark said something to Archie about reaching into the center console, and I jumped back into my Site world on my phone. I was curious to know who Sundi Ashworh was. I tapped her name with my finger and the message popped up on my screen:

 

Sundi Ashworth: Hello, Kirbie, my name’s Sundi Ashworth (A&R) and I’m sending you this message in regards to—

 

Archie snatched my phone before I could finish reading the message. “I told you to stay off the fucking phone and pay attention! See, now you’re not getting your phone back until we’re done.” He handed me a black sleep mask. “Put this on like the man just said.”

“What’s this?” I asked, feeling the satin material with my thumbs. Then I looked up at the rearview where Mark was staring back at me.

“It’s a blindfold,” Mark said. “You have to wear it. Like I said, my family is making me go through all the necessary precautions.”

I hesitated, but then I dutifully placed the mask over my head after I saw Archie adorn his. I couldn’t see a thing.

And I suddenly started to feel homesick.

Chapter 10

Andre “Coras Bane” McDougald

 

 

 

“Are you seriously sitting there still thinking about Kirbie? She’s not coming, Coras. Get over it. You have a show to do. And if you’re gonna sit there and dwell on shit that’s out of your control, then you’re gonna fuck up enormously when you get on stage. We don’t have room for mistakes. This show will make or break your career. If you really wanna be a rap superstar, then you’ll get up and shake that shit off.”

I heard Ashleigh, but I didn’t hear her. I was sitting in a folding chair in our dressing room backstage at the Sprint Center still fuming over Kirbie going awol. Still angry as fuck that Archie won, still sulking, still bitter, still … I didn’t even really want to go on stage anymore.

Ashleigh pulled me by my arm and forced me to stand up. I was on my feet for all of five seconds before I plopped back down.

Ashleigh sighed. “Gee, please talk some sense into yo boy. He’s scaring me.”

Gee Beats was on the other side of the dressing room preparing his alcoholic drink of choice. He had several bottles on the counter—vodka, cognac, Sprite, an unlabeled fruit juice, a bottle of prescription cough syrup, an energy drink, and an empty wine bottle to mix it all in. The wine bottle had a yellow funnel stuck inside its mouth. He had a whole laboratory set up over there.

“Gee!” Ashleigh called again. “Help me with him!”

Gee burped.

I looked up and watched Gee walk over to me casually but I could tell he was drunk. He bent over and put a hand on his knee and pointed his finger in my face like he was about to scold me.

“You know what, nigga?” he said to me with a smart mouth. “You actin’ like a little bitch right now. You actin’ real paranoid n’ shit. Now these muthafuckas smoked yo goddamn cousin in front of you, nigga. Blew his head off in front of yo face, and you ain’t gon’ do shit?”

I burst into laughter. I couldn’t help it. Ashleigh laughed too and pushed him, told him to stop playing. He’d just recited a classic line from the movie Menace II Society. He had O-Dog’s tone down pat.

As much as I didn’t want to, I stood up and hugged Gee and thanked him for making me laugh. I was still bent out of shape over Kirbie ditching us, but he did make me feel better.

Ashleigh joined in on the hug, wrapping her arms around the both of us. “I guess it’s just us three,” she said. “That’s all we need, right guys?”

I said, “We’re gonna have to make it work.”

“How long is this hug gonna last?” Gee asked.

“However long it takes for Coras to shake off his bad mood,” Ashleigh said.

“I’m good,” I said. “I really am. I’m ready.”

“I’m not,” said Gee.

Unexpectedly he tried to push away from us, and with me thinking he was joking again, I sort of held on to him. Big mistake. Mustard-colored vomit exploded out of his mouth, splattering all over my designer tee shirt and Ashleigh’s zip-front silk dress.

Ashleigh screamed in horror. “Gee!”

All I could do was hold my arms out and look down at the gulash oozing down my shirt. I didn’t want to touch it. Gee had dropped to his knees to finish puking his guts out. He looked bad.

And his vomit was mixed with blood.

 

***

 

I took Gee to the bathroom. I had changed shirts and so had he. I was rinsing my gold chain in the sink as he kneeled at the toilet bowl behind me. We didn’t have much longer before we were scheduled to be on stage and I was trying to hurry.

“You okay now, Gee?” I asked, as I stared at the reflection of his stall in the mirror.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I heard him say.

“You sure? Do you need to go to the hospital and see a doctor?”

“No. This happens all the time.”

“You throw up blood all the time?”

“Uh … no. That was some new shit.”

I dried my chain off with paper towels, then put it on and went and helped Gee to his feet. His legs were unsteady at first, but after a couple steps toward the sink he seemed okay. I wondered if Ashleigh was going to make it back here in time to see us perform. She left to find a clothing store nearby so she could change outfits.

My phone rang. I answered it because I thought it was Ashleigh.

“Hello?”

“You been ducking me, nigga?” It was Milo.

“Of course not,” I lied. “Wussup?”

“Why haven’t you been answering my calls?”

Milo never called me. I only called him, or just showed up in person whenever I needed to re-cop on pounds of OG. I knew what this call was about, and what all of his other calls I “missed” were about.

Monifa’s spoiled-brat ass. Running her mouth.

“I know why you haven’t been answering, nigga. My sister told me what happened. You got me fucked up. What makes you think yo boy can put his hands on my sister?”

“What? My boy? He didn’t touch her.”

“She said Gee threw her on the ground.”

“He didn’t throw shit. We both [_placed _]her on the ground. Gently. She was trying to attack one of my artists.”

“You think I’m stupid, nigga? It ain’t no way in hell you can place _]my hype sister [_gently on the ground. Yall slammed her!”

“She was—”

“I don’t give a fuck what she did or what she was about to do! She told me she caught you cheating and was about to fuck the girl up she caught you with. You should’ve let her handle her business, or learn not to cheat on my sister at all. But you—and [_especially _]yo homeboy—better not ever put your hands on her again!”

“Okay, I’ma let her ass get shot next time,” I said. As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I could take them back.

“What?!” he hollered. “What slick shit did you just let come out of yo mouth?! Never bite the hand that feeds you! First rule of the streets! See, I was gon’ spare you and only fuck up yo homeboy. But now yall both got something coming.”

“Milo, I—”

“Shut the fuck up and take yo lick. My niggas will be seeing yall real soon. And don’t think I don’t know where yall at right now. Social media is a bitch.”

He hung up.

“Hello?” I said, not sure if he’d really hung up. Yep, he really dunked on me. I put my phone in my pocket.

“Milo?” Gee asked.

“Yeah.”

“He trippin’?”

“When is he not?”

I hated bowing down to Milo. But he was the plug, and I was eating real good off of his strain of weed so I had to bite my tongue sometimes. He didn’t deserve to be the plug, in my opinion. He treated niggas that copped weight from him like peons instead of respectable business partners. I told myself once my rap career took off I was going to rob him and kill him, or just kill him. It wouldn’t be a murder-for-hire job either. I was going to pop him myself.

On our way out of the bathroom, the door burst inward at us, startling me and Gee. Five brothas—no, six—were filing in and I instinctively reached for a pistol on my waist that wasn’t there (Ashleigh made us leave our weapons in the car per the promoter’s request). I stepped to the side as Milo’s goons—

No, wait, these weren’t Milo’s people, I realized as the group bogarded past us. This was Yayo Love and his security team. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Clear the bathroom,” one of the big security guards said.

“We’re leaving,” I said back, trying to look around him at Yayo Love but he had already went into his stall and shut the door. It would have been nice to sell Yayo a pound of OG. I knew he smoked, and I had three sealed purchase-ready pounds of it stashed in our dressing room.

“Get out,” the security guard said with authority—and I could have sworn he flinched at us. “Let the man take a shit. No autographs.”

Gee flinched back, and I pulled him out of the restroom before we got jumped.

But obviously I wasn’t fast enough. We didn’t get halfway to our dressing room when I heard my name being called in the hallway behind me.

“Coras, hold up!”

Me and Gee turned. And we saw four people in dark hoodies—two of which I knew for a fact worked for Milo—walking toward us. I tensed.

“Stay right there,” said the one leading the pack. He was the tallest, and I was almost certain his name was Oyeah Mason. “Yall know what time it is.”

How the fuck did they get backstage? I wondered.

Oyeah had his hands in his hoodie pouch. I didn’t know if he was holding or not. Another one of the brothas walking with him pulled out a camera phone and held it up to film us. He was grinning. I knew then that they planned to jump us and record it, to later show it to Milo and, who knows, maybe they’d post it on The Site to embarrass us. Gee took a small step back and I didn’t know if he was feeling lightheaded again or if he was about to run.

I whispered to him, “Stay with me, Gee. Follow my lead.”

“I’m feeling sick again.”

“Don’t pass out.”

Oyeah Mason got in my face. He pulled his balled fists out of his pouch and showed me his dark, calloused knuckles. “One hit, and you’re gone. But I’ma give you a chance to apologize on camera. Milo said if you apologize, not to touch you. But yo boy Gee right here is getting roughed up no matter what. He shouldn’t have put his hands on my nigga’s sister.”

I knew why Milo decided to give Oyeah orders not to touch me. I was Milo’s bread and butter, just as much as he was to me. I sold his drugs faster than anybody he fucked with, whether he admitted it or not. But to show his so-called authority, or to scare me, he was trying to demonstrate on Gee. I wouldn’t let it go down like that.

Oyeah told the camera man to step back and get a wide shot.

“This ain’t the time or place,” I said to Oyeah. “We gotta be on stage in like ten minutes.” 

“Nigga, I don’t give a fuck!”

That was when my right fist came across and slammed into Oyeah’s jaw. It was probably the most accurate, most powerful punch I’d ever thrown in my life. I put my whole body into it, and I saw Oyeah’s eyes lose focus before he hit the ground.

Gee attacked the person nearest him, reaching out and grabbing the man by his face with claw-like fingers to poke his eyes out. I tried to get to the camera man, but the fourth guy, who was smaller than me, grabbed me around the waist to pick me up and slam me. He lifted me off the ground only a few inches before my weight got the best of him and he gave that idea up.

I punched him twice.

He ducked lower to pull my legs from under me but I had them spread too far apart for him to grab both. I brought hellish elbows down on the back of his head and one-two’d him until his neck got weak and he collapsed at my feet.

But he was still of conscious mind, enough to grab and hug my leading leg to keep me from moving. Monifa had done this to me once—but she had started biting into my calf until I bled and she tore my plantaris tendon located just below the gastrocnemius muscle (the bulging shape of the calf). This guy was just hugging, but it was still hurting.

“Hey, break that shit up!”

I looked and saw one of Yayo Love’s security guards—the same one who nearly threatened me and Gee in the bathroom—yelling at us from down the hallway but coming our way with the rest of his team; well, minus two members—one security guard stopped with Yayo Love to keep him away from us. I kept trying to pull my leg free to go after the camera man when I turned and saw two things: (1) the brotha who Gee had clawed laying on the ground unconscious, and (2) Gee approaching the backpedaling camera man who had just stuffed the camera phone in his hoodie pouch, only to retrieve a gun.

It had already been cocked and loaded. Bang! Bang! Gee went down after the first shot, but the camera man kept firing.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Then he took off running.

I was speechless.

 

GabbyTV: I’ve just received confirmation that there was a shooting at a Yayo Love concert in Kansas City, Missouri! We’re still waiting on further details, but it apparently happened backstage at the Sprint Center arena in the city’s Power & Light District. This isn’t the first time there’s been a shooting at one of Yayo’s concerts, but this is the first that has taken place backstage, which leads us to believe that he was the target this time. There’s no word yet if Yayo Love was hit, but you know I’ll find out. After all, this could have been a publicity stunt to bring attention to his downward spiraling career. STAY TUNED, my little Gabblettes!

Chapter 11

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

I couldn’t see a thing because of the blindfold, but as Mark helped me out of the backseat I could tell by the sounds in the air that we were in an alley.

“Kirbie, are you okay?” asked Archie, who was somewhere nearby blindfolded too.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Sorry, yall,” said Mark. “Yall know I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have to. And just so you guys know, right now I’m holding each of you guys’ hand as we walk. Don’t pull away from me and walk carefully. The concrete’s not good back here. You’ll be going into a restaurant the back way through the kitchen. It’s closed to the public today, so you’ll be having dinner with the boss alone.”

“Will we be able to take our blindfolds off once we get inside?” Archie asked.

“No. You’ll be wearing them the whole time.”

I coughed out a sigh. “Are you serious, Mark?”

“Very serious. Julian Beltrán doesn’t want you to see his face.”

Mark led us forward. Every step I took was uncertain; I wasn’t sure the ground would still be there when my heel landed. I thought I heard Archie trip, and I was sure he did when Mark accidentally tugged on my arm to accommodate Archie’s misstep.

“Be careful, you guys.”

Then, several feet later he let my arm go, and I assumed he let Archie’s go too.

Mark knocked on a screen door. It sounded like it had metal bars attached to it also. The door creaked open and I heard a new voice speak Spanish, and Mark spoke it back. Then Mark said to us, “Okay, yall, this is as far as I go. I’ll be waiting here when yall get out.”

He’s not coming with us? I thought with a pinch of worry. I wondered if Archie was as concerned as I was.

Suddenly, I felt hands grab my arms from behind and guide me inside the restaurant. I was already missing Mark’s style of leadership; this guiding me from the back shit was scary—I felt like I was about to run into something. And with the guy behind me gripping my upper arms so tight, I could only hold my hands out halfway from the elbow down.

