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To Love a No Good Nigga

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TO TRUST A NO GOOD NIGGA

PHOENIX WILLIAMS

© 2013 by Phoenix Williams. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Phoenix Williams

DEDICATION

To all of those who have supported me along the way and have grown to love these three sisters as much as I have, this book is for you.

PART I

Chapter 1

SPARROW

“I fucking hate you!”

Onyx eyes leered at me. If looks could kill my behind would have been dead for sure. As heads turned toward us in the dark restaurant, I fought to remain cool. I refused to pull out my clown suit in public.

“You knew what this was from the beginning. I don’t understand why you are so upset,” I said. Honestly, I didn’t know. It wasn’t as if I had lied to him or misled him. He knew what I wanted from the start.

His jaw ticked as he leaned across the table, a frown marring his beautiful chocolate face. His balled up fists made the muscles in his arms more pronounced. “You don’t understand?” his voice took on a deadly quality that I had never heard from him before. “I gave you my love, Sparrow. I offered you what I never offered any other woman. I gave you my heart and what did you do with it? You pierced it with your stilettos, fucking she-devil!”

The distressed look on his face softened my heart a little, but not enough to stop me from gathering my things. The only sounds audible in the restaurant were his labored breathing and the hushed tones of the other patrons, who were more than likely discussing his outburst.

Slipping on my cashmere coat, I looked at him one last time as I stood and took a deep breath. It took everything in me to calmly respond, “Sean, I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression. I am not a ‘forever’ type of girl. I’m a ‘for right now’ kind of girl. I did not ask you for your love, heart, or future and I certainly don’t want it.”

With my held high, I walked out of the restaurant and into the cool February night. I could feel the eyes of everyone on my back as I walked away.

“Sparrow, you’re just a heartless bitch.”

Looking up from my paperwork, I rolled my eyes at my sisters, Raven and Robin. Together, the three of us owned Lady Bird Interior Designs.

Robin, at 32, was the oldest. She resembled our father the most with her peanut butter complexion, wide set brown eyes, short dark brown hair, slender nose, and full lips. At 5’6, she was the shortest out of all us but packed a lot of body in that frame. Generous breasts and a small waist that flared out to ample hips garnered lots of attention. Attention that she was finally doing something about now that she had become baby crazy.

Raven, 29, was the middle child. She resembled our mother with her hazelnut complexion, light brown eyes, and shoulder length jet black hair. Standing at 5’8”, she had what most would call a supermodel physique, tall and willowy with small breasts and small hips.

She had been married to her husband, Dean, for ten years. Most would assume that she was happy, but I knew my sister. Most would also assume that her husband was a successful businessman, but I knew better. Last time I checked, running a criminal empire did not make you a businessman.

I was the tallest of my sisters at 5’10” and the perfect mixture of both parents with my caramel complexion, big breasts, Beyoncé behind, brownish gold hair, full lips, and brown eyes. At 27, I was the youngest of the Bird sisters, yes the Bird sisters.

My father, Jay Bird, thought it would be cute to name all of his children after birds. Of course my docile mother, Tianna, did not object. So my family consisted of Jay Bird, Tianna “T” Bird, Robin Bird, Raven Bird (now Smith), Sparrow Bird, and my little brother, Blue Bird.

Turning my attention back to the two nosey women sitting in my kitchen and eating my food, I asked, “How am I a heartless bitch?” Taking a sip of my coffee, I continued, “I told him what was up, if he decided to fall in love that’s his own problem. Not mine.”

“You can’t keep hopping from bed to bed, man to man. These men have feelings, Sparrow,” Robin said with exasperation lurking in her eyes.

“Robin’s right. Plus, you can’t decide to fall in love. It just happens. You don’t choose when or who,” stated Raven, sadness wafting from her in solemn waves. Instinctively, I knew she was not talking about me.

Not wanting to hear her go on and on about her dysfunctional marriage, I quickly interrupted her, “I’m really not trying to hear all this. It’s my life and I’ll live it the way I want. Neither of you are in a position to tell me what to do with my life since neither one of your shit is exactly smelling like roses.”

Heartless bitch and she-devil were words I definitely wouldn’t have used to describe myself. Did I have a lot of male company? Yes. Did I open myself up to these men? No. Did I open my legs to them? Yes. Why? It was easier to open my legs than my heart.

I never wanted to be at the mercy of another human being. I didn’t want my heart or my life to be controlled at the whims of a man. I refused to become like my sisters, single and desperate or married and miserable.

The scraping of silverware against plates, the thud of cups hitting my antique dining table, and the shuffling of papers were the only sounds heard as we went over the company’s books. Each of us lost in our own thoughts.

Chapter 2

The scent of Issey Miyake Intense mixed with sweat and pure male invaded my personal space, instantly making my panties wet. There was nothing like a nice smelling man to make me want to drop my Vicki Secrets. It surprised me that a scent so seductive could come from a man in this place. Most men walked around this gym smelling like barnyard animals. Then they had the nerve to want to occupy your personal space and assault your air supply.

Surreptitiously, I glanced to my left while continuing my jog on the treadmill and I definitely wasn’t disappointed by what I saw. Mr. Smell-So-Good stood about 6’4” and his skin was the color of melted dark chocolate. It looked just as smooth and tasty. He had close cropped hair, no apparent piercings, and dimples so deep that you could see them even if he wasn’t smiling. His nails were clean which is important because I didn’t want anything dirty and unkempt near my honey pot.

Yep, I thought to myself, he will definitely make a nice addition to my stable. Yes, I said stable. Most men, or at least men like my father, kept a team of lovers at their disposal.

They had their main woman—also known as the bottom bitch. That was the woman who was always there even after they messed up, kind of like my mother. The other women on the team were usually the young one—she was usually between the ages of 21 and 30 depending on your age. The sexy one, she was usually way more gorgeous than your bottom bitch but was more high maintenance. And lastly, your hood chick. She was the one who was willing to do hood rat things for her man.

The issue with the whole team situation was that men weren’t smart enough to keep everyone happy and in the dark about each other. Eventually everyone found out about each other and the man always ended up recruiting new players with the exception of their bottom bitch.

Now, I only recruited when one of my hoes wanted to leave the stable for greener pastures, had gotten complacent, or had suddenly developed feelings. I had three hoes in the stable. I kept them on a rotational basis so I never get bored and there was no risk of me catching feelings.

Everyone knew about each other and they also knew that they could be replaced at the drop of a hat. That kept them from getting complacent. There were only three guidelines to being accepted into my exclusive stable. You had to have your own because I was damn sure not about to give you any of mine, you had to be fine as hell, and you had better know how work my ass in the bedroom.

A brush against my arm brought me back to the present. Turning my head to the side, I looked straight into the greenest eyes that I had ever seen on a man so dark. Quickly, I slowed my treadmill down before turning back towards him. The last thing I wanted to do was fall on my face in front of him.

“Hi, I’m Isaiah. I’m not good with lines, so I’ll just be upfront. I’ve been coming here for a while now and seen you around. I think you’re insanely beautiful and I want to get know you better. That is, if you’re single.”

His smile was infectious and I found myself returning it. “Nice to meet you Isaiah, I’m Sparrow,” I said throatily as I reached for his outstretched hand. “Thank you for the compliment and yes I’m single.” I wasn’t exactly lying. I wasn’t committed to any one of those fools in my stable.

Still holding my hand, his eyes swept over me seemingly taking in every detail. I knew for sure that he saw my pebbled nipples through my tank top and smelled my arousal when I saw his nostrils flare and his eyes turn a deeper shade of green.

“Look Sparrow, I have to take off. I promised my brother that I would help him move today. Can I get your number and call you later?”

Boldly, I reached for his phone and entered my digits before taking his. As I watched him walk toward the men’s locker room, I had the strangest feeling that life was about to get interesting.

Chapter 3

Six weeks after I met Isaiah I was finally ready to see if he could work me out. My sisters said I was a walking contradiction. How could a woman with a professed “stable of hoes” make a man wait six weeks to have sex? Just because I was a freak didn’t mean I was an easy freak.

Most of my hoes had been in my life for years. So, if I was recruiting I needed to make sure that I could at least tolerate you. I needed to know important things like do you have a girlfriend? A crazy baby mama? Do you have a job? Do you get attached easily? Did you graduate from high school? Stuff like that.

Tonight was the night that I was going to let Isaiah prove that he belonged in my stable. I needed to know if he could smack it, flip it, and rub it down, honey. Of course, he had been insinuating that he could satisfy me since our first date. Double entendres and sexual innuendoes had kept my pussy’s furnace on low simmer, but tonight I needed it on full blast.

As my doorbell rang, I stole one last look in the mirror and confirmed what I already knew, I looked like sex personified. A black lace halter top cupped my 36DD breast and skimmed over my flat stomach. The black mini leather skirt hugged my behind and showed off my long legs and slender feet which were encased in red and leopard Steve Madden stilettos. Soft curls framed my face, which was clear of makeup with the exception of dark eyeliner and red lipstick.

Opening the door, Isaiah did not disappointment with his reaction. As he stood there with his mouth hanging open, I took a few seconds to stare at him. He was looking fine as ever in dark True Religion jeans, a powder blue polo, chocolate brown blazer, and chocolate loafers. His slight five o’clock shadow gave him a roguish effect and made him look slightly older than his age of 29.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” I asked. It was obvious I had been caught staring at him.

His green eyes matched the bright smile on his face, “I said you look beautiful tonight and then I asked if you were ready to go.”

Nodding, I slipped on my leather jacket and locked up my house. Getting into his Audi A4 I chuckled to myself. The way we were dressed you’d think we were heading out to paint the town red. Instead, we were just hitting up the bar before seeing a movie. That was one of the many things I liked about Isaiah, he never needed an excuse to clean himself up.

If I was truly honest with myself I would have to admit that there were a lot of things that I liked about Isaiah. His intelligence, social conscience, sense of humor, and sensitivity appealed to me on so many levels. It also didn’t hurt that his ambition knew no bounds and he was extremely attractive. Yeah, if I was genuinely honest with myself I’d have to admit that I liked him more than I probably should have.

Chapter 4

He’s nervous! The thought hit me suddenly as we rode through the streets of Chicago listening to Trey Songz. Drinks had been fantastic, the movie had been hilarious, and now we were taking in the sights. Chicago may not be usually associated with romance but the way the Loop lit up at night could make even the coldest and most cynical of hearts tingle a bit, mine included.

“Isaiah?” I asked softly.

“Yeah, baby?” he asked, never taking his eyes off the road.

I rested my hand on his atop the gearshift, “What’s wrong? You’ve been acting tense all night. Is everything alright at work?” I knew he had been under a lot of stress at his job as a QA analyst.

Stopping at a red light, he looked at me, the streetlight highlighting the angles in his face, “Naw love, everything is cool at work. You know I don’t lie, so I’ll just be honest.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “I want you Sparrow. Badly. I’m trying to be the gentleman that my mama raised me to be but I don’t know how much longer I can keep being chivalrous while knowing how badly I want to lie between your thighs.”

The light turned green but he didn’t move, not even when other cars behind us started honking. Removing my hand from his, I placed it on his right knee, “I want you just as bad. Let’s go home.”

Just like that, he demonstrated how an Audi could go from 0 to 60 in seconds. Weaving in out of traffic, he got us onto the Eisenhower Expressway in ten minutes. That time of night there wasn’t much traffic on the expressway. Putting the car in cruise control, Isaiah reached over and grazed my left breast. Immediately, my nipple puckered and brushed against the fabric cupping it.

Trailing my hand upward slowly from his knee to muscular thigh, I felt him shudder and harden beneath my fingertips. The chemistry in the car changed, electrified with lust, arousal, and awareness as Trey sung about being inside of a woman.

I gently, yet firmly, stroked him through the soft denim. Tiny moans and ragged breaths slipped through his full lips. The long, thick fingers on his left hand clenched and unclenched the steering wheel repeatedly. Those same fingers on the right hand created a fiery path between my breasts, down my stomach to my thighs. My core pulsated in anticipation. My skirt inched up to my upper thighs as I leaned my chair all the way back in a blatant invitation. Hearing my silent plea, his hand slowly, purposefully made its way up my skirt. Chuckling softly, I knew he would soon find out my secret.

“Damn, Sparrow. Fuck you trying to do to me, huh?” he asked feverishly.

All I could do was sigh in response as his strong fingers stroked my plump nether lips. No panties made my treasure easily accessible. I slowly lifted my hips matching him stroke for stroke as he delved deeper in my ocean. I had never felt so alive with the sounds of cars whizzing by, the feel of his fingers bringing me closer to climax, and the scent of arousal filling my nostrils. I was aware of it all.

Suddenly, he rolled all the windows down and it became too much. The combination of his fingers inside me, thumb crushing my clit, my own hands teasing my nipples, and the cool, damp air caressing my feverish body began to push me over the orgasmic cliff. Groans escaped my slightly opened lips.

“Cum for me Sparrow.”

That was all I needed to hear. Gripping the headrest, I let go for Isaiah the way I had never let go for any other man. Squirting all over his hand, buttery soft leather seats, and dashboard as a monumental orgasm overtook me. Never before had I allowed myself to release that much so soon. It was as if I had no power over myself, over my body.

Isaiah stroked my slick, pulsating outer lips as I came down from my sexual high. Turning my head to the side, my gaze collided with green pools of lust. Winking at me, he turned up the radio and I dozed off to Trey crooning about love faces.

Chapter5

Cool air from my open door woke me from my light slumber and I turned to put my hand in Isaiah’s. As we walked up the sidewalk leading up to my two-story home, I knew I had to dominate the situation. The escapade in the car scared me. I had willingly given him control over me. That was something I had never done before. I was always in control. It was easier to keep my feelings from surfacing that way. Inserting the key in the lock, I pushed open the heavy wooden door. No words were spoken as we entered and I set my keys on the side table.

You’ve never been shy Sparrow, I thought to myself, no use in starting now. In the middle of my expansive dimly lit foyer I began stripping out of my clothing with my back towards him. First, I removed my shoes, letting them land with a thud against the wooden floors. I let my hands skim my body from the bottom of my skirt to the hem of my tank.

Grabbing hold of the fabric, I lifted it over my head. The only sounds audible in the room were those of Isaiah’s labored breathing and the whisper of lace hitting wood. Last to be removed was the mini skirt. I slowly let down the zipper and let it slide down my body. Rotating my head to the right, I gave him a sexy wink and walked towards the stairs.

Before I could take five steps, I was swept up in strong arms and my back was brought against chocolate covered marble. Taking my earlobe into his mouth, Isaiah lightly suckled before whispering, “You like doing this don’t you Sparrow?”

I could hear him talking but my overheated brain couldn’t register the words. When I didn’t answer him quickly enough he bit down on my neck. Groaning, I arched into him.

“You like teasing men don’t you, Sparrow? You like controlling them?” When his questions were answered with another series of moans he pinched my nipples roughly. “Answer me!”

“YES!” I screamed. I couldn’t take much more of his teasing me, touching me everywhere except where I craved to be touched.

“Sorry baby, but tonight you’re going to learn not all men can be controlled by pussy.”

The voices in my head started screaming “Warning Will Robinson,” red lights flashed before my eyes, and cautionary sirens blared in my ears but I ignored them all as he began walking upstairs. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have sworn that he had been in my house before the way he found my bedroom without direction. Belatedly, I realized he had. In nightly wet dreams, this man elicited unwanted feelings of submission. He laid me across the purple and gold bedspread and slowly, methodically took his clothes off.

I drank in the sight of him, mocha skin covering a sinewy frame. His chiseled chest branded with his fraternity’s emblem tapered into a narrow waist followed by strong hips and muscular thighs. I licked my lips in anticipation of curving my tongue around his puckered nipples, tasting the chocolaty goodness of his skin.

Glancing downward, I let out a small gasp and saw his smug smile. It wasn’t the eleven inches that shocked me, I’ve had my share of big ones, but it was the amazing girth. There would be no corner inside me that he wouldn’t hit.

Slowly, he walked to the bed like a predator stalking its prey. No words were necessary at this point, plus I wasn’t so sure I could speak anyways. Kneeling in front of my feet, he placed my left leg on his shoulder. His eyes never left mine as he massaged me from the tips of my toes to the bend of my knee.

Gradually, his tongue followed the blazing path his fingers had created as I writhed wildly against the bed. Placing my left limb down, he repeated his actions on my right leg, sucking vigorously on the meaty section behind my knee until pre-orgasmic tremors wracked my body.

Bending my legs, he settled himself in the opening and used his shoulders to spread me wider. Strong hands gripped my quaking thighs, rendering me immobile as he deeply inhaled repeatedly. My hips bucked involuntary while the tip of his tongue touched my inner thighs, outlined my pelvis, and his lips sucked on my outer lips. He tormented me, showed no mercy by refusing to touch the nub of nerves that I needed him to. Every time I tried to move in search of his tongue, he’d grip my hips tighter.

Looking up from my thighs, he smiled, “What do you want baby?”

Again, he was teasing me, making me do things I never did before. Closing my eyes, I whispered, “You know what I want. Stop acting like you don’t know what’s up.”

“I need you to tell me. Ask me for what you want.”

Staring into his eyes, I was defiant but so was he. The heat from his breath across my clit made me want to jump out of my skin. Arrogance lingered in his green depths. Yeah, he knew I needed him to suck on my clit and tongue my g-spot until I squirted all over his face. He was in control again, I was powerless to do anything about that and at that moment I didn’t want to try. Reading the defeat in my eyes, he smiled haughtily but wouldn’t move a muscle until I verbally acquiesced.

“Will you please suck my clit and tongue my pussy until I cum? Please, I need it.” My voice was barely above a whisper but I knew he heard me when a primitive growl seeped from his throat and he swam head first into my waters.

Satisfied moans from both of us filled the air. His rapacious tongue touched everything in sight. Pushing it further inside me than any other man had dared to try. His name floated from my lips on the tail end of ragged groans. Isaiah kept a steady rhythm disregarding my pleas for more. In and out, slow and steady.

As visions of climax floated before my eyes he removed his tongue from my leaky pussy. Flattening his tongue, he dragged it up to my clit and quickly began to suck on it. The pleasure was too much and I tried to push his head away. His strength was definitely superior to mine as he held me still and kept me from running to the headboard.

“’Zay!!! Please!!!” I begged but he was beyond hearing me.

He wanted to taste the waterfalls he felt and seen in the car. Grabbing fistfuls of my duvet, I screamed as honey spurted from my dripping pussy and covered Isaiah’s face and yet he still wouldn’t let go. Back to back orgasms slammed through my passion wrought body causing me to speak in tongues.

Lifting his head only after the last tremors left my body, he looked down at my dazed face. Glazed eyes burned through me as my juices trickled down his handsome face scorching my skin as it fell in droplets. Quickly, he leaned over the side of the bed. and he retrieved a condom from his wallet. Sheathing himself, he turned towards me with a look of fierce determination.

His gaze zeroed in on my rock hard nipples. He pulled them, extending them to his satisfaction before capturing them between his fingernails and pinching. Painful pleasure coursed through my body before settling in my clit, swelling it.

Taking a nipple into his mouth, he suckled slightly before biting down. Screams of bliss ripped from my throat. This was what I wanted, what I needed but would never have admitted to anyone else let alone to myself. He moved from one breast to the other repeating the actions until my sheets were soaked. Reaching down, I tried to guide him inside me.

Forcefully pulling my hair, he growled in my ear, “Did I ask for your help?”

I shook my head frantically, praying that he would put his mouth back on me.

“Tonight you’re going to learn that when it comes to sex, I’m in control of my body. I won’t be led by your pussy, no matter how sweet it is. Do you understand?”

Again my defiant nature, my rebellion when it came to men began to show. I wanted to tell him to go to hell, that my shit was so good I’d have him pussy whipped and crying to his mama by tomorrow morning. I wanted to say this but I couldn’t because I needed him to give me what I so desperately craved. I nodded frantically, getting more and more aggravated with myself as an arrogant smile played on his lips.

Spreading my legs wider, he settled between them and held his weight on his forearms. Slowly—painstakingly so—he entered my sugar walls. He worked inch by pleasing inch inside my tightness; stretching me, filling me. Burying his face in the crook of my neck, he groaned his fulfillment when he reached the bottom. Moving in sync, we set a rhythm that satiated both of our desires.

Suddenly, the air shifted and changed. Bracing his arms on either side of my head, he looked down at me. My heart beat quickened and I tried to look away. He lowered his face until he was the only thing in my line of sight. His eyes were filled with an unspeakable amount of raw vulnerability.

His lips brushed my mine once then twice before capturing mine in the most erotically gentle kiss I had ever received. This was too much for me to bear. Isaiah’s lust, passion, even his dominance I could handle but what threatened my being was his profound tenderness. It was that tenderness that put the barbed wired fence around my heart in danger.

Tears spilled from my eyes as Isaiah continued to kiss me while pounding my body into submission. Bodies and mouths still connected, he rolled over bringing me on top and still he wouldn’t let my lips go. I rode him as wave after wave of sensuous pleasure ripped through us.

Finally, after giving me countless orgasms, I felt his body freeze then shudder uncontrollably as climax overtook his body and mind. Still he wouldn’t let my lips go. We kissed until we both came down from space and our labored breathing returned to normal.

Withdrawing from my body, he discarded the condom then returned to the bed. Without saying a word, he gathered me in his arms, pulled the comforter over our sweat slicked bodies and stroked my back. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t do the cuddle thing, I liked sleeping alone. I never wanted to do the morning after thing with any of my lovers. When men stayed the night they tended to get a little too comfortable. Next thing you know they’d have a toothbrush at your house along with a pair of drawers. Not me, I wasn’t having it. Most of the time after a hot round of sex, my partner would leave.

I guess he can stay while I catch my breath for round two. That was my last thought before I drifted into a peaceful slumber, not waking until late the next afternoon still wrapped in Isaiah’s arms.

Chapter 6

“What’s with the goofy smile on your face, Sparrow?”

Whirling around, I clutched my naked chest while glaring at the two witches casually leaning against my closet doorjamb. “Don’t you know how to knock or ring the damn bell? Y’all scared me half to death!”

“Why would we ring the bell when we you gave us the key?” asked Robin, dangling said key in the air.

“I gave it to you for emergencies. Coming here unannounced to get in my business is definitely not an emergency.” Turning around, I continued to get dressed.

“Whatever. Aren’t you going to answer Raven’s question?”

Quickly putting on a pair of low-slung jeans and a fitted t-shirt, I faced my nosy sisters. Folding my arms under my breasts, I took a deep breath, angry that I was caught in my reverie. Yeah, I had a goofy smile on my face. Woke up with it in Isaiah’s arms this afternoon and kept it while we shared breakfast, fucked on the counter, and shared a shower.

Returning to the present, I frowned at my sisters. “No.”

“Why not BB, got something to hide?” inquired Raven with a self-satisfied smile on her face.

She knew that I hated it when they called me by my childhood nickname. Do you know how aggravating it was for people in our suburban neighborhood to run around calling me Baby Bird or BB for short? Extremely aggravating!

“Number one, don’t call me that. Number two, I’m smiling because I’m happy and number three, what do you two want? Don’t you get enough of seeing my beautiful face during the week?” That got the reaction I wanted, rolled eyes and flipped birds.

Following me down to the kitchen, Robin started a pot of Starbucks Colombian coffee. The robust scent permeated the air reenergizing me as much as the May sun shining through the windows. Grabbing three cups from the cabinet, I fixed the coffee to each of our specific tastes while Raven set out my leftover cheesecake and saucers. Sitting at my granite island, I waited for them to tell me the real reason they came over and wasn’t disappointed when Raven quickly began speaking.

“We came over to remind you that Daddy’s birthday is next month and Mama wants us to throw a party. Do not roll your eyes at me Sparrow. None of us have time for this but he’s our daddy so what can we do?

“I don’t know about the rest of y’all but I’m telling Mama ‘hell no!’ I refuse to take part in the circus act that is going to become Daddy’s party. I’ll just take him out to dinner or something.”

Sighing, Robin rolled her eyes at me while I licked my fork. “We’re not asking you to spend the entire day with him and Mama. Just make an appearance. Stay for an hour and dip out like the rest of us.”

“Plus, if you get there early enough you’ll miss out on the theatrics. That’s my and Dean’s plan,” added Raven.

Nodding, I agreed to Raven’s plan albeit begrudgingly. I hated family social functions of any kind. Not because I didn’t love my family, but because I couldn’t stand the drama that ensued when we were all together. That was the main reason my brother, Blue, hightailed it from Chicago to New York as soon as he could.

Speaking of that man, I asked Robin “Is Blue going to grace us with his presence?”

Smiling, she set down her coffee before responding, “Yes, the prodigal son will return but only for two days. He has to make sure he’s back in Rochester to finish up some business at the school.”

As my sisters continued to talk about our genius brother and his work at a university in Rochester, my thoughts ventured to my parents. Jay and Tianna “T” Bird had been married for thirty-five long, melodramatic years which was a rarity in the black community. Personally, I believed they should have divorced thirty-four years ago.

My daddy, though I loved him dearly, was a whore. He had so many hoes running around town, it was ridiculous. I could not remember a single time when he didn’t have Mama at home, at least two women in the wings, and was sniffing after another.

Even now at the age of 59, about to be 60, he continued to chase women. Growing up, my parents constantly argued about his philandering. Actually, it was more like my mother screamed and cried while my dad sat and stared.

After every argument he would look at her and say, “T, baby, I love you dearly but I’m not going to change. I’m a man, baby. Just because I sleep with those girls don’t mean I love them or that I don’t love you. You will always have my heart.”

Every time he would say some mess like that, I would think to myself, this will be the time she will tell him to take his filthy dick and shove it up his ass, but I was disappointed every single time. She would just dry her eyes and walk into his outstretched arms. When I once asked her why she kept dealing with the bullshit my daddy kept slinging her way she got this far away look in her eyes and said on the end of a sigh, “When a woman loves…”

More like when a woman was stupid. That was the main reason I didn’t want to have anything to do with this sixtieth birthday celebration or whatever they were calling it. Just like every other time we had a family get together one of my dad’s mistresses would show up and show her ass, demanding that he claim her.

It didn’t matter if it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Earth Day, or whatever day these young gold digging sluts would show up at my parents’ house in Park Ridge and act a damn fool.

They would cry and carry on describing in graphic detail the things my father did to and with them. Some of them brought physical evidence like we were in court. I couldn’t begin tell you the number of pictures, panties, and stained bed sheets I had flaunted in my face. At least it wasn’t a baby being thrown in my arms.

Though that was embarrassing, the worst part was my mother. To watch my mom sit and cry while the police carried away another one of my daddy’s tramps, to watch her be humiliated in front of family, friends, and neighbors year after year, and then to watch her stay with the same man who continuously broke her heart left a sour taste in my mouth. I never wanted to be like her. I never wanted to be strung out on love and the empty promises of man who would emotionally use and abuse me.

Chapter7

“Sparrow, it’s me. I haven’t seen much of you in the last couple of weeks. Uh…just wondering when I can get a taste of your sweetness again. Hit me up when you get this.” BEEP.

“Hey baby, it’s me. Want you, need you. Damn, I miss your pretty mouth wrapped around me. Call me.” BEEP.

“Sexy Bird, you know who it is. Give me call when you get this, miss those waterfalls.” BEEP.

Three messages from all three of my hoes could only mean one thing, trouble in the stable. I hadn’t been on my game. I had been neglecting the other three while giving all my attention to Isaiah. I knew that I should call them back but I was just too mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Yesterday was my father’s party and as predicted one of his hoes came out to play. Just thinking about it had me reaching for the aspirin.

We had just sat down to dinner when we heard a car door slam and a woman screaming for my father. Right on cue my mother burst into tears and started screaming for the Lord to take her now. Raven called the police and Robin and I went to confront the woman.

This one was a lot bolder than the others. She actually tried to run up in the house. I wasn’t having that shit. I may have grown up in the suburbs but I had no problems stomping a bitch if she was disrespectful. So, I had to lay hands on this hoe in a non-biblical sense. By the time the police came, dirty drawers, pictures, and copies of a sex tape staring my daddy littered the yard and all the neighbors were outside capturing the moment on camera phones. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was all over social media by now.

After dealing with that drama and my mother’s hysterics the last thing I wanted to do was talk. I always needed a good three days to recover from dealing with my family’s dramatics.

DING-DONG!

Spinning on my heel, I walked towards the door. It was nine o’clock on a Sunday night, well after normal visiting hours. Lifting the white drapes covering the glass that surrounded my door, my breath caught in my throat.

Snatching the door open, I whispered, “Isaiah.”

He stood there looking finer than any man had a right to in khaki cargo shorts and his signature polo shirt, this one yellow. The humidity hit me hard, making my thin white tank top cling to my body, allowing my nipples to show. The porch light illuminated his face, clearly displaying in his eyes what his mouth refused to speak. Need, lust, and awareness swam in twin emerald pools but what shook me to the core was the raw vulnerability and something else that I couldn’t identify.

Crossing the threshold, he took both of my hands into his and stared deep into my eyes. So deep that it felt as if he could see into my soul, a soul that I wasn’t ready to bare. Not to him, my family, my friends, and especially not to myself. Standing in the foyer, I stared back at him, not able to tear my eyes away, and waited. Leading me to my chocolate suede sofa, he continued to hold my hands and stare into my eyes, making me nervous. He made me wonder if anybody had really ever looked at me before.

“Sparrow, we’ve been dating each other since March, that’s three months ago baby. I need to know where this is going or if you even want it to go anywhere.”

Panic seized my heart as he continued to caress me with his gaze and draw circles on my palms. This was usually the time that I would tell a man about my stable of hoes. I would tell him that I had no intentions of settling down. I would lay down my ground rules and let him make an informed decision. I would do this with no hesitation. That was how I had always done it until now, until Isaiah.

“I really like you ‘Zay,” I took a fortifying breath before I continued. “I would love to start a relationship with you and see where it goes but…”

Placing his finger against my lips, he silenced me. “No buts, baby doll. Just openness, trust, and honesty.”

Pulling me onto his lap, he kissed me deeply, grabbing my ass in his large hands. My hips began rocking against his hardened member on their own accord. Contented sighs were released from the both of us as his hands made their way under my tank and mine under his shirt. Releasing his lips, I bent forward and captured his pebbled nipple between my lips suckling as my hands roamed his chiseled chest.

Deftly, I unbuttoned his shorts, slipping hands into his boxers and coming in contact with heat and strength. Pre-cum lubricated my palm making my ministrations smoother, slicker. Moving my hands in a circular motion, I tightened my grip, wringing more pleasure from him. His moans intensified with each stroke fueling my need to please him as he always pleased me.

Dropping to my knees, I tugged on his shorts and boxers until they were by his ankles. After quickly kissing the tip I wrapped my tongue around the head reveling in the taste. It was spicy, sweet, tangy, and as unique to Isaiah as his fingerprint. Opening my mouth as wide as I could, I dropped my head.

Exhaling on the way down, inhaling on the way up as I swallowed inch after inch. Slipping the head down my throat, I buried my face in the base of his dick, flicking my tongue over his balls. Isaiah’s hands tangled and twisted in my hair as he tried in vain to pry my lips from his dick.

Honey dripped from my pussy lips as I bobbed up and down on his chocolate stick. Firmly gripping his balls, I rolled them between my hands, smirking as his entire body tensed up. Yeah, my head game is tight.

His hips bucked wildly as he screamed, “Jesus!”

Loads of hot cream shot from the base of his dick to the back of my throat. I swallowed every drop but continued to suck. I slowed my suction from vigorous to subtle and ran my nails lightly over his balls but I wouldn’t release him.

I could tell he never had a woman continue to suck him dry after he came by the deep groans pouring from his lips and intense shakes racking his muscular body. Not surprising, since most women thought their job is done after their man nuts. Definitely false!

Releasing his dick from my lips, I gave him a saucy smile. “You okay, baby?”

Running his hands through my hair, he smiled before answering, “Do you even have to ask after that?”

Before I could answer, he picked me up and tried to run up towards the stairs, momentarily forgetting that his shorts were around his ankles, making us fall to the floor. Limbs intertwined, I looked down at him with a smile on my face.

I stroked his face as laughter bubbled up from the pit of my stomach and poured from my lips. At that moment, there was no place I would have rather been, no one else I would have rather been with. Openness, trust, and honesty. His words rang in my head. Was I ready for that?

Chapter 8

“What’s with all the flowers? It looks like a gothic funeral in here.”

For once, Robin wasn’t exaggerating. Every day for the last two months, without fail, a dozen black and red roses were delivered to either my house or my office.

“Yeah, I know. Someone keeps sending them to me, but I’m not sure who. I thought it was Isaiah, but now I’m not so sure.” Moving a flower filled crystal vase out of the way, I made room for Robin to sit in front of my desk.

Leaning forward to smell a black rose, Robin asked, “I think it’s one of your hoes. Have you told them or Isaiah yet?”

“No, I haven’t told them yet.” Ignoring her gasp and her glare, I continued, “I wasn’t sure if this thing with Isaiah was going to pan out and I wanted to make sure before I let my hoes go. No big deal.”

“No big deal? Girl, you’ve been with this man since May it is now October!! How long are you going to keep playing the field?”

“I’m not playing the field! I’m covering my bases.”

Shaking her head, she looked at me with sadness in her eyes. “I will never understand you, Sparrow. You have a man who wants to be with you and only you, yet you keep running from him. Yeah, you’re with him, technically, but you haven’t given yourself to him completely. You keep in contact with those man whores, all the while keeping him on the line.”

“That’s not fair Robin. I’m just trying to…”

“You’re just like Daddy!” she spat out, cutting me off.

Deafening silence filled the room as angry tears swam in my eyes. My body shook with barely constrained rage. “I am nothing like Daddy,” I whispered.

“You’re just like him Sparrow! The both of you run from love because you’re too afraid you’ll miss out on something better,” she paused to grasp my hands. “I love you Sparrow and I want to see you happy. I also want to see you safe. Whoever is sending you these flowers is clearly trying to send you a message. Take care of yourself.” She hugged me quickly before she left me in my office with my thoughts.

Robin hadn’t told me anything that my conscious hadn’t whispered to me during lonely nights. The difference was hearing it aloud. Her accusations had sliced to the core, but the truth always hurt didn’t it? It was past time to be honest with Isaiah, my lovers, and more importantly with myself. As much I enjoyed my lovers and my sexual freedom, I craved Isaiah with everything inside me.

“I love him.” The proclamation sprouted up from the bottom of my soul to my lips without much thought. I waited for the anxiety to set in, for it to make me want to vomit or run away somewhere far from Isaiah and the feelings he provoked. I was relieved when it never came. Instead, happiness to a degree that I had never felt before warmed me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.

Smiling broadly, I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. I felt as if I had finally started living. I felt at peace. For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to want to put your faith and your trust in another human being.

Openness, trust, and honesty. Those were the only things that Isaiah had ever asked of me and starting today he was going to get them. Just as soon as I made three very important phone calls.

Chapter 9

“Stop laughing at me girl! I’m confident enough in my manhood to say that I watch and enjoy Bad Girls Club and Basketball Wives.”

Tears poured from my eyes as I laughed at Isaiah. He had come over to eat dinner and watch television with me which had become sort of a ritual over the past few weeks. I had yet to tell him about my stable of hoes or should I say my ex-hoes. I broke it off with them so I didn’t feel as if it was important to let him know yet. I knew that one day I’d have to tell him, but now wasn’t the time. Not when everything was going so well.

“You are so crazy ‘Zay,” I said while placing my feet in his lap.

I leaned back and rested my head on the arm of the sofa while absorbing the heat from Isaiah’s body and the roaring fire across from us.

Massaging away the day’s stress, he smiled at me. “My mother really likes you.”

“Mmm…I like her too. That feels so good baby,” I said, while moaning earnestly. It was true, I did like his mom and actually, I liked his entire family. The last few weekend,s we split our time between his and my parents’ homes getting to know each other past the surface.

Our relationship had grown stronger over the last couple of weeks, making us a true couple. Our time together moved from the comfort of my home and bed to out around town. I had even become comfortable with being out in the day time with Isaiah. Public displays of affection flowed with an ease that frightened me at first, but soon became as second nature as breathing. Even our sex life changed. We transitioned from fucking to making love, from lust to intimacy, from primal and rushed to smooth and indulgently languid. In short, we learned each other and appreciated the imperfections that made the other unique.

“Thanks baby. You keep doing what you do for me and I’ll make you the next Mrs. Catcher. Yeah, Sparrow Catcher has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?”

I was truly laughing now so much so that I had to hold on to my stomach. “God, I love you ‘Zay.”

His hands stilled on my calves, he breathing changed, and he stared at me. Capturing my arms, he pulled me onto his lap, holding me close. Burying my face in his neck, I tried to do what I did best, run and hide. However, he had other plans. Pushing me back, he captured my chin in his hands, forcing me to look into his eyes.

Gently touching his forehead against mine, he brushed his lips against mine twice before whispering against my lips, “You have no clue how long I wanted to hear that, baby doll. I love you so much.”

Standing, he put out the fire and turned to me with his hand outstretched. Fingers locked, he led us to the master bathroom. Dimming the lights, I stripped out of my clothing and waited for him to do the same while I started the shower. What had been a spontaneous act a few months earlier was now our nightly ritual. No matter what was going on or where we were, we always bathed together.

Stepping into the white marble shower, steam surrounded us and transported us to our own fantasy world. The scent of vanilla and jasmine filled the air, adding another layer of sensuality as Isaiah gently rubbed the shower crème into my sensitive skin.

I watched through half-opened eyes as he knelt between legs. Placing a quick kiss to my stomach, he bathed me intimately. There was nothing more erotic in the world than watching your man kneel before your femininity as droplets of water raced down his Adonis like body. Turning me around, he placed my hands against the tiled wall and sponged my back while whispering sweet nothings in my ear and grinding his dick against the crack of my ass.

Handing me the body pouf, he looked at me expectantly. As I rubbed his body down with D&G body wash for men, I reveled in the feel of him. I knew then that I could do this for a million years and never tire of taking care of my man in this way. The knowledge that I was essential in taking part of a truly intimate act was both humbling and indulging. Rinsing his body, I shampooed his short hair, taking care not let it run into his eyes. Staring at him as I rinsed his hair, I realized how blessed I was to finally find love at the tender age of 27.

I opened the shower door, stepped out and grabbed two heated towels while Isaiah turned off the water. Thirsty towels drank up the excess moisture that clung to our frames as we simultaneously patted each other’s delicate skin. Isaiah carried me to the bedroom and softly laid me down in the middle of my California king bed. He warmed some shea butter in between his palms and stroked my body, moisturizing and heating it concurrently. Pushing gently at his chest, I had him lay back as I did the same, basking in his maleness.

“You make me appreciate being a woman.”

“You make me want to be a better man,” he whispered as I continued to massage the butter into his supple muscles.

Leaning over, I kissed him deeply before pulling back the heavy down comforter. I squirmed closer to him and we spooned. His front to my back, his right hand over my right breast, and our hearts beating in sync, we fell asleep as the first snowflakes of the season fell outside my bedroom window.

Chapter 10

BEEP…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP….BEEP!!!!

Blindly reaching towards my alarm clock, I repeatedly depressed the snooze button yet the sound continued to assault me. Coughing slightly, I sat up and realized that it wasn’t my alarm clock but my fire alarm that was going off.

“SHIT!!! Wake up Isaiah!!! My house is on fire!!!” We ran around the room frantically throwing on clothes and shoes before racing out of the bedroom.

As we sprinted down the stairs, we were greeted by thick black smoke and blazes in the living room. We made it out of the house just as the fire department arrived. I watched in silent shock as firemen tried to extinguish my home. I vaguely heard Isaiah on the phone with my family. Tears sped down my cheeks as I tried to think of what could have started this fire.

Fifteen agonizing minutes later, the fire was doused. My sisters pulled up just as things were getting under control. I was wrapped in Isaiah’s arms as we waited in the bitter Illinois cold for the fire experts to give us a preliminary finding of the cause of the fire.

“Ladies, Sir,” greeted the fire marshal. “I hate to tell you this, but it seems as if this fire was started deliberately. The scent of gasoline was strong.”

“What the fuck?!”

“Oh my God!”

“Who the hell?!”

Robin, Raven, and Isaiah spoke in unison as I stood there in disbelief.

“Can you think of anyone who would intentionally try to hurt you?” I shook my head in the negative. “Well, if you can think of anyone please give me call. The police department and I will be working closely together to solve this. We will have extra police patrolling the area just in case the culprit comes back.” The fire marshal handed me his card and walked off.

As Isaiah and my sisters ventured near the house to survey the damage, I stood watching the fire marshal’s retreat. I caught a movement out the corner of my eye. A tiny gasp escaped my lips and angry tears swam in my eyes.

I started towards the mysterious figure, but they were gone before I could catch them. Going in the direction they had just left, a familiar sight was laid before me. It was a crystal vase filled with black and red roses.

A note attached read “Sparrow, baby, we’re just getting started.”

Openness, trust, honesty. My time to begin all three had just run out.

Chapter 11

RAVEN

When I looked in the mirror, I could honestly say that I loved what I saw on the surface. At 29 years old I, Raven Smith, was a beautiful woman. I was 5’8” with a hazelnut complexion, long black hair, and light brown eyes. My body was tight and right with small breasts and slim hips. I was often asked if I was supermodel, which of course I didn’t mind.

I had it all. I lived in one of the most prominent suburbs of Chicago, had a closet as big as some apartments, filled with every designer known to man, a successful interior design company that I owned with my sisters, and parents that loved me. Yeah, I had it all but I was unbelievably miserable. Why? Because my husband, Dean, was not who I thought he was.

If you knew Sparrow, my baby sister, you probably heard her say a million times that my husband was a drug dealer and I was a dumb ass for not realizing it. That was absolutely ridiculous. I had been with Dean since I was fifteen. Fourteen years I had been with this man, married for ten, so I knew exactly what he did. Shit, who do you think gave him the money to start moving pounds? That was me.

My daddy, Jay Bird, made sure that all of his children had access to money. While my sisters, Sparrow and Robin, and my brother Blue, spent their money on material things, I helped my man come up. Why didn’t I help him get a job or go to college? Well, because Dean had assured me that him being in the drug game would be a temporary thing.

One thing he didn’t tell me was that it was easier getting in the game than getting out. The money and the power were more addictive than the drugs. Honey, if I knew then what I knew now, I would have wasted my money at the mall with my siblings instead of on a man.

Looking in the mirror, I couldn’t help but ask myself how the daughter of a prominent African-American family could end up married to one of Chicago’s biggest drug kingpins? That was an easy answer, I was a dumb ass! At the tender age of fifteen, I decided to get closer to “my people” and took my dumb ass to the south side. One of my girl’s cousins was throwing a party so, I lied to my parents and went. As soon I walked in all eyes were on me and my eyes were on Dean.

He was breathtakingly handsome, even back then. The first thing that I noticed was that he was one of the few men I had to look up at with my heels on. Standing at 6’7”, the color of warm honey, dark chocolate eyes and deep dimples, Dean commanded the attention of every woman in the place. Luckily, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it, he only had eyes for me. By the end of the night, I was sitting on his lap and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.

Fast forward fourteen years and I felt as if my luck had run out. Dean was cheating on me. I didn’t have proof, but I knew he was. A woman knows when her man was cheating. It was like women came built with a bullshit detector and mine was beeping so loudly, it was a wonder that I could even think clearly.

It was the little inconsistencies that kept me on alert. He was staying out later, claiming that he was working. Yeah, right. He started working out. I had been trying to get him to workout with me for the last two years and all of a sudden he realized that his slight beer belly wasn’t cute? I didn’t think so. Things like that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and my Spidey senses tingling. Something wasn’t right.

Kelis’s Milkshake bounced off the bathroom walls. Without looking

at the caller id, I knew it was Sparrow. I debated on whether or not to answer, then hit the talk button. “What up?”

“Nothing much boo, what are you doing?”

“Staring at this beautiful girl…oh wait it’s me in the mirror,” I chuckled.

“Ewwww…you know you’re as ugly as homemade sin.”

“Whatever Sparrow, you wished you looked this good,” I said, running a hand down my flat stomach. “What do you want?”

“Damn, I can’t call to say hello?” I waited for her to get to the real reason for the call. “Okay, I’m calling to let you know about this dude I just met.”

Rolling my eyes, I left the bathroom and flopped on my bed. Sparrow was the world’s biggest slut and she was proud of it. She actually bragged about having a stable of hoes. Those were some punk dudes if you asked me. They all knew about each other and didn’t mind. She had just gotten rid of this dude Sean and now she was on to the next one, as Jay-Z would say.

“Earth to Raven, did you hear me?”

“Yeah, I heard you. What about this guy?” I would have lectured her about her promiscuity but she wouldn’t have listened anyways. With Sparrow it was best to just let her do what she wanted. Plus, lecturing was Robin’s job.

“His name is Isaiah and he is fine!! We met at the gym. He purposely chose the treadmill next to mine even though there were many others available. We exchanged numbers and I’ll probably call him tomorrow.”

“Why not wait until he calls you?”

Sucking her teeth, she said, “Because I want to establish from the beginning that our contact will be on my terms. You can’t let these men think that you’ll follow wherever they decide to take you. You have to show that you have control over the situation or you’ll end up miserable.”

Amen, I thought. I let Sparrow finish telling me about this new guy and the rest of the hoes while trying to keep my opinions to myself. It wasn’t like I had room to talk. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. If anyone’s house was glass right about now, it was mine and I knew that eventually it would all come crashing down around me.

Chapter 12

Hours—and a few drinks—later I found myself doing something had I never done before, lurking. I opened the door to the seedy establishment and took a deep breath, immediately regretting it. The stench of weed, stale liquor and body odor assaulted my nostrils as soon as I stepped into the hole-in-the-wall club on the city’s west side. This definitely wasn’t the type of place that I usually frequented, but then again I wasn’t there for pleasure. I was looking for my husband.

Looking around the club, I found his trifling behind back in the corner surrounded by his goons and some ratchet looking whores. Dean was so busy grinning up in some chick’s face that he didn’t notice me. But his right hand man Piccolo did, and from the widening of his eyes, he knew all hell was about to break loose.

Normally, I behaved in the classy manner that my mother taught me. I never raised my voice at my husband, nor did I interfere with his business. I always tried to be calm and rational as I spoke to him in a dignified manner. But sometimes a woman had to pull her clown suit out and let her man know she wasn’t one to be trifled with.

Tonight was that night for me. That was why I tracked his ass down, drove forty minutes into the city and was standing there shooting daggers at him with my eyes at two in the morning. Lifting my head high, I stormed across the room towards Dean and his crew. Before I could even make it halfway, Piccolo grabbed my arm and pulled me away.

As soon as we were outside, I snatched my arm from him. “What the hell is your problem, P?” I hissed.

“Not here, Ray. You can’t do this here.”

“This doesn’t concern you,” I said, looking into his hazel eyes.

“That’s where you’re wrong, sexy,” he said, pausing to light a cigarette. “If you go inside there and cause a scene you’ll affect business. Dudes will start clowning D and thinking he’s a joke. When people think you’re a joke, that’s when they want to mess with you. That means I will have to start busting skulls around here. I’m not down for that.”

“Last time I checked that was your job, Piccolo. If you’re not happy with it why don’t you leave?”

His harsh laugh made me flinch. “Aww Princess, you still haven’t learned have you? You don’t get to leave this life; the money and the power are too intoxicating. Now you, baby,” he paused to let smoke out of his lungs. “You can leave any time you want,” he said softly.

Silently, we stared at each other. The orange glow from the street light hit Piccolo at an angle, making him look like a bronze statue. His hazel eyes glittered like marbles as they perused my frame. I’d be a fool to say that I wasn’t attracted to him. He was just as tall as Dean, had the same complexion and dressed in the same manner. However, it was his quiet strength and his subtle gentleness that drew me.

Unconsciously, I leaned into him and lifted my head. My lips begged to be kissed by him. I wanted to feel his strength, needed to absorb it, store it for later when I was alone with my demons. I was so close that I could feel the heat from his body and his breath against my face.

He wrapped his fingers around my neck and drew my head closer to his. A moan escaped my parted lips as he rubbed his nose along my jaw line up to my ear. “Go home Raven,” he whispered and gently pushed me away.

He leaned against the building, watching as I got into my white on white Range Rover. I started the engine and grudgingly pulled away from the curb. I was in no hurry to get home to be alone in my cold bed. I would have gone to one of my sister’s homes, but I was in no mood for them. Sparrow was probably “entertaining” one of her many men and Robin was probably counting down the days until she reached menopause.

Twenty minutes later, I reached our condo in the Loop. I could’ve made the trip back to our home in Plainfield, but I didn’t want to make the drive with so much on my mind. Piccolo and I had almost made a grave mistake. Fortunately, he had enough sense for the both of us.

Dean only asked two things of me: honesty and loyalty. Wasn’t that ironic? The two things he demanded from me were the same things he refused to give. Piccolo and I both knew the consequences for being disloyal to Dean was death. Well, at least for Piccolo. Dean wouldn’t kill me. He’d beat my ass, disfigure me, but he wouldn’t kill me.

Walking into my fifteenth floor condo, I set my Birkin bag on the marble end table. I picked up the remote and depressed a button. The wall length drapes lifted and the illuminated sites of the Loop were before me. I had been to Paris, New York, Japan and Los Angeles, but there was nothing like Chicago when it was lit up.

Stepping out of my silver Prada heels, I let my pedicured toes sink into the lush white carpet. I picked up my babies and walked into my private closet to put them away in their original box. I stripped out of my skin tight jeans and blouse and made my way to the shower.

I piled my hair on top of my head and removed my makeup as I waited for the steam to fill the bathroom. Stepping into the shower, I finally loosened the reins and allowed my emotions to run free. I was angry at Dean’s lack of respect towards me, fed up with his infidelity and sickened that I had allowed myself to be in this situation. I was bursting with a deep sense of longing. I was twenty-nine years old, married and surrounded by a loving family yet I always felt alone.

Closing my eyes, I willed the hot water to rinse away my worries and loneliness. Images of Piccolo’s handsome face flashed before my mind’s eye. Instinctively, my nipples hardened, breath caught in my chest and my pussy throbbed. Of their own accord, my hands caressed the twin peaks into painful points.

“Can I help you with that?”

A scream lodged in my throat when I quickly turned and realized that it was Dean. He stripped from his expensive suit and joined me in the shower. He didn’t bother to wait for my response since I never denied him anything that he wanted. Maybe that’s the problem, I thought to myself. All thought fled my mind when I felt his hot mouth encase my nipple. I closed my eyes and let him give me the pleasure that I needed.

Pushing my small breasts together, he pulled my nipples into his mouth, sucking until I moaned earnestly. Kneeling in front of me, he kissed my pubic bone before diving deeply into my sensual waters. Dean’s mile long tongue stroked and tasted everything from my clit to the crack of my ass. I writhed uncontrollably on his face, silently pleading that he wouldn’t stop. He continued his oral assault until he was licking cream from his chin and my body was slumped against the shower wall.

Gathering me in his arms, I wrapped my long legs around his narrow waist. Dean roughly pulled my hair back, forcing me to look him in his eyes. His eyes said everything that I needed to know. I had better not come looking for him ever again. As usual, I conceded to his demands.

Gripping my thighs tightly, he plunged deeply inside me. Groans escaped both of our lips. No matter how hard he acted, my pussy always brought Dean to his knees. This was his and his alone. I had never let another man so much as look at it and he knew it.

We worked our hips against each other, trying to wring pleasure from one another. The sounds of water hitting the marble, skin slapping skin and melodious moans created a sensual symphony that I couldn’t handle. Reaching down, I firmly cupped his balls. His hips pumped into me harder and faster signaling his orgasm. My walls clenched around him repeatedly, milking him for everything he had. We came together. My name was screamed from his lips while my heart screamed Piccolo’s.

Chapter 13

“I do believe our baby sister is in love.”

Glancing at Robin from behind my dark Ray Bans, I smirked. We had just left Sparrow’s house and were now driving down the expressway towards Chicago for some shopping. “Girl please, Sparrow doesn’t know how to love.”

“That’s not true. Everyone knows how to love, Ray. And if she doesn’t maybe Isaiah can teach her.”

I rolled my eyes at the skyscrapers outside my window. “You’re forever the romantic, Robin. Doesn’t that ever get tiring?” I asked.

Robin was always the one to believe in soul mates and true love. I didn’t believe in mess like that. I believed that you met someone, developed feelings and worked at making a life together. If it worked then great, but if it didn’t you moved on to the next person.

“No, it doesn’t. There is someone out there for everyone,” she said.

“You think this guy Isaiah is ‘the one’ for Sparrow? I don’t. I think he’s just another notch in her belt,” I grumbled, folding my arms across my chest.

“What’s wrong, Ray?” Robin asked me.

I considered lying just so she would stay out of my business, but I knew that she wouldn’t leave it alone until I came clean. “I think Dean’s cheating.”

“Aww, for real,” she said. Her sarcasm wasn’t lost on me.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, turning completely in my seat to stare at her profile.

Sighing, she hesitated briefly before answering, “Raven, Dean’s been cheating on you for years. I thought you knew, so that’s why I never mentioned it.”

“Why didn’t you say something to me?”

“Every time either Sparrow or I would mention Dean, you would cut us off. You would say, ‘I know what my husband is and what he does, so you bitches can mind your own business.’ After a while we got tired of trying to tell you. Seriously though Raven, you cannot sit here and say that you didn’t know. Chicago is big but it’s not that big. Plus, Dean doesn’t strike me as the super slick type when it comes to cheating. He’s just like Daddy, sloppy as hell.”

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I finally admitted to myself what I had known all along, Dean was cheating on me. The evidence had always been there, but I chose to ignore it. Piccolo’s words came back to me. “You can leave whenever you want.” Was that what I wanted? Did I want to leave my husband? Did I want to start over all by myself?

Turning back in my seat, I again focused on the scenery whizzing past. I didn’t have the answer to any of those questions, but I knew I needed to find them soon. I couldn’t keep going like this, pretending everything was okay while I was slowly dying inside. There was no way that I could continue to live in quiet misery with a man who didn’t truly love or respect me. Especially, since I wasn’t sure if I even loved or respected him anymore either.

Yeah, I had some shit that I needed to figure out, a lot of questions to answer as soon as I was able. The real question wasn’t what if I was going to leave my husband. It was whether or not Dean would let me go.

Chapter 14

Two months had passed since I had left Dean. We weren’t officially divorced or separated, we were just taking a break. I needed him to see that I was serious about not taking any more of his shit. I kept the house in Plainfield while he stayed in the condo in the heart of Chicago.

From what I heard, he hadn’t been using our time apart to evaluate our marriage. In fact, he was having hoes over to the condo every night. That made me angry. Here I was keeping my body clean for him and he was out with dirty bitches every night. Sparrow told me that I needed to go out and meet someone new and finally I was taking her advice.

I had received an invitation to an art gallery opening on Chicago’s north side and I planned to make my debut as a semi-single lady. I dressed in a cream colored cashmere turtleneck sweater mini-dress, a wide chocolate belt and chocolate over the knee Alexander Wang boots. Chocolate pearls draped down my chest and matching earrings adorned my ears. The last thing for me to do was the hardest. Raising my left hand, I slipped the three carat ring off my third finger and set it in my jewelry box.

Thirty minutes later, I arrived at the gallery and gave the valet my keys. I stepped inside and was greeted by the low hum of those discussing art, negotiating prices or just trying to be seen. Beautiful portraits, landscapes and abstracts hung on snow white walls and easels, illuminated by strategically placed lighting. I moved across the polished oak floor from one painting to the next, keeping a mental note of which ones I wanted while sipping champagne.

“What’s a beautiful woman like you doing here alone?” asked a deep, velvety voice behind me.

Turning around, my breath caught in my chest. “Piccolo?”

Placing my shaking hand in the bend of his elbow, he leaned down and whispered, “In the flesh, baby girl. But around these parts you can call me by my government name, Pierre.”

“I didn’t know that Piccolo wasn’t your real name,” I said as we passed by paintings and patrons.

He paused and faced me. Staring into my eyes, he placed a wayward lock behind my ear. “There are a lot of things you don’t know about me, Raven.”

“What are you doing here? Did Dean send you to check up on me?” My defenses were up. A man like him didn’t attend events like these without a purpose.

“Don’t flatter yourself, baby. Dean doesn’t even know I’m here. One of the artists is a friend of mine and I came to support. I saw you standing there looking sexy as always and decided to keep you company.”

“So, Dean has nothing to do with this?”

Piccolo’s…Pierre’s…whoever’s grip on my arm tightened as he pulled me into a secluded alcove. The dim lights created shadows across his face, making him appear even more handsome.

He gently pushed me against the wall and placed his hands on either side of my face. Leaning closer, he pressed his upper body against mine until he was the only thing in my line of sight. The fabric of his lightweight wool suit brushed against my exposed skin on my legs and caused me to shiver with excitement.

“Let’s get something straight, sweetness. Dean doesn’t control me. In fact, in the next few months that name will be a distant memory.”

“What does that…”

“I wasn’t finished.” Waiting until I was quiet, he continued, “Right now, I’m getting my shit together but what I want you to know is that you are definitely on the list.”

“Oh.” My heart was pounding furiously. I was certain he could feel it through his suit jacket.

“Since the day I met you there’s been this connection.”

I wouldn’t deny that.

“Dean doesn’t deserve you.”

I wouldn’t deny that either.

“I’m not asking you to divorce him and marry me. All I am asking Raven is…allow me to show you a world of possibilities. Let me show you a world where instead of your control being stripped from you, it will be your choice to give it freely.”

As quickly as he had appeared he was gone. The loss of his body heat and his words sent a chill through me. Piccolo had done what Dean had never been able to do, mind fuck me. There was a fine line between manipulation and mind fucking. Dean manipulated me. He used my naiveté to mold me into what he wanted me to be, give him what he needed and to achieve the success he desperately wanted. He did all of this by eradicating me of my control, self-esteem, and voice.

Piccolo…Pierre mind fucked me. As I looked back, it was obvious he had been doing that from the start. He had used his quiet strength to draw me in and leave me wanting for more. Without touching me, he made me ache with desire with his caressing gazes, soft spoken words and gentle demeanor. He encouraged me to be better, calmed me when things didn’t go my way and protected me when the shit hit the fan.

Dean tried to force his way into my head and dominate it. Pierre patiently waited for me to let him in and once I did, he didn’t try to dominate the space but instead he occupied with me. Yeah, I was mind fucked and God help me, my body wanted to be next.

Taking my phone out of my clutch, I called the only person I knew could help me. “Sparrow, can I come over?”

“Yeah, Ray, I’ll be here.”

Forty minutes later I was sitting in Sparrow’s living room, relaxing on her sofa in front of the fire. I had just told her about the events leading up to tonight, the confrontation at the club, the conversation with Robin and the encounter at the gallery.

“So…what do you think BB?” I asked her, calling her by her childhood nickname.

“Don’t call me that!” she said with exasperation. “First off, you were really sloppy out in front of the club. Dean could have caught the both of you at any time and you both would have been dead. Second, we all know that Dean’s a cheating sack of shit. I saw him around town once with some chick and told him that if he was ever out in public with any woman besides you and I heard about it, I would chop his dick off and shove it up his ass.”

“You’re always so eloquent, Sparrow.”

“Third, if I were you I’d sleep with Piccolo…Pierre. That man has had it bad for you since the day he became Dean’s business partner.”

Gazing into the fire, I whispered, “Can I tell you something Sparrow and you promise not to tell anyone?”

“Yeah, Ray.”

“Dean’s not a business executive.” Pausing, I took a deep swallow of my wine. “He’s a drug dealer.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” she stated sarcastically.

Ignoring her interruption, I told her everything I had kept to myself over the years. I told her how we had met, how I financed his first big lick, how I stashed the drugs for him and created a false company for him. I told her how Piccolo/Pierre wasn’t a business partner but Dean’s right hand man and enforcer. I told her how I wanted to leave Dean but I was afraid I’d never be free from him. By the time I was done spilling my soul and unleashing my demons Sparrow was wearing a shocked expression.