And even scarier was the changes in lighting from dark to darker to not as dark and back again, as we made our way through the kitchen—where I heard plates shuffle and people speaking Spanish and an oven door slam so hard it startled me—and into a hallway and ultimately into the eating area.

My guide sat me down at a table.

I heard Archie being seated next to me. At least I hoped it was him. It smelled like him.

“Archie?” I said.

“I’m here.” He grabbed my hand under the table.

This was one of the many reasons I never wanted to deal with cocaine. There was so much secrecy that was involved, so much more of a heightened sense of danger because more money was at stake, that it was almost not worth the migraine. I felt like someone was going to walk up behind us and shoot us both in the back of the head.

Then I heard footsteps. From behind. Several people casually walking closer. I actually turned my head as if I could see who was coming. Soon, those footsteps came around us and ended up in front of us. Three chairs were pulled out, and then they sat down. My nose caught whiffs of new body odors.

“Do you two speak Spanish?” said a male voice.

Me and Archie both said no.

Same voice: “You need to learn then.” A pause. “My name is Julian Beltrán and I am the man behind the cocaine you wish to purchase. You’ll be dealing with my nephew Mark Beltrán directly, but every now and then I like to meet our partners to get a sense of who we deal with on every level.”

“Thank you for having us,” Archie said.

I started to say the same thing as Archie, but I didn’t want to sound like a parrot so I said, “Nice to meet your acquaintance, sir.”

“Likewise. To the both of you.” There was a smile in Julian’s voice. Then: “I don’t make it a habit to meet everyone, of course. Some people don’t deserve my presence. But Mark’s had a lot of good things to say about you two. He’s been selling you pills for years, apparently, and not once has he had any hiccups with timely payments or dishonor. I expect the same respect with the powder, nothing less.”

I nodded, and I hoped Archie did too.

Julian went on to explain to us that he and the people in this room knew what we looked like. Indirectly, he had threatened to kill us if we ever did him or his nephew wrong. Meal time was the weird part (if being blindfolded wasn’t already weird). When our plates arrived, I was having trouble getting the fresh seafood soup—someone in the room called the dish caldo de mariscos—in my mouth with my fork because I no longer had hand-eye coordination. A few of the unseen men laughed every now and then, and I knew they were laughing at me. But all in all, the food was delicious; it was loaded with spices, and the steaming fried rice was one-of-a-kind.

I heard Julian’s chair scoot back, and from the sound of his voice I knew he was standing. “Dinner was a pleasure,” he said to us. “But I must go. My men will lead you out back and Mark will take care of you from there. He’ll let you know when you can remove your blindfolds.”

I thought Julian had left, but then I felt his hand touch my chin and it jolted me. He nudged it—and then I felt his lips press against mines ever so gently.

“Farewell, novia,” he whispered to me. His breath was cool and inviting. His presence was as big as life. “En otra vida …”

Then he was gone.

“Bye,” I said softly.

 

***

 

We were on our way back to Missouri with kilos of cocaine in the trunk. Archie was driving, singing along to a Jazzmine Short throwback playing on the radio. He was happy.

He had his coke.

I was in my feelings. I had my window down, and the wind was blowing my hair as I stared out at nature as it passed me by. I was thinking about music and I was sulking a little bit because that life was behind me now, but I was also thinking about the kiss Julian laid on me. It was sweet. But there were no fireworks like there was when I kissed Coras. I nearly melted into a puddle after feeling Coras’s lips. But Julian’s kiss did feel good, just different.

I was trying to understand the feelings I was going through right now, the inappropriate way in which my body tingled pleasantly from the lips of other men, both Coras and Julian. I had never strayed from Archie, but I was wondering if this strange desire to be touched by someone new was a sign that I wasn’t ready to marry him. Was 19 years old too young? But I really did want to be married to Archie.

I loved being loyal.

“What’s wrong?” Archie asked me.

I turned. “Huh? I look upset?”

“No, but I know something’s on your mind because you’re not on your phone.”

I sucked my teeth. “Real funny, Archie.” But he was right.

“Are you worried about whether or not we can get rid of all this cocaine?”

“No. I know we can. We never have any problems hustling together. True hustlers can hustle any product and I’m motivated.”

He smiled. “I raised you well.”

“The only thing I’m concerned about is how long is our run gonna last. The coke game is wide-open now because the Feds just swept the city in another mass drug conspiracy … but will we be round up in the next sweep? Seems like every three or four years in Kansas City there’s a new team that gets taken down. I don’t wanna get caught up in the next indictment handed down by the federal grand jury.”

“The law only catches wind when you involve too many players,” Archie rationalized. “It’s just gonna be me and you at the top. Same program as the pills, and look how many years we went without getting caught. If you want, in four more years we can switch up the hustle again.”

“I don’t care what we sell. I just wanna win, Archie.”

“And we will. We are! See, those public indictments don’t talk about who got away, who beat the system. There are people in the city that have hustled cocaine through many indictments. And I’m not talking about snitches. I know a few real ones still doing well. I know what I’m doing, Kirbie. Have I ever steered you wrong?”

I thought about the fake robbery and how he allowed a man I never met in my life to put his boot on my face.

“Have I?” he asked again.

“No,” I said.

We were driving in peace for a while when I finally decided to pull my phone out. Archie tossed out a slick comment about me being a social media junkie and made a playful grab to take my phone, but actually I wasn’t logging into The Site right now. I was doing an internet search to find out what Julian Beltrán had said to me. Farewell, novia … En otra vida. I learned that novia meant “fiancé” and [_en otra vida _]meant “in another life.” I was confused. Did Julian tell me he’d marry me under different circumstances? Or was the kiss a customary sign of respect and he was simply congratulating my engagement to Archie?

“Did Julian kiss you?” I asked.

Archie’s face was weirded out. “What did you just say?”

“Did Julian kiss you? You know, like a sign of respect that mafia people do.”

“Fuck no he didn’t. I would’ve flipped the table over and went Denzel on them niggas. Did he kiss you?”

“Yes.”

“On the lips?”

I should have kept my mouth shut. Archie was really starting to grow upset.

“No,” I lied. “Just on the cheek.”

“Oh okay. If he had, I would’ve whipped this bitch around so hard and shot back to that restaurant so fast …”

I giggled. “Assuming we know where the restaurant is and they’re there, what would you have done?”

“Broke a couple arms. Maybe a leg or two.”

“You would’ve took on all those Beltrán cartel members by yourself? Really, Archie?”

“For my fiancé and future wife, I’ll take on the world. Seven billion people, three at time, Crouching Tiger style. Line ‘em up!”

“That’s sweet. Thank you, Archie.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I said the words, and I meant them, so why was I logging into The Site a few seconds later to check on Coras’s profile? Something was wrong with me. I was starting to think that I wasn’t as loyal as I thought I was.

As my thumb went up to the app’s searchbox to type in “Coras,” I noticed a trending topic in my newsfeed. The hashtag of choice was currently #SprintCenter. I tapped the link quickly and started reading the comments.

 

Wendy ‘youlovetotaste’ Hartley: A shooting at the Sprint Center??? C’mon, this can’t be real smh

Thorton Jones: Niggas can’t do shit right. That’s why famous people never wanna perform in Kansas City #SprintCenter #Hoodlums

Problem Child: I heard Yayo Love is dead! Good riddens. He was washed up and overrated anyway. #SprintCenter 

Makea WorkingWoman Price: Yayo love is not dead. Those are fake sites publishing that shit. Stop re-posting it! #negativity #SprintCenter 

Bobby Mason: I heard it was some local niggas that got popped #SprintCenter

4300Block Keyon: Oh snaps, GabbyTV wrote a story on the #SprintCenter shooting! We’re making national news. Kansas City, we on! #global

Natasha YoloLife Anderson: I know one thing. Since the show got canceled, I better get me a refund #SprintCenter #NoGames #iWantMyMoneyBack

RealNiggas Stay Anonymous: Coras Bane got shot. That’s what I heard.

Trillyoung Sav: No, it was his producer.

 

Coras or Gee got shot?! I immediately put my phone to my ear to call Coras.

“Who are you calling?” Archie asked.

“There was a shooting at the Sprint Center,” I said frantically. The call went to voicemail. I redialed. “I’m trying to find out what happened.”

“You’re calling Coras?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I just told you why!”

Archie let out a hard sigh through his nose, the same way a rodeo bull clears its airway in preparation for an attack. But he didn’t stop me from making my call. There was no way he could have.

 

Monifa Chavis: I bet that’ll be the last time you kiss another bitch in the studio. Don’t fuck with my heart. #SprintCenter

Chapter 12

Andre “Coras Bane” McDougald

 

 

“Kirbie’s on her way up here,” I warned Ashleigh. We were sitting in the waiting area of Truman Medical Center’s ICU wing. Ashleigh had a magazine in her lap, but she was flipping through the pages too fast to actually read anything.

“Why are you telling me that?” she said with an attitude.

“So you’ll know. I don’t want you to start nothing with her.”

“I don’t understand why you even accepted her call and told her Gee was up here. She doesn’t deserve to be here.”

“Gee is her friend.”

“If she was a friend, she wouldn’t have canceled on us like that. She should have been there.”

“If she was there, it could have been her in ICU instead of Gee.”

Ashleigh shrugged one shoulder curtly and started flipping through more pages as if she would’ve preferred that alternative. This was one of the only times I wanted to smack Ashleigh. Instead, I leaned back in my seat and loaded up The Site on my phone. I began responding to comments people were making on my page about Gee’s welfare. People were showing him overwhelming support. I responded to and Liked as many comments as I could before I was interrupted.

“Hi, Coras,” said Kirbie.

I looked up. My future wife had tears in her eyes.

I quickly set my phone down and stood up and hugged her. She threw her arms around my shoulders and cried into my chest. She smelled like Mexican food. For some reason it was the best scent ever.

“Is he gonna be okay?” she sobbed.

“I don’t know, Kirbie. Doctors haven’t come out and told us anything yet.”

“I’m so sorry, Coras.”

“Nothing to be sorry about. This was my fault.”

I heard Ashleigh slam her magazine shut. I turned my head and saw her giving me incredibly wide why-are-you-still-holding-her eyes. I turned back into Kirbie’s embrace, and not until another long moment of consoling did I let her go.

We settled into our chairs, Kirbie and Ashleigh on either side of me. Ashleigh wrapped my arm within hers, leaning me closer to her side.

“How long is she gonna be here?” Ashleigh whispered to me.

“Probably until we find something out. Why are you so worried about her?”

“We’ll talk later,” she said icily.

I was concerned. She couldn’t have known about the reason me and Monifa fell out, could she?

“No, let’s talk now. Wussup, Ashleigh?”

“I don’t want to discuss private matters in public. Especially not in front of that ho because I might lose my cool.”

“I can hear you,” Kirbie said suddenly. “Keep them ho comments to yo’self.”

Ashleigh leaned forward, peering around me at her. “Ho, you need stay out of my conversation,” she said, jabbing her finger in Kirbie’s direction. “And what are you even doing here? I thought you quit.”

Kirbie shot to her feet and so did Ashleigh. I got between them, but they were still poking their chests out at each other.

“I’m here for Gee, bitch!” Kirbie hollered. “If anybody shouldn’t be here, it’s you! You don’t care about Gee. You’re only here because Coras is here!”

Other visitors were watching. It was late into the night so there were only a few people here to stare.

“I do too care about Gee!” Ashleigh flared. “The only person I don’t care about is YOU!”

“I don’t know why,” Kirbie said back. “I didn’t do shit to yo uppity ass!”

“You’ve been trying to fuck my man since I’ve met you!”

“Really?! That’s the delusional side of you thinking that.”

It was getting harder and harder to hold Ashleigh back. But I was separating them for her sake.

“No, bitch, I’m stating facts!” Ashleigh was raging. “You were kissing Coras in the studio and Monifa caught yall asses red-handed! So don’t sit here and act like you don’t want the dick!”

Fuck! I thought. She knows. But how did she find out?

I started to deny it. “Ashleigh, me and Kirbie never—”

She smacked me. “Shut the fuck up with the lies, Coras! What is this then?” She shoved her phone in my face and I saw Monifa’s Site profile on her screen. I didn’t get a chance to read the whole status before she smacked me again. “Gee wouldn’t even be here in the damn ICU if it wasn’t for Kirbie trying to spread her legs for you all the damn time. And I’ll deal with you later, Coras. Move out of my way so I can deal with that ho.”

“You keep calling me a ho but you’re the one sleeping with somebody else’s man!” Kirbie hollered. “I don’t share men. Monifa’s man came on to me!”

Oh fuck! I thought.

“People, please!” It was the doctor that interrupted us. He was walking our way in his white lab coat, his brow scrunched in either concern or shame that we were causing a commotion. For the moment we were all calm in his presence, and I was thankful.

“Good news?” I asked.

“He’s going to survive,” said the doc.

We all breathed sighs of relief. Kirbie uttered an almost silent [_thank you _]and I instinctively put my arm around her. Then my common sense kicked in and I removed it. I patted Ashleigh on the back to be fair.

“But,” he began, “after he leaves the ICU unit he’s going to need rest in order to recover. He lost lots of blood. He’s very weak right now.”

“When can we see him?” Kirbie asked.

“I’m not clear on that, but not tonight.”

“Tomorrow?” I asked.