“Raven, what have you gotten yourself into?” she whispered with tears in her eyes.

“I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time. Honestly, at the time I thought that it would only be temporary. He had me so wrapped up in him and his lies that I would have done anything he asked of me.”

Handing me a Kleenex, Sparrow asked the question I had been asking myself for the last two months, “And now?”

“Now I realize that he was just using me. Now that he doesn’t need me or my money, I’m just a trophy on his arm.” I paused to gather my thoughts. “I’m ready to leave my husband,” I sobbed, crumpling into a weeping pile of heartache in my baby sister’s arms.

Chapter 15

“You look tired, baby.”

Glancing up, I smiled at Pierre. Today was our first “date” and I was nervous. After leaving Sparrow’s house two weeks ago, I officially filed for divorce from Dean. I thought he would come to me and demand to work it out, but the joke was on me. I hadn’t heard from him at all.

In fact, the only person I heard from, besides my family, was Pierre. I didn’t tell him that I was divorcing Dean, but I did accept his invitation to share a meal. Pushing the thoughts of Dean from my mind, I focused on the man in front of me.

“It’s been a long couple of weeks.”

“Yeah, I heard.”

Raising a brow, I leaned across the small table towards him. “What exactly did you hear?”

“For starters, I heard about Sparrow. How is she?”

“She’s as well as can be expected.”

Three days after my emotional breakdown in her living room, Sparrow’s house was set on fire. The police and fire department were both investigating. Personally, I believed an angry ex-hoe of hers was to blame.

“If she needs anything let me know. I also heard about you and Dean.”

Scrutinizing the snowy scenery outside the Italian eatery’s window, I whispered, “I filed for divorce. I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

“Raven, look at me, I’m not going to sit here and say I’m sorry because I’m not. I always thought you could do better than him. You deserve more than to be a kingpin’s wife.”

“Really? So, what makes you so different than Dean? I mean, you’re hands aren’t exactly squeaky clean are they?”

Leaning back, he crossed his arms across his broad chest. Hazel eyes glittered in admiration. “I like this new you, it’s about time you started speaking your mind.”

“Answer the question.”

“We have more in common than you think. You probably assumed that I was some gangster who only wanted quick money and lots of power. You also probably assumed that I never had any type of ambitions or culture. Don’t try to deny it. I saw the way you looked at me at the gallery opening.”

“I won’t deny it.” I couldn’t deny it. The first thoughts to run through my mind were what was he doing here and did Dean send him.

“I grew up in the suburbs just like you, though not as affluent. My mom is a realtor and when the market dropped she lost her job. We went from an income of ninety thousand a year to twenty-five. My dad had left us a long time ago, so it was up to me to be the man of the house. I refused to let my mom lose what she had worked so hard to obtain and a job at McDonald’s wasn’t going to make up a seventy thousand dollar deficit.”

“So, you started dealing.”

“Yep, but I wasn’t cut out for it. Dean saw me one day at the local gym beating the hell out of a punching bag. You both had just gotten married and he was looking for someone to help protect you. At the time, the streets were crazy. Smitty had just died. Dudes were fighting over every single block and he didn’t want his new wife to become a target. So, he brought me on.

It’s always been temporary in my mind. I had dreams of going to college and making my mom proud. I’m not saying that I’m not grateful for Dean, because believe me, I am. Thanks to him, my mom’s house is paid off and I put all three of my younger brothers through college. But…I’ve given that man ten years of my life and I refuse to give him anymore.”

I stared at him in amazement. His story was similar to mine, although it felt like he was leaving out an integral part. Dean had done a lot for the both of us but he had also taken a lot. Now we both wanted out and to be in control of our lives and destinies. It was as if we were both freeing ourselves from the golden shackles and marble prison that Dean had provided us. I told him as much.

“Exactly. That’s why I’ve been taking online courses for the last four years to get my degree. I plan on going into business for myself in the IT sector. There isn’t anything I can’t do with a computer.” Pausing to take a sip of his soda, he smiled at me. “So Miss Raven, what do you think?”

His smile was infectious and I couldn’t help but return it. “I think that we do, indeed, have a lot in common.”

Chapter 16

Weeks had passed since my first date with Pierre and I wanted him in my bed so bad that I could taste it. Oddly, I didn’t feel bad about wanting to sleep with him so soon after we started dating. It was as if he had been courting me for the last ten years and we were now ready to consummate the relationship. Tonight, we were celebrating the turn in our relationship and the fact that he had finally graduated.

When I pulled up in front of his house in Sycamore, I was definitely surprised that Pierre lived in a beautiful single family home in the suburbs. I had always expected him to live in an apartment in the middle of city. I guess being involved in what he was involved in, it was easier to maintain your sanity away from the action during your down time.

I was in for more surprises once I stepped inside. Polished wood floors, toasted almond walls and original artwork gave the foyer the warmth that my home lacked. As I walked further into the house, my mouth continued to hang open. Most men who lived by themselves had homes that lacked sophistication and charm. Pierre’s didn’t have that issue.

Sitting in the dining room across from Pierre, it was obvious that I was in disbelief. As part owner of an interior design company, I was used to being in beautifully decorated homes but his surpassed all that I have seen. I told him as much.

“Thank you. That means a lot coming from you,” he said, blushing.

“I truly mean it. My home is nothing compared to yours.”

“Baby, I’ve been to both your homes and it is stunning. You have Italian marble covering almost every square inch, antique furniture and beautiful artwork.”

Spearing another shrimp, I savored the succulent flavor before stating what I thought was the obvious. “True, but your home was noticeably designed with comfort and family in mind. My home was created with one purpose, to show the world how much success Dean had achieved.” Swallowing hard, I looked at him. “Just like everything else in his life.”

Without saying a word, he crossed the table and lifted me out of my dining chair. He held my hand, drawing circles on my palm, as he led me to the sunken living room. Sitting down on the overstuffed sofa, he placed me in his lap so that I was straddling him, my leather skirt rising. I expected him to run his hands up my bare thighs, to make my blood boil with lust, to take my mouth in a heated kiss. I expected everything and anything but what he gave me.

“Let it out Raven.” The extreme tenderness in his voice, the gentle strokes on my back, and the feeling of contentment was all too much for me.

On a shaky sigh, I released all my anguish, insecurities and shame on to his sturdy chest. Heart wrenching sobs racked my body, but Pierre kept stroking me, holding me and encouraging me to let it out. And so I did. I cried for the years wasted on a marriage that was doomed from the beginning. I cried for the pain that I helped bring on myself by marrying the wrong man. I cried until I released ten years’ worth of pain from my heart. As my cries slowed to sniffles, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I looked up at Pierre and was rewarded with a smile that illuminated the dark corners of my damaged soul.

I reached up and traced the outline of his full lips with trembling fingers. A strangled moan poured from my throat when my finger disappeared in his hot mouth. I had never thought of my fingers as an erogenous zone and I had never seen anything as erotic as my long, slender digit encased between his full lips, being bathed by his tongue. Until now, until Pierre. We stared at each other while he continued to suckle me.

Releasing me, he buried his face in my chest, whispering, “Take what you want, Raven. Tonight is your night to take back your control.”

I gently pushed his head back until he was resting against the back of the couch. Confidently, I rose up from his lap and took off my clothes. Silk and leather fluttered to the carpeted floor leaving me clad in a sheer purple bra and panty set, black stockings, garters and stilettos.

Pierre’s breathing changed, coming in short and shallow gasps. A shiver passed through him so quickly that if I had not been watching him intently I would have missed it. Knowing that I could make this powerful man tremble boosted my self-esteem and made me aware of my sensual potency. Turning on my heel, I heard his sharp intake of breath as I presented him with my perfectly heart shaped ass.

Without sparing him a glance, I made my way to his bedroom and sat on his mahogany dresser, crossing my long legs. Browns, reds and gold created a masculine environment which suited the situation. I wanted to be the only feminine element in his space tonight.

Pierre entered the room and stood before me, head bent and hands in his pockets. Light perspiration mingled with my tears, causing his shirt to cling to his muscular body. His submissive stance triggered a surge of dominance to flow from my pounding heart to my quaking pussy. The feeling was intoxicating, hypnotizing, and addicting.

“Look at me,” I whispered.

Lust filled hazel eyes collided with supremacy filled light brown ones.

“Undress.”

Without hesitation, he began unbuttoning his shirt. Glimpses of honeyed skin over granite like muscles came into view. Never taking his eyes from me, his hands moved to his belt buckle. My heavy breathing and the clanking of his belt followed by the rasp of his zipper were the only audible sounds in the room. The moment his erection was freed from its cotton restraints, my heart thudded in my chest and my mouth felt as dry as the desert.

Having a naked Pierre standing in front of me caused my brain to overheat and my new found confidence to plummet. Biting my lip, I was hit with a moment of indecision. What did a woman do when a beautiful man was waiting naked in front of her?

“Do whatever you want, sweetness,” he said as if he read my mind.

“Lay on the bed.”

An idea materialized out of nowhere. I disappeared momentarily into his closet before returning to stand next to his California king bed. Pierre’s eyes flickered to the items in my hand and a slow, appreciative smile played on his lips.

I straddled his middle, cradling his dick between my thighs, and tied each hand and foot to the bed post with four silk ties before blindfolding him with another. Only after he was securely bound and his vision blocked did I finally remove the rest of my clothing.

Kneeling over his calves, I moaned as his hot skin touched mine. Settling between his legs, I lightly ran my nails up and down his inner thighs causing him to flinch. Cool air rushed from my pursed lips as I blew lightly. Lust induced sweat dripped from my forehead, evaporating as soon as it touched his fevered body.

Flicking my tongue out, I trailed it from his knee to pelvis, relishing the flavor that was uniquely Pierre. I licked, sucked and bit my way up past his washboard abs, hair dusted chest and broad shoulders before arriving at his full lips.

Those lips! Those lips had brought me so much pleasure over the last couple of weeks but I had saved one for tonight. Placing each leg on either side of his head I knelt over his face. Pierre pulled on the ties as the heat from my overly aroused pussy fanned his face, the scent driving him insane. I waited patiently until he settled down. Slowly, I lowered myself inch by inch towards his face. My slick lips met his full ones and a groan of satisfaction bubbled from his throat into the walls of my pussy.

Gripping the headboard tightly, I rotated my hips in time with the strokes of his tongue. It flowed effortlessly from the base of my pussy to the top, diving deep, stroking my g-spot and suckling my clit hungrily. Lightning bolts of erotic pleasure shot up from the soles of my feet to the top of my head before settling deep in my sugar walls.

Animalistic howls teemed from my raspy throat as I came but I refused to let him taste my creamy goodness. Quickly, I removed myself from his face and slipped his beautifully curved dick into my awaiting mouth.

He tasted of heaven, decadence, strength, vulnerability, love and home. I became drunk from the taste and the feel. I felt every buck of his hips, every pulse of his veins and every pound of his heart in my soul. Tearing my swollen lips from Pierre’s swollen member I prepared myself for the ride of my life. Dean never let me ride. He always had to be in control. Pushing Dean and his negativity from my mind, I ran the head of Pierre’s dick against my swollen folds.

Shudders of anticipation ran through the both of us. As much as I enjoyed dominating him, I knew I had to get Pierre inside me now or I would incinerate. Rising above him, I slowly encased him in my tight body. Pierre screamed once he was fully embedded in me.

“Mmm, did you say something?” I asked cockily while I bounced on top of him. I was truly feeling myself.

“It’s so good. Baby, untie me please. I need to touch you.”

I refused to answer him. This was my night and I was going to do what I damned well pleased. Deciding to grant him a miniscule amount of mercy, I leaned over and took the tie off of his eyes.

Staring back at me were eyes filled with so much lust, desire and longing that I almost came on the spot. Up and down I rode, clenching my walls on the upstroke and relaxing on the downward, all the while maintaining eye contact.

That feeling was coming over me. I could feel the fire and ice rushing through my veins and my heart was racing to explosion. Pierre swelled inside me, almost to bursting. His face twisted in pleasurable pain. His hips bucked harder. My hips corkscrewed faster. Sweat covered his face. Sweat trickled down between my breasts. His breaths came in pants. My breaths came in gasps. My name flew from his lips and his from mine. Cum spurted from his dick into my waiting core. I squirted my passion for him, soaking the bed.

Limply, I freed his hands and feet from their bounds before collapsing on his chest. Still connected, he trailed his fingers over my spine until I fell asleep. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning and looked directly at the nightstand that I realized that I had forgotten the condom.

Chapter 17

“Oh, so you’re on that Rihanna shit now?”

“Shut up Sparrow!” I laughed.

Two weeks after my romp with Pierre, my sisters and I had gathered at Sparrow’s home to help her get settled back into her house. The restoration company had finally gotten the house back into a livable condition just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, the arsonist was still at large.

“I’m saying though, you had that man tied to the bed. It was like a verse out of her song S&M.”

“Real funny.” I glanced at Robin and waited for her to join in the conversation but she continued to go through a box of books as if it held all of life’s secrets. Glancing at Sparrow, I silently mouthed, “What’s wrong with her?” She shrugged.

“Um, Robin, how’s it going over there?” asked Sparrow.

“Fine,” she replied, still not looking at us.

Stopping in front of Robin, I knelt down to her level. It was then that I noticed the dark smudges under her eyes, unkempt nails, faded and stained clothing and barely combed hair. Robin, always the professional, was put together at all times. Even if she was going to the grocery store she made sure that she looked like she had just stepped off the cover of Black Enterprise.

“What’s wrong Robin?”

“At what point in your life do you finally start playing by your own rules?”

Sparrow, of course, was the first to answer, “As soon as you start breathing. Shit, I’ve always played by my own rules.”

“That’s why we’re here Sparrow,” I said, waving my hand around the room. “Because you played by your own rules without any thought to other’s feelings. Maybe if you were more like me…”

“Bitch, please.”

“And actually considered the feelings of others before doing what you wanted, then you wouldn’t have some psycho running around town burning your house down. No, what Robin needs to do is live her own life but be respectful of others.”

“So, I guess you were being respectful of Dean, your husband, when you were sleeping with his best friend.”

“Fuck you, Sparrow!!”

“HEY!” screamed Robin. “This was about me, but since you want to make it about you let me tell you both what I think. Sparrow, you are in no position to tell anybody anything right now. You have somebody stalking you, trying to physically harm you and you have yet to tell your boyfriend about your past.

Now, Raven. You are a married woman. Yes, you filed for divorce but you are still married. Out of all the men in the world you could be fucking, you chose your soon-to-be ex-husband’s best friend and business partner. That’s foul as hell. Both of y’all are in no position to give anybody advice, that’s why I didn’t want to ask you. So, can we please get back to doing what we came here to do so I can go home?”

Silently, we all got back to the tasks at hand. My mind was racing a mile a minute. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know that my relationship with Pierre was foul, but it was different to hear it from Robin’s lips.

Maybe, subconsciously I was trying to hurt Dean but deep in my heart I didn’t think so. I was developing deep feelings for Pierre. If my sisters thought things were bad now, I could just imagine how they’d react if I told them that I thought I was pregnant.

Chapter 18

If there was one place I hated most in the world it was the hospital. The smell, the food, the décor, I hated it all. It’s funny how you didn’t notice those types of things when an emergency hits. As I raced down the corridors of the hospital towards the nurse’s station, it was as if all five senses had suddenly left me.

“My name is Raven Bird, my boyfriend was admitted.”

Before the nurse could ask me any questions or give me any information, I heard my name. I turned around and saw Pierre’s mother and brothers waiting in a small room. “What happened?”

His mother tried to speak but only sobs came out, not a good sign.

Pierre’s brother, Samuel, finally was able to find his voice, “It was a freak accident. He was driving down the street when a semi rear-ended him. They were at a red light and the semi just decided not to stop.”

A chill ran up my spine but I shook it off. I mindlessly sat in the chair nearest me while Samuel continued to speak. I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. “Huh? I’m sorry.”

“P’s fine. I swear an angel was watching him. He only broke his collar bone. A piece of debris got lodged in his arm, so they took him into surgery. We can all go back to see him in a few.”

We sat in silence and waited to be notified by the doctor on Pierre’s condition. We all knew that it would be awhile. It was just after the holidays and people were lined up in the hospital. Everyone was trying to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions and most of them ended up injuring themselves in the process.

A few hours passed before the doctor appeared. “Raven Bird, Mr. Lester would like to see you, alone.”

I hugged Ms. Lester and went to see my man. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was only hooked up to a few machines and that he was awake. His face was bruised from where it collided with the steering wheel. His neck was covered in heavy bandages along with his arm. All in all, he was still gorgeous.

Waiting for the doctor to leave, he motioned for me to come closer. “Raven, I need you to do something for me.”

Taking his hand in mine, I kissed his knuckles. “Anything.”

“I need you to go to the house. There’s a safe in my room with one hundred thousand dollars in it. I need you to get my mom and brothers on the next flight to Georgia. I have a house down there. The keys are in the safe. The combination is your birthday. Then I want you to go to your parents’ house and stay there until I tell you. Okay?”

“Okay, but why? It was a freak accident. Shit like this happens all the time.”

“Naw Raven, there wasn’t anything accidental about this shit here.” Pausing, he squeezed my hand. “Dean is trying to kill me.”

I returned to my home in Plainfield well after two in the morning. I showered and slipped between the sheets on my bed.

It had taken forever to get Pierre’s family to agree to head down to Georgia without giving them any specifics. It took even longer to get them packed and on the airplane.

I called my sisters and let them know what was going on. Sparrow was a wreck, but with her own issues she couldn’t be of any assistance. Robin offered to let me stay with her, but with her mood swings I knew I couldn’t handle that shit. So, I told my parents that my house was being fumigated and I needed to stay with them for a while. I couldn’t wait for my man to give me the word to come back to him because staying with my parents was going to send me to the nut house for sure. Until then, all I could do was dream of having Pierre with me, holding me as I fell fast asleep.

Hours later, sunlight radiated through the curtains covering my bedroom windows. I yawned deeply and I stretched my arms over my head. The silk sheets slipped beneath my breasts. I wished that Pierre was there to give me some of that morning loving that I had grown accustomed to.

His scent was still embedded in my sheets and that drove my desire to a higher level. I thought about finding him and riding him into the sunset but changed my mind. I would do what he asked and lay low until he told me that it was okay to come out.

Opening my eyes, all I saw was the darkness of the barrel of a .38 Special aimed between my eyes.

“Good morning Raven, Daddy’s home.”

DEAN!

Chapter 19

ROBIN

“So, Mary’s daughter, Valerie, just got married.”

Oh God, here it comes, I thought to myself.

“Mary couldn’t stop talking about the wedding. I wish I could plan a wedding. When are you going to finally settle down, Robin?”

There it is. My mother, Tianna “T” Bird, was constantly on my case about getting married. It was worse than ever since my younger sisters were now in relationships.

My sister, Raven, had been married to her husband, Dean, for ten years. My younger sister, Sparrow, was now in a legitimate relationship with her boyfriend, Isaiah, and it looked promising. I was the only one of my sisters that was alone.

“Mama, I don’t know when I’m going to get married. I guess when the right man comes along I’ll know.”

Taking a sip of her tea, my mother leaned back into the wicker chair while the August sun shined on her jet black hair. “It’s not like you’re unattractive. You have a nice shape, good hair, and a gorgeous face. You are part owner of one of the most successful interior design companies in the state. I don’t understand how you don’t even have a boyfriend and your sisters do.”

Drowning out my mother’s tirade, I thought about my sisters. Sparrow was my youngest sister and a total knockout. She was 5’10” and had a caramel complexion, an hourglass shape, brownish gold hair, full lips, and brown eyes. At 27, she had finally found a man that she loved. Instead of naming her Sparrow, my parents should have named her Swallow. She’d had more men between both sets of lips than I cared to count.

My sister Raven, my parents should have named her Cuckoo because only a dummy would get themselves into the mess that she had. Raven was 29 and your typical supermodel type, tall and willowy with small breasts and small hips. She also lacked common sense. As much as she tried to deny it, we all knew that her husband, Dean, was a drug dealer.

Despite one being a whore and the other a dumbass, both of my sisters had managed to do what I could not, capture the love a man. Yeah, men wanted to sleep with me but none wanted to be with me. It was hard to know that I lacked something especially when everyone around me had it. Even my mother was in a relationship, though it wasn’t a happy one.

Tianna “T” Bird had been married to my father, Jay Bird, for over thirty years. She had stood by his side while he went to school, built his practice, and continuously cheated on her. My mother was one of those traditional women who didn’t believe in divorcing a man for being a man. As she would say, “When a woman loves…” I truly hoped to love someone as much as my mother loved my father, though I wouldn’t condone the infidelity.

Snapping out of my reverie, I brushed my dark brown hair out of my eyes. “Mom, I know you want to plan my wedding and I would love for you to do it. However, until I find a man to marry there is nothing I can do.”

“Don’t worry, baby,” she said with a smile. “I’ll help you find someone.”

Sighing with resignation, I knew that my mom was going to set me up with yet another one of her friend’s sons, grandsons, or employees. As much as I loathed being set up on a blind date, I would do it anyway. My mother wanted grandchildren and since Dean and Raven didn’t want kids and Sparrow was too busy, I would have to give them to her. As usual, I would try not to disappoint.

Chapter 20

Two weeks later, I was waiting in a dimly lit restaurant in Chicago for my mom’s friend’s son, Matthew, to show up. This was the third blind date that she had set me up on and hopefully it would be the last. The first two did not go well at all.

The first guy, Troy, was overly arrogant and wanted to get me into his bed before the entrees had hit the table. His hands tried to grope my thick thighs for the fifth time before I finally had enough and left, but not before throwing my wine in his lap to cool him off.

The second guy, Lovell, had too much drama going on. Things had started off fine. We were getting along and the conversation was flowing but as we got ready to order dessert, his ex showed up.

That wouldn’t have been so bad if his ex wasn’t a 6’2” ex-con named Tyrell. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that Lovell was gay. I sat in shock watching Tyrell and Lovell argue. The finger snapping, neck rolling, and teeth sucking were too much for me to handle. So, I left, but not before Tyrell threw red wine on my favorite white pantsuit.

Checking my watch, I realized that Matthew was fifteen minutes late. That was definitely not a good sign. I didn’t want my future husband to be late without even a courtesy call or text. I mentally reviewed my appearance to make sure that I made a good first impression. I wore a smart black pantsuit that gave a tempting yet classy peek of my abundant cleavage and slightly hugged my hips and ample ass. Sensible shoes added two inches to my 5’6” frame. Light make up accentuated my high cheekbones and wide brown eyes.

“You must be Robin.”

My head snapped up at the sound of the deep voice above me. I glanced up and was immediately disappointed. “Matthew?”

“In the flesh, beautiful,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m late. Just give me one second to use the restroom. I’ll be right back.”

As he walked away, I knew that this would not go anywhere. Matthew was shorter than me without my heels. His voice was a cross between baritone and nasal. His butter toned skin was blotchy and scarred from acne. His goatee was patchy and he was balding. If I had to have guessed I would have thought he was in his forties. The icing on the cake was his smile. His teeth were the exact shade of his skin. I had to make an exit before I got stuck sitting here eating dinner with this man.

Coming back to the table, Matthew sat back in his seat and smiled that yellow smile at me. “So, your mom told me a lot about you.”

“All good, I hope,” I said while trying to formulate a plan to leave without hurting his feelings.

“Most definitely. She told me that you were 32 and that you need to settle down. I’m 35 and I’m ready to settle down, too. I figure we can help each other out.”

Oh my God, I thought to myself. “I’m sorry, I’m not following.”

“Basically, you need a husband and I need a wife. I’m choosing you. Now, you don’t have to worry about being alone and childless. What would you like to eat?” he asked, picking up the menu as if everything was settled between us and I could go buy a wedding gown.

Shock and anger were the only emotions I felt. Leaning close to him, I hissed, “Let’s get something straight. Number one, I am not desperate for a man…”

“That’s not what I heard,” he interrupted.

“Number two, even if I was desperate, I would not choose you.”

Quickly, I gathered my things and stood to leave.

“Robin, there’s no reason to be indignant. Beggars can’t be choosers. You’re 32 and single with no prospects. I’m sure I’m not your dream man, but I’m the only man willing to give you what you want…a family. Do a favor for me tonight, okay? While you’re in bed tonight, alone as usual, listen hard. I’m sure you’ll be able to hear the ticking of your biological clock.”

Storming out of the restaurant, I practically ran to my car. That man had a lot of nerve acting like he was my last resort.

Yeah, I hadn’t been in a relationship in four years and hadn’t had sex in three but it wasn’t as if I couldn’t keep a man. Sure, my standards were a little high and the last few dates that I had been on ended in disaster, but that didn’t mean I would end up alone. It was just taking me a little longer to find my soul mate. As long as I held out on the hope that my Mr. Right was out there, then I would be fine.

I pulled up to my three story house in Naperville and went straight into my master bathroom. The sound of water hitting travertine and the air conditioner were the only sounds in the entire house. Loneliness cloaked me as I stripped from my clothing and let the hot water from the shower spray over me.

Matthew’s comments continued to play in my head like a broken record and tears filled my eyes. As much as I pretended to be strong and accepting of my solitude, deep down I was filled to the rafters with isolation. It hurt so bad that at times I couldn’t even breathe.

Refusing to the let the tears clogging my throat to fall, I exited the shower and slipped into my favorite flannel pajamas before entering my bedroom. My bedroom was definitely my place of solace. White carpeting and golden oak furniture gave the room a serene feel. The queen sized canopy bed was covered with a white bedspread and fluffy pillows while gold and white cloths draped from the canopy top. I slipped in between the covers and closed my eyes, the ticking of my biological clock and the cloak of loneliness lulling me to sleep.

Chapter 21

“I know it’s been a few weeks, but I still can’t believe Sparrow’s house was set on fire.”

Two weeks after my date from hell with Matthew, Sparrow’s house was set on fire while she and her boyfriend, Isaiah, were inside. Raven and I were on the phone going over the plans for Thanksgiving dinner which was in few weeks. As usual, it would be held at my parent’s house in Park Ridge. This, of course, meant that one of my daddy’s mistresses would come and cause a scene. I had grown so accustomed to these frequent visits from his whores that I was now numb to it.

“Yeah, but she brought it on herself,” Raven said, breaking into my thoughts.

“That’s not fair. Yeah, Sparrow has lived an uninhibited lifestyle but no one deserves to have their home set on fire, especially with them inside.”

“Sparrow is a heartless bitch. She doesn’t care about anybody but herself. Now, that the proverbial shit has hit the fan, she has yet to tell Isaiah about her stable of hoes,” Raven said, disgust lining each word.

“Yeah, well, hopefully she’ll come clean soon because Isaiah is eventually going to find out, particularly if one of those hoes was the one that set the fire.”

“On another note, I’ve left Dean and started dating Piccolo.”

“Let me get this straight, Ray. You’ve left your husband of ten years and have started dating his best friend and business partner? Have you lost your damn mind?”

“Look, I don’t need you to mother me right now. I’ve struggled with this decision enough. Dean and I have been separated for months and I filed for divorce a couple of weeks ago. Piccolo—whose name is actually Pierre—and I started dating officially a couple of days ago. All I want is your support not your judgment.”

Swallowing my unsolicited advice, I tried to find some comforting words for my sister. “I support you, Ray. You know that, but I’m going to tell you like I told Sparrow, be careful.”

As I hung up with Raven, jealous anger swarmed in the pit of my stomach. I loved my sisters but this was too much. Each of them behaved in ways that would make my mother have a heart attack yet they both found men that loved them despite all of that.

Sparrow’s house was almost burnt to the ground, probably by one of her ex-hoes, yet instead of taking stock, she was playing house with Isaiah.

Raven was married for ten years to an asshole and had finally filed for divorce but instead of figuring out her life she started dating his best friend—who had always been in love with her—days after filling out the paperwork.

Yet here I was a single, sophisticated, educated, and beautiful woman who had always done the right thing. I had never once been in trouble or acted out of turn and I couldn’t find a decent man to save my life. It wasn’t fair.

Leaping off my sofa, I raced to my bedroom closet. I was going out. I’d be damned if I spent another Friday night in my cold bed. Rows and rows of pantsuits, skirt suits, and Sunday dresses hung on either side of my walk-in closet. How did I let it get this bad? No wonder I’m still single. No man wants to take an accountant to his bed, I thought to myself.

I sat on the bed wondering if I could still find a mall open that late at night when I remembered a gift that Sparrow had given me a few years back. There in the back of my closet, still with its original tags, was a gold lace mini dress and four inch red stiletto heels. Before I had a chance to hesitate, I started the shower and turned on WGCI to find out where the party was at. I bathed and moisturized before turning my attention to my appearance.

I fashioned my hair in a faux-hawk, the style accentuating the attractive angles in my face. Dark liner and mascara made my eyes pop while smoky shadow gave me a mysterious allure. Red nail polish on my fingers and toes and clear lip gloss on my full lips finished the look.

I put the dress on and loved the way the bodice accentuated my generous breasts and flat stomach, while the lace skirt gave tantalizing peeks of my full hips. A gold and red choker was the only jewelry on my body. Slipping into the heels and cashmere jacket, I hopped in my Benz and made my way to Chicago.

Thirty minutes later, I was in Aphrodisiac. The boom of the bass vibrated in my chest, the strobe lights dazed my mind, and the heat from dancing bodies caused a light sheen of perspiration to form on my very visible skin. I headed straight for the bar to get some much needed liquid courage. I had never been a club person and every time I did go, I had at least three other people with me.

“Whatcha drinkin’, sexy?” the cute bartender asked.

“I’ll have a pink panty please.”

“No problem.”

I gazed around the club while waiting for my drink. Aphrodisiac was full of people of all ages and races. A large dance floor was in the middle of the space and the DJ booth was on a stage. Tables and couches lined the walls and empty spaces around the dance floor. Scantily clad women danced in suspended cages to the latest hits. The VIP area was on the second floor and the one way glass blocked the important people from view while security kept the unwanted from entering the space.

“Here you go, baby.” I turned to pay the bartender when he stopped me. “It’s already taken care of by that man right there.” I turned in the direction he was pointing and a smile split my face.

Mystery man was tall, dark, and handsome. He stood about 6’0” and had a complexion that reminded me of milk chocolate. His expressive eyes, succulent lips, and bright smile intrigued me, his muscular frame enticed me, and his obvious interest flattered me. I waved to him and watched as he maneuvered his way through the crowd towards me.

When he stopped right in front of me I raised my voice over the loud music, “Thanks for the drink.”

“You’re very welcome. I’m Princeton Tillers,” he said. His deep voice had more bass than the Kanye West song blasting through the speakers instantly making me wet.

“Robin Bird.”

“Well, Ms. Bird, would you like to dance…after you finish your drink, of course.”

Smiling, I agreed. I quickly swallowed the frothy pink drink, relishing the fire that exploded in my chest. My inhibitions effectively squashed, I allowed Princeton to lead me to the dance floor. I was a little apprehensive since I didn’t dance much and rarely in public but the moment he wrapped his arms around my small waist I let the music take over.

I dipped my hips, wound my ass, and shook my breasts against him. I could feel his erection poking me in my lower back. Deciding to be bold, I wrapped my arms around his neck, stood on my tipping toes, and made my ass clap with his dick in between the cheeks. His sharp intake of breath and deep moan was my reward.

For the rest of the night we danced, drank, and talked. I learned that he was prominent lawyer and was out celebrating a big win. He lived in Buffalo Grove, a very prominent Chicago suburb, and had a house he barely spent any time in due to his work. As the night wore down and the club began to close, we exchanged numbers.

“I know meeting someone in the club doesn’t usually lead to something but I feel a connection with you, Robin. Can we see each other tomorrow?”

I answered without hesitation, “Definitely.”

As I rode back to my house in the suburbs, I felt as if my life had finally taken a turn for the better.

Chapter 22

Thanksgiving passed with its usual fanfare of screaming, crying, mistresses, and empty threats. My sisters and I had a routine of not seeing or speaking to anyone for a few days after big family occasions. We needed that time to get our heads together. I never understood how my mother stayed with my father. The penetrating ring of the phone snapped me out of my thoughts.

Looking at the caller id, I hesitated for a second before answering, “Hello, Princeton.”

“Hey, Robin. How was your Thanksgiving?”

“It was great.” Yeah, right. “How was yours?

“It was fine. Look, I know this is short notice but I was wondering if I could come over. I just want to see you Robin.”

I wanted to say no but for some reason I couldn’t. I knew that if he came over we would be sleeping together. A man didn’t come to a woman’s house after 8pm to play Scrabble and bake cookies. He came over to play hide the nightstick and eat the cookie! The thought of us sleeping together didn’t scare me like I thought it would. I wanted him badly.

We had known each other for a few weeks and he was definitely the closest thing to my dream guy. Princeton was kind, considerate, honest, sexy, and trustworthy. He made me laugh, he made me think, and most importantly he made me feel. I knew I was falling in love with him and it felt great. So, I told him he could come over and I prepared for our first night together.

An hour later, Princeton was sitting on the grey loveseat in my living room. A light snow was falling outside the bay windows and a fire was roaring in the electric fireplace. It was romantic as romantic could get. “How do you feel about children?”

Pulling me closer, he kissed my temple. “I love kids but I’m not sure I’m ready to have any. However, if I were to get a woman pregnant I would definitely stay with her.”

That made me smile. Princeton was my type of man. I could see a future with him. Children with his deep skin tone and my bright smile and a home filled with love and happiness. Turning towards him, I kissed his lips. “Let’s go upstairs.”

Clothing fluttered to the lush carpet as soon as we entered the bedroom. Tender kisses and light nips were exchanged as we tumbled onto the bed. His large hands cupped and squeezed my breasts, moans escaped my lips. Princeton’s hot mouth made a path between my breasts down to my navel and back up before bathing my nipples with his tongue.

Writhing wildly against him, I placed my hands on his shoulders and urged him to go lower. He followed my silent instructions and buried his face in between my quivering thighs. It was heaven. It was hell. It was pleasure. It was torment. It was everything and more, wrapped in a single tongue stroke. Ecstasy and frustration coiled through my body as his fingers joined his mouth. He had barely scratched my sexual itch and I was primed and ready for more. Cream and honey flowed from me in sensual waves of ecstasy. His name bubbled from both sets of lips and I knew that I would love him forever.

Tearing his mouth from me, Princeton reached for a condom and sheathed himself. I spread my legs wider and he placed himself on top of me. Groans of satisfaction poured from both of our throats as he entered my tight body. It felt so good, so right that tears fell from my eyes. In and out, up and down, side to side, we moved together. My heart thundered in my chest, blood pounded in my ears, and sweat formed between our pressed bodies.

“It’s so good, Robin. So…good,” he whispered against my cheek.

“Mmmm,” I moaned, as my hips matched his every stroke.

Words escaped me as climax approached. I felt my body seize up and then release. Screams tore from my throat and my legs clamped around his waist. Hot lava squirted from my swollen pussy, instantly soaking the both of us and the bed. I felt Princeton’s body tense and relax repeatedly before my name flew from his lips. He eased from my still quaking body and discarded the condom before snuggling closer to me. I fell asleep wrapped in his arms.

The early sun’s rays woke me up the next morning and I hopped out of bed. I didn’t want Princeton to see that I looked like hell in the morning. After brushing my teeth, combing my hair, and showering I put on a black lace teddy and went downstairs to cook breakfast.

As I started the bacon and whipped up some eggs, a flashing light caught my eye. Princeton’s cell phone was sitting on the table where he had left it last night, the flashing indicating he had a missed call. I knew I shouldn’t go through his phone. My mama always said if you went looking for dirt you’d find it. But she was also the same woman who put up with a cheating husband for over three decades. I paused for only a second before picking up the phone. Ten missed calls from a woman named Anita. I didn’t know who this woman was and I didn’t care, she wasn’t going to steal my man.

Mindlessly, I ran up the stairs and to the bedroom. Princeton was still sound asleep. I picked up the used condom out the trashcan and went into the bathroom. Conflicting thoughts bombarded my head.

On one hand, I knew trapping a man into being with me was wrong. On the other hand, Princeton’s comment about staying with the woman who gave him a child was still ringing in my head along with my inner voice pushing me to do it. Hurriedly, I inseminated myself, washed my hands, and went into the bedroom.

“Good morning, Princeton. Would you like some breakfast,” I asked, kissing him full on the lips. As he deepened the kiss, I knew that I had made the right decision. We were going to be so happy together.

“Congratulations Ms. Bird. You are going to be a mommy.”

“Thank you so much Dr. Franklin.” Excitement coursed through my veins and I couldn’t wait to share the news with Princeton. I walked out of the doctor’s office with lightness in my chest and life in my tummy. I had spent the last week wondering if I had conceived and almost went crazy with nervousness. I texted him and he agreed to meet me at my home for dinner around nine.

After dinner, a movie, and a round of love making, I was snuggled against Princeton’s bare chest with his arms wrapped around me. “I have a surprise for you,” I whispered, my breath fanning his pebbled nipples.

His hand stopped mid-stroke on my back. “What is it?”

Leaning up, I looked down at his beautiful face. This was the moment that I had been waiting for since I was twenty-five. Seven years later, it was finally that time. Smiling, I cupped his chin. “I’m pregnant,” I said excitedly.

Moments of silence passed and I watched a change in him. It was like l was looking at a stranger, as if we had just met for the first time. His lips thinned, jaw tightened, muscles bunched, and his eyes darkened. “What the fuck did you say?”

Rearing back, I tried to maintain my composure. “I said I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a daddy.”

Pushing me off of him, he stood on the side of the bed. Placing his hands on his narrow hips, he glared at me. “I’m already a daddy.” Ignoring my gasp, he continued breaking my heart. “In fact, I’ve been a daddy three times over for the last ten years.”

“But…you said you would be with the woman who had your child.”

“I did and I am. Look, I’m married and have been for twelve years. I’m not trying to disrupt my family life because you somehow got pregnant. Is that baby even mine?” he asked, turning away from me as if the sight of me was too much for him to stomach.

“Yes, it’s yours!! How could you not tell me that you were married? I thought we were building something. I love you and I want to raise this baby with you.” Tears of misery cascaded down my cheeks.

“Well, I don’t know what to fucking tell you. I didn’t sign up for this shit. I already have a family and I don’t want to build another one with you. I was just looking to have a good time for the holiday season, not a baby’s mama.” Pulling up his pants, he finally looked at me. “You need to take care of this shit and take care of it soon.”

“What do you mean?” I sobbed.

He opened his wallet and pulled out a stack of bills before throwing them at me. “Figure it out.”

The slamming of my front door signaled the end of our relationship. I crumbled into a mess of sobs and heart wrenching groans. It felt as if my world had come crashing down on me. I thought that I had met the man I was eventually going to marry and I had been wrong. I thought that if I got pregnant he would stay with me and, again, I had been wrong. I pulled myself off the bed and gathered the money.

As each hundred dollar bill touched my palm, I got angrier and angrier. Shame, betrayal, and fury swarmed in my belly beside my unborn child. I turned towards the fireplace and started it. Throwing each bill into the roaring fire, conflicting thoughts clouded my brain. The main questions I had to answer were should I keep the baby and if I did how would I take care of it by myself?

“Um, Robin, how’s it going over there?”

Inwardly, I sighed. It had been a week since I had talked to Princeton and I was getting angrier as each hour passed. Though I had a lot on my mind, to avoid suspicion from my nosey sisters, I decided to help Sparrow move back into her house. The restoration company was able to get her house in a livable condition before Christmas.

Focusing on the box of books in front of me, I answered Sparrow’s question, “Fine.”

I had hoped that they would get the hint but Raven knelt down in front of me with concern lurking in her eyes. “What’s wrong, Robin?”

Since it was clear that they wouldn’t leave me alone, I decided to ask a question that I desperately need an answer to. “At what point in your life do you finally start playing by your own rules?”

Sparrow, of course, was the first to answer, “As soon as you start breathing. I’ve always played by my own rules.”

That set Raven off. “That’s why we’re here Sparrow because you played by your own rules without any thought to other’s feelings. Maybe if you were more like me…”

“Bitch, please,” Sparrow spat while pacing around the room.

“And actually considered the feelings of others before doing what you wanted then you wouldn’t have some psycho running around town burning your shit down. No, what Robin needs to do is live her own life but be respectful of others.”

“So, I guess you were being respectful of Dean, your husband, when you were sleeping his best friend.”

“Fuck you, Sparrow!!”

“HEY!” I screamed. “This was about me but since you want to make it about you let me tell you both what I think. Sparrow, you are in no position to tell anybody anything right now. You have somebody stalking you, trying to physically harm you, and you have yet to tell your boyfriend about your past.

Now, you, Raven, are a married woman. Yes, you filed for divorce but you are still married. Out of all the men in the world you could be sleeping with you chose your soon-to-be ex-husband’s best friend and business partner. That’s foul. Both of y’all are in no position to give anybody advice, that’s why I didn’t want to ask you. So, can we please get back to doing what we came here to do so can I go home?”

Silently, we all went back to our tasks. I couldn’t believe those two. Every time I needed advice the conversation would eventually be turned to them and their problems. I wished for once that they could have been of some assistance to me. My life was falling apart and there was no one I could lean on. I was pregnant by a married man, alone, and scared. One thing I did know, was that I was tired of feeling helpless. It was time for to take a more proactive stance and Princeton was going to be on the receiving end.

Hours later, I found all the information that I could on Princeton Tillers. It wasn’t hard to do since he was an egotistical son of a bitch who felt the need to brag about his accomplishments and personal life on every social network known to man. Now, I was sitting in my car outside the house in Buffalo Grove that he shared with his family.

Through the open window, I could see him, his wife, Anita, who was a Monique clone, his two sons, and his daughter gathered around the dinner table. Jealous anger overflowed in my stomach until I was forced to vomit outside the car. Tears flowed from my eyes. It wasn’t fair. Why should they be able to eat dinner as a family while my child and I were banished to the outside?

Deciding enough was enough, I texted Princeton. We need to talk.

Seconds later my phone vibrated against my palm: All we need to talk about is the time I should pick you up from your abortion.

My fingers flying across the keys, I texted. No, we need to talk about baby names and child support. From my car, I watched his entire body tense up.

Anger wafted from him in waves. Bitch, you better get the fucking abortion.

A vengeful joy replaced the anger. It was as if something had snapped inside me. I wanted him to pay for all the pain that he had caused me and the future pain he would cause my child. Maybe you would prefer if I ring your doorbell since I am right outside. I watched as his head snapped up and he looked out the window. I raised my hand out of the driver’s side window and waved.

A laugh escaped me as I watched Princeton leave his family and come running towards me. Bending down, he glared at me, “I don’t know what the fuck you’re trying to pull, but now is not the time.”

“Maybe you should make the time, since I am carrying your child.”

“Look, I can’t deal with this right now. Meet me in an hour at the Wal-Mart up the street.”

“Sure, but let me make something very clear. If you’re even a minute late I will be back here and your wife will know all about me.”

Fifty-nine minutes later, Princeton’s Volvo pulled up next to my Benz. I stepped out the car and sat on my trunk. “Hey, Princeton, how’s it going?”

“Don’t play with me Robin. What were you trying to do by showing up at my house? I could have had you arrested.”

Bitter laughter bubbled from my lips. “No you wouldn’t have.”

“Are you testing me?” he asked, pulling out his phone from his pocket.

“You wouldn’t have me arrested because your wife would find out about us. How is Fatty, by the way?”

“Don’t play with me Robin…”

“No, don’t you play with me,” I interrupted. “You’ve done enough of that. Here’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to leave your wife…”

“Yeah, right.”

“You’re going to marry me and we are going to raise this beautiful child and have a beautiful life together,” I said, patting my stomach for emphasis. “If you decide not to do this I will make your life, your wife’s life, and your children’s life a living hell. Are we clear?”

Princeton stepped closer to me, getting right in my face. He was so close that I could smell the baked tilapia and spinach that he had for dinner along with a glass of bourbon. His large hands gripped my upper arms tightly. His nostrils flared and his dark eyes got even darker. His beautiful face twisted in anger and his voice held a deadly quality. “If you go near my wife and children, I will make you pay. I suggest that you play these little psycho games with some other man because I am not the one. Do not fuck with my family, Robin.”

“That decision isn’t up to me, just like it wasn’t up to me to sleep with a married man. The decision, as usual, is all yours. However, I do have a heart. Since this will more than likely be your kids’ last Christmas and New Years with their daddy, I’ll give you until the end of January to make your decision.”

Pushing him away from me, I hopped back in the car and revved the engine. I knew that he would make the right decision. He would leave Fatty and those brats and be with me. We would make a home together and raise our perfect baby. A smile eased across my face.

Placing my hand on my stomach, I whispered, “Don’t worry little one. Daddy will be home with us soon.”

Chapter 23

A few weeks later, I was trying to get into the holiday spirit but with my personal life in shambles while surrounded by couples made it difficult to be festive. I wanted nothing more to be at home. However, it was Christmas and my mother wanted all of her children at her dinner table.

“Merry Christmas everyone.”

“Merry Christmas, Blue,” the crowd chorused dully.

As with every Christmas Eve, the entire family would gather at my parent’s house to celebrate. Since none of us had children, it usually consisted of us four kids, our significant others, and our parents. This year, I was the only one without a significant other. I wasn’t too down about it since I knew that next year Princeton would be sitting next to me and our child.

Coming back to the present, I observed the couples surrounding me. Sparrow and Isaiah had been going strong since May and were growing closer even though she had yet to tell him about her former stable of hoes. Even though her house had been restored and she was moved back in, she still spent most of her time at Isaiah’s. I personally thought that they should move in together but until she told him about her stalker that wasn’t the best idea.

Then there was Raven and Piccolo. Now that he had stopped working for Dean, he preferred to be called by his government name, Pierre. Raven had finally come clean and told us all what we already knew, Dean was a drug dealer. As much as I liked Pierre, I knew that this situation was doomed. There was no way that the soon-to-be ex-wife and ex-enforcer of a drug kingpin could get together and there be no repercussions. I just hoped when the smoked cleared that they both would be still living.

Blue had brought home some little chicken head, Unique, from Rochester this year. I didn’t understand why my brother kept getting with these young girls when he needed someone strong to match him. It wasn’t as if he was ugly. Blue looked like a combination of Trey Songz and Michael Ealy. He stood 6’7”, tan brown skin, muscular build, high cheekbones, close cropped black hair, deep dimples, and blue-green eyes.

Due to his eye color, my father always believed Blue wasn’t his. But since he looked exactly like my mother’s father, no one could tell and Daddy was too embarrassed to find out the truth. For two years, Blue was stuck in the house by himself with my parents and their antics after us girls moved out. He tried to protect Mom from Daddy’s cheating, but always failed miserably.

I believed that was the main reason that he left for New York the day after he graduated from high school and hadn’t moved back to Chicago since. Blue would only come back to visit for major holidays, but then leave the next day stating he had to get back to the university where he taught English.

Lastly, there was T and Jay Bird, the epitome of a dysfunctional relationship. Nothing else could be said about those two that hadn’t already been said. Mom let Daddy control her with his actions. She had quit her job to stay at home to check up on him back when we were in high school, even though he had been cheating on her since I was in elementary school. She pretty much did that in vain since he continued to sleep around with hoes.

Daddy used love as a weapon and Mom was constantly on the receiving end. He didn’t care that he broke her heart, as long as he continued to get what he wanted from these whores. The crazy part of it was that both Mom and those women knew about each other. The only reason Mom cried about it was because she was embarrassed and the only reason those mistresses continued to show their asses in public was because they fell in love with Daddy.

Some might say that my parents’ relationship scarred me and my siblings, but I didn’t think that was true. It may have scarred Sparrow because she could only partially give her heart away. It may have scarred Robin because she was unable to be without a man for longer than a week. It may even have scarred Blue because he always chose women who were not on the same level as him. However, it didn’t affect me at all. I had a healthy view on relationships.

“Well, it’s nice to see all my children here under one roof and with their partners. Well, except for Robin,” my mother said, her piercing voice cutting into my thoughts.

Patting my shoulder, Blue spoke to my mother, “Ma, lay off Robin. When she’s ready to settle down she will.”

I winked at him and sipped on my ginger ale. Out of all my siblings, I was closest to Blue. Raven and Sparrow had a special relationship and could confide in each other, but when I needed someone to talk to I always turned to Blue. “Thank you,” I whispered.

“No problem, Robin. Come with me.” Following Blue up to Daddy’s study, I sat in a high backed chair and waited for him to speak. The sounds of The Four Tops’ Bernadette floated through the speakers placed throughout the house. “How long have you been pregnant?”

My gaze never wavered, “A few weeks.”

“Who’s the father?”

“I know who the father is, Blue. I’m not Sparrow.”

Rolling his eyes, he leaned forward in his chair. “Number one, Sparrow isn’t that bad…”

“Yeah, right.”

“Number two, she’s your sister. Show some respect…”

“I will…Once she starts showing some for herself.”

“Number three, I only asked because obviously he’s not here. I’m also assuming that the rest of the family doesn’t know.” I shook my head. “Your secret is safe with me.”

“It won’t be a secret for long and I promise he’ll be here when you come for Easter.” Hugging Blue, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Princeton would be here for Easter.

As we made our way back downstairs to join the family for dinner, I thought about the next Christmas that we would have, which of course would be at the house Princeton and I would share. Looking around, I knew that I would have big shoes to fill. Mom always made sure the house looked like a Hallmark card.

An eight foot tree adorned with gold and silver ornaments stood in the corner next to the fireplace while smaller versions of the tree were placed in the dining room, study, and master bedroom. Stockings hung from the fireplace, mistletoe dangled from entryways, garland draped from the stairway banister, and huge wreaths were nailed on the front door and dining room, study, and master bedroom walls.

Mom spent the entire day cooking a meal that was could feed twenty people instead of the nine that were in attendance. The only thing Daddy was allowed to control during Christmas was the music hence the lack of Christmas carols. The Four Tops, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Bobby Womack, Isaac Hayes, and Marvin Gaye were our musical accompaniments.

We had sat down to eat the traditional Christmas ham dinner my mother had prepared when a familiar sound assaulted our ears, the screeching of tires, slamming of doors, and the shrieking of a scorned woman. In what seemed like a synchronized motion, Mom began to cry, Daddy ran to the door, Raven comforted Mom, Blue called the police, and Sparrow and I went to confront the newest mistress.

Slamming the door behind us, Daddy, Sparrow, and I stood on the front porch and looked at the woman. She couldn’t have been much older than Sparrow. I shook my head. The poor girl probably thought she had found true love. Too bad she didn’t realize what everyone else had a long time ago. Jay Bird only loved himself.

“Now, Kirsten, I don’t know what you think you’re doing but you need to leave.”

“Fuck you, Jay. You need to be home with me instead of here playin’ happy fucking family.”

That set Sparrow off, “Bitch, he is home. You need to take your ass back to whatever project you came out of and get out of here before you get that ass whooped.”

“Well, he wasn’t calling this place home when he was fuckin’ me!” she yelled. As if to prove her point she threw a pair of dirty boxers towards us. “If that’s not enough for you, I’ve got more.” Pictures of Daddy in compromising positions landed at my feet followed by text message transcripts.

With a bored look on my face, I asked the question everyone wanted to voice, “Do you think you’re the first to come here with this?” Stepping up to her face, I continued, “You are not the first nor will you be the last little girl to come here thinking that she can throw some shit around and get her way. Don’t interrupt me because I’m only going to say this once. You knew about us and we all knew about you. He’s not coming with you because he’s here with his family. You are not family, you’re just one piece of ass he’s fucking…for now.”

Turning on my heel, I walked into the house and sat down at the dinner table. Wordlessly, I picked up my fork and began eating while my mother continued to cry and Kirsten continued to scream. I could have really used a drink because it was guaranteed to be a long night.

Isaiah, Unique, and Pierre all sat in stunned silence as the police sirens assailed our ears and neighbors left their dinner tables to watch the annual show that the Bird household faithfully put on for them.

Chapter 24

“Do you know what’s going on with Raven?”

Glancing up from my paperwork, I registered the worry on Sparrow’s face and I could sympathize. Raven’s boyfriend, Pierre, had gotten into a car accident a week after New Year’s and she had been acting sketchy ever since, that was three weeks ago.

“No, I don’t know but I’m sure she’s fine. You know how Raven is, she doesn’t like people in her business. She’ll talk when she’s ready. Plus, I have my own issues to worry about.”

“Yeah, you do.”

My heart fell into my stomach. “What do you mean?”

Leaning back in her chair, Sparrow studied me. “Girl, you are absolutely glowing and your titties got bigger. If that’s even possible. You know what that means?”

“No, I don’t know,” I said while nervously shuffling the papers that I was reading.

“You’re finally letting some lucky man hit that.”

“Oh my God, Sparrow!”

“He’s knocking the cobwebs off that thang ain’t he girl?”

Smiling, I thought about Princeton. He had definitely knocked the cobwebs off of it and put a permanent dent in my back. Just thinking about him in between my thighs had me breaking out in a cold sweat. I definitely missed having him in my bed, but that wait would be coming to an end.

“You don’t have to tell me,” she said, breaking into my thoughts. “It’s written all over your face,” she sang.

“Shut up!!” Before I could finish, Raven walked through my kitchen door. “Hey, Ray, what’s going on?”

“Nothing much, you know, just doing me.” I heard Raven but I didn’t believe her and from the look on Sparrow’s face she didn’t believe her either. Raven didn’t look like herself. Worry lines were etched on her usually smooth face and bags were under her usually bright eyes as if she hadn’t slept a day in the weeks since the accident. “What are y’all doing?”

“We’re just going over the schedule for the next couple of weeks. We have a few big jobs coming up. I don’t think we can take on any new clients for a while.”

For the next few hours, we went over the schedule, balanced the books, and avoided talking about what was going on in our personal lives. My secret relationship with Princeton, Sparrow’s stalker, and Dean were all topics we steered clear of, which I didn’t mind.

After my sisters left, I wiped down the granite counter tops, washed the dishes, and swept the marble floors. Tonight was the night that Princeton was going to give me the news. If he left his wife, that would suck for her but be good for him. I’d let him continue to see his older children, but he’d be home with me. But, if he decided to stay with her then all hell was going to break loose.

Bobby Womack’s That’s the Way I Feel About You cut through the silence and I picked up the phone. “Hello.”

“Hi Robin, this is Princeton.”

“I know who it is, silly. How are you, baby?” I asked, hopping up on the island.

“Look,” he said on a sigh. “We need to talk. Can I come over?”

“Of course you can, honey. Can you be here in an hour?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”

Hanging up the phone, I ran upstairs to shower and beautify. Glee shot through me as I rubbed the scented body wash into my skin. My man is coming home to me! I quickly washed and got out of the shower. After rubbing the matching lotion into my soft skin I made my way to the closet.

Since it was a celebration, I decided to dress like it. A pale pink negligee and matching robe caressed my skin and skimmed over the subtle swell of my growing belly. I had just spritzed perfume onto my pulse points when the doorbell rang.

Racing down the stairs, I opened the door. “Hi Princeton,” I said in a husky voice.

“Hey, can we sit down?”

“Sure baby, whatever you want.” We sat down on the overstuffed grey sofa and I watched as he nervously rubbed his hands together. “Baby, there’s no need to be nervous. I know you’re probably worried about leaving your wife…”

“I’m not leaving her.”

“And that’s fine…What did you just say?” I whispered. I knew my ears were playing tricks on me.

Standing, he paced in front of my television before looking at me. “I’m not leaving her. You still have time. You can get rid of that baby.”

“I’m not getting rid of it,” I hissed. Shaking my head, I tried a different approach. I stood in front of him and pressed my body against his, sliding my arms around his neck. “Baby, we already talked about this. I’m keeping the baby and we’re going to be together.”

Princeton pushed me away from him. I tried again to hold him and he pushed me harder. Hard enough for me to fall over the coffee table and hit my back on an end table.

“Listen to me, you crazy bitch. I’m not leaving my wife. I’m not staying with you and I’m not claiming that baby.”

“You don’t mean that,” I cried.

Leering over me, he yanked me up by the arm. “I have never meant anything more in my life.”

Throwing me to the couch, he picked up his coat and keys and walked towards the door. “If you leave, I promise I will make your life a living hell!!” I screamed. The slamming of the front door was his only reply.

Crying hysterically, I repeatedly punched my face, raked my nails down my arms, and pulled at my hair, the emotional pain numbing out the physical. Dragging my heavy body to the kitchen, I set my briefcase on the breakfast table and opened it. I pulled out a manila folder and grabbed my cell phone.

Clearing my throat, I dialed the number, “Hello, Mrs. Tillers? This is Robin Bird of LadyBird Interior Designs. Yes, I’m fine, how are you? That’s good. Well, I’m just calling to tell you that we have reviewed our schedule and I am happy to say that we are able to take you on as a client. Yes, I am excited too. You’ll be primarily dealing with me. The number on your id is my cell phone number. Yes. Well, I will call you tomorrow to set up our first appointment but I wanted to give you that happy news tonight. Okay, talk to you soon. Good night.”

A bitter smiled eased across my face as I sat down at the table. Placing my hand on my stomach, I whispered, “Don’t worry little one, Daddy will be with us soon.”

PART II

Chapter 25

BLUE

The sharp shrill of the phone woke me up from a deep sleep and pushed the warm body next to me closer to my side. Blindly, I reached for the house phone. Usually, I wouldn’t have answered at that time of the night but only a select few people had my private number and even fewer would call me in the middle of the night.

Clearing my throat, I answered, “Hello?”

“Blue, it’s me, your dad.”

My eyes popped open and my body jerked upward. Not caring if the young woman in my bed, I think her name was Tiffany, woke up. I left the bed and walked into my office. I locked the door and sat my naked ass in the cool leather recliner before talking.

“What’s wrong? Is it mama?”

I heard him sigh and I honestly didn’t care. It wasn’t as if I didn’t love my father, but I certainly didn’t respect or like him. Jay Bird had constantly cheated and disrespected my mother, Tianna “T” Bird, throughout their marriage.

I had spent two years in their home alone while my sisters, Robin, Raven, and Sparrow, were off at college. By the time I had graduated high school, I was fed up. I left the next day to New York and only returned for holidays. Truly, I wouldn’t hesitate to whoop his ass but I knew it would hurt my mother.

“No, it’s not T. It’s your sisters. They need your help, Blue.”

Rolling my eyes, I looked at the clock. It was 2:30 in the morning and he was calling me because of my sisters.

“Look, Dad, I understand that you are concerned because they’re your daughters but they are grown women more than capable of taking care of themselves.”

“Blue, I know you and I aren’t the closest in the world…

Understatement of the millennium, I thought silently.

“But I wouldn’t have called if I didn’t need you. The girls are in trouble, big trouble. If you could just come down here and talk to them, help them fix their problems. I would greatly appreciate it. They’ll listen to you.”

I knew he was telling the truth. Though I was closest to Robin, all my sisters turned to me when they needed advice. I also knew that my father, who was unbelievably proud, would never call me if he really didn’t need me.

Opening my laptop, I searched for redeye tickets to Chicago. “I’ll be there in the morning, don’t tell anyone I’m coming.”

I hung up from Dad, ordered the ticket, and hopped in the shower. The hot water beat against my tight shoulders but did little to relax me. Massaging the spicy scented body wash into my caramel colored skin, I thought about the things that I would have to do before I got to Chicago.

First thing I had to do was get that woman out my bed and out of my house. I stepped out the shower, dried off, and oiled up my skin before walking into the room to wake up the strange woman in my bed. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember her name. All I knew was that she was young, dumb, and full of cum. She had fucked and sucked me so good I had passed out right after.

Reaching out, I slowly tugged the sheet down her body, revealing hints of chocolate skin as I did so. Her hip length microbraids were sprawled out against my snow white sheets and her apple booty was slightly raised in the air, waiting to be taken. As much as I would like to take her on a ride, I had more important things to do.

I shook her gently and her eye lids fluttered before revealing the caramel orbs beneath. “Hey, I have to fly out of town…family emergency.”