“We’re going to have to play it by ear. You can’t put a time on health. Everybody’s body is different. And Mr. Gerard Higgins’s insides are … at risk.” Doc crossed his arms. “Does Mr. Higgins have a dependence on alcohol?”

We all looked at each other. Of course Gee had a drinking problem. He had just gotten through puking up blood before the shooting. I told the doctor that, yes, Gee was an alcoholic.

“I ask because he had an unusually high blood pressure for his age. We also found suspicious inflammation in his pancreas and early signs of liver disease. These symptoms can eventually become just as fatal as the gunshots he sustained.” The doctor handed me a card. “When he gets better, I think it would be beneficial to have him give that number a call. The more encouragement he receives from friends and family, the better chance he has of overcoming his addiction.”

I looked at the card. It listed a company called First Call located in south Kansas City. First Call had programs that educated you on alcoholism. They also had technological solutions to help stop abuse. I knew this because I had given Gee this card before.

Gee had torn it up then, and I knew he would now.

Chapter 13

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

 

I left the hospital first because I didn’t want Coras having to choose between me and Ashleigh. I knew he would have picked, and it wouldn’t have been the girl with the short-cropped hair who sang her heart out for him and didn’t ask for shit in return but respect and couldn’t even get that because he was too busy sleeping with—

I stopped myself. I was rambling. Ashleigh was more important to Coras than me. And that was fine. No shade.

I had my man. I was engaged.

Archie looked over at me and asked, “Is he gonna make it?”

“Gee? Yes, he’s gonna pull through. But he’s gonna need to get his alcohol use under control. The doctor said he could die if he continues on the same path.”

“Aren’t you glad you weren’t at that concert? That could’ve been you.”

“I know. I can’t believe it.”

“That’s just another sign that you made the right decision. The music game is getting more dangerous than the dope game.”

I couldn’t tell Archie that what happened to Gee had nothing to do with music or drugs. Gee got shot because of jealousy. Monifa ran her mouth to her brother Milo and he sicked his dogs on my team—well, my ex-team. But I still felt obligated to do something for Gee. I would need to talk to Coras about it first, though. I knew he had some kind of retaliation plan in the works.

All sorts of thoughts were bouncing around in my head as Archie drove us back home in our rental car. I was thinking about what marriage would be like, if it would be any different than it was now; I was thinking about the cocaine we’d dropped off in storage, how fast we’d be able to get rid of it; I was thinking about Gee and his health, and Coras and his contradictory bullshit-fake feelings for me. I was also thinking about taking Ashleigh and Monifa by the backs of their heads and smashing their dumb brains together. I was thinking about doing the same thing with Milo and a red brick.

I was tired.

Whenever my thoughts got crowded like this, I would try and turn it into a song. But I wasn’t a writer anymore. My singing days were over.

I closed my eyes and put my hand on my forehead, as I sank against the window.

“What’s wrong?” Archie asked.

“Everything,” I said, eyes still closed.

“Not everything. We got kilos to turn into cash and we got love that we need to make legal. It’s that music life and all that came with it that’s bothering you. Let it go.”

“I need to write.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I’m not saying I’m going back to music. I just need to make these thoughts disappear.”

“Just do what normal people do,” he said. “Drink vodka.”

I’m not normal then, I thought.

My phone made a noise and I finally opened my eyes. Checking it, I was more frustrated than anything that Coras had sent me a message through The Site. From the one-line preview of his message I could tell that he’d sent me an apology. I stared at my phone for a while, brooding. But there was no point in sitting here acting like I wasn’t going to see what he put. I was anxious. I clicked the link with my thumb to read the whole message:

 

Coras Bane: I in no way shape or form want you to think that you were responsible for what happened to Gee. Ashleigh was just talking shit. Everything was my fuck-up. I’m sorry for how she acted. She tries to accuse everybody else of being ghetto but she got that shit in her too. If I find out anything new about Gee’s condition, you’ll be the first to know. Hit me up if you need anything or just wanna talk to me. You’re still Swope Records, you’re still my nigga whether you like it or not.

 

I read it three times. And though it was a nice message, I hated him more for it. Eat my pussy and asphyxiate on the juice, you game-running nympho—that’s what I wanted to type in response. But instead, I decided not to reply at all. I pressed the “back” button on my phone to exit out of his comment and I was about to browse my newsfeed, but below Coras’s comment box was a message I had forgotten to finish reading.

It was from a person named Sundi Ashworth.

I clicked the message.

 

Sundi Ashworth: Hello, Kirbie, my name’s Sundi Ashworth (A&R) and I’m sending you this message in regards to my interest in your musical talent. I’m a representative of a major record label, and I think you and your voice have the potential to become one of the biggest artists this industry has ever seen. This is not spam. This is for real. My profile page will confirm my authenticity. If you would like to further your career and become a household name, please reply as soon as possible. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

 

I came alive so fast that my whole body started shaking. I could barely hold my phone. I couldn’t remember who Sundi Ashworth was the first time I checked this message, but now it was very clear. This was the A&R for Mount Eliyah ENT, the biggest hip-hop label on the planet!

I managed to steady my thumb long enough to check to see if her profile page was authentic. And it was real! It was Site-verified!

“Oh my God!” I shrieked.

Archie flinched, looked at me crazy and then back at the road. “What the fuck happened?”

“I just got a message from Sundi Ashworth!”

“Who is she?”

“She works for Mount Eliyah ENT as an A&R. But way before that, she got famous for having an affair with La’Renz ‘Buddy Rough’ Taylor, who later killed his wife, Jazzmine Short.”

“How do you know it’s really her?”

“Her page is Site-verified, Archie! It’s really her oh my God this is crazy oh my God!”

“What did she say?”

“She heard my music and wants to talk to me. She literally said I have the potential to become one of the biggest artists this industry has ever seen.”

Archie was quiet for a moment. I couldn’t understand how he could be this calm. Then he said, “I thought you weren’t doing music anymore.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Archie!”

“It could be a scam. Did she ask for upfront money?”

“No!”

“I still wouldn’t trust it.”

Archie was killing my joy. I needed to think this through with somebody that would be just as excited as me.

I needed to talk to Coras.

Chapter 14

Andre “Coras Bane” McDougald

 

 

We argued the whole way. Ashleigh even tried to slam the door on me as I followed behind her into her Olathe home.

My forearm stopped the door from smacking me in the face.

“Ashleigh, be reasonable,” I said.

“Be what?!” She swung her purse at me and I let it hit me in the shoulder as I blocked my head. “Kissing Kirbie was the ultimate disrespect! I’m done, Coras. I’m fucking done with you!”

“I didn’t kiss Kirbie.”

“Well what was Monifa’s status about then? What other bitch did you have in the studio?”

“There was nobody. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you but you won’t listen.”

“Because I don’t wanna hear what bullshit lie you tell me.”

She took her heels off one at a time, and I thought she was about to hit me with them but she just tossed them aside and they clattered into the corner of the foyer. She turned and stalked off. I caught up with her before she reached the steps, grabbing her arm. She pulled free and stormed up the steps.

“Get out of my house!”

I knew she didn’t really want me to leave or she wouldn’t have driven me here. “Where am I gonna go?”

“I don’t care. Go back to hustling out of hotel rooms where I found you.”

I started mounting the steps to catch up with her but she hurried into her room and slammed the door. As soon as I grabbed the knob I heard the lock click. I jiggled it anyway.

“Ashleigh, fa-real? You gon’ lock me out?”

“Leave me alone!”

“I’m sorry, okay. Even though I didn’t do anything, I’m still sorry.”

“You never admit when you’re caught, Coras. You always lie and never fess up to your bullshit. When you’re ready to tell the truth, I’ll let you in.”

When I put my ear to the door, I heard the covers rustling. She was climbing in bed.

I spoke through the door louder. “Ashleigh, this is what happened. No bullshit. Me and Gee were in the basement and he had one of his females in there with us trying to impress her with all of his studio equipment. Monifa came down and she automatically assumed the bitch was mine because she was cute. She got all upset and tried to fight the bitch, and me and Gee held Monifa down on the ground.” I listened for a response. Ashleigh stayed quiet. “Ashleigh,” I called out.

“That’s not the truth!”

“It is too, baby. Kirbie was never there. It was Gee’s girl. You know Gee’s females all look remedial. So of course Monifa thought the cute one was mine.” I listened to see if I could get a laugh out of her. I heard her crying. “Ashleigh, that’s the honest truth. Monifa made that post up about me kissing somebody in the studio. She made it up so she’d have a good story to tell her brother. That’s why Gee got shot. She lied to make it look like he manhandled her. But you know Gee is the nicest person ever to all women, even the ratchet ones. Monifa is a liar, c’mon you know that.”

I still heard the sobs. So I paced over to the hallway bathroom and snatched open a drawer, grabbed a bobby pin. I stuck it in the keyhole under the knob of Ashleigh’s room and kept twisting it and bending it until I heard the right tic sound. In my teens, I did this type of shit all the time.

I turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open halfway, then stepped inside and just as slowly closed it behind me. Ashleigh had the covers over her head; her frame was trembling underneath as she wept. Her dress was on the floor so that meant she was down to her panties and bra. When I took off my shoes and my pants and climbed in bed with her, I found out I was wrong about the panties—she was wearing a thong.

Even better.

She was laying on her side. I cuddled up next to her from behind, after adjusting my jock so my undershaft would fit neatly within the breach of her cozy butt crack (I still had my boxers on, for now). Her hair was long and brown, winding down into spiral curls that were dip-dyed into a lighter hue of hot toffee. I put my arms around her and she cringed.

“I so fucking hate you, Coras.”

“No, you don’t.”

“When are you gonna be done with the bullshit? I can’t do this anymore.”

“I’m tired too, Ashleigh.”

She flipped over, facing me. Her expression: confusion, pain, and self-pity. “You’re done with Milo and Monifa, right?”

“Milo texted me.”

“Fuck his text.”

“He said he apologized for what happened, said it wasn’t supposed to go down like that.”

“What would Gee want you to do? Would he still want you fucking with Milo?”

“No. But I kinda need that nigga Milo until my rap career takes off. His hand feeds me. Feeds me good.”

“What if you never make it, Coras? Does that mean you’re never gonna leave Monifa and be with me exclusively?”

“Don’t think like that,” I said.

“You need to think like that!”

I stared at her for a long moment.

She turned back over in an abrupt spin. I tried to put my arms around her again but this time she pushed me away.

“Can I tell you something?” I asked.

“No.”

“I’m done with Monifa and Milo. I was just messing with you, girl. You know I wouldn’t fuck with either one of them after what happened to Gee. That shouldn’t even have been a question.”

She was silent, and even though I was staring at the back of her head I knew she was smiling. She said, “Coras, stop messing with me. Now is not a time to play.”

“I’m serious. You’re my one and only now. No more Milo. And definitely no more Monifa.”

I reached down with my fingers to remove the cotton crotch of her thong but she grabbed my wrist, squeezed, then tossed it away like waste.

I said, “C’mon, let’s celebrate, Ashleigh. I just wanna put the head in. Please? You fell for that before.”

“No, Coras.”

“Let me eat it then. Give you some terror dome.” I stuck my tongue out at her even though she wasn’t facing me—but she could still hear the throaty ah-la-la-la-la sound I made as I wagged my tongue in and out. “That’s all I wanna do to it. Liquefy it.”

“I went from side chick to main chick. But Kirbie has graduated to side chick. That’s not something to celebrate.”

“That Kirbie shit is bogus, Ashleigh.”

“Just leave me alone, Coras. I need time to think about if I still wanna be with you after all you put me through.”

I knew if I persisted I could get her to open those legs up, but my phone made a chiming sound and I wanted to find out if it was Kirbie replying to my Site message. Sure enough, it was. I tapped the link and read every word she wrote to me. I was so excited I jackknifed up in bed.

Ashleigh looked back at me over her shoulder. I had startled her. “What happened?”

“You won’t believe this.”

“What?”

“Kirbie just forwarded me a message from Sundi Ashworth, the A&R at Mount Eliyah ENT. Sundi wants to fuck wit’ Kirbie!” I stood up excitedly. “This is it, Ashleigh! Once Kirbie gets her foot in, we’re in too!”

Ashleigh sat up. She looked strangely concerned. “You don’t believe that, do you?”

“What? The message from Sundi? I know Kirbie wouldn’t make that up.”

“No, I’m talking about Kirbie getting her foot in and coming back for us. She doesn’t care about us. She never cared about Swope Records. It’s always been about her. That’s why she quit on us so easily.”

“Nah, Kirbie is a loyal person. She just got tired and Archie got in her head. She wouldn’t have sent me this message asking me what to say back if she planned on ditching us.” I started pulling on my pants.

“Kirbie was just bragging. Coras, where are you going?”

“She wanted me to meet her in the studio and get some of her music on a compressed file just in case Sundi wants to hear more.”

Ashleigh slapped her hands down on the mattress violently. “No!” she screamed. “Not at this time of night!”

“What are you talking about? I’m always in the studio at this time of night. It’s not even one yet. This is early.”

“I don’t want you two in the studio by yourselves.”

“Why not?”

“You know why!”

“Ashleigh, you’re being jealous for no reason.”

“You just said I was your number one now. I don’t have that right to make you stay home?”

“Nobody has that right.”

“I’m going then,” Ashleigh insisted.

“No, you’re not.”

“I am too. I’m the manager!”

“I thought you wanted to be alone.”

“I’m going!”

“You know that’s not a good idea. We won’t get anything accomplished because yall will be fighting each other the whole time. Nah, I’m not gonna let either one of you fuck up this opportunity.”

I was tightening my Gucci belt and heading for the door at the same time.

“Coras, if you walk out of this room, I’m never speaking to you again! I promise you it’ll be toast for your black ass!”

I didn’t even break stride. I was down the steps, had grabbed her Volvo keys out of her purse and yanked open the front door before she could finish telling me how sorry I’d be.

Chapter 15

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

I let myself inside Gee’s house with a spare key he’d given me a long time ago. Coras had one too. Gee had given us both a whole set—home key, car key, liquor cabinet key—to hold because he always misplaced his. He’d get drunk and completely forget what happened to them. Like, really have no clue. Sometimes he found them later in his coat pocket, or under his car seat, once inside the toilet beneath a layer of floating vomit, but more often than not he had to call me or Coras.

Ashleigh didn’t have a set.

Inside his home, I closed the front door and locked it behind me. I used key number two to open up his liquor cabinet. Gee owned just about every popular liquor known to man, even a few rare and vintage bottles. It was hard trying to choose. I was still overexcited about the Site message from Sundi Ashworth, and I needed something strong to calm me down. I didn’t think anything could, but I was about to try.

I went for the Bacardi white rum and added some Coke to it. I was sipping as I made my way downstairs to the studio.

I clicked on the lights.

For some reason, all of the equipment before me seemed more important to me, more prestigious than it had before. This room played an enormous part in aligning the stars so Sundi could contact me. A ‘hood-based basement studio. I ran my fingers across random knobs and buttons on the digital mixer, thinking about Gee and all the hours he put in to learn every input channel and built-in effect that this machine had to offer. He taught himself how to engineer. If this deal worked out with Sundi, I was going to try my hardest to get him to produce as many songs on my album as possible.

Behind me, I heard someone coming down the steps.

“What’chu drinking on?” Coras asked me with a smile, as he sipped from a glass filled with an alcohol similar in color to mine.

“Rum and Coke,” I said.

His smile widened. “Me too,” he replied. “Great minds drink alike.”

“It’s [_think _]alike.”

“That too.” He raised his glass. “To a wonderful career in mainstream music, filled with millions and millions of dollars in cash money.”

We clinked glasses.

“Have you figured out what I should write back?” I asked him anxiously. “I don’t wanna mess this up.”

“All you have to do is tell her you’re very excited to talk to her and then leave your number.”

“What if I mess up on the phone call?”

“You won’t. Sounds like she wants to work with you just as bad as you wanna work with her. Just don’t mention anything about her being a celebrity. Talk to her like you would any professional.”

I took another gulp of rum, smacking my lips at the bite in the aftertaste. I handed Coras my phone and asked him to type in whatever response he saw fit. He did, and handed me the phone back.

“Now what?” I asked.

“We wait.”

And while we waited for Sundi to call, Coras started turning on the studio equipment one button at a time. I had no idea how to operate any of it. Coras had been around Gee long enough to learn a thing or two, but to me it was all still foreign and complex. Using the wireless mouse, Coras attached some solo songs I’d completed—as well as a couple joint tracks and a few instrumentals too—to an email that he forwarded to me and CCed to himself. We were prepared to showcase more of our talent if need be.

“I’m so excited, Coras. I can’t believe it. This is what we’ve been waiting for.” I was holding my drink with both hands now because I was afraid I’d drop it otherwise. “I told Archie about the message and he thought it was a scam.”

“Does he know you’re here?”

“No. I snuck out after he fell asleep. Do they know you’re here?”

They—Ashleigh and Monifa.

“Ashleigh does, Monifa doesn’t.”

“Did you tell Ashleigh about Sundi’s message to me?”

He paused to sip his drink, and that said a lot.

“What’d she say?” I asked. “I can’t believe she let you come here.”

He said, “Let’s just say I might not be welcome in her house after tonight.”

“I didn’t mean to get you in trouble. I just didn’t have anyone else to run this by. This is big.”

“I’m happy to be here. Happy to celebrate this moment with you. Fuck what either one of them is talking about.”

“I wish Gee was here,” I said.

“I do too, Kirbie. I do too.”

I felt tears welling in my eyes as I thought of Gee laying in a hospital bed unconscious. I didn’t want to show my emotions in front of Coras again—I had been crying too much lately—so I dipped my head to take another sip of rum. As I swallowed, Coras lifted my glass from my hand and set it on the table with his. He took me into his strong arms.

I began to sob.

“I’m sorry for quitting on you guys,” I managed.

“It’s all good. Everything that happened up until now was supposed to happen. All our ups and downs led us to this moment. Just don’t let us down when your time comes to shine.”

“I won’t.” I paused, trying to get myself together. “What if Sundi asks me to sign with them? Do I tell them I’m already signed to Swope Records?”

“No, hell no. You take what they’re offering. Mount Eliyah ENT is a machine. I’ma rip up our Swope contract. It never existed. I want what’s best for you.”

“You’re gonna make me cry harder. And I’m not the crying type.”

“I know. You’re a Scorpio. I won’t tell nobody.”

I smiled. “Thank you.”

I loved the strength in Coras’s embrace. His sign was Aquarius, the water-bearer symbol, and historically his kind knew how to show affection. I felt protected and valued and understood, as his chin rested on the top of my head. I got wet in the mouth when his hand grazed up and down the curve of my spine, comforting me. And my breath went away—I felt like I could barely stand—when his fingers broke path and ventured into the waistline of my jeans. Only his fingers up to his knuckles could fit because my jeans were so tight. But he was still feeling a part of my skin he’d never felt before.

Then his fingers began to worm-crawl deeper into my jeans, until he was cupping one of my ass cheeks. I shivered when he squeezed, and my pussy gripped on its own in a reflex of pure want. I should have stopped him the moment I felt his fingers going too low. I was engaged to Archie. This wasn’t right. But in my adrenaline-pumped mind, I was trying to rationalize—as long as I don’t do anything back, it’s not cheating.

Coras kept squeezing that one cheek and it was turning me on at a rate that was becoming too much for my human body to handle. My heart was thump-thump-thumping incredibly fast, as if it were responding to some imminent danger. But the only threat was sexual.

Coras threw out another comment, as if we weren’t even holding each other. He was remarkably composed. “It’s a lot of hot artists signed to Mount Eliyah, so you’re gonna have to work hard to stand out and be seen.”

“I know,” I said mildly, but it came out as a moan.

He would squeeze hard, then soft, just exploring the thickness of this half of my backside, seeing what my flesh could withstand. Then he tried to maneuver his other hand inside to get to booty cheek two, but this time there was really no more room, not even if he forced it. A thought popped in my head that I should have been ashamed of: I wish I would’ve worn a stretchier pair.

“No half-stepping,” he told me.

“I’m gonna work my ass off as soon as I’m signed,” I said. Then, I realized I’d said ass.

He noticed too. “Yeah, work this muthafucka till it’s sore.” He kept palming my tush, while his other hand was still struggling at the waistline. “And I’ma do whatever I gotta do on my end to help push your first project and every one thereafter.” Then, almost as an afterthought, he whispered, “Take these jeans off for me.”

I ignored that last part. “And I’ma be promoting you and Swope records and try to get you signed too.”

“Don’t worry about me. You just focus on getting your foot in the door.”

The hand at the waistline began to pull back, and I foolishly thought he was about to pull his other hand out as well, assuming he’d felt what he needed to feel and now he was going to respect my commitment to Archie.

Nope, wrong.

He wedged his free hand low between our hug and popped the button holding my jeans together. He found my zipper. Ziiiiip—it was now down. Then he reached back around me and burrowed this second hand within my unleashed jeans effortlessly. My pussy blazed red hot at this new skin-to-skin contact, and every time he gave my buttocks a two-handed squeeze, I nearly heard my girlness squirt.

My breathing was erratic. But quiet.

I think.

He said, “It’s funny how you just put your all into something and then the pay-off just seems to come out of nowhere. Like, why now? Why did God pick this moment to give you this opportunity? I feel like we went through a lot of unnecessary bullshit.”

“We just have to be thankful.”

“You’re right, Kirbie. And I am. It’s just crazy how things seem to fall in place. I’m very thankful.”

His right hand began to roam, and every nerve-impulse in my body began to send warning signals to my brain. Alert! Stop him! Alert! This is not Archie’s hand! Alert! I ignored them, letting Coras’s fingers find and rub my velvety pussy lips. He took two fingers and split my drenched mound open, as a third finger explored the wetness of the inner flesh. He grazed my clit and I shuddered.

Then the realization that Coras was about to fuck me hit home. It scared the hell out of me. 

Because I knew I didn’t have the strength to stop him.

I felt helpless, like all I could do was stand here and hold him and ball his shirt in my fists at the back. My bare ass was out, exposed, he was fingering my pussy, and my jeans were slowly working their way down my thighs thanks to gravity.

Then my phone rang, which interrupted things.

I was thankful. But I still didn’t move until Coras let me go. I had been under his spell.

“Answer it,” he said. “Hurry.”

I hiked my jeans up—they weren’t coming back down, I told myself—then grabbed my phone. “Hello?”

“May I speak to Kirbie Amor, please?”

“This is she,” I said, barely containing my excitement.

“Hey, Kirbie, this is Sundi Ashworth and I just read your reply. So, you’re ready to be famous, huh?”

Chapter 16

Monifa Chavis

 

 

I should have been sleep but couldn’t because I was thinking about Coras. I hadn’t talked to him since the shooting. But I knew my baby was all right because everybody on The Site was commenting that Gee Beats was the only one that got hospitalized. I expected Coras to call me by now, either to apologize for cheating on me with Kirbie, or curse me out for having his producer shot.

But I hadn’t heard from him at all and it worried me. Was he going to leave me? Had he already left me? I never saw that as an option because he needed my brother’s drugs.

In my panic, I deleted the Site comment I made about him never kissing another bitch in the studio because it referenced that I was bragging about the tragic shooting backstage. It was a stupid comment, insensitive and bird-brained, and I should have never posted it. Coras was probably mourning right now and he needed me. But he wouldn’t answer my calls. I even called a friend of mine and had her call him on three-way and he still wouldn’t answer.

I went through my call log and tapped my brother Milo’s number, then put the phone to my ear. 

“Hello?”

“Hey, brother, it’s Monifa.”

“Look, I don’t have time to talk.”

“What’s going on?”

“I have to close down shop and find a new spot because of you. My name is all in the mix in the Sprint Center shooting and I wasn’t even there.”

“How is that my fault? I never told you to shoot anybody.”

I heard Milo yelling at people in the background to hurry up and grab some mags—or “bags”; it was hard to understand Milo when he was yelling, even harder over the phone. I assumed that Milo got word that there was about to be a kick-in. This wouldn’t be the first time that he had to relocate.

I was starting to feel guilty.

“What do you want, Monifa?” he asked with strong annoyance. Then he yelled at someone else in the background to “hurry the fuck up before you’re the next to get shot. I can’t believe you shot that man. Yall were supposed to jump ‘em.” I heard a smack—Milo probably disciplining a worker with a pop to the head—then he remembered he was on the phone and spoke. It was all irritation: “Hello?”

“Yes, Milo, I was just calling to find out if you’ve talked to Coras.”

“I texted him.”

“About what?”

“What do you think? I told him it wasn’t supposed to go down like that.”

“He texted back?”

“No.”

“So are yall gonna work it out?”

“I don’t know and I don’t fucking care right now. Look, Monifa, I gotta go.”

“Wait—”

He hung up.

I looked at my phone, then set it beside me on the couch. Apparently Milo and Coras were still at odds, but as far as me and Coras … I didn’t know where we stood. There was no “official” rule that said Coras had to be with me to keep receiving dope from my brother, but it was definitely implied. I hoped this whole shooting debacle didn’t change everything. I loved Coras.

I took a drink of champagne, then set it back on the coffee table. I grabbed my phone and logged into The Site under Coras’s profile. I’d rather be checking his phone texts, but since I didn’t have access to his phone then his private Site messages were the next best thing to find out his whereabouts. I was surprised, and highly upset, by what I saw in his account. The last exchange in his inbox was between him and Kirbie.

“Oh really, nigga?” I said to myself in disbelief. “You haven’t learned, have you?”

Then I began to read.

 

Kirbie Amor: Coras, read this message and tell me what you think. It’s from Sundi Ashworth, and I know I don’t have to tell you who she is. Here’s what she put: [Sundi Ashworth: Hello, Kirbie, my name’s Sundi Ashworth (A&R) and I’m sending you this message in regards to my interest in your musical talent. I’m a representative of a major record label, and I think you and your voice have the potential to become one of the biggest artists this industry has ever seen. This is not spam. This is for real. My profile page will confirm my authenticity. If you would like to further your career and become a household name, please reply as soon as possible. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you]. Coras, isn’t that crazy!!! It’s really her! I was thinking about getting some more music ready for her just in case she wants to hear more. Can you meet me at the studio?

Coras Bane: I’m on my way now.

 

I looked at the time frame between each of the posts and they were only seven minutes apart. That meant that Coras had dropped whatever he was doing at the time—what _]had [_he been doing?—just to respond to her.

So now they were probably at the studio at this very moment fucking each other’s brains out.

“Son of a bitch,” I said out loud. “Maybe he should’ve caught the bullet instead of Gee. That pussy didn’t learn his lesson.”