Slowly, she got out of the bed and gathered her clothes, her small breasts bouncing with each step. “Will I see you when you get back, Maurice?”

“Yeah,” I said, grateful that she hadn’t heard my father call me Blue.

My father, Jay Bird, had named each of his children after birds. In my family there was Jay Bird, T Bird, Robin Bird, Raven Bird, Sparrow Bird, and me, Blue Bird. To avoid humiliation, I started going by my middle name, Maurice, as soon as I got to New York.

We dressed in silence and I walked her to the door, still not knowing her name. As soon as she pulled away from my driveway, I made a few phone calls to some contacts I still had in Chicago. I packed my bags and headed to the airport, knowing that the information I needed would be emailed to me by the time I got on the plane.

Ninety minutes later, I sat at the terminal with the early morning sun rising behind me outside the windows and ignored the interested glances of women of all ages, races, shapes, and sizes. I was used to it and usually would use it to my advantage, but right now I wasn’t in the mood.

According to my sisters, I looked like a combination of Trey Songz and Michael Ealy.. It was my eye coloring that helped drive a wedge between my father and me. He had always believed that my mother had cheated on him and conceived me but would never agree to a paternity test. I guess he couldn’t deal with the fact that his wife may have been doing some of the same dirt he was.

I opened my laptop and checked my email and sure enough there was everything I needed to know about my sisters and their dealings.

Sparrow was in trouble. Her past life had finally caught up with her. I had told her repeatedly that you couldn’t play with a man’s heart and expect for it to be all good. I didn’t care how upfront you were. She had this “stable of hoes”, as she called it, and they all knew about each other. They all also knew that she wasn’t interested in their love. I guess they could deal with that but what they couldn’t deal with was her giving her heart to a man when she had repeatedly rejected theirs.

Now, she was being stalked. Her house had been set on fire, her tires slashed, and her personal email hacked. I knew the best way to figure out who was stalking her was to talk to her ex-hoes. The only problem with that was that it was going to take a long time. Sparrow had fucked a lot of men and most of them had a problem with her. She definitely did not end things on good terms. Whoever was doing this wasn’t just trying to scare her, they were out for blood.

Robin had lost her mind. I had found out when I visited for Christmas a few weeks ago that she was pregnant and figured that she wasn’t ready to tell the rest of the family. I never would have guessed that she had gotten pregnant by a married man with three children. I also would have never thought that she would take to stalking this poor man. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t condone what he had done, but causing upheaval in a man’s life was asking for bad things to happen to you.

She had been seen around town following some dude and getting into altercations with him outside of Wal-Mart and other grocery stores. I had to sit down and talk to her. She was the most reasonable out of all my sisters. I knew she would listen to logic.

Raven was in deep shit. I had known all along that Dean was a drug dealer. I used to work for the dude when I was in high school. I knew all about Dean and his dealings. I also knew about Piccolo…Pierre. In fact, it was me who had suggested that P go work for Dean. I was friends with Pierre’s younger brothers and I knew that P would look after Raven once I left.

I never trusted that fool Dean but you couldn’t get Raven to listen. She was so wrapped up in him that no one could get through. Now, she was seeing what we all had seen from the beginning, Dean was crazy as hell. Word on the street was Pierre and Raven had started seeing each other and both had left Dean. How in the world did she think that was going to work out?

There was no way that Dean was going to let those two run off into the sunset together. He would have lost mad respect on the streets and that didn’t bode well for business. Raven had gotten herself in a mess that was going to be sticky to get out of without the police being involved.

As I boarded the plane and took my seat, I turned on my musicand closed my eyes. This would be the last time in a while I would be able to sit back and relax. The plane took off down the runway and I looked out the window. I had left Maurice back in the airport and Blue had taken his place.

The late January winter may have been cold in New York but nothing compared to the bitter frost of Chicago. It was a combination of weather, hatred, and greed. A man had to have his mind right if he was going deep into the belly of the beast.

I sighed deeply and massaged the bridge of my nose. Anxiety and anticipation filled my stomach. I was about to get myself deeply involved in the streets that I thought I had left behind. The shit my sisters had gotten themselves into couldn’t be fixed with a talk. Naw, it had to be cut out of their lives like cancer. Looking at a picture of all four of us I always carried with me, I sighed. There was no way I would come back to New York the same way I left.

In a situation like this, there was no way that everything could be wrapped up in a pretty little bow. Naw, this wasn’t a movie. This was real life and in real life, with situations like these, someone always ended up dead.

Chapter 26

SPARROW

“Marry me, Sparrow?”

Tears of joy welled up in my eyes and panic seized my heart. Isaiah and I had been dating seriously for less than a year but my heart and soul belonged solely to him. “Are you sure?” God, I hoped he was sure because it would break my heart if he wasn’t.

“More than anything else in the world, I love you. I want to build a life with you, have kids with you, and grow old with you. Will you marry me?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” I screamed before he stopped my chanting with a deep kiss.

I pressed my topless body closer to his and wrapped my jean clad legs around his waist. As much as I wanted him to take me right there on the bathroom counter, I knew that I had other things to do. Pushing him gently, I placed light kisses around his lips before pulling a sweater over my head.

“Give me your hand.” I did as he said and watched in silent awe as he placed a stunning five karat princess cut ring on the third finger of my left hand.

Hugging him tightly, I wished I could stay in his arms forever. Knowing that I couldn’t, I released him. Wrapped up in Isaiah’s warmth, the outside world ceased to exist and couldn’t harm me.

“Baby, I love you so much. Thank you for making me the happiest woman on the planet. As much as I would love to stay here with you, I have to meet with a client.”

“No problem baby, just make it home in time for dinner. I want to call our families.”

I quickly agreed and left his home in Batavia. I was surprised at how easily the lies flowed from my mouth like honey from a hive. To think, I used to pride myself on my brutal honesty. Now, I lied so much I had trouble remembering what was true and what was product of my vivid imagination. Weaving through the snowy streets of Chicago’s suburbs, I made it to my destination in less than thirty minutes.

I knocked on the solid wood door and waited. A man dressed in a vintage black tuxedo answered the door and silently led me through the darkened hallways of the large home to a large office. Dark wood, dim lighting, and dense carpeting and drapes gave the room an oppressive feel. The room smelled of cigars and brandy, causing my eyes to water.

Like in a bad horror movie, the chair behind the large wood desk slowly turned around. A large man—everything about this situation was large—with a balding head, bushy beard, and creamy white skin faced me.

“You must be Sparrow,” his low voice rumbled.

“You must be Xavier.”

“That I am. How can I be of service to you?” he asked, his eyes perusing my body.

Though I had dressed down in jeans and a sweater, Xavier was still attracted to me. My mother always told me that I had this innate sensuality that drew men like flies to honey and I knew that it was true. My looks combined with my charisma made men flock to me in droves.

“I think you already know the answer to that question.” His smile was his only response. “I need your help. I’m being stalked by someone and I want to know why and who.”

“Why don’t you go to the police? I’m sure they can help you.”

“I need this done quietly. I cannot have my family and especially my fiancé find out about this.”

Xavier stroked his beard thoughtfully. “So, you have an idea who it may be?”

“Yes.” I told him about my past lifestyle and watched him closely for any sign of judgment, I didn’t find any. “So, as you can see any mention of this getting back to Isaiah would end our relationship. I need you to help me, please.”

“I’ll help you…For a price.”

I paid Xavier and gave him all the information he needed, though it was minimal. He was one of the top private investigators in the state and I knew he would be able to find out who was tormenting me.

Since the fire two months ago, I had continued to receive black and red roses every day, my tires had been slashed, my email had been hacked, and my front door had the word Bitch carved into it. Whoever was stalking me was making it clear that they wanted me to suffer. If they didn’t, they would have already attacked me.

I wasn’t sure why I was even being stalked. I mean, I had kept it one hundred with each of my exes. I told them from the jump that I wasn’t interested in their love. If they thought they could change my mind then that was their own damned fault. I honestly thought that jealousy was behind the incidents. Men were temperamental creatures. If you fell in love with any other man besides them, then they wanted to act as if you were the worst person in the world. I didn’t choose to fall in love with Isaiah. It just happened. He was the man that I had unknowingly been searching for my entire adult life. I would do anything and I meant anything to keep him in my life. Stalker be damned.

Turning the key in the ignition, I rolled down the windows and allowed the brisk late January air to clear my mind and lower my heart rate. I pushed all the unpleasant thoughts out of my mind. I had been summoned to my parents’ house in Park Ridge and I needed to focus on that.

Chapter 27

RAVEN

“Hey Ray, it’s me. We need to talk about our little deal. Give me a call when you get this. If you decide not to call me back, I’ll make an appearance.”

Throwing the phone on the bed, I walked down the stairs to the kitchen for an ice cold drink. This situation was getting out of control.

Three weeks ago, I had woken up to Dean pointing a gun in my face. After the initial shock of staring down the barrel of a gun wore off, he sat down on the bed next to me.

He looked at me and said as coolly as ever, “Good morning Ray, we need to talk.”

I pulled the covers over my naked chest. “Why are you here?”

“I heard about you and Piccolo. What is your problem? Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Did you think that shit would fly?” When I didn’t answer him he slapped me hard enough to draw blood.

“I’m so sorry, Dean.”

“I should kill you both for embarrassing me,” he said while panic caused ice to run through my veins. I was so scared that I peed on myself. “But, I’m not going to do that. No matter what, I’ve always loved you Raven and I always will. So, I have a proposition for you.”

Wiping the tears and blood from my swelling face, I waited. “I’m listening.”

“I have a big drop coming up soon. It’s a little dangerous and I need someone who’s smart on my side. Since you seem to like danger these days, I figured you’d be a good fit. If you do this for me, I promise I’ll let you and Piccolo both live. However, if you tell anyone about this, I will kill you both.”

As if to make his point, he shot a round into the headboard of what used to be our marital bed. I screamed and hopped out the bed. Dean laughed at me and the huge urine stain on the sheets before walking out of the room.

Since that day, my life had been a living hell. Dean was around me more than I wanted. He was always watching me. Every move I made was being captured. He would call me every night and go through the events of my day as I silently cried on the phone. He knew everything about me, from where I went to who I saw. Nothing was secret. I tried to keep the stress of everything from Pierre, but I could tell he was catching on.

Downing a glass of wine, I walked back upstairs and called Dean. “Hey, you wanted to talk.”

“Yeah, but not over the phone, can you meet me in an hour?”

“Do I have a choice?”

His harsh laughter grated on my nerves. “Of course you do, Ray…but then so do I. Meet me at the condo or…”

“Or what, Dean? Huh? What are you going to do? Kill me? Go ahead I don’t give a shit anymore.” The liquor had definitely given me courage.

“Naw, I won’t kill you. Well, at least not at first. Meet me or I will fly down to Atlanta myself and pay Pierre’s mother and brothers a little visit.”

Tears ran down my cheeks. He had me by the balls and he knew it. I loved Pierre’s family. They shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes Pierre and I had made.

“Fine, I’ll be there.”

“Oh, and Ray?”

“Yeah?”

“Wear something sexy for me.”

Hanging up the phone, I did what Dean asked. Dressed in a form fitting black sweater dress and red high heels, I made my way from my house in Plainfield to the condo Dean and I had shared in downtown Chicago. The freezing wind came off the lakefront and wrapped around me while I walked up the sidewalk.

My heels clicked against the marble floor as I entered the building and got on the nearest elevator. Anxiety and anger swirled in my stomach as I watched the elevator rise up to Dean’s floor. The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Dean was standing there waiting for me.

At one time, I had found him unbelievably handsome. Now, the sight of him was revolting. My arm jerked as he placed his hand around it and led me inside the apartment. I used to love this place with its marble, gold, and glass décor. Now, it was just another reminder of the gilded prison that I had been held captive in for fifteen years.

Taking a seat on one of the sofas, I crossed my legs and looked at Dean. “What do you want to talk about?”

“You look good, Ray. Real good.”

“What do you want to talk about, Dean?” I asked again, my voice clipped.

His eyes roamed over me in obvious interest. I knew he wanted me. No matter how much he hated me, he would always want me.

“I wanted to go over a few things with you.” Standing in front of the floor to ceiling glass windows, he continued, “I need you to grab some work from the Colombians in California and bring it back to me. You’ll be driving a rental and I’ll give you the cash.”

Sweat broke out on my body, giving me a slight glow. I had never been involved in this side of Dean’s business. I had always just looked pretty and kept up appearances for us in society. In the beginning, I was the financer but after we got married I was kept in the dark about operations and was only seen at public events. With me by his side, Dean had always looked legitimate and I had never gotten my hands dirty. Things were about to change.

“When does this all take place?”

“Two months. Until then, you and I need to spend some time together.”

“For what? That was not part of the deal.” Anger encompassed me and my stomach became nauseated.

“These people are very family oriented. I need them to believe we’re a happily married couple. They aren’t going to hand over the amount of work I’m asking for to a woman that I have no association with. So, you’re going to spend time with me. We’re going to make appearances together.”

“I can’t do that, Dean.” Standing, I placed my arms around his. I knew it was wrong, but I was going to use every weapon in my arsenal. “I have a relationship and you and I are definitely not on the best of terms.”

Trailing a finger along the edge of my plunging neckline, he placed a kiss below my ear. “I know you have a relationship and honestly, I don’t give a fuck about that. That fool can’t do to you what I can, can’t buy you what I can, can’t love you the way that I can. Pierre is not right for you, but I’ll let you see that for yourself.”

Knowing that he wouldn’t budge on the issue, I submitted. “Fine, text me and let me know when and where we have to make these appearances.”

“No problem, Ray.” I tried to free myself from his grip, but he held on tighter. “Can I get some before you leave?”

Snatching my arm from his, I left the condo, his menacing laughter following me to the elevator. I stormed out of the building so fast that I didn’t notice the man taking pictures of me from across the street as I got in the car and headed to my parents’ house.

Chapter 28

ROBIN

Looking in the mirror, I knew that I was dressed for success. A cute and chic grey Calvin Klein skirt suit hugged my generous curves and black mules added three inches to my 5’6” frame. Placing my hands on my stomach, I said good morning to the little life that was inside.

I was two months pregnant and already starting to show. If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn that I was having twins. In about three more weeks, it would be time to get bigger clothes.

My breasts had gone from a 36DD to a 38DDD and my hips had spread. All in all, I was looking fabulous. My peanut butter brown skin had luminosity. My once short brown hair had grown out to my neck and had more body and shine. My dark brown eyes sparkled and my once slender nose was a little wider. I looked beautiful and I felt it, too. The only thing that could have made life even sweeter, was if Princeton would come to his senses and leave his wife. With some men you had to show them instead of telling them, and that was what I intended to do.

Two weeks ago, Princeton broke my heart by telling me that he wasn’t leaving his wife. For some reason, he couldn’t muster up the courage to leave. That wasn’t my problem. Yeah, I trapped him into getting me pregnant, but I didn’t know that he was married with children. All I knew was that he was the father of my baby and he belonged with me. Since he didn’t want to leave her, I was going to force her to leave him.

Today was my third meeting with Anita and things were moving further along in my plan to destroy Princeton’s family. I had already met Anita’s children, mother, and best friend. Today, I was going to “meet” her husband, Princeton. Grabbing my suitcase and samples off of my desk, I left the office and drove to Buffalo Grove to meet Anita. I stepped out my Benz and walked up the stone driveway. Ringing the bell, I waited patiently for Anita to answer the door.

“Robin, please come in,” she said. I stepped inside and hugged her close.

Anita was a dead ringer for the comedienne Monique—before the weight loss. She had a smooth chocolate complexion, long lashes that fluttered above dark brown almond shaped eyes, and a shoulder length weave. Her body was rounded by childbirth and too many fried foods. She was a sweet person and super naïve. How could a woman know that her husband spent almost every night away from home and not get suspicious?

“It’s so nice to see you again, Anita. I can’t wait to meet your husband so we can finalize some things.”

We walked into the sunken living room and my gaze went immediately to Princeton’s turned back. He was just as handsome as the last time I had saw him. Just seeing him again conjured up images of his hands on my body, my legs wrapped around his waist, and our lips connected. Memories of his chocolate body inside mine and filling me to capacity assaulted me until it was hard to take a normal breath. A fine sheen of sweat broke out across my skin and my nipples hardened into painful peaks. In short, I was horny for this breathtakingly beautiful man.

I almost took a step towards him when Anita’s voice reminded me where I was. “Honey, I want you to meet one of the best interior designers in the state.”

Princeton turned around and his eyes locked with mine. Anger quickly crossed his face before he remembered that his wife was in the room. “Hello, I’m Princeton Tillers,” he said, his hand outstretched.

Taking his large hand in mine, I rubbed my thumb against his palm. “Robin Bird, it’s nice to meet you as well.” Releasing him, I looked at Anita. “Shall we begin?”

“Before we start, can I speak with you, honey?” Princeton asked as he dragged Anita into the hallway.

Hushed voices speaking quickly could be heard over the hum of the heater. Looking around, I knew that Anita desperately needed someone to help her decorate. The living room was done in pink and green floral patterns. Accent pieces that didn’t make any sense sat in the corners of the room and along the fireplace. It looked like she went to a nursing home in the heart of the Midwest and bought all of their furniture and knick-knacks. The home smelled oddly of fried foods and burnt hair. Yeah, there was a lot of work to be done.

For some reason, Anita needed the project completed within four weeks. I guess she figured that a comfier home would result in Princeton being there more often. The joke was on her. If Princeton didn’t come to his senses soon, I was going to make life very uncomfortable for the both of them.

“Sorry about that, Robin.”

“No problem, is there anything wrong?” I asked Anita but I was looking at Princeton.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” he answered tersely.

For the next three hours, we went over patterns, colors, and motifs before deciding on a few that would fit the budget and time constraints. We retired to the kitchen for a brief snack and that was when I put my plan in motion.

“Anita, you have a beautiful family.”

“Thank you so much, Robin. I’m sure you have one of your own.”

“No, actually I don’t. Well, at least not yet. I am pregnant.”

Sweat broke out across Princeton’s forehead and Anita squealed with delight. “That is so great. I’m so happy for you. Is the father happy, too? I remember Princeton used to rub my feet and cook for me while I was pregnant.”

Jealousy clouded my vision and threatened to have me vomit all over the table. “No, he’s not excited, but I’m sure he’ll come around,” I said, glancing at Princeton.

“Yeah, well, if he doesn’t, don’t be too upset. I’m sure he has a good reason,” Princeton muttered while nonchalantly sipping his beer.

“Princeton! I’m so sorry, Robin. I’m not sure what has gotten into him.”

“It’s no problem, Anita. I’m sure he didn’t mean it the way it sounded.” His grunt was his only reply. “I love the father of my child and I will do whatever it takes to put our family back together.”

“That’s right, Robin. Don’t take no for an answer.”

Princeton rolled his eyes and bunched his fists on the table.

Smiling, I took Anita’s chubby hand in mine, “Thank you, Anita. I really needed to hear that.” Glancing at my watch, I gathered my things and stood to leave. “We covered a lot today and that’s good. Call my office and set up our next appointment. I have to leave. I have an engagement at my parents’ house.”

Anita stood and hugged me. Over her shoulder I could see Princeton eyeing me with fury. I released Anita and turned to leave when Princeton’s voice called out to me. “I’ll walk you to your car.”

Gripping my arm tightly, he led me through the house and out the door before releasing me. “How have you been, Princeton? The baby and I have missed you.”

“You have some fucking nerve coming to my house pretending to decorate. How did you finagle your way in here, huh?”

“Your wife called me. At first I wasn’t going to take the job, but then you left me so, I figured why not.”

“You’re crazy. Leave my family alone, Robin. It’s not too late to get rid of that demon seed inside you. Do it and leave me alone.”

Taking six hundred dollars out of his wallet, he slammed the money on the hood of my car. I watched him walk up the circular driveway to his house and peer out the window like a little bitch.

Ignoring the money, I got in the car and revved the engine. Flicking Princeton off, I stepped on the gas and headed to my parents’ house, hundred dollar bills and an angry Princeton in my rearview mirror.

Chapter 29

BLUE

Snow fell like a fluffy, white blanket from the sky as I looked outside my motel window. I could have stayed with my parents but with what I was about to get into, that wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t need their drama added to the mix. Mistresses, screaming matches, and police would only complicate matters. I needed a clear head and a quiet place to put things in motion.

I could have also stayed in a five star hotel instead of this ratty no-tell motel but that wouldn’t have worked either. A group of under dressed black men congregating in the Ritz Carlton was sure to draw suspicion. Plus, I didn’t want to chance running into anybody—especially Dean.

As soon as I landed, a few hours ago, I called my contacts and set up a meeting in my motel room. I quickly showered and dressed. Gone were the slacks, loafers, and sweaters of Professor B. Maurice Bird. In their place were black jeans, a black thermal, a black zip-up hoodie, and tan Timberland boots. The uniform of Blue Bird.

A sharp knock at the door let me know it was time to get down to business. I opened it and let the two men in. Cedric and Tyler were my two best friends and partners in crime when I was growing up. We all worked for Dean at one time but since then have turned our lives around.

Cedric was the owner of a prominent construction company and had a side hustle of flipping houses while Tyler worked in flipping businesses. All three of us still kept a close ear to the streets that helped raise us. When I left for New York, Cedric and Tyler were the only two people, outside of my family and Piccolo, that I kept in touch with.

They made sure that my sisters were safe, especially Raven since she was still involved in the game through Dean. All three of us were professionals, but the time had come to release the monster inside each of us.

Shaking hands, we all took our seats in the small kitchenette that the room provided. Brushing my hands down my face, I sighed deeply. “This is worse than I thought.”

Cedric laughed. “Yeah kid, it is. And that’s only what we know. Imagine what we don’t know. Those sisters of yours are in deep.” Cedric was a few years older than me and never let me forget it.

“All I know is that I need you two to keep your eyes and ears open. Dean is going to be the worst out of all of this. I’m going to lay low and when the time comes, I’ll call you so we can move.”

“Alright,” Cedric said while standing. “You be safe.”

I hugged them both and walked them to the door. “I’ll make sure that I have some of the young ones keep an eye out for you. Ain’t nobody messing with you while you here.”

“Thanks Ty.”

I watched them leave from my room’s window and got ready to go. I grabbed my backpack and left towards my parents’ house. I had my mother summon my sisters and I knew they would show up. They would be surprised to see me, but only Robin would know the significance of my appearance. I hoped to shock her into letting this guy go. Messing with a man’s family was dangerous business.

Robin was the only one who knew about my business with Dean. It was that reason, along with my parents’ issues, that drove me to New York in the first place. Robin was like a second mother to me and I would do anything she asked of me. She didn’t want me to go further down the wrong path and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

Pulling up to my parents’ home in a gated community, I parked the rental and got out. My boots crunched the snow as I made my way up the driveway. I stopped for a moment to look at the house that I had grown up in. I shook my head. This beautiful home with its brick façade and sprawling yard held so many secrets, mistakes, and lies. Judging by its appearance, one would never guess that the family inside was a mess. Entering the house, I could hear the cackling of my sisters and the laughter of my parents. I walked into the living room and watched the faces of everyone in the room.

Shock graced each of their expressions, though my parents’ was feigned. Robin’s eyes scoped me from head to toe and I knew that she knew that I was there for more than a friendly family visit. Hugging everyone except my father, I took a seat and waited for the inquisition. Sparrow did not disappoint.

“What are you doing here Blue and why are dressed like some common thug?”

Rolling my eyes, I sucked in a deep breath. Sparrow was always the most outspoken of my sisters. That was probably why she was in trouble now, she didn’t think. “It’s nice to see you too, BB.”

That got the reaction I expected. “Number one, don’t call me that. Number two, answer the question.”

“I’m here to visit. In fact, I’ll be here for a couple of weeks.”

Stunned silence filled the room before Robin quickly recovered. “Uh…that’s nice, Blue. Is there any particular reason you’re here to visit?”

Looking each of my sisters straight in their eyes, I answered, “I’m here to take care of some business. It seems as if I’ve been gone for so long that things have gone straight to hell.”

Clearing her throat nervously, Raven finally spoke in her quiet voice. “What do you mean? What’s gone to hell?” She never once looked at me while speaking.

“Just a few things, three things to be exact. I can’t talk about them right now. I just wanted you to know that I’m in town and I wanted to spend some time with y’all. You know, spend some time getting to know what’s going on in your worlds.”

I had never seen three more nervous women in my life. Sparrow bit her lip, Raven continued to avoid eye contact, and Robin anxiously rubbed her slightly swelled belly. All three wore guilty expressions. They knew that I would soon figure out the particulars of what was going on and wouldn’t hesitate to take care of it. I glanced at my parents and saw that they wore the same worried expressions. I had a sinking feeling that there was more to their situations than Ty, Ced, and my father originally thought.

Looking at Sparrow, I noticed the major rock on her left hand. “Congratulations, Sparrow.”

“On what?” she asked, her voice far away.

“I’m guessing your engagement.”

All eyes turned to her and a big smile spread across her face. The subject turned to Sparrow and her engagement. This allowed me time to observe my sisters.

I loved all three of them. Though I was the youngest, I had always looked out for them with and without their knowledge. I had made sure that they were protected while I was here and even when I left. They had gone to college, gotten degrees, and started a successful business. They were three beautiful and intelligent women who came from one of the most prominent African-American families in the state. Even with all of that in place they had somehow managed to make a mess of their lives.

I wanted so much to fix this for them but I couldn’t make it obvious. I didn’t need the stalker scared off, Dean tipped off, or Robin set off. I needed everything and everyone in place before my presence was made known. I just hoped Robin, Raven, and Sparrow wouldn’t get themselves in deeper shit before then.

Chapter 30

RAVEN

I could not believe Blue. This was the last thing I needed. I couldn’t entertain him, be with Pierre, run my business and deal with Dean without there being complications. On top of that, I was two months pregnant and had yet to tell Pierre. After Dean tried to kill him by having a semi-truck ram the back of his car, I decided to wait to deliver the news. There was too much going on to celebrate a new life especially with my old one rearing its ugly head on a continuous basis.

One thing I knew for sure, I wasn’t going to tell Dean that Blue was in town. The last thing I needed was for him to use my baby brother as a bargaining tool in his game with me. Blue was too sheltered to know what to do with a man like Dean. I also needed to keep Blue in the dark about Dean. Dean had been around Blue since Blue was a child. The fact that Dean was now crazy as hell would devastate him. Naw, I wasn’t going to tell anyone that Blue was here. They’d just have to find out for themselves.

I walked into LadyBird Interior Designs and headed straight to the conference room. I knew my sisters would be there soon. I started a pot of coffee and dug through the mini fridge for some snacks when I heard the front door open and close.

I turned around and my eyes collided with hazel ones. My heart pounded in my chest and my body broke out in a fever. Pierre always had that effect on me. He stood looking there like a golden statue with his honey colored skin, hazel eyes, deep dimples, and bulging muscles all on a 6’7” frame.

Silently, he walked towards me and gathered me in his arms, my long legs automatically wrapping around his waist. He navigated down the hallways of the office building until he reached my office. He locked the door and set me on the desk.

Pierre’s bruises had healed and his beautiful skin was as smooth as silk. Reaching out, I cupped his face and gently kissed his lips. “What are you doing here?”

Deftly, he unzipped the form fitting dress, revealing the red bra and panty set beneath. “I needed you.”

“My sisters will be here soon,” I said though I couldn’t have cared less if the President was on his way. When Pierre touched me all thought and reason left me.

“They can wait, baby. I can’t. I need you.”

No more words were spoken as Pierre stripped from his heavy winter wear. The dark washed jeans and brown cashmere sweater landed at his feet with a thud. The feel of his heated skin against mine, his lips kissing mine, his body needing mine was more than I could bear. My eyes closed in ecstasy when he slipped inside me. This was how it always was with us, pure bliss.

“Shit, Ray. You’re so tight, baby. So hot and tight,” he whispered against my temple. I could only moan in response and move my hips against his. Quickly, he pulled out and flipped me on my stomach. “I have to have you like this, baby.”

My nipples pebbled tightly against the cool wood of my cherry stained desk. I reached out and gripped the edges to keep my body steady. Face down, ass up, I worked my hips into his as he drove me higher.

I heard the soft chatter of my sisters coming down the hallway and we worked our bodies faster. Pierre gripped my hips and I frantically pushed against him. He throbbed inside me as I came hard, dripping all over the carpet.

Grabbing a fistful of my hair, he forced my body flush against his before burying his face in the crook of my neck. “That’s it, Ray, give me what I came here for, give me what I need.”

Manipulating my clit between his thumb and forefinger, I bit my bottom lip to keep from screaming as I squirted hot lava on his hand, the dark carpet, and my desk. His powerful strokes overwhelmed me and all I could do was groan as my eyes rolled back in my head. “There you go, baby. Can I get mine now?”

Softly, I whimpered in response and he drilled me until I felt his body strain and release with orgasmic pleasure. Pulling out of my dripping pussy, he kissed me lightly and slapped my behind. He held me closely as I continued to quiver. Finally, I was able to breathe normally and reluctantly stepped out of his arms. We got dressed in silence and I walked him to the front door and kissed him goodbye, knowing that we would finish what we just started when I got home.

I walked down the corridor into the conference room and received accusatory looks from both my sisters. Well, they both could just kiss my ass. My man needed me.

Taking a seat, I looked at them. “So, what do y’all think about Blue?”

“Hold on,” Sparrow said and I rolled my eyes. “I know you are not coming up in here, smelling like sex, asking about Blue. What I want to know is what you and Pierre were doing?”

“If you can’t figure it out, then Isaiah ain’t doing his job.”

Robin and I laughed hard and high fived each other while Sparrow flipped us the bird. “Girl, please, ‘Zay breaks me off on the regular and it’s very good thank you. Anyways, to answer your question, I don’t know what Blue is up to. I know he better not be trying to get in my business because I don’t have time for that.”

Looking out the window, I silently agreed with Sparrow. The difference between me and my sisters was that no one knew I had any business. Robin didn’t have any because she lived a low-key life and everyone knew Sparrow’s because it was public knowledge. The only one who didn’t know was Isaiah and that was because she continued to lie to him instead of coming clean.