I bounced off the couch and went upstairs to get dressed. I threw on my Nike Roshe Runs with the soft insole and padded collar; they were my kick-a-bitch-ass pair, with a full mesh upper and phylon midsole. On my way back down the steps, I was checking my purse for my handgun. It was in here, right next to my wristlet that held my ID and credit cards. I was contemplating if it was wise to carry the wristlet if I was about to commit a murder.

Ding-dong!

My doorbell. I had paused on the steps, looking up from my purse. Nobody came to my house this late except—

“Open the door, Monifa! It’s Coras!”

Ding-dong!

I set my purse on the couch and opened the door like an idiot. He could be here to beat me to death. But I wanted to see him. I needed to see him.

And he looked just as handsome as ever standing just outside my doorway. His face was lit up by the welcome light above my door—behind him was the absolute dark of night—and he was looking at me like I had some explaining to do. I gave him the same look.

We stood here in silence for a moment, staring at each other stubbornly, feeling each other out.

“Apologize,” he demanded.

“For what?” I said.

He turned to leave and I went after him. I grabbed him by his dark thermal shirt and pulled him into my house, shutting the door behind us. He reached for the knob but I leaned against the door, crossing my arms. I was a thick woman, and it wouldn’t be easy for him to move me.

He tried though, grabbing onto me as I pushed him away, but he hung on, pulling me forward as he went back. I was away from the door now. He tried to get around me to leave and I grabbed him around the waist. As he tried to pry my arms off of him—the both of us were grunting during the struggling now, with me letting out more girly squeals than grunts—we bumped into an end table and my lamp crashed to the floor.

“If you don’t wanna apologize, I’m leaving,” he growled.

He started pushing my face and I bit his finger. His other hand grabbed my hair at the back, and as he yanked and my chin shot up, our momentum was headed toward the couch—him going backwards and me stumbling forward, never letting him go. He tripped over the lamp, falling backwards onto the couch, me falling on top of him.

My face smacked into his in a harsh kiss.

And we didn’t stop kissing. Our closeness changed things completely. We were no longer fighting each other. He rolled me over on my back, rising up on his knees to pull his shirt up over his head. Nothing but his dazzling gold chain was left, and a perfect dark brown body of chiseled manliness. I was shimmying my stonewash jeans off when I realized I had already lost one running shoe. We were halfway naked—I only had time to work one arm out of a shirt sleeve before he pulled his dick out and pushed it inside of me with no finesse whatsoever.

I screamed in pain and passion.

As he filled my pussy with never-ending shaft at a death-defying pace, I wrapped my legs around his waist and locked my arms around his neck. He was punishing me.

“I’m sorry!” I shouted.

“You better be,” he grunted.

I tried to pull on his neck to get him to come down and kiss me again but he wouldn’t budge. He was looking down at me fiercely, but it seemed more like he was looking past me, as if he was thinking about someone else. Did Kirbie turn him down at the studio and now he was taking his anger out on me?

He kept thrusting hard and it felt so good. I wanted to believe this passion was all about me and him and nothing else but I wasn’t so sure. Cream poured out of me. It was a lake, soaking my couch cushions. He turned me on my side and bent one of my knees toward my breasts and started giving me another pounding. I was crammed sideways against the arm of the couch. It was uncomfortable. And I know he knew it. He was treating me like a whore.

“I said I was sorry!” I squealed.

“My nigga got shot because of you, bitch!”

“Coras, I didn’t tell Milo to shoot anybody.”

“I told you not to let nobody in our business. Especially your brother. You knew what the fuck you were doing.”

His dick was so hard and forceful that I tried to push on his thigh to prevent him from going so deep, but he kept gushing in and out if me with such boorishness that I was afraid I’d snap my wrist if I kept trying to stop him. It was blissful to have him inside me again, but the way he was fucking me made it hard to enjoy. This was all about him.

This was rage.

I was starting to feel the muscle tightness of a charley horse.

“Coras, just cum in me please. Please, baby? I’m sorry!”

He pulled out. I was afraid to move because I wasn’t sure if a cramp would seize me. Gently, I tried to straighten out my leg—and that’s when I felt it.

Coras jizzed on me. 

“Really, muthafucka?” I snapped. It was running down my stomach.

That was one thing Coras knew not to do to me. I was down for a lot of freaky shit—I’d swallow his cum, let him fuck me in the ass, I was down for bondage—but skeeting on me was disrespectful and he knew how I felt about it. I tried to move but my muscles were nearly paralyzed.

He was pulling his boxers up, tucking his meat in. His pants went on so quick it was like one motion.

“You’re leaving, you bastard.”

After he put on his shirt, he said, “I just came to let off some frustration.”

“Kirbie didn’t let you fuck tonight?”

“What makes you think I was with Kirbie?”

I didn’t answer him because I didn’t want to reveal that I knew his Site password.

“You know what?” he began. “I was with Kirbie. And I did try to fuck and, you’re right, she didn’t let me. You wanna know why? Because she has a man. I respect her for that. But I don’t respect you.”

“Coras—”

“Nah, shut the fuck up man. You know what this is. The only reason I been fucking wit’ you is because yo brother is my plug.”

He said it. He really just said that shit to me. It brought tears to my eyes. I knew that was the only thing holding us together but I never wanted it to be spoken aloud.

“I’ve always wanted to fuck you like I just did,” he went on, looking down at me like I was a one-night stand. “You’re a scumbag slut-ass bitch, and you deserve to be mishandled and skeeted on. Take this as my farewell. Because I’m done fucking wit’ you. Kirbie is about to catch a plane in the morning to go sign a record deal that’s gonna have her set for life. It’s only a matter of time before I get on. So I don’t need you or your brother no more.”

He started walking toward the door.

“Coras!” I yelled.

He didn’t stop. So I started to get up off the couch to go for the gun in my purse, but suddenly my hamstring in my right leg contracted violently and I hit the floor with a hard thud. It was a charley horse, the worst ever.

“Coras, help!”

But he was already gone. And I laid on the floor writhing in a pain that was a lot stronger than the one in my leg.

Chapter 17

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

“Archie, have you seen my boarding pass?” I asked, as I checked my black Tory Burch satchel again. It was made of pebbled Italian leather and had three zip pockets that I’d searched a thousand times, but I was going through them one more time, pocket by pocket.

“I haven’t seen it,” Archie replied.

I looked at him with irritation. He was leaning against the dresser in his favorite heather gray sweater. He had his left arm crossed over his chest that was giving support to his right elbow, as he fiddled with a toothpick in his mouth. He saw how scatterbrained I was and he hadn’t moved a muscle to assist me.

“Can you help me look, please?” I said.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because you don’t need to be going nowhere.”

I cocked my head at him, trying not to get even more upset that he was acting like this at a very critical time. I had a flight to catch. “Archie, we talked about this already. This is a chance of a lifetime.”

“So you say. But you could get off of that plane in New York, get whisked away in a limo and wind up chopped up into little pieces by tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t have time for this. I started packing more clothes. Sundi Ashworth told me to pack three days’ worth of outfits, and from there she’d buy me more clothes to fit the look she and her stylist were going for. My body quivered when she said stylist. It made all of these images pop in my head of being pampered by a fashion designer tape-measuring my shoulder width, while a make-up artist powder-brushed my cheekbones with mineral foundations.

I was excited and nervous to see how they transformed me. I hoped I didn’t have to say no to their “look,” whatever that may end up being.

“What am I gonna do with all of this cocaine?” Archie asked. “We made the trip to get the bricks, and now the next day you’re bailing on me.”

“I’m not bailing on you.”

“What do you call it then?”

“Archie, you act like you can’t get rid of them yourself for a while. I won’t be gone forever.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know.”

He repeated my words sorely. “I. Don’t. Know … hmmm …” Then he said, “What kind of woman wakes her fiancé up in the wee hours of the morning to tell him she’s about to catch a plane to the other side of the country? How do you think I feel? We’re gonna be married one day, Kirbie. We’re supposed to make these decisions as a team.”

“This has been my dream since I was a little girl, Archie! My daddy would play Caylene Hope records at breakfast time and I would sing along and imagine myself on stage with her.”

“Was this before or after he beat you?”

I just stared at his disrespectful ass as he twiddled his toothpick with his tongue.

“Will you please help me find my boarding pass?” I asked desperately. He didn’t move. He just kept clucking his tongue. “Fine, I’ll just print off another one. Did you shut the computer off?”

Casually, he leaned off of the dresser and reached behind himself. All of a sudden he had the e-ticket in his hand. It had been in his back pocket this whole time.

I snatched it from him.

 

***

 

I drove myself to the airport in my Mercedes because Archie refused to. He said as long as my car was sitting unoccupied in the airport parking lot, then I’d be more inclined to get back to Kansas City as soon as possible.

“You know they steal those airport cars all the time,” he had warned me. “Especially the ones that have been sitting for a while.”

But I didn’t care about his little games. Because if this record deal worked out, I’d be able to afford a hundred new Mercedes.

On the shuttle bus over to my terminal, I got a call from Coras.

“Hello?” I answered.

“How you doing, superstar?”

I blushed. And even though I didn’t know any of the people sitting near me, I still put my hand over my widening smile.

“I’m not a superstar yet,” I replied into the phone.

“You will be soon enough. Are you nervous?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you’re ready.”

“What if they end up not signing me?”

“Don’t think like that. Positive thinking only, please.” Then he said, “Did you talk to Sundi again this morning?”

“Yes. She was just calling to remind me of the time and what she’d be wearing so I won’t have a problem spotting her at the airport.”

“Did she say where yall would be going first?”

“No. But I assume we’ll be headed to Mount Eliyah ENT headquarters to sign the contract. I’m anxious to see what the inside looks like. In the magazines they only show the outside.”

“She just might take you to dinner first, get you drunk and try to woo you over. If she does, you better let her woo you.”

I laughed. “Damn right,” I said. Then my tone took on a bite of worry. “Where are you at?” I asked.

I remembered last night at the studio he told me Ashleigh might not let him back in her house because he walked out on her to come meet me. I knew he wasn’t staying with Monifa because he told me he was done with her and Milo and that whole operation. I hoped he wasn’t back staying in a hotel. His ass needed to get his own place and stop trying to live under the radar. Successful people had bank accounts and paper trails. All the big rappers did. I told him this all the time but he never took heed, either because I was younger than him or because I was a female. Or both.

Coras said, “What did Archie think of you heading to New York on such short notice?”

[_He completely dodged my question, _]I noted. And that was fine. If Coras was still staying with Ashleigh it was none of my business. He wasn’t my man. I was just glad I stopped things between me and him last night before we went too far.

“Archie tried to hide my boarding pass this morning,” I admitted.

“Figures,” Coras said. “That sounds like something he would do. I can’t believe you’re gonna end up marrying your biggest hater.”

“He’s not.”

“This is your chance to get rid of him. Once you start topping the charts, fake a fallout with him. Tell him things just aren’t working out. Kirbie, you know you can’t be a celebrity with a husband like Archie,” he said, and was actually being serious about it. “Tell me I’m lying.”

“You’re wrong on so many levels. That type of shadiness is why you’re never gonna find happiness, Coras.”

“I already found my happiness. But my happiness is giving her happiness to someone else.”

There was a short silence after he said that. Then my shuttle bus came to a stop and it was time to unload. I told Coras I had to call him back and he told me to make sure I did before my plane took off. “I got a surprise for you,” he said. As I pulled my luggage through the airport and shuffled through the painstakingly tedious security checkpoint, I kept wondering what that surprise was. In my wildest thoughts, I imagined him proposing to me over the phone and ordering me to throw Archie’s engagement ring out of the window after the plane took off (not possible, but it was still something Coras would say). I imagined myself answering[_ ]him with a heartfelt [_yes.]

After I went to the restroom and found an open seat in my departure section of the terminal, they were announcing that it was time to board and began calling out passengers to stand in line according to seating listed on our tickets. I didn’t get a chance to call Coras back until after I was on the plane and had stuffed my carry-on in the overhead compartment and plopped down in my window seat.

I buckled my seatbelt and dialed.

“Kirbie, hold on,” he answered. Then I didn’t hear a thing. I hoped he knew I didn’t have a lot of time before the stewardess would start instructing passengers to shut our phones off.

“Hello, Kirbie? Wussup, baby girl!”

GEE!” I exclaimed. “Oh my God, you’re the surprise. Are you okay? How are you doing?”

“I’m fine. But I’d be better if I had something to drink. I told Coras to bring me a bottle of Earl Stevens and all he brought was a get-well card.”

“No, Gee. No more drinking. The doctor told us your life is at risk. We’re putting you in rehab for real this time. By the time I get back home, you better be admitted.”

“Rehab is for quitters. All we do is win.”

“Gee, I’m serious. How are you holding up?”

“Pretty good. I should be able to go home in a couple days.”

“Coras told me you charged at the guy with the gun at the Sprint Center. What were you thinking?”

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. And he didn’t look like a killer. I was wrong though.”

I laughed. Gee had a way of finding humor in any situation. I was glad he was going to be okay. For the next few minutes until the phones-off announcement came, he made jokes about me being too much of a thug to be famous, but he congratulated me and wished me much success. I told him in so many words that no matter how big I got, no matter if I was in the middle of a Grammy speech, I’d drop whatever I was doing and have his back in a heartbeat. Milo’s days were numbered.

Me and Gee said goodbye and see you later to each other. I had wanted to tell Coras goodbye but Gee had already hung up.