“Look,” Sparrow’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “I need y’all to help me. I have enough going on trying to keep Isaiah out my business. I don’t need to add Blue to the mix. Y’all know how he is.”

Yeah, we all knew exactly how he was that was why I didn’t need him with me. Glancing at Robin, I waited for her to step up but she was silent. Usually, I would argue with Sparrow about keeping secrets from Isaiah but I was in no position to point fingers. I was keeping secrets, deadly ones, from everyone. I only hoped that it wouldn’t come back to bite me in the ass.

“Okay, why don’t we do this? I’ll get Blue for a day, then Robin, then you, Sparrow. That way we all have a chance to spend time with him. Or, I’ll bring him here to the office and show him what we do in the mornings, Robin you can do whatever it is you do in your free time with Blue in the afternoons, and Sparrow, you and ‘Zay can take him out at night.”

Quickly sitting up, Robin uttered her first words of the meeting. “I like the second idea better. That way we can all handle our business without Blue being nosey.”

“Girl, please, you know you don’t have any kind of business. Who are you trying to fool?” Sparrow asked, rolling her eyes.

I adjourned the meeting before those two decided to argue. I didn’t have the time or the patience for those two. I wanted to get home to my man and finish what we started in my office. There was nothing like a hot round of nasty, freaky sex to ease my troubles. I had just bought some new ropes and handcuffs and couldn’t wait to whip Pierre’s sexy self into an orgasmic coma when I got home.

Weaving in and out of traffic, I hopped on the expressway and thought about Robin. I knew something was up with my sister but I didn’t know what or how to find out. I also, didn’t know what I would say once I found out.

I couldn’t throw accusations or give advice. I wasn’t in the position to throw stones particularly since my house of cards was crumbling around my feet.

Chapter 31

SPARROW

“Damn, Sparrow. Ahh.” Ignoring Isaiah’s groans, I continued to milk him dry.

It had been two days since Blue came to town and he was driving me crazy. Every time I looked around there he was, sniffing around like a little puppy dog. I didn’t need Blue to interfere with anything I had going on. I needed him to mind his own business.

Pushing Blue out of my mind, I rode ‘Zay like a pony. Up and down, round and round until I couldn’t take it anymore. The throb of him inside me, his hands tweaking my nipples, and his pleasure filled moans were too much for my overheated body and mind. I came in waves of sensuous pleasure, my orgasm spraying him and the sheets. The tension that had knotted my shoulders for the last few days had eased up and I was finally able to breathe as I collapsed against Isaiah’s chest.

His hand traveled the length of my spine and he pressed a kiss to the top of my head. “Damn, Sparrow. What’s gotten into you?”

I prayed he didn’t feel the rapid beating of my panicked heart. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, we’ve always had good sex, but lately it’s been amazing.”

I laughed in relief. “I’m showing you what happens once you put a ring on it.”

Glancing at the clock, I realized it was time for me to get ready for work. With great effort, I eased my body off of his and walked into the bathroom. I turned on the shower and waited for the water to heat up while I piled my hair on top of my head. The hot water beat across my body and the steamed surrounded me as I reluctantly scrubbed ‘Zay’s masculine scent away and replaced it with the scent of orange blossoms.

I got out of the shower and opened the bathroom door to the let the steam out. Sitting on the edge of the oversized tub, I oiled up my body, knowing that ‘Zay was watching my every move. Goose bumps raised on my arms with sexual awareness. A small smile formed on my lips. Damn, I had it bad for Isaiah. That man could look at me and make me cum for him.

If I had a few extra moments, I would have gotten back in that bed and gave him something to think about for the rest of the day. Knowing that wasn’t going to happen, I pulled my hair back in a bun and applied light makeup to my freshly scrubbed face. Dressing in a cream skirt with gold trim and a gold tweed jacket, I sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on my five inch cream and gold Prada heels.

“What time will you be home today?”

“I should be home by seven. You want me to grab dinner or are you cooking?” he asked, running his fingers beneath my jacket along my skin. Automatically I leaned back into his fingertips.

Husky moans escaped my parted lips and I debated on whether I should cancel all my appointments today before resolving to go to work. “I’ll cook.” Standing, I kissed him briefly on the lips. “See you later, love you.”

“Love you too, Sparrow.”

I arrived at the office forty-five minutes later with a coffee and pastry in hand. Entering the security codes, I stepped inside. The coffee and coffee cake left my hands and crashed to the wood floor as I surveyed the damage before me.

Bitch, slut, and whore were spray painted on the nude walls in red paint. Vases, lamps, and antiques were in pieces on the wooden floor and the drapes were cut to shreds. Stepping back outside, I dialed 911 just as my sisters pulled up. The police came and took a report and pictures and Robin was on the phone with the insurance company while Raven called the security company. When they were both finished they turned their attention to me.

“Sparrow, this is getting out of control,” Raven said. The anger in her eyes was apparent.

“Raven’s right, but I’m glad you weren’t here when it happened,” Robin sympathized while rubbing my arms.

I wiped the tears from my eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how this could have happened.”

Raven handed me a tissue. “Whoever did this knows too much. They know our schedule, our security codes, and God knows what else. This person is getting too close. You need to tell Isaiah.”

“Tell me what?” All eyes landed on Isaiah while he surveyed the damage. In his hand was the briefcase I had accidently left on the kitchen table. “Tell me what, Sparrow?”

This was my moment to finally tell him the truth. To tell him how I was being stalked by an ex, how before and during our relationship I had led my life being a slut monger, and how I did not tell him even though it had put him in danger. I was going to tell him all of this.

Taking a deep breath, I opened my mouth and said, “Tell you about the vandalism. Someone broke in and tore up the place. From the looks of it, I think it was some local kids.”

Hugging me close, he kissed my forehead and I breathed in the Issey Miyake cologne that he always wore for me. I could see the disapproving looks from my sisters over his shoulder but I wasn’t ready to tell him. I didn’t think I would ever be ready to tell him.

Xavier was on the case and I knew he would find out who was responsible for everything. He was the best in the state. If I just held out a little longer everything would be solved and I would never have to come clean to Isaiah and risk losing the only man that I had lost my heart to.

Chapter 32

ROBIN

It had been two weeks since Sparrow’s stalker made his presence known at the office and there hadn’t been an incident since. I hoped that she would come clean to Isaiah soon but honestly, I had my own issues to deal with.

Picking up the phone, I dialed a number I knew by heart. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Princeton.”

“Stop calling me, you crazy bitch!”

The click of his phone sounded in my ear. Setting the phone down, I lit candles around my living room and set my dining room table for one. Sitting down, I began to eat the meal of steak and steamed vegetables and thought about the only thing I ever thought about, Princeton Tillers.

I had been working with Anita for almost a month and I was planting little seeds in her head while gathering information. I told her all about the man I was pregnant by—who, to her, sounded a lot like Princeton. I told her about the lies he told me and how I desperately wanted our family together.

While I told her all of these half-truths, she unknowingly gave me everything I needed to be a presence in Princeton’s life. I knew his schedule, his place of employment, his best friends, and where his parents stayed. I had the woman giving me advice and buying my baby clothes. She was already talking about throwing me a baby shower. She thought we were friends just like I wanted her to. Bitter laughter bubbled from my throat but was cut short by the ringing of the doorbell. I wiped steak sauce from my mouth and went to the door.

“Princeton!” I practically shouted, dragging him inside.

“Hey Robin, can we talk?” Stepping aside, I led him to the living room and waited for him to continue. “Robin, this can’t continue. You have to stop coming around, talking to my wife, calling my phone, and being crazy. You have to stop.”

I leaned back against the overstuffed grey sofa and crossed my legs, causing the short dress that I had on to inch up further. The exposed flesh caught his eye. “I would Princeton, but you’ve put me in an awkward position. I love you but you won’t give up that fat bitch and come be with me and your baby. No one can do to you the things that I do to you and you know it.”

“Look, I just need to you to back off or I’ll tell my wife everything. Even if she leaves me, I won’t come to you. I don’t know what I saw in you anyways,” he muttered, massaging the bridge of his nose.

My perfectly arched eyebrow inched up and I took his words as a challenge. If he couldn’t remember, then I’d show him. Standing, I let my dress fall from my shoulders, slide down the length of my body and pool around my feet, leaving me clad only in heels and a bra. With every step I took towards him, he backed up until he was pressed against a wall. “Am I jogging your memory now?”

“Robin…Stay away from me. I have a wife and kids,” he said, his eyes glued to my pregnancy enhanced breasts.

Ignoring him, I got all in his personal space. I took his left hand and placed it on my right breast and took his right hand and placed it between my moist thighs. I moaned and flicked my tongue against his full lips. His head fell back on his neck and his eyes fluttered close. “You know you want me,” I whispered. “Take it,” I said, pushing his fingers deep inside me. “It’s yours.”

Indecision fleeted across his face before he lowered his head and captured my nipple between his teeth through the lace bra and his hand worked its way between my wet folds. I caressed his head and urged his hands further as moans left both of our parted lips.

This was what I wanted, needed. I knew Princeton would come back to me. Men always came back for the best sex they ever had. And I knew how to work it and twerk it. I used to have Princeton’s articulate ass stuttering and foaming at the mouth.

I unbuttoned his light cotton shirt and slipped it off his shoulders then went to the belt buckle of his wool slacks. A deep groan caressed my ears when my hand cupped him intimately. Precum coated my fingers and arousal assaulted my nostrils. Slowly, I backed us up to the couch and lay down with him between my thighs.

Princeton kicked off his shoes and pants, his face still buried in between my breasts. Lifting his head, he kissed me deeply. We both moaned. His left hand trailed from my sensitive nipples to my swollen stomach and paused. Releasing my lips, he leaned back and looked at my belly.

In a move I wasn’t expecting, he bent forward and kissed my womb. “I’m sorry, little one,” he whispered.

Tears of happiness left my eyes and I blinked rapidly to hold them at bay. Princeton returned to his previous position and eased inside my hot, tight body. He cradled my face between his large hands and kissed my tears away as tears of his own fell.

I anchored my legs around his waist and bucked my hips in time with his. “I missed you, Princeton.”

“I missed this too, baby,” he said, his face buried in my neck, licking the sweat from my shoulder blade.

We rocked with each other in a rhythm as old as time until the inevitable was upon us. His hips drilled into me powerfully, relentlessly. I gripped his shoulders tightly, my nails biting into his chocolate skin. I watched his eyes roll into the back of his head as hot cum spurted from his hard dick into my waiting core.

His climax was the catalyst to my own. Honey poured from my sweet hive in gallons until I was shaking with orgasmic pleasure. We remained wrapped in each other’s arms for long moments, savoring the bliss that we had just created. After we came down from our sexual high, we showered and redressed.

Again, I was sitting on the couch and he stood. “I meant what I said Robin. I need you to leave my family alone.”

I leapt from the couch. “How can you say that after what we just did?” I hissed.

“I had a momentary lapse in judgment. Believe me, it will not happen again.” Coming closer to me, he placed a wayward lock behind my ear. “It’s not too late, Robin. You can still have that abortion.” My palm slapping his face was my response. “Fine, have it your way.”

Rage filled me as I watched him prepare to leave. Coming closer to him, I balled my fists and beat on his back. Pushing, shoving, and hitting him as he walked around the living room trying to escape me. Finally, he’d had enough.

The sound of the back of his hand hitting my right cheek sliced through the air. Everything stopped for a moment and then chaos erupted. We tussled around the space, knocking over tables, lamps, and accent pieces.

Dragging me by my hair, he hemmed me up against the wall. “This is the last time I’m going to tell you, Robin. You have no idea what you’re fucking with. Leave my family alone and get rid of that baby!” Throwing me across the room, he turned to leave. As I landed on floor, hitting my side on the edge of the coffee table.

Tears of anguish slid down my swollen cheeks into my bloodied mouth. I contemplated calling my sisters but quickly nixed that idea. They didn’t know the whole story of Princeton and me. I didn’t feel like going through all of that at the moment. I thought about calling Blue, but the last thing I needed was him in my business. No, I would have to handle Princeton myself.

Chapter 33

RAVEN

“You can just drop me right here, Dean.”

“Damn, a man can’t even see his wife inside their home anymore?”

I rolled my eyes at him. Waiting for the town car to make a complete stop, I left the car and practically ran to the door in my five inch heels. Dean’s laughter floated to me before I slammed the heavy wood door shut and locked it.

Huffing up the stairs, I stripped from my navy blue evening gown and ran a bath. Vanilla scented bubbles filled the oversized tub as I removed my makeup and let down my hair. Sinking my tired body into the warm water, I sighed. Dean and I had just left a benefit dinner for the campaign of a local judge. Dean was trying to get his dirty money in the hands of greedy politicians that could save his ass if need be.

Rubbing my arms with a scented salt scrub, I couldn’t help but let the tears that I had been holding at bay finally fall. This was the third event in the last two weeks that I had attended with Dean and I knew I couldn’t keep it from Pierre much longer. He was getting more suspicious about the lack of time that I spent with him and my restlessness when we were together.

The stress of dealing with Dean’s demands, the upcoming drop, keeping Pierre in the dark, and my pregnancy were wearing on me. Many nights I had cried myself to sleep.

Grabbing my phone from the floor, I called Sparrow. “What’s up, Sparrow?”

“Nothing much, Boo. What’s going on with you?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Her loud scream sounded through the earpiece. I couldn’t help but laugh. Leave it to Sparrow to instantly lift my spirits without trying. “I’ll take that as congratulations.”

“Of course, how is Pierre taking it?”

My spirits took a nose dive. Silent tears ran down my cheeks. Damned hormones, I thought to myself. “I haven’t told him yet.”

Long silent moments passed between us and I could practically hear the wheels turning in her head. “I love you, Ray…”

“Love you too, Sparrow.”

“And I know that you’re a private person, but what the hell is going on with you? You haven’t been yourself for months.”

“Oh, Sparrow. I fucked up. I wish I could tell you but I can’t. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I sobbed.

“I’m on my way,” she said before hanging up.

By the time I finished my bath and dressed in my favorite flannel pajamas, Sparrow was entering my front door. Pouring herself a glass of wine, she had me sit on the side of the bed so that she could braid my hair before both us climbed into my bed. It was so simple, but just enough. I just needed to be comforted.

For the rest of the night, I laid in my baby sister’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably. She never asked me to explain myself. She knew that when I was ready, I would talk. All she did was support and encourage me as I broke all the way down, releasing all the emotions I had buried for the last couple of months. We prayed until the wee hours of the morning, her for my peace and me for my life.

PART III

Chapter 34

SPARROW

The midafternoon’s sun beamed through the blinds of my office window. A few more weeks of winter and the oppressive cold would release its grip from the throat of Illinois. I was worried about Raven. Ever since I spent the night with her two days ago, her anxiety level had risen considerably. Add to that the fact that I thought Robin was pregnant, I was stressed.

Two pregnant sisters, both of whom were keeping it a secret, and a stalker was all too much for one person to bear. Blue was still running around town “taking care of business” and trying to keep things under wraps from him and Isaiah had me losing sleep at night.

The incessant ringing of the phone let me know that I was, once again, the only one in the office. “LadyBird Interior Designs, this is Sparrow. How can I help you?” Heavy breathing was the only audible sound on the other end. “Hello?”

“Sparrow, baby, did you like the flowers?” the distorted voice asked.

“Excuse me?” I asked, sorting through the stack of bills on my desk.

“The black and red flowers, did you like them?”

My breath caught in my throat and the letters slipped from my fingertips. “Who is this?”

“I know how much you like flowers, roaring fires, and artwork so I sent you flowers, set a fire, and made you artwork on your office walls.”

Panic gripped my heart tightly and my lunch threatened to resurface. “What do you want?”

Bitter laughter floated through the earpiece. “I want the same thing you gave me, heartbreak.”

“I don’t know who you are but all my hoes knew the deal when they got with me. I didn’t do anything wrong!!” Tears of rage and fear fell from my closed eyes.

“Too bad I don’t see it that way, Sparrow. I’ll be seeing you.”

The click of the phone let me know that the conversation was over. Sobs shook my body until I vomited on the floor. Tears blinded my vision as I cleaned up the mess and shut down my computer. With shaky hands, I locked up the office and drove home. I called Xavier with an update on the way and called Isaiah, asking him to meet me at my house. His car was waiting for me when I pulled up and I entered the house on shaky legs.

“’Zay, where are you?” I yelled out.

“In the kitchen.”

Slowly, I walked the green mile to the kitchen and found the love of my life. He was 6’4” of melted chocolate with the greenest eyes and deepest dimples that I had ever seenGliding towards him, I kissed him deeply, emptying all my passion, love, and pain between his succulent lips. Breaking the kiss before I lost my nerve, I sat down at the island. “Baby, we need to talk.”

Damn, those four words could ruin anything. Nothing good ever came after the words “we need to talk.” This was no exception.

He sat next to me. “Sure, baby, what’s up?”

Sighing, I wiped my sweaty palms on my skirt and prepared to spill everything that I had been hiding from him for almost a year. I could only pray that he would forgive me in the end.

“I need to tell you something. Back when we first met, I was seeing three other men. I had what I used to refer to as my stable of hoes. It was basically a couple of guys I would see, they all knew about each other and were comfortable with it. I would keep them as long as they didn’t fall in love. As soon as they did, I would drop them like a bad habit. Now, I’m in trouble because I’m being stalked. I think it may be one of the ex-hoes.

The house was set on fire, as you know since you were here. My tires have been slashed, black and red roses have been sent to the house and office since last year, and the office was vandalized. Today I got a call from the person, but the voice was so distorted that I couldn’t tell who it was.”

Silence and the ticking of his jaw were the only response I got.

“Isaiah, I am so sorry I lied to you.” I grabbed his hands. “Baby, please say something.”

Snatching his hands from mine, he stood over me. “You played me, Sparrow.”

“Baby, I didn’t play you…”

“Naw, you fucking played me. You had me giving you my all and you were fucking three other dudes.” His face twisted in disgust and my heart twisted in pain. “That’s foul. You’re a hoe, Sparrow.”

“’Zay please…”

“Naw, fuck you. I’m not trying to turn a hoe into a housewife.”

He started to leave and desperation took over me. My pride crashed and burned along with my heart. I grabbed at his arms and begged shamelessly. “Baby, please don’t leave me. I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry. I’ll do anything, just don’t leave me,” I cried.

“Openness, trust, and honesty, those were the only three things that I had ever asked of you. I can’t do this shit with you, Sparrow. I can’t walk around looking like a fool and having my life put in danger because you’re loose.”

Forcefully removing my hands from him, he stormed out the house and I crumpled into a pile of tears and anguish on the kitchen floor.

Chapter 35

RAVEN

Opening my eyes, I stretched as usual, my hands connecting with glossy papers. All over the bed were pictures of me and Dean. There were pictures of us at one event or another, walking into the condo together and me leaving hours later, and of Dean coming into my house late at night.

I looked at Pierre and could feel the anger wafting off of him, but worse than that was the heartbreak that lurked in his eyes. He sat next to the bed, a black satin ring box in his hands. My heart constricted and I knew I would never forget the look in his eyes as long as I lived. He placed the box in his pocket and stood to leave.

I looked at Pierre and reached for him. “I can explain.”

“Go ahead.”

I bit my lower lip. “I can’t right now, but I will soon. I promise it’s not the way it looks.”

“Really, because it looks like you’re fucking your husband.”

“That’s not true.”

“Okay, then tell me the truth.” Silence engulfed us and tension thickened the air. “That’s what I thought. Just tell me one thing, is the baby mine?”

I wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Of course it is. Please Pierre, just give me a few weeks and everything will make sense. I promise.”

He laughed harshly. “You want me to wait a few weeks? Ray, please.” He stood and I noticed the packed bags by the chair for the first time. “The crazy thing is that I still love you. All I want from you is the truth and I can forgive you, but you won’t even give me that.”

“I can’t,” I cried.

“Can’t or won’t? I risked my life and my family’s lives to be with you and you do this shit. I should’ve seen it coming though. While you were sleeping, I thought about all the things I would say to you, all the names I’d call you. Now, all I want to do is get as far away from you as possible, my heart can’t take anymore.” He stood and grabbed his bags before he leaned over me and kissed my forehead, the tenderness of the movement obliterating any resolve I had left. “Bye, Raven.”

The front door closed and my heart broke into a million jagged pieces that stabbed my bruised soul. Anger, sadness, and self-loathing fueled my movements. I threw on the first dress I saw and matching heels, brushed my hair, and halfheartedly applied my makeup. I had to find Dean. Numerous phone calls and false starts later, I had tracked him down.

My high heels pounded against the pavement as I walked across the sidewalk, fury in every step. My heart pounded in my chest, threating to explode. My eyes were swollen from crying until my tear ducts couldn’t produce any more liquid pain. A wave of nausea hit my body but I willed it down. Now was not the time especially since I was off to war. Dean had fucked with me one time too many.

My destination in front of me, I prayed for strength. Things were liable to go all the way to the left and I had to be prepared for the worst. I was about to pull one of Dean’s moves by coming unannounced. He had always said the element of surprise was the best way to win and I was about to put that theory to the test.

Using my spare key, I entered his mother’s house. Laughter and loud talking could be heard coming from the back of the house and I moved towards that direction. I entered the room and all eyes landed on me.

Gathering my strength, I walked straight towards a smiling Dean and slapped the shit out of him. Pure evil stared back at me and he wiped the light trickle of blood from his lip.

Dean’s mother, Brianna, came beside me. “Raven, what is wrong with you, girl?”

“I need to talk to your son.”

“Baby, no matter what he did, and I’m sure it’s something small, you can’t just walk up in here and hit him. He’s your husband.”

Anger filled me to the rafters. That woman was always taking the side of her baby boy. In her eyes, Dean could do no wrong. I was surprised she was even talking to me given the situation. Understanding dawned. Dean had yet to tell his family that we were getting divorced. I guessed he hoped that we would get back together. The joke was on him.

Never taking my eyes from Dean, I repeated, “I need to talk to your son.” Catching the hint, Brianna and Dean’s two older brothers left the den. I waited for the door to close before I pounced. “You’re a piece of shit, Dean.”

“Took you fifteen years to figure that out? You’re not as smart as you pretend to be.”

“Shut the fuck up or I’ll slap you again,” I said, my hand cocked.

Grabbing my wrist, he stood and brought my body flush against his. “Don’t do it, Raven. The only reason you’re not flat on your ass with a broken jaw right now is because my mother is here. Don’t press your luck.” Flinging my wrist down, he retook his seat. “What do you want?”

“We made a deal, Dean. I would do this job for you and you would let me be with Pierre in peace.”

He crossed his legs and leaned back, the pants of his grey suit rising over his ankle slightly. “No. The deal was if you did this job for me then I would let Pierre live.”

“So, he can live but just not with me, huh?” I sat on the couch and watched how his eyes devoured the length of my legs made visible by my short purple dress.

“Did you really think I’d let you two live happily ever after? How many times do I have to explain this to you? This isn’t a fucking movie, Ray. This is real life. As far as I’m concerned, he stole you from me. Men get killed for a lot less out here. He’s lucky to still be taking breaths.”

Despair filled the open wounds in my heart and I willed myself not cry. “He didn’t steal me. I left on my own accord. Why can’t you just let me live in peace? I gave you fifteen years of my life. I helped you become who you are. Can’t you just give me that? Can’t you just let me move on?”

Uncrossing his legs, he bent them and placed his elbows on his knees, his fingers holding up his chin. Looking me dead in the eyes, his voice took on a deadly tone. “You’ll never move on, Raven. I’m as much a part of you as you are me. I’m in your head. I’m in your body. I’m in your soul. You are mine. My imprint is all over you. No man who values his life will touch you. As long as I live and breathe, you will belong to me and I plan on living and breathing for a long time.”

Chapter 36

BLUE

“So, what’s the news? Did you fix everything?”

Looking into my father’s expectant eyes, I shook my head. “No, not yet but I’m coming close. Everything that I predicted would happen has come to pass. Now, I can focus on helping them fix their situations.”

My father stood and paced his living room floor. At 60, he still was a striking man. His nut brown complexion was free of wrinkles. His brown hair had greyed around the edges, giving him a distinguished look. While most men his age walked hunched over, Jay Bird’s 6’6” frame was ramrod straight. Though he was five years from retirement, he looked as if he was in his early forties. It must have been all the young pussy that he was knee deep in all the time.

“Blue, I didn’t call you down here to help them fix their problems. I called you so you could do it for them. Be a man and take care of it.”

I rolled my eyes. Every time my father disagreed with me, he would question my manhood. “Look, I don’t have to be here. I took a leave of absence to take care of matters that have nothing to do with me, number one. Number two, if I just magically fix all of their problems then they will never learn. They will end up back in the same boat and I’ll be damned if I come back here.”

“Aww, so you’re too good to come back home and help, huh? Well, then why don’t you take your bourgeois ass back to New York?”

“Man, please. You know you need me here. That’s why you called me. You can’t even help your own daughters because you don’t even know them.”

That got a rise out of him. “They’re my daughters of course I know them. Not sure about you though.”

I ignored his dig and stood to my full height. “So you know them? Then you know why they’re in the mess they’re in. It’s because of you!”

“Yeah, blame me. That’s what you’ve always been good at.”

“It is your fault. You were so focused on fucking some young whore that you ignored all of us. You drove mom so crazy that all she could focus on was you and your hoes.”

“I was a good father. I did the best I could,” he said, invading my personal space.

“Sparrow is so afraid of being like mom that, until recently, she slept with any man with a dick and she perfected the ability to be emotionally detached. Raven was ignored so much by you that she fell for the first man to show her even a small amount of attention. Robin is so desperate for a ‘normal’ family life that she will get it at any costs, regardless of who she hurts in the process.”

“I did the best I could with what I knew. If you kids couldn’t get your shit together that’s not a reflection on me.”

I laughed bitterly. Jay Bird could never admit when he was wrong. “You’re an evil bastard,” I sighed.

“Yeah, and you’re just a bastard.”

Finally, we were going to address the elephant that had always been in the room. “Let’s take a blood test and find out.” He turned his back towards me. “That’s what I thought. You know I’m yours, but you’re too afraid to admit that maybe your wife is too good for you, that your kids are better people than you are, and that you’re just a piece of shit that is hell bent on sabotaging the beautiful life you were blessed with even though you don’t deserve it.”

“Get the hell out of my house, you blue-eyed son-of-a-bitch.”

Ignoring him, I grabbed him by the collar and slammed him against the nearest wall. “Let me make myself clear, Jay. You need to get your shit together because if you don’t, I promise you, I will make a trip back to Chicago for one reason, to get my mother. I will not have you put her in the nuthouse because you want to keep your dick wet.”

I released him and watched him gasp for air. We might have been around the same height, but I had about thirty pounds of muscle on him.

I turned to leave before looking back at him. “Oh and another thing, if you ever question my paternity again, I’ll beat your ass. I don’t give a damn if you are my father. You’re not going to make me feel like an outcast in my own family anymore.”

Grabbing my coat, I headed into the cool early March air, feeling as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew the feeling wouldn’t last. I had things to do, but first I had to talk with Robin.

Chapter 37

JAY BIRD

I wasn’t as bad as my children made me seem. Yeah, I did some bad things but I wasn’t a complete ass. I loved each of them, including Blue. I just didn’t know how to show it. You see, things had never gone well for me in my life. I grew up dirt poor on the south side of Chicago. My old man was gone way before I had even taken my first breath on this earth. My mother, well, she was a major bitch.

I’d watch as men would fall all over themselves trying to be with her, gain her love. I’d also watch as she would use that love to get things that she wanted or needed. Then she would discard them as soon as she had gotten what she was looking for. It was sad really, so many men in and out of my home. Everyone knew about it and I suffered the consequences at school and on the playground.

I remember one particular man who used to come around, Maurice. He was the only one who would take the time to speak to me and even hang out with me. I had hoped and prayed that he would stay around but as usual my mother put him out to pasture once she got what she wanted. I remember coming home one day after school and seeing him sitting on our stoop crying. I ran to ask him what was wrong just as my front door swung open and my mother let another man out. She looked at Maurice and sucked her teeth before telling me to get inside. After that day, I never saw him again and I knew that I never wanted to love a woman if all she was going to do was hurt me.

Fast forward a few years and I met Tianna. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was what dreams were made of. The moment we met there was instant chemistry. It was like being struck by lightning. I didn’t want to be with her, but I couldn’t stay away from her. We dated for a few years and I hemmed and hawed about making a total commitment but finally I put a ring on it.

After a few short years I realized marriage wasn’t for me. The same day that I came to her ready to hand her divorce papers, she handed me a positive pregnancy test. Robin was on her way. For years after that, every single time I was ready to give her a divorce, she would end up pregnant. After a while I just stopped trying and started cheating.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my wife, but I was afraid of that love. It was too strong, too overwhelming, and all-consuming. I never wanted those young girls I messed around with. They never held my attention past the sex. They didn’t intrigue me like Tianna. With my wife, I wanted to know everything, what she was thinking, how she was feeling. With those hoes, I just wanted to forget the insane amount of contentment that I found in my wife’s arms. To someone on the outside, it may have seemed crazy to try and reject something that most people were looking for. But I wasn’t most people. I was Jay Bird. A man so scarred by his mother’s actions that I tried to avoid the mistakes of her marks every chance I could get.

So I would throw Tianna’s love back in her face and/or use it against her. I tried to fight it every chance I got and my family suffered because of it, especially Blue. I pretty much ignored all of my kids while they were growing up. Despite me and my failures, they had experienced success. Blue was my only son, the one to carry on the Bird name. I hurt him and I didn’t know how to fix it. Just like I didn’t know how to fix the situations that my daughters found themselves in.

I knew Blue was telling me the truth when he blamed me for the girls’ current predicaments. Had I been a better father, a better role model, and a better man, they may have made better choices. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and it was too late for shoulda, coulda, wouldas. All I could do was try to be better in the future and I needed to start right now with my marriage.

Chapter 38

ROBIN

Ding-Dong. Slowly, I got up from my position on the couch and made my way to the door at a snail’s pace, the trip seeming endless. Looking out the window, I saw that it was Blue and inwardly cursed. He always seemed to show up at the most inopportune times. I didn’t have time for this. I wasn’t feeling well.