“Will this be your first time in New York?” my neighbor asked.

I turned to her. She couldn’t have been much older than me. Her hair was flipped over one shoulder and there was a white gold fringe drop earring dangling from the lobe closet to me. She was pretty, but her face was so thin it was almost masculine. I assumed she was a fashion model.

“Yes,” I answered her. “This’ll be my first visit to New York.”

“Business or pleasure?” she asked.

“Business.”

“Really? What field?”

“I’m an aspiring singer,” I said.

“Me too!” she squawked, then held out her hand. “Vivian L. Housser.”

I shook her hand. “Kirbie Amor.”

“Say, Kirbie, maybe we can team up and go at this music thing together. I have a list of record label addresses in my purse.”

“Um … I sort of already have someone picking me up at the airport. Maybe another time.”

“Oh. Okay.” She blinked at me. Then she grabbed a magazine and left me alone.

I hadn’t shut my phone off yet. I took what little time I had left and logged into The Site. I decided to update my status one last time as an unsigned artist.

 

 

Kirbie Amor: I’m headed to New York to follow my dreams. To all of the people that wish me well, I need a prayer from you! I think this is my time!

Chapter 18

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

 

 

I had never been more anxious to get off of a plane in my life. But I had to wait for the rows ahead to clear out first. I was standing up at a sideways tilt, bracing my hand against the back of my seat because it was too cramped to stand perfectly erect.

My thin neighbor, Vivian, was still seated for some reason.

“I like to be the last one off of the plane,” she said at me, as she began letting people behind us go ahead of us. “I don’t like to feel rushed when I’m getting off. It irritates me.”

I nearly grabbed a fistful of her hair and shoved her into the aisle. KC Kirbie would have, but I was now NYC Kirbie so I kept my cool. Instead, I just pushed past her rudely, as I brought my carry-on bag up and over her head—I “accidentally” bumped her head with one of the mini wheels—and mumbled an excuse me on my way down the aisle and off the plane.

After I crossed the jetway bridge, I almost instantly saw Sundi Ashworth across the way in dark sunglasses and the most ostensible blue pleated day dress. She told me to look out for the sunglasses and the blue dress but I didn’t expect the dress’s crochet insets to dip so low to create an almost see-through bosom. She looked incredible, star-studded, out of the ordinary—like the women you see on TV. She didn’t belong in an airport.

I felt humble compared to her, in my comfy airplane clothes that consisted of blue jeans and a solid pink long sleeve shirt with ribbed cuffs. I was casual. But the blue jeans were stretch Gucci—perfect butt huggers—and my Rolex watch sparkled as I dragged my luggage. I wasn’t bad looking.

I just wasn’t Sundi-looking.

“Kirbie Amor!” she called out once she saw me coming. She waved, and actually bounced once in her stilettos as she did so. She was just as excited as I was. “Kirbie, over here!”

I smiled. And not until I got closer did I notice she was standing next to a tall light-skinned man in a peacoat and fedora. He was wearing sunglasses too. My first thought was he was her bodyguard, but then that didn’t seem to fit because he looked too refined and handsome for that role (though with sunglasses on men, you could never be too sure how attractive they really were).

Mystery man, I thought.

Sundi Ashworth extended her hand and I shook it. She introduced herself, then gestured toward the man next to her whose hand I shook also.

“This is La’Renz Taylor,” Sundi said.

“Kirbie, it’s nice to finally meet you,” he said.

I was stunned.

“Nice to meet you too,” I managed.

Part of me didn’t know what to think right now. I had shook both of the hands of one of the most infamous couples in the music industry. But why were they together? I wondered. According to the blogs, these two had been estranged once La’Renz went to prison. Sundi later went on to work for Eliyah Golomb, whom La’Renz claimed was the real killer behind his wife’s death. Several hiphop media outlets had printed that La’Renz had an “unhealthy” hate for his mistress while incarcerated—as told from the mouth of a former cellmate—that he had planned to rectify after his release. They made it seem like he was going to kill Sundi.

Yet here they were, together, in harmony. Wow. That was proof that you couldn’t believe what you read on blogs.

“Let me take your bag,” La’Renz offered.

“Thank you,” I said.

He also helped me pull the rest of my luggage off of the baggage carousel. Then we were headed outside, where a fairly clean Volvo SUV was waiting for us with the hazard lights blinking. I had thought we were going to be chauffeured in a limo. I was almost certain that was what Sundi told me. But I was notorious for getting details wrong so I eagerly climbed in the back seat, where La’Renz joined me, and Sundi drove.

I had actually rented a Volvo just like this once, on one of me and Archie’s many pill trips to California.

“How was your flight?” La’Renz asked me, as he removed his glasses. His brown eyes were twinkling. I tried not to stare.

“It wasn’t bad,” I said.

“All commercial flights are bad to me,” Sundi said from up front. “When you start flying private, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

I smiled, and I hoped I wasn’t smiling too much. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“Our first stop is the radio station,” La’Renz said.

“Radio station?”

“Yes. I have a spot booked for you in the next hour at 104.1 Revolt. This is gonna be your first major interview.”

I was at a loss for words. Nervousness set in fast. Revolt was the top radio station in New York City. They had an evening show where a panel of three—DJ Trap, Liam Bashor, and Skye Munro—interviewed the top artists in music. It was a nationally-syndicated live radio and TV broadcast. The trio had interviewed everyone from Caylene Hope to Jazzmine Short to Yayo Love. But those artists landed interviews after they were famous. I didn’t even have a mixtape out.

“I had to pull some strings to make this interview happen,” La’Renz told me. “So just relax and be yourself. Revolt only books stars, so when people hear and see this interview, you’ll automatically be thrust into the limelight.”

“I didn’t know I’d be on radio this soon. I’m not dressed. I need to change.”

“You look amazing,” Sundi said. “You have taste. And I really like that Rolex. I wouldn’t tell you this if I didn’t mean it. And Revolt’s glam squad will touch you up with make-up once we get there.”

“Really, you do look beautiful,” La’Renz said. He squeezed my thigh. “And once they hear your voice, it’s gonna be all she wrote. Can we get a sample from you? Sundi, turn the radio down.”

“You want me to sing?” I asked.

He laughed. “Yes.”

“Right now?”

“Give us a taste. They’re gonna ask you sing on air once we get there so you might as well warm up.”

I racked my brain for a song, then I decided to sing my verse about Coras from “Convenient For Me,” because it had been on my mind heavy during the flight here. I opened up my vocals quietly as I sang the first several lines, then I really opened up and let my voice falsetto as I reached the midway point. La’Renz grabbed me around the neck before I could finish and pulled me into an almost sibling-like hug. He kissed my temple.

“You fucking killed it! I don’t even need you to finish!”

“She’s amazing!” Sundi cheered.

“Thank you guys,” I said. “And thank you for inviting me here and giving me this opportunity. Singing is my life.”

“Well, let’s make it official.” La’Renz pulled out a contract from inside his jacket and handed it to me. “Look it over and flip to the last page and sign.” He handed me a pen and a magazine to write against.

I set the contract on my lap, hunching over to give it a quick once-over. I was about to flip to the back when I saw that it was a legal agreement between me and …

“Taylor Music Group?” I questioned.

“Yes, that’s my label,” La’Renz said. “You’ll be my first artist so you’ll have my complete attention. I won’t stop until you’re number one on the Billboard. I’ve done it before and I’ma gonna do it again with you.”

Back in the day Taylor Music Group was the top label in R&B and rap. But now that title belonged to Mount Eliyah ENT, the label I thought I was signing to—the label I thought Sundi still worked for.

“Maybe she needs time to look it over with a lawyer,” Sundi said sympathetically.

La’Renz sighed and leaned away from me. “Sundi, we can’t do Revolt unless she signs.”

“I’ll sign it,” I said quickly.

There was a small ounce of apprehension swirling inside of me, but I ignored it. On the back page, I scribbled down my signature.

Chapter 19

La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor

 

 

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” DJ Trap began, as he adjusted the microphone close to his feminine-thin lips. “This is 104.1 Revolt, the number one name in radio for five years in a row. I’m your host, the incomparable money-savvy DJ Trap and I’m here with my co-hosts, the big scary black man named Liam Bashor and the lovely Asian-Black mix Skye Munro. Today, we also have two very very special guests.”

The three hosts formed a semi-circle around me and Kirbie (Sundi was still outside in the car). Shoved in all of our faces were oversized microphones with gold-plated lightning bolts—the Revolt logo—attached to each swivel point. Bulky studio-quality headphones were on our heads, though DJ Trap had his set draped around his shoulders for now. Though I didn’t know any of these hosts personally, I knew their on-air personalities to a tee from listening to their show over and over in my prison cell with a shoddy static-reception portable radio. This trio hadn’t been around when I ran hip-hop years ago. It had been Frank “The Juice” Teeter on the ones and twos then. Now Frank was the owner here at 104.1 Revolt. He was the one I called to book this interview. He owed me. Nearly the whole industry owed me.

To my right, Liam Bashor said, “One of our special guests is none other than the infamous La’Renz ‘Buddy Rough’ Taylor. Some of you might know him as the man who started Taylor Music Group and rose to the top of the music industry with all the cards stacked against him. Others might know him as the man who murdered his wife, Jazzmine Short, the R&B icon who—”

I cut him off. “Allegedly,” I said into my microphone.

Liam twisted his face up. “No, not allegedly. You pled guilty so that means your guilt is incontestable.”

“That’s simply not true,” I replied, trying to stay mild-mannered. “People plead guilty to crimes they haven’t done every single day in this country.”

“Why would they do that?”

“To avoid a lengthy prison sentence, or even the death penalty.”

Liam laughed. It was that same, fake laugh of disbelief I’d heard in my earbuds for many nights in prison when he interviewed controversial guests. I hated his laugh.

“If you didn’t kill him, who did?” he asked me with a sarcastic smirk. “Eliyah Golomb?”

“I never said that.”

“But you claim he or someone he hired set you up, right?”

I knew coming here today that this question would get brought up. But I didn’t expect it to be within the first five minutes of air time. However, I should have known. Liam Bashor was the most disrespectful, brutally invasive host of this generation. Almost every one of his questions and comments crossed the line of professionalism. The old me would have punched him three minutes ago.

Skye Munro diffused our back-and-forth with a smile and soft wording. “Liam, we have to follow order here. Back off. We haven’t even introduced La’Renz’s artist yet. We can get into all of that later.”

That’s the smart thing to do, I agreed mutely. But I didn’t know if Skye thought she was saving me from humiliation or Liam from getting his ass kicked. Or she could have just been trying to push the Jazzmine questions back so listeners would tune in till the end.

“Would you like to introduce your artist?” DJ Trap asked me.

“Sure,” I said. I placed my arm around the back of Kirbie’s seat and she smiled. “This is 19-year-old Kirbie Amor, the first artist signed to Taylor Music Group. From what I’ve been hearing while I was away, she sings better than any artist out there right now. She’ll sing circles around anybody you pit her against.”

“She can’t sing better than Jazzmine Short,” Liam remarked.

I started to speak but Kirbie jumped ahead of me.

She put her lips close to her microphone and said, “If you wanna compare me to anybody, compare me to Caylene Hope.”

There was laughter all around the room. Even a few giggles from cameramen. They weren’t believers.

Yet.

“Let her prove it,” I said. “Let her sing.”

“I wanna hear her,” said Skye Munro excitedly.

“Are you ready to sing right now?” DJ Trap asked Kirbie.

“Sure,” she said. “What do yall want me to sing?”

“I want you to sing one of Caylene Hope’s songs,” said Liam Bashor. “Since you think you can compare to her, let’s see you try.”

I knew Kirbie was capable of pulling this off. What I wasn’t sure about was whether or not she’d let these cameras and these personalities get the best of her and make her choke.

DJ Trap scooched back in his chair to finger a control board on his right, then in all of our headphones Caylene Hope’s “Give Love Another Try” started to spin. Kirbie cleared her throat, adjusted her headphones. My arm was still around her so I gave her an encouraging pat on the back. Then, as the melody gave way to verse in our ears, Kirbie closed her eyes and let the words flow from her lips effortlessly, in the softest most beautiful voice I’d ever heard. I looked around the room at DJ Trap, then Skye Munro, then Liam Basehor—Kirbie had the whole room captivated! This particular song came out after a public break-up between Caylene Hope and Hollywood director Stephen Duly. It was a powerful song with a lot of history and emotion behind it, and Kirbie was singing it perfectly.

“How was that?” Kirbie asked after she finished.

She received a round of applause from every one of our hosts. It looked like Liam actually wiped a tear from his eye, either jokingly or serious, I couldn’t tell.

“Okay, you can sing,” Liam said. “But what’s your story? You won’t get anywhere in this business unless you have a humble background. Have you been raped?”

“Liam, stop,” Skye Munro chimed in with a laugh.

“No, I haven’t been raped,” Kirbie said. “My story is a simple one. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, I grew up without a mother in a household ran by an abusive father—who has since found God, I must say. I love my father, but during his bad spell I ran away at the age of 14 and a local hustler took me in. He taught me how to hustle and—”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Liam said, shaking his hands in the air. “What do you mean by ‘taught’ you how to hustle? Was he pimping you out? Did you turn a few tricks? The listeners wanna know.”

“I never sold my body and I never will. The only thing I sold was drugs.”

“What kind of drugs?” DJ Trap asked.