Opening the door, I intended to tell him to go away but the look on his face let me know he wouldn’t be going anywhere. “Hey, Blue,” I said softly.

“Hey Robin,” he said, entering the house and taking a seat on the sofa.

“Look Blue, I’m super tired and just want to rest.”

“Well, I’m super irritated and want to talk to you.”

Rolling my eyes, I took a seat in the chair facing him and waited. Blue was wearing black jeans and a black hoodie, a style he seemed to favor these days. His spicy cologne mixed with the scent of vanilla that my house always carried, making me nauseous.

I sighed and threw my hands in the air. “Well, what’s so important that it couldn’t wait?”

Leaning back on the couch, he placed his arms across the back and uttered the two words that I didn’t expect to hear. “Princeton Tillers.”

Silence engulfed us and my stomach cramped. I wrapped my grey hoodie closer to my aching body. “I don’t who that is.”

“Don’t you?” he asked, his eyebrow cocked. “He is your baby’s daddy.”

“Like I said, I don’t know who he is.”

“Really because he seems to know you and was very eager to talk about your relationship, and I do use the term loosely.”

Oh, shit, I thought to myself. This was the last thing that I needed. I was trying to handle this situation myself. Blue was a man, he wouldn’t understand how a woman loves or how she will do anything to keep her family together. All he’d see was a woman who had crossed the line.

I pretended to be nonchalant even though my stomach was queasy. I leaned back in the chair, mimicking him, and the motion caused a searing pain to shoot up my back. “What did he say?”

“Nothing you haven’t already heard from him. Look, I’m not saying what he did was right, but screwing with a man’s family life is dangerous. Not all women are like mom, they’re not going to lie down and take it.”

Lowering my arms, I rolled my eyes. “That’s not my problem. Fuck him and his family life. He helped me make this baby and we’re going to be a family,” I spat.

“Are you sure he gave you that baby? He said he used a condom.”

I sat up quickly and almost fainted from the pain in my back and stomach. Something wasn’t right. “The baby is his Blue and I don’t care what you or he thinks. He was the only man that I was sleeping with.”

“That’s what I figured.” He scrubbed his hands down his face. “You need to leave his wife alone.”

“I can’t do that,” I gritted.

Anger distorted his face. The muscles in his arms bunched. Leaning forward, he spoke in a gravely tone that I had never heard from him before. “This is the last time I’m going to tell you, Robin…”

Pain seized me in a vice grip and my vision blurred. “Blue…”

“You cannot mess with someone’s family life and expect no repercussions…”

“Blue, I can’t…”

Angrier than I had ever seen him, he grabbed me out of my chair and a howl of pain tore from my chapped lips. “Fuck what you can’t do! This is a deadly game you’re playing and someone is going to get…” he paused when he felt my trembling body against his. “Robin what’s wrong with you?”

Whimpers were all I could manage in response. Pain like I had never felt shot through me.

Looking down, he swore softly before picking me up in his arms. “It’s going to be okay, Robin. I’m going to get you to the doctor.” It wasn’t until he turned towards the door that I noticed the blood staining the light colored chair and floor.

An hour and a half later, I was in a hospital bed surrounded by my parents and siblings, the scratchy hospital gown irritating my skin and the bright lights blinding my eyes. My body felt cold, my head felt heavy, my heart was broken, and my womb was empty. Tears rolled unchecked down my swollen cheeks. Stunned silence surrounded me.

Blue had informed the rest of the family of my situation and they were still trying to wrap their minds around it. In less than five minutes, my parents and sisters had found out that I was pregnant and then that I had lost the baby. It was a lot for me to wrap my mind around. One minute I was carrying a life, and the next minute I was not.

I had done everything possible to ensure a healthy pregnancy. I had taken prenatal vitamins, watched what I ate, didn’t smoke or drink, and wasn’t around harmful chemicals. The one thing I didn’t do was the one thing I didn’t think I had to. I had unprotected sex with Princeton Tillers.

Just thinking of that name made my already volatile stomach want to erupt. He came to my house Valentine’s Day with an agenda, to get rid of the baby one way or another. He had certainly succeeded. I would have never thought to ask for a condom and I would have never thought he would have given me an STD.

Complications from the disease caused me to miscarry. I knew it was too easy. Him coming to my house, having sex with me, kissing my stomach, and apologizing, it was all too easy and convenient. The fact that he slept with me without a condom should have tipped me off that something was wrong. He was the king of condoms.

I glanced at the faces of each of my family members as the deafening silence continued to engulf us. What could be said? Nothing. I wasn’t going to be a mother and that was taken away by the father of my child. Sighing deeply, I continued to let the silence stretch while gazing at the faces surrounding me. Each seemed lost in their private thoughts. If they had listened closely enough they would have heard the last strand of my sanity snapping.

Chapter 39

SPARROW

My heart was broken for Robin. All she ever wanted was a child and her first one was taken by a lying, cheating bastard. If I didn’t have my own issues I would have found this Princeton Tillers and kicked his ass for hurting my sister, but that would have to wait.

I had finally received the call that I had been waiting for. Xavier found the identity of my crazy ass stalker, Sherry McCormick. I wasn’t sure who this chick was but I was going to give her a beating for ruining my relationship with Isaiah. Okay, maybe she didn’t ruin it all by herself but she was a huge part.

Driving through the streets of the suburbs, I arrived at Isaiah’s house. His driveway was covered in the latest and hopefully the last dusting of snow and he had yet to shovel. Carefully navigating my way up the sidewalk, I prayed that he would see me. He hadn’t answered any of my calls or returned my messages. I knew that I had messed up, but I wasn’t going to give up on our love or let him do the same.

I rang the doorbell and waited. Isaiah opened the door and air burned in my lungs. Wrapped only in a baby blue towel, his chocolate muscles were laid out for my viewing pleasure. The cold March air pebbled his nipples and his eyes darkened to a forest green. The towel tented from his arousal and his breathing became labored. He wanted me as much as I wanted him. Normally, I would have used this to my advantage but I wasn’t here for sex. I was here for my man.

As if he read my mind, he tightened his grip on his towel and his face twisted in a scowl. “What do you want, Sparrow?”

I nervously licked my lips. “I want you to at least talk to me, ‘Zay. I love you and you love me…”

“Love isn’t enough.”

“Please,” I begged. “Please, just listen to me.”

Stepping aside, he let me inside the house. I took a seat on the loveseat and folded my hands in my lap. He sat across from me and looked everywhere but at me. “Say what you have to say and leave.”

“I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you. I thought I could handle the situation myself. I’m not used to being so open with anybody…”

“You said you could handle it.”

Sighing, I ran my fingers through my damp hair. “I know and I am trying. All I know is that since I can remember it has been hard for me to open up to any man. Until I met you, I didn’t believe in love. I thought it was something people made up to justify their actions. I know that I hurt you and for that I am so unbelievably sorry. It is killing me to know that I’ve caused you any amount of pain.”

“I accept your apology, Sparrow.” Hope filled me from head to toe. “But, I need to think about us being together.”

I didn’t even try to stop the tears from falling from my downcast eyes. “I understand and I will give you all the time you need. Just know that I will not give up on us, ‘Zay. I have gone too long without loving and I’ll be damned if I lose the love of my life over one mistake.”

I headed to the door and stopped, turning my head towards him. “Tonight, while you lay in your bed, think about what you’d rather hold on to, your anger or me.”

Closing the door, I hopped in the car and went back to my house. My nerves were already on edge, but they tumbled off the cliff when I saw the vase of red and black flowers waiting on my doorstep. Exiting the car, I slammed the door. My hips automatically swung in time to the beat that my heels made on the sidewalk, drawing attention from my neighbors.

I gingerly picked up the vase and entered my home. Setting them on the end table, I reached in my purse for the dossier on Sherry McCormick that Xavier had given me.

I walked towards the bar and poured a stiff drink with the file under my arm. Picking up the burn phone that I had picked up on my way to Isaiah’s, I dialed the number from file. Five rings later, a sweet voice answered.

I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “May I speak with Ms. McCormick?”

“This is Ms. McCormick.”

“This is Sparrow Bird.”

Silence then muttered cursing floated across the receiver. “What do you want?” Gone was the sweet voice and in its place was that of a bitter woman.

“What do I want? I want to know why you are doing this to me.”

“Because you are the worst kind of woman. You prey on weak men and fill their lives with longing and misery.”

“Look,” I said, cutting her off. “I’m not sure which one of your boyfriends you think I took from you, but if he was so easily swayed then I did you a favor.”

Harsh laughter assaulted my ear. “You stole more than a man from me. You stole my whole reason for living.”

This bitch was nuts. If a man was her reason for living then she needed serious help and a hobby. “No man is worth…”

“He was worth it! He was everything to me and because of you he isn’t here. I can’t talk to him, I can’t see him, I can’t touch him. I can’t do anything because you ruined him.”

I tried to remain calm. “Like I said, I don’t know who…”

“You…Don’t…Know? Well, let me enlighten you. Taylor Bivens.”

Before I could respond the dial tone sounded in my ear. Taylor Bivens. That name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I hated to admit it, but I had slept with so many men over the years that eventually they all started to run together.

Running up the stairs, I looked under my bed and pulled out a suitcase. Inside the suitcase was a lockbox. I entered the code and took out the red velvet book that was inside. I flipped through the cream colored pages quickly before I landed on his page.

A picture of a good looking man stared back at me. He was tall and lanky with a creamy chocolate complexion. Hazel eyes surrounded by bushy eyebrows and long lashes made his gaze hypnotic. He had shoulder length dreads and a tattoo of a yin and yang on his right bicep. Next to the picture were the important details of our involvement. I had been involved with Taylor from June 2008 to September 2008. I had left him after he professed his love to me and immediately replaced him with another man, Sean.

I grabbed my laptop from the nightstand and looked up Taylor Bivens. I looked through countless articles and profiles before finding the one I needed, an article in the Tribune.

According to the article, Taylor Bivens was a prominent architect in the Chicagoland area. On December 2008, he jumped from his twentieth floor condo window. He was predeceased by his parents and grandparents. There was no wife and no children. The only surviving relative was his twin sister, Sherry Bivens-McCormick.

Bile rose from my stomach and into my throat. I had always prided myself on being honest. I thought that honesty prevented me and others from being hurt. I knew now that I was wrong. My man-eating ways helped cost a man his life. I knew that he hadn’t taken the break up well, but I didn’t care. I moved on to the next man without a second thought to the one that I had just crushed.

Taylor’s death was on my hands and his sister knew it. She blamed me and I blamed myself. In my heart it felt like I pushed him out of that window on the twentieth floor. I knew in my head that it didn’t make any sense but since when did emotions become rational? Tears cascaded from my eyes and I curled up into the fetal position.

I had to deal with this, but I didn’t know how. There were so many factors, so many thoughts swirling through my mind. I felt for Sherry but there was no reason that I should die or be terrorized because her brother misinterpreted our relationship.

Blindly reaching for the phone, I called the only person that I knew could help me. “Blue, I need your help.”

Chapter 40

RAVEN

My face hurt from plastering a fake smile on it for the last hour. My hands were shaky and my eyes burned with unshed tears and cigar smoke. If no good deed goes unpunished, then this was my penance. The low lighting and flickering candlelight hid the discomforting emotions in my eyes. The heavy red velvet décor of the dinner club matched my evening gown, allowing me to hide in the shadows. Unfortunately, when you were so in tuned to someone, when they were in your very soul, there was nowhere on Earth you can hide.

Dean’s hands played at the nape of my neck before diving in my hair, massaging my scalp. The act was possessive and a warning to any man who thought to approach me. Well, not any man just one in particular.

“You see that shit, Ray?” His breath, a combination of mint and cognac, caressed the side of my face.

Yeah, I saw it. There was no way that I couldn’t see it. The moment Pierre walked through the door, I felt him. My body broke out in a sweat, my lips tingled, and my breasts ached with need. I desperately wanted to call out to him, touch him, to love him…until I saw that woman on his arm.

Some high-yellow heifer, looking like a knock off version of me, had her hands all over my man. She was my height, had my same shape, though not as firm and tight, and a jacked up lace front that tried to mimic my signature waves. She looked ratchet as hell in skintight, low-cut black mini dress and plastic pumps. She obviously didn’t receive the memo that showing too much skin was trashy and grown ass women didn’t wear Baby Phat.

Pierre’s eyes met mine and for an unguarded moment he let his true feelings show, longing, desire, and love shined in his luminous eyes until his gaze ventured to my right and saw Dean. His expression closed and became guarded again. I couldn’t blame him. Throughout the night, I would feel his eyes on me but was never able to catch him. It hurt so bad to see him move on with another woman, but I had it coming. This is what happened when you made a deal with the devil.

Speaking of which, I answered the question. “Yeah, I see it, Dean. How can I not?”

In a move that caught me totally off guard, Dean actually showed compassion. “I’m sorry, Ray. If it’s any consolation, he’s a fool, choosing that over you. At least I fought for you.”

Sipping my iced tea, I didn’t bother with a response. I was too busy trying not to let the tears falls from my strained eyes.

“Say the word baby doll and we can call this whole thing off.”

I whipped my head to the side and faced him. His eyes, for the first time in a long time, mirrored the sincerity in his voice. I was tempted to take him up on the deal but the love in my heart and the life in my womb stopped me. “Thanks, but no thanks. We both know what will happen if I do.”

“Yeah but this man is playing you. Here you are giving up everything and he has another woman on his arm. Why would you continue to protect him?”

With a sigh that reflected all the pain I carried in my heart and soul, I glanced at Pierre. “When a woman loves…”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, releasing his hold on me, his voice edged with ice.

And he did know. He was using that love against me. Filled to bursting with tears, I excused myself and went to the lady’s room. I braced my hands on the marble vanity and bit back the sobs that were threatening to escape. I had cried enough tears, first for Dean and now for Pierre. I’d be damned if I cried anymore. It was time to stop the waterworks and put my family back together, as soon as I got the devil off my back. My self-control back intact, I reapplied my lipstick and exited the bathroom.

“You look good, Ray. Damn good,” Pierre said, appearing slowly from the shadows.

I slowly turned on the toe of my gold Vera Wang platforms. I knew I looked good, more than good in my deep red A-line Armani dress. Pregnancy had done wonders to my figure. Gone were the subtle B cups and in their place were enticing Cs. My small hips had spread and my ass was rounder. My stomach had a slight swell and my skin glowed with good health. My jet black hair nearly reached my waist, begging to have my man’s hands dive deep into the waves. Yeah, I looked good and his appreciative gaze boosted my confidence.

“Thank you, you don’t look too bad yourself,” I said huskily.

Damn, he looked tempting. It was as if he dressed to match me. A charcoal grey double breasted wool suit by the same designer delineated his impressive physique. His red dress shirt was tieless and opened around the collar.

We even wore the same gold accessories. He wore the gold and diamond cufflinks that I gave him and I wore the gold and ruby charm bracelet that he gave me. The only thing that would have increased his sex appeal was me on his arm.

Clearing his throat, he placed his large hands in his pockets. “Thank you.”

I chuckled softly. “Look at us, acting like polite strangers.”

“I see you and Dean are back together.”

There’s that elephant, I wondered where it went, I thought to myself. “We are not back together, Pierre,” I said with a roll of my eyes.

His eyes darkened and his face contorted in a grimace. “That’s not the way it looked to me, his hands were all over you.”

“The same way your hands were all over that bitch,” I spat.

“Ray…”

“Tell me something, Pierre,” I said, cutting him off. “When you are with that knock off version of me do you think of me? Do you pretend it’s me you’re kissing, holding, and fucking?”

“Ray…” his voice held a trace of warning.

“Tell me you don’t miss me, Pierre.”

“Raven,” he said firmly with a shake of his head.

“I thought you didn’t lie, Pierre. Or maybe I should call you Piccolo. He’s the liar, right?”

That got the reaction I wanted. Swiftly closing the distance between us, he finally put his hands on my heated body. Suddenly he was everywhere. He was in my hair, on my neck, beneath the hem of my dress, and underneath the bodice. It was madness and I knew I should stop before we got caught but that thought just excited me all the more.

He licked and suckled the sweet spot beneath my ear. “I want to tell you something, Sweetness. Are you listening?”

I could only mewl in response. My overheated brain was focused on trying to wrap my legs around his waist. My horny body knew this man and wanted him and only him. It had been too damn long.

Pulling my hair back, he forced me to meet his eyes. “I love you, Ray. I haven’t touched anyone since I left. You’ve ruined me for any other woman. So, I have a proposition for you.”

My heart thundered in my chest.

He lowered his head to my moist lips, his forehead touching mine and his lips a breath away. “Walk out of here with me right now. Fuck that girl I’m with and fuck your husband. Leave with me right now, Ray. I’ll take care of you, protect you.” Raising my head up, I tried to kiss him but he was too smart to fall for my tricks of evasion. “Answer me, Raven.”

Cupping his beautiful face in my hands, I broke both of our hearts again. “I can’t.”

His arms fell to his sides. I could feel the ice enter his veins and see the light behind his eyes vanish, leaving darkness in its place. “Twice I offered you my love and twice you rejected it for Dean. A man can only take so much. Don’t expect a third time.”

Turning, he left the darkened hallway, my heart calling after him.

Chapter 41

BLUE

It always surprised me how people in the suburbs believed that they were impervious to crime especially since some of their neighbors dabbled in unsavory career paths. Shrouded in total darkness, I climbed through an open window on the bottom floor of the two-story home. Old man winter had finally left Illinois and we were enjoying an unseasonably warm March.

Dressed in black from head to toe, I blended easily into the shadowed surroundings. Staying low to the ground, I checked every room on the first floor for my target to no avail. I climbed up the stairs with the grace of a large cat, knowing that I would find him there. I had it on good information that this was the house he laid his head at peacefully.

The glow from a lamp was visible through the space under the closed door at the end of the hall. Slowly, I opened the door and was hit with the revolting stench of liquor, weed, and vomit. Breathing through my mouth, I stood over the bed and the sleeping man in it. My fingers itched to put a bullet through him for the pain he had caused my sister, but first I needed answers.

I reached into my waist, pulled out the gun, and shot a round into the wooden headboard. He jumped from the bed, a wild look in his eyes. Anger propelled me and I landed a punch to his face, hearing the crack of teeth as my fist connected. Both of us were about the same in height, weight, and experience but I was sober and furious and he was drunk and clumsy.

He staggered towards me and threw an inept right hook that only hit the air. I landed two quick blows to his left and right sides and one to his left eye before I decided that I had enough of beating his ass. Grabbing him by his neck, I pushed him up against the wall, shaking the paintings from it in the process. I removed my ski mask and watched as recognition then fear hit him.

“Blue?”

“Surprise, motherfucker.”

Clawing at my arm that was crushing his windpipe, he gasped, “I can explain.” I relaxed my grip and waited. “I didn’t mean for this to happen, Blue, I swear. Shit just got out of control…”

I had heard enough. I tightened my hold on him and enjoyed the way he struggled against me. “I told you to protect her, not sleep with her!”

“I’m sorry.” Tears of regret flowed unchecked down his face and the stench of liquor on his breath made me woozy.

The torment in his eyes and voice pulled at my heartstrings and defused my anger. I released him and watched him sag to the floor gasping as I sat on the edge of the unmade bed.

“I know, Piccolo. But, I told you this would happen. I told you to watch her from afar. I knew you’d fall for her ass.”

His shoulders slumped and he ran his hands through his uncut hair. “Yeah, well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Ray’s back with Dean.” Laughter bubbled up from my throat before I could stop it. Anger crossed Piccolo’s face. “What’s so funny?”

“Man, Ray isn’t back with Dean,” I said with a shake of my head.

“I know that’s your sister, but I’ve seen her with him. She’s been going to one event and another with him, playing the role of devoted wife.” A combination of grief and bitterness laced his voice.

“She did it for you,” I calmly stated.

“Blue…”

“She traded her life for yours,” I interrupted. I watched the emotions cross his unshaven face before I told him everything that Cedric and Ty told me. “To make a long story short, the day after your accident, Dean slapped Ray around and made her a deal…”

“I’ll kill him.”

“Either she did a job for him or he would kill you…”

“Shit!”

“From what I understand, there is no job.”

“So, this fool is bluffing? I’ll beat his ass just for worrying her.”

“Naw, he’s not bluffing. Ray’s going to meet a contact but instead of it being the Colombians it’s the DEA. He’s setting her up. I guess if he can’t have her then no one will.”

I had never seen a man look more terrified as the weight of my words settled on his shoulders. I didn’t want to get Piccolo involved in this, I wanted him and Ray to settle their issues themselves, but I needed his help. Raven, out of love, had made a costly mistake—a mistake that a lot of women made. She had put everything in her name—houses, cars, bank accounts, bills, everything—making it very easy to link all illicit dealings back to her. At the very least, she’d be charged as an accomplice.

Returning my attention back to Piccolo, I sighed deeply and stood. Reaching out, I grasped his hand tightly and pulled him up.

“I can’t let anything happen to her, Blue. She and the baby are my life,” he whispered softly.

Baby? I thought to myself. First Robin and now Ray was pregnant. What was it about my sisters that had all of them getting into the same crazy situations at the same damn time? A shiver passed through me. Next thing I knew Sparrow would be walking around pregnant and causing hell. Keeping the shock out of my voice and off my face, I placed my hands on his shoulders.

“I know man, that’s why we’re going to help her.”

Piccolo turned and left the room to gather his emotions. He was a good man and would make my sister happy, but first we had to deal with Satan himself. What does one do when he has to fight the devil? He brings an army of avenging angels.

Taking my cell out of my pocket, I made the call. “Yeah, it’s me. It’s time to put things in motion.”

Chapter 42

ROBIN

Men had this irksome quirk that made them underestimate women. Princeton had definitely underestimated me. If he thought that I was bad before then, what I was getting ready to do would send me straight to hell. I didn’t really care. I was already walking through the fiery flames on Earth. I had lost my child and my will to live, going through life without a purpose or a destination. It wasn’t until I was released from the hospital that I got my fire back.

I had been sitting in my living room, ignoring my mother’s constant phone calls, when a picture on the television caught my attention. There, in high definition, was Princeton, Anita, and their children, smiling and looking like the epitome of a successful black family in America. The caption at the bottom of the screen read, “Local attorney to run for mayor of Buffalo Grove.”

I jackhammered off the couch in a rage. This man had killed my baby and now was trying to run for office. I wasn’t having it.

Everyone in Illinois knew that once you got in at the city level it was just matter of time before you were a heavy hitter. In a state where political corruption was as common as riding the Metra, no one would blink an eye at the fact you had extramarital liaisons.

Reaching for my laptop, my fingers flew across the keys as a plan formulated in my head. I had to move quickly. Now that he was a political candidate, getting close to him would be nearly impossible. Luckily, my father had friends in high places.

A resentful smile crossed my face as I thought of the perfect addition to my plan, video surveillance. What started out as another attempt from Blue to help protect us was now the lynchpin in my plan to take down Princeton Tillers. Gathering the dime sized cameras from the foyer, living room, kitchen, and bedrooms, I backed up the footage along with text transcripts, call logs, emails, and medical records on my flash drive.

I entered the master bath and showered for the first time in days, scrubbing the musty scent off my delicate skin and replacing it with the fragrance of vanilla and jasmine. I stepped out of the shower and oiled my skin in the steam filled room. I quickly styled my hair and applied light makeup before turning my attention to my attire.

I wanted to look successful, but not too wealthy. Sexy, but not trashy. Put together, but emotionally scarred. I settled on a slate grey Calvin Klein above the knee dress and matching jacket with a pair of black three inch sling-back heels. I jumped in my BMW and headed to the Will County courthouse where my attorney was waiting for me.

Three hours later, we were seated in the assistant district attorney’s office as he looked over the evidence that I had brought him. I knew that I had cinched the case against Princeton when the tapes showed how he had laid hands on me while pregnant not once, but twice. The threatening texts, emails, and voicemails were the icing on the cake. But the real cherry, was the medical records.

Since I had been pregnant, I had a battery of tests done including STI and STD tests that all came back negative. As soon as I had sex with Princeton that last time, I contracted the STD that had ended my child’s life. Wasn’t that a coincidence?

“Ms. Bird, first let me express my condolences for your loss. I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”

“Thank you.”

“Second, I think we can make a case here. We can have domestic charges brought up on him by the end of today.”

Leaning close to me, my attorney, Laura Jones, told me she would be taking care of the discussion from here on out. “That’s a start,” she stated coolly.

Confusion caused the ADA’s brow to bunch. “A start?”

“Well, I figured that was a start considering Mr. Tillers committed both murder and attempted murder.”

“Now, hold on just a second. I understand and sympathize with Ms. Bird, but to destroy a man’s life and career because he gave you a STD, which he may not have known about, is ridiculous.”

“Are you telling me that Mr. Tiller’s political aspirations are more important than the life he took? Or are you telling me you are not familiar with case precedent?”

“Look here…”

“No, you look,” Laura spat. “Cases have been tried and won when a party knowingly gives another party a deadly STD. Mr. Tillers knew that he had syphilis,” she pulled a file and handed to the ADA, pointing to the highlighted portions. “As you can see here, he went to the doctor two days before he had unprotected sex with my client.”

Where in the world had she gotten Princeton’s medical records? That was why I paid her the big bucks!

“True…But syphilis is not a deadly disease, some antibiotics can cure it.”

I shook my head. This man had absolutely no clue about sex and the risks. I kept quiet and let Laura do what I paid her handsomely to.

“Syphilis is deadly when it goes untreated for some length in time. In this case, it killed the unborn child that Mr. Tillers and Ms. Bird conceived together, a child he had repeatedly begged her to have aborted. This was intentional. He didn’t want a baby. It would ruin his career and destroy his family. Yes, my client went about handling the situation the wrong way. She should have stayed away from his family but no one deserves to have their child killed because a man can’t keep it in his pants.”

Scrubbing a hand down his face, he admitted defeat. “I’ll have the charges drawn up. I’ll contact his people and see if he can turn himself in by the end of the week. Please, keep this under wraps until then. I don’t need a media frenzy.”

Agreeing, we left the office. The warm March sun heated my face as I hugged Laura goodbye. I hummed as I hopped into my car and headed towards the expressway, knowing that I was about to make some young reporter’s career.

Chapter 43

SPARROW

Two weeks had passed since I broke down and called Blue. He told me that he would fix it, but I didn’t know what that meant. I mean, Blue wasn’t a street smart type of guy. He dealt with books, not crazy people. Naw, I’d have to fix this myself.

I called Sherry and made plans to meet in a neutral, public place. I wanted many witnesses around in case she decided to lose more of her mind. Taking a page from Blue’s book, I dressed for war. Gone were the form fitting skirts, silk blouses, and killer stilettoes. In their place were black jeans, a black Armani hoodie, and black Jordans. I tied my hair in an intricate knot on top of my head. My face was free of makeup and no jewelry adorned my body. I was amped for a fight. Like I said, I may have been from the suburbs but I would stomp a bitch if she got out of line.

I locked up my house and got in my car, driving through the streets to Aurora. The suburban ghetto was overly populated and I knew that if something were to happen someone would see something. I parked and waited.

I saw Sherry before she saw me. She was the female version of Taylor with smooth chocolate skin, hazel eyes, and long dreads. She was about my height and had my build. Biting her lower lip, she seemed unsure if I would show up to the local park to meet her. Taking a deep fortifying breath, I stepped out the car. The door slammed and she turned towards me. Our eyes met and locked. Emotions emitted from both of us and created a volatile tether that brought our bodies closer to each other.

I leaned against the hood of my car and she stood in front of me. Silence filled the tense moment as we sized each other up. Out the corner of my eye, I saw Blue’s friend, Ty, take a seat on a picnic table. Thank God for Blue, I thought to myself and felt my body relax a bit.

Apparently tired of looking at me, Sherry placed her hands on her ample hips. “What do you want, Sparrow?”

Keeping a cool façade, I answered, “I want to see if we can come to some sort of agreement.”

“Ha, you’re funny.”

“I feel really bad about Taylor, Sherry. I didn’t know. If I had maybe things could have been different but they’re not. All I’m asking is that we find some sort of common ground, so we both can move on with our lives.”

She got all in my personal space, her finger poking me in the chest. “Do you really think I’m going to let you live happily ever after with that chump you’re engaged to? My brother loved you and you threw it back in his face. He died because of you. A simple apology isn’t going to cut it.”

I tried to keep my breathing even and my face neutral even though her closeness was unnerving. “What do you want, Sherry?” I asked, throwing her question back at her.

She paused and looked off into the sky. The sun was setting, casting pink and orange streaks against the pale blue sky. The scent of barbeque wafted into my nostrils, making my mouth water in hunger. I vaguely heard children laughing and playing, rap music blasting from speakers, and the wail of police sirens.

All of this paled in comparison to the sight of an angry Sherry in front of me, the scent of desperation secreting from my pores, and the sound of my heart beating in my ears.

“I want $700,000, all cash…to start.”

I sputtered. “I don’t have that type of money on hand…”

“You have money, Sparrow,” she interrupted. “Your parents have money and your sister, Raven, is wealthy. Don’t play me. Get the money or I promise the next time we see each other will be in hell.”

I stood in stunned silence as she disappeared in the direction she appeared from. Ty waited for her to leave the park before coming towards me.

“You okay, BB?”

“Don’t call me that,” I said absentmindedly. “She wants $700,000 in cash.”

Ty swore and looked to the darkening sky as if searching for answers. “Don’t give it to her.”

“What?” I screeched, bringing attention from all corners of the playground.

Stepping closer to me until he was the only thing in my line of sight, he placed his hands on my shoulders. “Don’t give it to her. If you do then she will never go away.”

“Then what in the hell do you suggest I do, huh? Should I try to reason with her? News flash, the bitch is crazy. I can’t keep looking over my shoulder.”

“And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you hand over the cash. Let me and Blue take care of it.”

“You and Blue? No offense, but y’all aren’t equipped to deal with something of this nature. I need someone like Dean.”

Anger flashed across his pretty caramel heart shaped face before quickly disappearing. “Let me and Blue take care of this.” His tone of voice stopped all pleas of resistance from leaving my lips. I nodded my head and he put me in my car. After securing the seatbelt he handed me back my keys. “Go straight home, Sparrow, and please try to be good.”