“Mostly pills. Ecstasy. Purple Gorillas. That’s what a sing about the most. My life in the streets making fast money from a female’s point of view.”

I smiled. Kirbie was doing well, answering questions confidently. I didn’t know if the whole selling drugs thing was true but it sounded good to me.

Skye Munro sipped from her Styrofoam cup. “A teenage female singing about selling drugs. Hmmm … that’s a first. Interesting ….”

“How did you hook up with La’Renz?” DJ Trap asked.

Kirbie looked at me as she spoke, smiling. “Well, it started with a phone call. Sundi Ash—”

I quickly covered up her microphone with my hand. “I’d rather not get into that right now. Next question.”

My heart was beating fast as I removed my hand from Kirbie’s mic. Everyone was looking at me strangely. But I couldn’t let knowledge of Sundi Ashworth’s commitment to me get out there. It would ruin everything. She was my inside girl to Mount Eliyah ENT.

I should have briefed Kirbie before we came in here.

Liam kept the questioning going. “Tell me, Kirbie, because I’m sure listeners wanna know: Why would you choose to link up with La’Renz Taylor and Taylor Music Group over all the other labels. No disrespect to you, La’Renz, but Taylor Music Group is dead. Kirbie, with a voice like yours, I personally would have chosen to go with the biggest name in the game, Mount Eliyah ENT.”

“La’Renz was the first person to contact me,” Kirbie said. “He believed in me so I believe in him. I’m a loyal person.”

Good answer, I thought.

“Did you sign a contract?” DJ Trap asked.

“Yes.”

“That was Jazzmine Short’s mistake,” said Liam, with a crude laugh. “What makes you think when you try to leave that La’Renz won’t throw you off a balcony in Dubai like he did to her?”

I turned to the rude host with the calmest face I could muster. Liam reminded me of an inmate I once knew. Not in appearance but in character. Liam was all talk, no action.

“Can we please not speak as if I really committed that crime?” I said. “Listeners might start to believe you.”

“They should.”

“They shouldn’t, sir.”

“Look, I read the court documents last night in preparation for this show. You two were last seen in the hotel together. Yall had an argument. Then she mysteriously ends up pancake-flat on the ground.”

Kirbie said, “I read the documents on my flight here too. One of the witnesses said they saw La’Renz leave the hotel room long before Jazzmine Short was seen falling. And several witnesses said she jumped.”

I was still staring at Liam when I put my palm up toward Kirbie, letting her know to say no more. I didn’t need her help.

“Like I told you at the beginning of this show, I had to plead guilty because I was being railroaded,” I said to Liam. “I know when to fold to stay in the game. Because the game isn’t over. And I plan to win.”

Liam rolled his eyes. “I don’t even know what that means, Mr. Taylor. You’re 42 years old. Way too old to still be a liar. One minute you say you did it and plead guilty, the next minute you say you’re not guilty. Which one is it? You’re like the hiphop Brian Williams. Why should we believe anything you say? You killed your wife. Admit it.”

With all the anger-management classes and the coping skills certificates I received while in prison, I should have been able to shirk Liam’s comments. But I couldn’t. I internalized them, where they mixed with all the rest of my pent up aggression and caused a chemical imbalance.

I exploded.

I grabbed the first thing in reach—my microphone. I bashed Liam in the head with it, busted his skin open above the eye in that one swing. There was blood. Skye Munro screamed. I wanted Liam to fight back but he didn’t; he fell out of his seat on the away-side of his chair, so I had to yank the chair out of the way to get to him.

“Security!” DJ Trap yelled.

Liam cowered as I swung the mic down at him again. But the cord caught and the mic just dangled over the edge of the table above his head. Lucky him. I kicked him in his ribs one good time before a group of big men grabbed me up.

I didn’t resist.

“I loved my wife!” I shouted into a camera as I was hauled out of the booth. “I didn’t kill Jazzmine Short!”

Chapter 20

Sammy “The Hitman” Russtrip

 

I was sitting in the passenger seat of a silver Yukon Denali, waiting for La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor to come out the exit doors of 104.1 Revolt. My driver was on his smartphone, and when I peeked over at his screen I saw he was on The Site. I couldn’t believe that Eliyah Golomb really wanted me to work with this kid.

“We’re following somebody, Jarvis,” I reminded the 23-year-old. “Put the damn phone up.”

“Sorry, Dad,” he said, and quickly fumbled with the cell phone to put it in the pocket of his fleece jacket. He looked across the street at the celebrated radio station, wide-eyed. “Where is he?” he asked anxiously, his boyish brown eyes darting around everywhere.

“Calm down. He hasn’t come out yet. But you’re being paid to watch everything around you, not just La’Renz. And looking down at your phone while you’re on a mission will get you killed. If it doesn’t pertain to the task at hand, then NO PHONE.”

“Okay. Sorry, Dad,” he said again.

“Out here in the streets, call me Sammy. You hear me? It’s Sammy.”

Yes, Jarvis was my son. My biological son. This was one of his first jobs working with me as an investigator. Some people referred to me as a hitman, but I preferred the term investigator. I had principles, procedures, protocol and bylaws that I adhered to like any other professional.

One might ask me why I would want to bring my son into this way of living. Well, it wasn’t exactly my choice. It was tradition. My father was an investigator who killed, tortured and maimed, and his father taught him those skills which were eventually bequeathed to me. Still, I was hesitant about bringing Jarvis into this game. His generation was different. There was less discipline and initiative in these young men nowadays. Less was expected of them than in my day. His generation remained knuckleheads well into their mid to late twenties, whereas I was considered an adult at sixteen. There was very little room for child-like behavior in 1980s New York, my formative years.

Several months ago Jarvis was charged with first degree murder. He was accused of killing a 25-year-old man from Brooklyn over a dispute with a girl. Jarvis confessed to me that he was guilty of the crime. He killed the young man for physically abusing the girl, a girl Jarvis had been romantically involved with. The girl went to the cops after Jarvis told her he “took care” of her problem. I smacked Jarvis over twenty times upside the head when he told me the story. I chased him all over the living room of his apartment smacking him and kicking him to the floor, explaining to him the first rule of murder—never tell anyone what you’ve done, and especially not a love interest tied to the victim.

Because of the female witness and a solid motive and a ton of circumstantial evidence, Jarvis was set to serve life in prison. But I talked to Eliyah Golomb and he agreed to put his legal army on the case, as long as I agreed to teach Jarvis the trade of “investigating.” After I forced Jarvis to murder the female witness—a deed I personally oversaw—the case was eventually dropped.

And here we were.

“Dad—I mean Sammy—are we gonna take out La’Renz today?” my son asked me.

“No. Eliyah hasn’t given us the word yet. He wants us to watch him for a while, learn his locations and figure out the best place to hit him when he does give the word.”

“Why does he want La’Renz dead so bad? Does he really think La’Renz can build his company back up to rival Mount Eliyah ENT? We all know that’s impossible.”

“History tells us that anything is possible. Sometimes you have to squash the little bug before he turns into a big bug.”

“Did Eliyah really have Jazzmine Short killed? Were you the one who killed her?”

“No.”

“Are you just saying that because you don’t wanna tell me?”

“No. Shut up and pay attention.”

I pointed across the street at the radio station, as security hauled La’Renz Taylor out of the building and shoved him onto the sidewalk. Jarvis laughed. A young girl was escorted out after La’Renz in a more civil manner. She was wearing a pink long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, and she seemed to be asking La’Renz if he was all right.

“Who the fuck is that girl?” Jarvis said in a way that was clear he was attracted to her. “I’ve never seen her before. Is she famous?”

“No. I don’t think so. She’s probably some new artist he picked up.”

“Do we gotta kill her too?”

“Maybe.”

“Fuck. Can you ask Eliyah if I can keep her?”

“Jarvis, start the truck.”

He cranked it over with a teasing laugh. My boy was showing me he had a sense of humor. I used to have one too. A long time ago, before I saw a man choke to death on his own genitals.

A Volvo SUV pulled up to the curb to pick up La’Renz and the girl. With my digital zoom-lens camera, I snapped a burst of pictures of the Volvo and its license plates. I didn’t get a shot of the driver but I had a good idea who she was. We followed the Volvo for miles, as it winded through New York City and ended up in a very nice neighborhood in Brooklyn Heights on Willow Street. Once the female driver stepped down out of the truck, my suspicions were confirmed.

“That’s Sundi Ashworth!” Jarvis exclaimed.

I nodded. “Yes, that is.”

“What is she doing with La’Renz? Doesn’t she still work for our boss?”

I snapped pictures of the group—Sundi Ashworth, La’Renz Taylor, and the young girl—as they headed into Sundi’s townhome. Then I set the camera in my lap. Eliyah Golomb wasn’t going to like this. He wasn’t going to like this at all.

“Let me see your phone,” I said to my son.

 

GabbyTV: You won’t believe this people, but I have more news on La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor. He had an interview on 104.1 Revolt an hour ago where he showed his ass! There’s video floating around the web of La’Renz beating Liam Bashor over the head with a microphone. Sources say the former mogul nearly killed the co-host. Now we all know Liam is an instigator, but that gives La’Renz Taylor, convicted murderer of an R&B legend, no right to do what he did today. They need to lock La’Renz right back up. Right now! And throw away the key. And before the fight started, La’Renz brought along a little girl whom he introduced as his new “artist.” This girl had the audacity to compare herself to Caylene Hope! Little bitch, how dare you?! Though the girl can sing, she’s no Caylene Hope and never will be. It seems as though La’Renz is trying to turn this girl into the new Jazzmine Short. I don’t see it happening. I’m not buying it. And I hope you guys aren’t either.

Chapter 21

La’Renz “Buddy Rough” Taylor

 

 

“La’Renz, what the fuck were you thinking?!” Sundi hollered at me. “I can’t believe you fuckin’ attacked Liam Bashor! You told me you changed. Are you back on cocaine again?”

“No, Sundi. No. I’m clean. I been clean and I’m staying clean.”

“What you just did wasn’t clean. The media isn’t how it used to be, La’Renz. You can’t intimidate people and you definitely can’t put your hands on people. Now when Liam sues you we’ll never get off the ground!”

“Are you out?” I asked her.

She stopped pacing and glared at me. “I should be. I’m jeopardizing my job at Mount Eliyah to help you and commit to you and Taylor Music Group. But I’m not gonna leave Mount Eliyah if you’re just gonna throw your future away.”

“I fucked up, Sundi. I’m sorry.”

She started scrolling her thumb on the screen of her smartphone. “The blogs are fuckin’ goin’ nuts right now. We might not be able to recover from this.” She tossed the phone at me. It hit me in the stomach kind of hard. “Look at it,” she ordered. “Look at all the shit they’re saying about you. They’re calling for you to go back to prison.”

I didn’t look at the screen. I set the phone beside me on her bed and looked up at her. “I don’t care what the blogs think. Since when have I ever cared about the media?”

“It’s different now, La’Renz.”

I stood up and put my hands on her shoulders. She turned her head, not wanting to look at me. But I still told her how I felt.

“I may have let my feelings get the best of me today, but I promise I won’t let you down again. Okay?”

“La’Renz, I don’t wanna hear it.”

“It’s the truth. I have more than my own life at stake here and I promise to keep that in mind at all times from here on out.”

She finally looked me in the eyes. “And what about Kirbie? That girl just signed a contract with us. She’s probably sitting in the guest bedroom scared to death right now. She’s probably trying to figure out how to escape us.”

“She wasn’t scared. She actually tried to push one of the security guards off of me.”

“That doesn’t mean she isn’t scared.”

“I’ll talk to her.”

“This is so fucked up, La’Renz. Goddamn. This is not the kind of attention we need.”

“I know. But we’ve been through worse scrutiny than this. Remember?”

I was speaking of our sex tape and the ensuing public humiliation we all endured. Sundi pursed her lips at me for bringing that up.

I said, “We made it through that unscathed, didn’t we?”

“Did we?” she countered.

“Yes, we did.”

She broke away from me and left the room. I followed her into the kitchen, where she poured herself a glass of red wine. She drank half of the glass in one gulp, then refilled it.

“You have no idea what I had to deal with while you were gone,” she said at me, slamming the bottle down on the counter. There was a great deal of frustration in her eyes and voice. I stood and listened. “I was the most hated woman on earth. The headlines called me a whore, a homewrecker, said I single-handedly ruined Jazzmine’s legacy. I had to face all of it alone. I had no one to turn to.”

“I had to deal with a lot while I was in prison too, Sundi. Inmates didn’t take too kindly of my case.”

“I’m not talking about you! I’m talking about me!”

I kept my mouth closed, then waved my hand as if she had the floor and I wouldn’t interrupt.

“After that mess, the only jobs I was offered was for posing in men’s magazines or having my ass out on TV. As bad as I needed money, I turned all of that degrading crap down. Nobody took me seriously. It took me a long time for that cloud to pass and for me to rebuild my name. Eliyah Golomb helped me with that. And you want me to leave his company for yours? You want me to throw my career away again for you? Because that’s where this is headed. I think I need to stay my ass right where it was at Mount Eliyah.”

“Eliyah Golomb is the devil.”

“Is he? Or are you? You’ve caused me more pain than him.”

“I can’t do this without you, Sundi.”

She sipped some more wine. “Go talk to your artist, La’Renz. See if she’s even still on board.”

“Are you gonna be okay?”

“Just go talk to the girl. Because if she leaves, then I just might leave with her.”

I stepped toward her with my arms open for a hug. She backed away, then pointed behind me.

“Go, La’Renz. I’m serious.”

 

***

 

As I was walking down the hall to the room that Kirbie was staying in, I noticed something on the sleeve of my white sport shirt. It was specks of blood. Liam Bashor’s blood. I undid the button cuffs and rolled my sleeves up my arms to hide the violence from earlier.

I didn’t know what Sundi was talking about when she said if Kirbie left then she was leaving too. Kirbie was going Nowhere, with a capital N. She signed a contract. And if she tried to get out of it, I’d make her life hell.

Stopping at Kirbie’s door, I grabbed the knob and turned it quietly. I didn’t knock on doors for artists who hadn’t earned my trust yet.

Slowly, I pushed the door open and saw Kirbie standing by the guest bed with her back to me, wearing little to nothing. She had taste in undergarments, I observed—she wore a stretch lace bandeau top as a bra, with matching lace panties. From the towel draped over her left shoulder and the crinkly wet hair sticking to her shoulders and back, it was obvious she had just showered. 

She didn’t know I was in the room yet—it looked like she was typing on her phone— and this gave me time to study her frame. She had amazing curves. Better curves than Jazzmine ever had, and I wasn’t being biased either. Kirbie’s apple butt had the perfect roundness and lift. I could imagine it emblazoned on the side of a New York building in an ad for her debut album.

“I’m sorry about what took place,” I said.

Startled, she turned toward me and dropped her phone. As she squatted to pick it up, I looked down at her cleavage and saw that she had more than enough to attract advertisers and sell a million records. It was hard for me not to smile.

Thank you Lord for bringing her to me.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” she said as she stood back up.

She shyly grabbed her drying towel and covered up her frontside. She splayed the bottom of the towel at her thighs almost like a dress. The rest of the towel was scrunched up top, concealing her brassiere. I remembered a game we used to play in prison. It was called “Guess the Nipple.” No matter what Rated-R movie we were watching, inmates would call out sizes, shapes, and color shades at the TV that they thought matched the nipple of the onscreen actress. I never joined in the game ostensibly because I thought it was stupid; but I would sit on the sidelines with my arms crossed and guess in my head. I would almost always guess the women’s nipple variations correctly before the movie revealed her breasts. For one, I had slept with a lot of women. For two, some of the actresses I had actually laid down with a time or two while—and before—they were famous.

From looking at Kirbie’s soft, creamy brown nude skin, I’d guess that she had small dark brown areolas. I’d put money on it.

One day I’d find out.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t knock,” I said. “But I hope you don’t mind me seeing you without clothes on. You’re gonna have to get used to dressing and undressing in front of people you’ve never met.”

“I know. I don’t mind.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and relaxed. The towel flopped into her lap.

“What’s that?” I asked, nodding at her torso.

“What is what?” she replied, looking down at herself, trying to see what I saw.

“There’s a scar on your ribs. What happened?”

“Oh.” Her fingers found the mark and rubbed it. “An iron did this. It happened when I was a kid. My father … he did it.”

“Okay. Not to sound insensitive, but I’m just trying to gauge what your body would look like in a magazine spread. That scar can be easily smudged out in photo editing software. Do you have any other blemishes I should know about?”

She shook her head no.

“Cool.” I scratched the back of my neck. “Uh … I came in here to talk about what just happened at the radio station. I wanna apologize for my actions. That’s not how a CEO should act, and I don’t want you to think that’s the type of behavior you signed on to and should look forward to.”

“No, I understand. Liam was out of line. He deserved that.”

“He might have deserved it. But I shouldn’t have done it. That interview turned into a sideshow of my previous life when the focus should have been on you. That was a disaster.”

“It wasn’t a complete disaster,” Kirbie said. “I got a chance to sing and they seemed to like it.”

I smiled. “That’s a positive.”

“And I’ve been getting a crazy amount of friend requests on The Site. Thousands. It’s incredible. That’s what I was looking at when you came in. Some of them are calling themselves my fans already.”

“Really?”

She handed me her phone and I saw all the friend requests from people across the world, young and old. As I scrolled down, The Site kept refreshing new requests instantly. They were pouring in. I handed her the phone back.

“Sundi thinks I scared you off,” I said. “That’s not the case, is it?”

“No. I’m in this thing. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I wanna thank you for trying to get the security guards off of me. I noticed that.”

“It was instincts.”

I held my palm up and Kirbie gave me a high-five. I curled my fingers into her hand and we formed a single fist. We smiled at each other. Her hand was soft, and it reminded me of one of my first intimate moments with Jazzmine Short.

“I’m gonna make you rich and famous,” I said to Kirbie, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. “Are you ready for that?”

“I’ve been ready for it my whole life,” she said back.

Chapter 22

Kirbie Amor Capelton

 

 

After La’Renz left my room, I accepted a few of the friend requests and then set my phone down and started pulling on a pair of silk pajama bottoms. I was throwing on an old Care Bears t-shirt that supposedly once belonged to my mother, when my phone rang. I thought it was Archie calling me again. He’d called about nine times since I left Revolt, but I didn’t answer because I knew he was going to say something negative about what happened there. I was certain he’d heard or seen the footage on the internet as it was happening or shortly thereafter. All the blogs were covering it. I didn’t want to answer his call because I didn’t need his hating point of view right now. I could predict what he’d say. Kirbie, what kind of shit did you get yourself into? I thought you were doing music, not UFC. Bring yo ass home before you make a fool of yourself!

But when I checked my phone it wasn’t Archie calling. It was Coras Bane.

I picked up. “Hello?”

“I watched that Revolt video like twenty times already,” Coras said with amusement. “No you didn’t push one of the security guards.” He laughed.

I was blushing. “You saw it?”

“Yeah, I saw it. And so did the rest of America.”

“I think I started off on the wrong foot, Coras.”

“No, you didn’t. This is good. All the blogs are talking about you.”

“They’re saying I can’t sing.”

“That’s just hate. People don’t know what to think of you right now. There’s a definition for that. It’s called xenophobia, the fear of something new. The blogs I’ve been reading are saying you have talent. Even GabbyTV admitted that you can sing, so it just depends on what blog you’re reading. And you don’t need nobody else’s opinion on whether or not you can sing. You [_know _]you can blow. And don’t you ever forget that.”

“Thank you, Coras.”

“You’re welcome. And what an unforgettable first day in New York, huh?”

With the phone to my ear, I started walking around the room looking at the decorations. There was none, really, when compared to the Afrocentric designs in Sundi’s hallway and living room. This guest room was plain—plain bedding, plain furniture, plain off-yellow paint on the walls.

There was no inspiration to be gained here.

“Everything has been moving so fast since I stepped off of the plane,” I said to Coras. “I’m just now starting to be able to relax.”

“That’s the life. It’s gonna get faster.”

“I know. But one thing that’s been bothering me is the fact that I’m signed to Taylor Music Group and not Mount Eliyah ENT.”

“Huh? You’re signed with Taylor Music Group?”

“Yes. Sundi Ashworth works for La’Renz. Something fishy is going on. Because when I started to mention Sundi’s name on-air La’Renz cut me off. I don’t think no one knows they’re working together. Coras, I thought you sent your mixtape to Mount Eliyah, not Taylor.”

“I did send it to Mount Eliyah. I don’t know how it got in his hands. Maybe Mount Eliyah and Taylor Music Group are silent partners. I don’t know. You don’t need to worry about all that, though. You just focus on making music. All the behind the scenes shit is none of your business, but try to stay abreast of it. Try to pick up on the subtle cues La’Renz throws. Like the Sundi thing—if he didn’t want you mentioning her, then don’t mention her. Ever. Play the game. Be smart. You have a great opportunity in front of you. Whether you’re signed to Mount Eliyah or Taylor Music Group—it doesn’t matter. You’re in the game. You’re in the mix. Don’t fuck it up. Or I’ll kill you. And so will Gee.”

“How’s Gee doing?” I asked.

“He’s better. It’s gonna be a slow recovery. But I brought a keyboard and headphones up to the hospital for him. He made me bring it. He said he’s gonna make this next beat his greatest work so you can put it on your first album.”

“I can’t wait. Is he nearby?”

“No. He’s still up at the hospital.”

“Where are you? At Ashleigh’s? So you guys did make up, huh?” It was none of my business but I wanted to know.

“I didn’t call to talk about her. I called to talk about you.”

They’re back together, I thought. I knew it wouldn’t take long.

I stuck my head out of the bedroom door when I heard a shout. Looking down the hall I saw nothing, but it sounded like Sundi and La’Renz were in the kitchen arguing about the radio station fight. I closed the door back and went and sat on the bed.

“Coras, I better go. I need to get some sleep. Who knows what’s in store for me tomorrow.”

“Okay. Hang in there. And try not to get in any more fights.”

I smiled even though he couldn’t see it. “You either, Mr. Sprint Center,” I quipped.

“I’ma try. Talk to you later. Love you, Kirbie.”

“Bye, Coras.”

I hung up.

It might’ve seemed like I overlooked the fact that he said love you to me, but I hadn’t. I heard it loud and clear. We said it to each other a few other times in the past, but I only said it back to him as a joke, just harmless flirting. But I didn’t want to say it to him this time. I wasn’t feeling it. One would think I didn’t tell him I love you back because I was engaged to Archie now. But the truth was that I was feeling jealous over his and Ashleigh’s unbreakable relationship.

I didn’t know why it was getting to me now, while I was over a thousand miles away.

But it was.

Suddenly, my phone started ringing again. It was Coras calling back. I choked out a laugh, knowing he was only calling back to get a return love you out of me. I didn’t answer it, though. I let it go to voicemail. And when I was sure he wasn’t calling back, I logged onto The Site in hopes that it would take my mind off of him.

The friend requests had increased. And I noticed that these “friends” of mine—former and new—had started leaving comments on my wall, congratulating me for teaming up with La’Renz Taylor, among other things.

 

Shan Lovingmeandhim Joseph: I saw the Revolt video. You go girl! When you’re rich and famous, I can tell everybody that I knew you before the fame!

TheBoss Luster: Thank you for accepting my friend request. I think you’re a really talented singer. I hope your talent doesn’t get wasted with that monster you signed to. #LaRenzMurderedJazzmine

4300Block Keyon: Oh shit, Kirbie! You’re about to put Kansas City on the map! I knew you would be big time one day! #NiggaWeMadeIt

Nick Dolemite Wolf: Is this really Kirbie Amor’s page?

Jessica Street: Thanks for accepting me, Kirbie. I can’t wait to hear some of your music. Do you already have some songs out?

Keith J: Congrats on signing with Taylor Music group. They used to be big back in the day.

Monty Stak-a-Million: How the fuck this bitch get a deal with a label and I ain’t get one? #FuckTheIndustry #politics #BitchesSuckingDickForDeals

Marie Capelton: Kirbie, this is your cousin from Ohio. We have the same uncle through marriage. I’ll inbox you my number. I sing too.

Rita Realspit Gibson: It’s good to see someone from my hometown make it out. I wish you much success on your new path. With the voice you’ve been blessed with, I hope you use it for good and aspire to inspire others. I saw the altercation video but it looked like you stayed out of it for the most part. Please don’t get sucked in by the shenanigans of fame.

 

There were more comments below but I really needed rest so I set my phone down on the nightstand, cut off the lamp light and crawled under the covers. In the darkness, I closed my eyes and listened to the stillness around me. I didn’t hear Sundi’s or La’Renz’s voices so I figured they were calling it a night as well.

As I rolled over onto my side and the minutes passed, I started to get irritated by the constant beeping of my phone. Notifications from The Site. One after another. I grabbed my phone off of the nightstand to turn off the notification setting so I could sleep, but after I did I was curious to see how many new friend requests I had received in the ten minutes since I last checked it.

I was amazed to see over six hundred new requests.

“This is crazy,” I said in awe to my screen, which was the only thing giving off light in my room right now.

I couldn’t resist—I tapped the notification link one last time for the night, just because I was overexcited and eager to see what new people wanted to befriend me at this hour. When I did, I was in complete shock to see two names of famous people that The Site had automatically pushed to the top of my requests based on popularity. I was almost scared to accept.

“Oh my God,” I gasped.

 

 

 

 

Kirbie Amor *]received a friend request from [*Eliyah GolombCaylene Hope, and 681 others.

 

God Don’t Like Haters 3

 

Coming Soon!

 

Also by Jordan Belcher:

 

 

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God Don’t Like Haters

God Don’t Like Haters 2

God Don’t Like Haters 3

 

 

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God Don't Like Haters 2

Kirbie Amor has been betrayed by her longtime lover and now she wants revenge. But the tables turn and she ends up making a decision that pushes her away from her love of music and sets her on a path that leads her deeper into the underworld of drugs and secrecy. Her friend and man-crush Coras Bane tries to talk sense into her, but her mind gets clouded by his personal choice to choose other women over her, and now no one can save her from herself. La'Renz Taylor has reunited with his mistress Sundi Ashworth. But he has his suspicions that she's not as loyal as she claims to be. With no one else to partner up with, he keeps Sundi under his wing and sets out to find the girl named Kirbie Amor with the beautiful voice. But that's only if his past doesn't find him first.

  • ISBN: 9781310229305
  • Author: Felony Books
  • Published: 2015-12-19 03:20:14
  • Words: 37611
God Don't Like Haters 2 God Don't Like Haters 2