A small smile tilted the corners of my mouth. He and Blue had been saying that to me since I could remember. “I’ll try.”

I turned the key in the ignition and for once decided to do as I was told and drove to my house. I reached in the visor and opened the garage with the electronic opener. Pulling inside, I tried to erase the meeting with Sherry from my mind.

I entered the house and grabbed a bottle of water from the mini fridge in the mud room before kicking off my sneakers. I took a deep swallow, letting the cool liquid calm my heated insides and headed into the living room. I crossed the threshold and the water slipped from my shaking hands.

“Hey, Sparrow.”

Tears clogged my throat, preventing me from uttering a single sound.

“I missed you.”

“’Zay,” I sobbed.

No other words were needed. I leaped in his strong arms and kissed him with all the desperation, desire, and love I felt deep down in my soul. The last month had been the longest in my life. I needed to feel his arms around me, his love surrounding me. I needed that to truly live.

His skilled hands had found their way beneath my hoodie and untied the knot on my head, sending my hair tumbling past my shoulders. My hands were just as busy, slipping his signature polo shirt over his head. Heated chocolate skin singed my fingertips and I moaned in pleasure.

Breaking the kiss, Isaiah looked pointedly at the stairs and I shook my head. There was no way we would make it to my bedroom. I couldn’t wait that long.

I lowered my long legs from his waist and worked on his belt buckle. Damn, I hated those things. Yeah, they brought his outfit together but undoing those strips of leather took too long. Finally, the sweet jingle of the undone belt caressed my ears and was soon followed by the rasp of the zipper and the snap of the button opening his jeans.

Biting his lower lip, I suckled gently while removing the rest of his clothing from his long, muscular legs. He stepped from it and swung me up in his arms, bringing me to the sofa.

Slowly, methodically, he stripped me from my attire. His breathing became gradually more labored as hints of my honeyed skin became visible.

Clad only in a nude silk bra trimmed in black lace and matching panties, Isaiah’s heated gaze shot to mine. Expertly, he undid the front clasp of my bra and my heavy breasts swung free. His long fingers gripped the edge of my panties and pulled them down my shapely legs, the scent of arousal permeating the air.

Standing, Isaiah stood naked before me. His dick stirred to life as his eyes made a scorching trail down the length of my body. All I could do was lay there and let him get his fill of my body spread out before him. His hot stare was equal amounts possession and reverence.

He lowered his body on mine and captured my kiss swollen lips between his. Our tongues dueled and danced as his hands stroked my silken skin, igniting a fire deep inside me. My hard nipples pressed against his chest, my thighs cradling his rigid member, and our lips connected created a sensuous bubble that protected me from the woes in the real world.

Not able to wait any longer, ‘Zay positioned himself against my quaking opening. Breaking the kiss, I asked, “Condom?”

He shook his head. “From this point on nothing will be between us.”

Before I could utter a response he swiftly entered me, eliciting gasps from the both of us. His hands cradled my face, his finger dancing in my hair. My legs automatically wrapped around his waist and my nails bit into his back.

My eyes locked with his and there it was…the raw vulnerability that was so much a part of him and called out to me on an elemental level. Tears filled his eyes and dropped on to my nose, causing my own waterworks to start. This was more than sex. This was the balm to heal my damaged soul. Sniffles and guttural groans filled the air that was once silent with unspoken words and pain.

“I’m so sorry, ‘Zay,” I cried.

His insistent kiss silenced me. He gathered me close and his movements quickened. The inevitable climax was upon our sweat slickened bodies. I bit into his shoulder, provoking a passionate growl from his clenched teeth.

Veins stood out on the side of his neck and my eyes rolled back in my head. Honey and cream flowed from me to him and vice versa. Never had love felt so good.

PART IV

Chapter 44

BLUE

The Hennessey burned my throat and exploded in my belly. The smoke made the room hazy. Classic Biggie played softly in the background. I looked at the three men who sat around me in my hotel room. I had known them since I was knee high to grasshopper. Piccolo, Ty, Ced, and I had been through some tough times before, shootings, drug deals gone to hell, and almost getting caught by the police, but nothing compared to this. That was business, this was personal.

“So, what are we going to do about Raven?” asked Piccolo. I just rolled my eyes. My boy was whipped. All he could talk about was Ray. She was never too far from his thoughts.

I was about to answer his question when the television caught my eye. On the screen were a contrite Princeton Tillers and an angry Anita Tillers. The children were not around but Princeton was surrounded by his campaign manager and uniformed police officers.

The pit of my stomach fell to my knees. Instinctively I knew that Robin had something to do with this. I also knew that whatever I was about to hear was not going to be good. I turned up the volume on the television and listened intently.

Princeton looked at his wife and sighed. “Today, I stand before you a humbled man. I have made some mistakes and have to pay the price.”

He paused and grabbed his wife’s hand. It was painfully apparent that she wanted to snatch it away but played along. “Throughout the course of my marriage I have had many extramarital affairs. The last one resulted in a pregnancy.”

“Aww, shit,” mumbled Ty.

I ignored him and returned my attention to Princeton. “I would have liked to have handled this situation privately. However, yesterday a video of me allegedly striking the woman in question was released to the public along with other videos of me and her in private moments. I knew that I owed it to my supporters to publicly address this. I have never laid my hands on a woman out of anger. I will fully cooperate with the Will County police and the district attorney to clear up this matter. My only hope is that my wife and my supporters will forgive me for my indiscretions and that the media will let me and my family deal with these upsetting circumstances privately. Thank you.”

With that, he was swept off the stage in a flurry of flashing bulbs. A low whistle emitted from my lips. This was getting crazier and crazier with each passing moment. I took a deep sip of my drink and allowed the burn to comfort me. I glanced back at the television and the recording of Princeton pushing my sister against the wall by her throat was playing.

“He better be glad he’s about to go to jail otherwise I’d kill him,” I said, my voice rumbling with barely constrained anger.

Piccolo slapped me on the back. “Don’t worry about it, man. The police will handle it. Right now we have your other two sisters to think about.”

Ty and Ced rolled their eyes. P was so whipped off Ray it was ridiculous. Isaiah was the same way. He was so stuck on Sparrow that he couldn’t leave her tonight even for a couple of hours.

Just to irritate P I said, “Aight, let’s start with BB. This woman, Sherry, is not going to leave her alone especially after she gets the money.”

Ty straightened in his chair. It wasn’t lost on me or Ced that he was always alert when it came to Sparrow. He had it so bad for her but after the way things ended between them he would never be back in her romantic good graces.

“Naw, she’s not,” he said. “I told Sparrow to let us handle it. Personally, I think we should just kill her and get it over with.”

“That works for me. Now about Ray…”

“Wait a minute,” Ced said, interrupting a love sick Piccolo. “I don’t think we should kill her. Yeah she’s a little messed up in the head but look at all she’s been through. It’s easier for her to blame Sparrow than it is for her to look at her brother in a negative light.”

I marinated on that for a minute before reluctantly agreeing. I could feel her pain. Shit, this situation I was in showed how much I felt her. I’d kill anybody who was responsible for hurting my sisters.

Clapping my hands together, I got everyone’s attention. “Okay, here’s what will do. Today’s Monday so on Wednesday I should have the cash together. Friday we’ll go over there and deliver the money on Sparrow’s behalf. While we’re there we’ll warn her about the dangers of continuing to terrorize with Sparrow.”

Everyone agreed and, much to Piccolo’s pleasure, the conversation moved to Raven and Dean. Piccolo placed a pistol on the coffee table and smiled. “This is how we deal with Dean. Case closed.”

Ced, Ty, and I looked at each other and busted out laughing. This dude was pressed to get home to Ray. Instead of telling him no, I decided to help him find the flaws in his plan.

I picked up the gun and handed it back to him. “Okay, that’s one way to handle it but that won’t get the feds off Ray.”

“True,” he said reluctantly.

“If anything that will bring more heat. They will think she killed him to stop him from testifying against her.”

“Yeah but Ray’s not some queen pin, she’s just a woman who fell in love with the wrong man.”

“We know that but they don’t know that. All they know is that she was the financer behind most of Chicago’s drug game.”

Swearing softly, Piccolo acquiesced. “What do you suggest?” he asked, leaning back in his chair.

I took a much needed drag of my cigarette and allowed its calming effects to ease my stress. “We need to set Dean up the same way he did Ray. I need you, Piccolo, to hack into his laptop and phone and create some damaging evidence.”

I turned to Ty. “Is your little buddy still set to give up the information?”

One of Ty’s employee’s sons was a young worker bee for Dean. He had gotten caught up by the police and was now doing time in jail. Instead of Dean holding him down he left the young man to be fed to the wolves. Now, the boy was prepared to snitch on Dean if Ty gave the word.

“Yep, everything’s set to go.”

“Okay, then here’s what we’re going to do…”

Two hours later, we had a definite plan on how to save Ray. Piccolo rushed out the door after agreeing to meet back with us on Friday, our laughter following him out the door. I shook my head and poured another drink.

Ced did the same before turning his attention to me. “Do Sparrow and Raven know you fixed their relationships?”

“Hell naw,” I said. “They think they fixed it themselves. Sparrow is still bragging that her love brought Isaiah home.”

“Man, please, Sparrow’s fine but she ain’t that damn fine. I had to go threaten that dude with bodily harm and taking his woman for him to wake up.” A disgusted scowl crossed Ty’s face.

“Aye man, I appreciate you doing that for me. I know it was hard for you.”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “You’re my family. I’d do anything for you.”

And I’d do anything for them. They knew it and that’s why they didn’t hesitate to help me out. They were risking their lives and freedom for my dumb ass sisters.

After Ty and Ced left, I showered and got between the covers, the scratchy sheets irritating my skin. I thought about the four of us. We had been friends for a long time. All three of them had at one time loved one of my sisters. I knew deep down that Ced and Robin used to have a thing but until it was confirmed I wouldn’t worry about it. Ty and Sparrow dated for a while but it ended badly.

Only Piccolo had captured the heart of one of the Lady Birds. I was happy for him but I knew that it would take Ty, Ced, and I longer to take the plunge. Only special women with that unique combination of innocence and street smarts would do.

Closing my eyes, I silently prayed that I would live to see the day each of us would fall in love. With the upcoming events only the Lord knew if we would all make it out alive.

Chapter 45

RAVEN

I didn’t know why and I honestly didn’t care. All I knew was that my man was back home with me. He just came over early one morning, looking like hell and reeking of alcohol, and told me he was coming home.

Well what was a woman to do when the man she loved more than breathing was standing on her doorstep looking like a wounded puppy? She let him in and gave him the love she had stored up during their separation. That was exactly what I did.

Ever since he came back he barely left my side except when we both went to work. In fact, the only time he did leave was when Blue invited him out for a drink. I didn’t know what happened but he came home drunk as a skunk and took me against the nearest wall. I knew something was going on with Pierre but I just didn’t know what. During the middle of the night he’d reach for me, whispering my name. I’d wake up with his body pinning me to the mattress, like he was afraid I’d disappear in the middle of the night.

Speaking of which, “P…Pierre, baby, please get off of me.” I said pushing at his shoulder.

He moaned and shifted but his heavy legs were still thrown over me. I hurriedly climbed out of the bed and did my morning ritual of kneeling in front of the porcelain goddess in the bathroom, damned morning sickness.

I brushed my teeth and quickly hopped in the shower, reluctantly removing Pierre’s scent from my thoroughly loved body. A blast of cool air caressed my skin and let out some of the steam when the shower door opened and closed.

Pierre reached around me and grabbed the soap from the shower caddy, brushing against my breasts. I allowed him to wash my back, his touch sending me into overdrive. Sparrow was right; this was something every couple should indulge in.

Turning around, I returned the favor. Soft strokes on hard muscles had Pierre groaning deep in his throat. I relished in it. Knowing that I could bring this strong man to his knees was empowering, addicting.

I reached for him, attempting to bring our bodies together. He blocked my hands. “No, Ray. You have to go to work and so do I.”

I gave him a seductive smile and backed him against the wall, work be damned. I needed him. I craved his skin against mine, his body inside mine, and his lips everywhere on my feverish body. Now that I was pregnant I was hornier than a rabbit in the spring.

Ignoring his protests, I jumped in his arms. He caught me like I knew he would. Reaching below us, I joined our bodies together. My eyes rolled back in my head and his arms shook. Pierre backed us up against the cool tiled wall and began the sensual onslaught.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and enjoyed the ride. This was what I loved about Pierre. He knew my body so well. He knew when I wanted to whip his ass and when I desired to have my kitty beat up. I never had to utter a single word. He would just look at me and automatically know.

Our frantic love making reached its foreseeable and regrettable climax and he released me. Quickly, we rinsed away the remnants and left our lovers cocoon to face the harsh realities of the world.

Eight exhausting hours later, I was leaving work but I wasn’t heading home. I had to meet with Dean. I was scheduled to leave for California on Saturday. My anxiety level was definitely on high because of this situation but I was determined to see it through. My family life depended on it.

I wasn’t going to tell Dean that Pierre and I were back together. That was for me to know and for him to never find out. I knew that he would up the ante if word got back to him about Pierre and I reconciling and I didn’t even want to know what he would do if he found out about Blue being in town. Naw, I was certainly keeping my mouth shut.

Pulling up in front of the condo, I greeted the doorman and headed to the elevator. I leaned against the elevator walls and prayed that I didn’t vomit. This nausea shit was definitely playing havoc with my life. The silver doors swished open and there was Dean in all of his hellish glory, leering at me.

Gripping my arm tightly, he practically dragged me inside the condo. The floor to ceiling drapes were drawn shut, darkening the room. I sat down in one of the seats and waited for him to express what was so obviously on his mind. He didn’t waste a second.

“So, you and Piccolo are back together.”

Aw, shit, here we go. My heart thundered in my chest but I kept my face neutral. I had learned a long time ago not to let Dean see you sweat. “Are we?”

“Don’t toy with me, Raven.” He leaned back in his seat and lit a cigar. The scent made me want to toss my cookies all over the plush carpet. “But…We can deal with that later. Now, we have some more important shit to discuss.”

I waved my hand in front of my face. “California?”

“Yeah.” His assessing eyes burned a whole into mine. “What’s wrong with you? Cigar smoke never used to bother you.”

“I guess I’m not used to it anymore,” I lied smoothly, praying he’d let it go.

“Hmm…Well, I need you be at the car rental company first thing in the morning on Saturday after you meet me here. I’ve taken the liberty of reserving a small nondescript sedan for you.” He tossed two envelopes in my lap, one small and the other large. “One is for your expenses, hotels, food, and what not. The other is for the Colombians. You give them the money, they give you the work, and you bring your ass back home. Simple, right?”

It was simple, too simple, but I wasn’t about to complain. “And after I do this you’ll leave me alone, right?”

“I’ll be out of your pretty hair forever, baby girl.”

Putting the envelopes in my oversized purse, I nodded and made my way out the door. There were no more words needed. Everything was set to go. I would do this one thing for Dean and I would have my life back.

Stepping out in the warm spring air, everything seemed much brighter. I had the love of my life, the devil was going back into his fiery cavern, and I was having a healthy baby. What could possibly go wrong?

Chapter 46

SPARROW

How dare Blue think that he, the youngest, could tell me what to do? I had never listened to anyone’s advice before and I wasn’t going to start now.

All of a sudden he and Ty thought they were some type of hardnosed criminals. They had been either smoking too much weed or watching too many music videos. It was probably both. Everybody knew that they weren’t anything but some nerds. Naw, I had to handle this shit myself.

Yesterday, Blue called to tell me that he, Ty, and Ced were going to make the delivery for me and to talk to Sherry. I could only roll my eyes in disgust. Yeah, psychos really listened to reason. So, that was why I was getting things together myself.

Getting the money together had taken a little longer and proved to be more difficult than I originally thought. I had a good three hundred thousand in the bank but that was nowhere the amount Sherry asked for.

I didn’t want to ask ‘Zay for the money because he’d want to know what I was going to do with a few hundred stacks. It was hard enough for me to use the bathroom without the man waiting outside the door for me. I loved that man but, damn, could he let me breathe?

I couldn’t ask either of my sisters or my parents for the cash because word would get back to Blue and I wasn’t in the mood to argue with that man. I contemplated taking out a loan on the business but I didn’t want to jeopardize the business in this slow economy because of my mistakes. So in the end I had to settle for a personal loan.

Riding through the streets of the suburbs, I dialed Sherry’s number. “It’s me.”

“Sparrow, how lovely of you to call me.”

I rolled my eyes. Sherry was getting on my last fucking nerve. I wanted to tell her about herself but as my grandmother used to say “Only a fool argues with fools.” So, I remained cool, calm and collected.

“Look Sherry, I have your money.”

“Good,” she sneered. I could practically taste the greed. “When can I expect it?”

“I can drop it Thursday around nine. That’s two days away. Does that work for you?”

“It sure does. Meet me at this address…”

I listened intently as she rattled off an address deep in Aurora before hanging up. Anxiety filled the pit of my stomach and I thought I would have to pull over. Taking a deep breath, I calmed down. I tried to remember that after Thursday my life would go back to its peaceful state. I felt the apprehension drift from me slowly only to return when I arrived at the office.

In front of LadyBird Interior Designs was a media circus. Camera crews from all the major networks, journalists from all the major papers, and spectators stood on the sidewalk in front of our business. Light bulbs flashed as I pulled into the small parking lot.

I checked my makeup in the rearview mirror, adjusted my Fendi sunglasses, and grabbed my attaché case. As soon as my Giuseppe heel touched the pavement cameras and microphones were thrust in my face. I smoothed the silhouette of my red Alice + Olivia peplum skirt suit and held my head high as I waded through the crowd.

“Ms. Bird, how do you feel about the case against Princeton Tillers?”

I continued walking towards the building.

“Do you have a comment about his treatment of your sister?”

I didn’t bother to answer.

“Some say your sister brought this on herself. Do you agree?”

That question stopped me dead in my tracks. Slowly I turned towards the young journalist who asked the question. My expertly arched left eyebrow inched up and my painted lips twisted in a scowl. “My sister may not have handled the entire situation in the best possible way however, that does not give Mr. Tillers the right to physically assault her. There is no reason on this Earth for a man to lay his hands on a woman especially one that is carrying his child.”

I turned and continued my trek to the office. I opened the heavy door and locked it behind me, the clamoring of questions temporarily shut off. I walked into the conference room and started a pot of coffee. My sisters would be there any minute. I set out the agenda and a platter of snacks. I had just sat in one of the soft leather chairs when the Robin and Raven walked in.

Raven went straight for the food. Her pregnancy had her eating every second of the day. I had never seen a person stuff their face so much. It was like she was eating for six instead of two. The way Pierre was waiting on her hand and foot you would have thought the woman was carrying the heir to the throne.

Robin poured a cup of coffee, a self-satisfied smile gracing her face. This gave me pause. Robin didn’t like distractions of any kind. Interrupting her was akin to playing Russian roulette. So for her to seem so unruffled by the frenzy outside of our building unsettled me.

“Um…Robin, please tell me you didn’t plan this.”

Her eyes shifted to the left, a telltale sign she was guilty.

“God damn it, Robin! What were you thinking? In case you’ve forgotten I’ve got a stalker out there. The last thing I need is the press outside of here. Shit!”

Robin’s fist landed on the polished wood with a thud. Her wet eyes held the wildness of a woman on the edge. “He deserved everything he got and more! I lost my only child at the hands of the man I loved. Excuse the hell out of me if I derive a little pleasure from his downfall. None of you can say that you wouldn’t enjoy watching Dean’s or your stalker’s lives crumble right before your eyes.”

Silence filled the room as both Raven and I mulled over her statement. Yeah, I would love to see Sherry take a flying leap but I wouldn’t jeopardize everything to see it happen. I also wouldn’t knowingly put my sisters in danger to see it happen.

Raven’s maternal instincts kicked in and she rubbed Robin’s back in an attempt to soothe her. I rolled my eyes. “Robin, both Sparrow and I understand how you are feeling right now. I think that maybe you should take some time off to get it together…”

“Hell no,” I interrupted. “The last thing she needs is to be alone with her thoughts.”

“Sparrow! That is really insensitive.”

“Fuck insensitive. Robin has lost her damn mind.” I gathered my purse and headed to the conference room door. Ignoring Robin’s tears and Raven’s glare, I continued to speak my mind, “I really hope you know what you’re doing. I’d hate to see this bite you in the ass.”

I left the room and put my sunglasses on in the lobby. Taking a few deep breaths I tried to calm down. Things were getting more and more out of hand. As I prepared to wade through the crowd outside the office a sense of foreboding enveloped me. Something bad was about to happen but I wasn’t sure if was me, Robin, or Raven that was going to be on the receiving end of a sinister plan.

I knew that once I gave Sherry the money I would be free of her. If Raven played her cards right she could be free from Dean and be able to have her child and build a family with Pierre peacefully. That only left Robin.

If I had learned anything over the last few months it was that nothing was more deadly than a scorned woman. In her plan to take down Princeton Tillers Robin had forgotten one detail, Anita. Anita may have been mousy and quiet but something told me not to sleep on her. My grandmother always said that it was the quiet ones you had to watch out for. I had learned that the hard way. I prayed that Robin wouldn’t have to.

Chapter 47

ROBIN

I had done it! I had destroyed Princeton Tillers. While I was lounging on my couch with a glass of wine he was sitting in a jail cell trying to protect his virgin ass. The family he had neglected to tell me about and then turned his back on me for was sitting in their house watching their lives crumble before them. Yes, I had done it. I had accomplished my goal. So, why was I so miserable?

The answer was simple. I was still alone. Sparrow has gotten back together with Isaiah. Raven and Pierre had reconciled. Blue had his friends Ty and Ced. My parents, though unhappy, had each other. I was the only one alone and lonely as hell.

This startling revelation propelled me off the couch. I climbed the stairs and looked at the first room on the left. My shaking hand gripped the cool brass handle and slowly turned the knob. I flipped the switch and my breath burned in my lungs at the sight before me.

A hand carved white crib sat center stage on the gleaming hardwood floors. Pale yellows and greens made the room suitable for a baby boy or baby girl. The walls were painted in a wraparound mural that depicted a scene of a meadow on a spring day. Tall blades of grass sprouted from the baseboards. The bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds seemed to float from the top of the walls to the ceiling and the yellow sun beamed on the flowers and gleaming pond.

I sat on a rocking chair near one of the dressers and hugged a soft stuffed teddy bear to my chest, my feet resting on a hand woven rug. Tears cascaded down my puffy cheeks unchecked. I was all alone. All I had was this fucking house.

This house was made for families not a single woman. It was filled to the rafters with emptiness just like me. I wasn’t sad, depressed, or crazy. I was empty, hollow, and barren like the deserts in Nevada. This house held all the memories I would like to forget. How was I to move on with my life if I kept coming home to the house of horrors every night?

“You can’t.”

I gasped in surprised and my head snapped up. Blue was leaning casually against the doorjamb, the set of keys I gave him dangling on his left index finger. I didn’t realize until that moment that I had been speaking out loud. That was the thing about living alone; you tended to speak out loud just to hear a voice in the house.

“What’s up Blue?” I asked, wiping the tears from my eyes. The attempt was futile as I couldn’t have stopped producing more liquid pain if my life depended on it.

“I should be asking you that. Sparrow called me…”

Stupid bitch, I thought to myself.

“And she thinks that you need help. I agree with her.”

“I don’t need anybody’s help. I’m fine,” I lied.

I was anything but fine. Here I was talking to myself in the room of my dead child that I had trapped a man into giving me. The same man that I had intentionally gotten locked up after my scheme of getting him to leave his wife didn’t pan out. Yeah, I was as far removed from fine as one could be. I prayed that he could read the desperation in my eyes and hear the cry for help in my voice. I needed him.

Blue tossed the keys in the air and caught them repeatedly before turning his attention to me. “Yeah, well, that’s too damn bad. You’re coming back to New York with me. I think it’s best if we get you out of Chicago for a while.”

“Blue…”

“I don’t want to hear it, Robin.” His eyes turned hard. “You’re leaving and that’s final. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you can come back in a year or so. You’re also selling this house. I told you when you bought it that it was too damn big but you didn’t listen. Now look at you. You’re sitting in the nursery of your dead child holding on to a stuffed animal and crying drunken tears. You need to get your shit together. I’ll be back for you on Sunday. That’s four days away so you better get started packing and putting a sign in the yard.”

With that, he was gone. I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t so far gone that I didn’t think that this was some sort of intervention. Hell, I was glad that he had done it. As the eldest I sometimes thought that I knew best. Now, I knew that I didn’t know a damned thing.

Getting up from the chair, I wiped my eyes and willed myself to stop the waterworks. I raced down the stairs and called a moving company I had worked with in the past. Next, I dialed the number to the only person I knew would help me with the sale of the house on such short notice with no questions asked.

Forty-five minutes later Cedric was sitting across from me, concern lurking in his chocolate depths. Once upon a time he and I were destined to be together. If I hadn’t fucked that up the same way I had fucked everything else in my life up then I may have had the family I so desperately craved.

Cedric was handsome as hell. Deep chocolate skin that held not one single blemish or scar though he was a bit of a head banger back in the day. His 6’2” height and muscular build made me feel safe around him. Deep dimples caressed either side of his full lips and his white teeth were so even that one would think they were fakes. He was a few years older than Blue, but at the age of 28 he had the maturity of a man in his forties.

“Thanks for coming over on such short notice, Ced,” I said, sitting on the sofa next to him.

“Don’t worry about it, Robin. You know I always got you.”

The way his eyes caressed me made me nervous. I wiped my sweaty palms across the rough denim of my jeans and cleared my throat. “So, I’m moving to New York and I need to sell the house.”

“You’re moving with Blue?” he asked. His body was rigid and his eyes bored into mine.

“Yeah, I need to get away from Chicago. I can’t move forward if I’m stuck in the place that has brought me so many painful memories.

“There aren’t any good ones?” he whispered.

I sighed and looked anywhere but at him. I knew what he was asking and the reason behind it. Cedric was my first in many ways. Unlike my sisters who were hot in the pants, I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 23 years old. Cedric was 19. He and I had hooked up over Christmas break and were pretty much inseparable during that entire month I was home from college. He loved me but I thought I was too mature to be with him. Forget the fact that he had made me a woman. I threw the love he had for me back in his face and kept it moving.

I wished I hadn’t done that. I wished I had been woman enough to try to make it work. If I had, Lord only knows how my life could have turned out. Looking into his eyes, I knew that if I wanted to I could reach out and take what he was once again offering but I couldn’t. I was too damaged to give him the love he deserved back.

Taking a deep breath, I broke his heart for the second time in ten years. “No, there aren’t any good ones.”

The light in his eyes flickered and then dimmed. He nodded his head and stood. “I’ll take care of the house for you, Robin. Don’t worry about it. I hope things work out for you in New York. Maybe then you can throw away the bad memories that have shrouded the good ones.”

Cedric leaned over and kissed me on the forehead, his lips lingering longer than they should have. His lips smoothly moved from my brow to my lips and gently probed them open. Our eager tongues danced together in a rhythm that I had thought long forgotten. Pleasure that I only felt with him erupted in my chest and poured through our joined lips.

Backing away from me, Cedric allowed his gaze to get its fill. “One year, Robin,” he whispered breathlessly.

“Huh?” I asked, my mind still muddled from the explosive kiss.

“You have one year to get your shit together and then I’m coming for you.”

He turned and left the house. A smile spread across my lips. I didn’t know if it would work between us. All I knew was that I was tired of over analyzing our situation. For once, I was going to go with the flow. I hopped from the couch and ran up the stairs. I opened my closet and dressers and began packing my bags. I only had a year and I had to be ready for when Cedric would come and make me his woman.

Chapter 48

BLUE

“What’s up with him?”

Ty looked at me and shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s been happy for no reason for the last day and a half.”

I rolled my eyes in disgust. He had seen Robin a day and a half ago. I didn’t know what had happened between them years back, but they hadn’t been the same. All I knew was that I couldn’t handle another one of my boys falling for one of my sisters. There was always too much drama when they realized what I had figured out a long time ago, my sisters weren’tshit.

“Blue, I want to tell you something and I don’t care if you beat my ass.”

Here we go, I thought to myself.

“I’m marrying Robin.”

“What?” I had taken two steps towards him before Ty pulled me back in my seat.

“I love her man. I always have. I know I should’ve told you years ago that we had messed around…”

“You fucked Robin?” Ty screeched, but I could barely hear him over the blood pounding in my ears.

“I just didn’t know how you would handle it. I mean, with her being your favorite sister and all. But I don’t want to wait any longer, man. I know she has some issues right now and I’m going to give her time to work those out. Just know that one day soon I will make her my wife. So, if you want to box it out we can do that now because no one and nothing is going to stop me from being with her. I’ve wasted too many years already.”

Yeah, I wanted to beat the shit out of him. Everyone knew that I was closest to Robin. The fact that he slept with her was enough to push me over the edge. I had always suspected it, but to have it confirmed had my trigger finger feeling mighty itchy. I wanted to kill him but the look in his eyes, the deep longing that was there, stopped me.

Cedric could’ve snuck around like Pierre, but instead he manned up and told me. I could only respect that. He was giving Robin the time and space to figure her shit out. He was a better man than me. If the woman I loved was in trouble the last thing I would be giving her was time and space. I sincerely hoped that Robin would man up otherwise Ced would join Ty in the Lady Bird’s Lonely Hearts Club.

Ced could give Robin the life she had always wanted if she let him. A part of me wanted to know what went wrong before but another part of me just wanted to let sleeping dogs lie.

Scrubbing a hand down my face, I offered my hand to Cedric and he anxiously shook it. I took a seat on the chair in my ratty motel room and lit a square. I needed something to take the edge off.

“So, you and Robin huh?”

A big Kool-Aid smile broke out across his face. “Yeah, man. She’s the one.”

I shook my head. “That makes two of my boys to fall for two of my sisters.”

I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. Ced and I both chanced a glance at Ty. We all knew that he had lost Sparrow to Isaiah. That man had Sparrow wrapped around his finger. I hoped that Ty would be able to move on from her and find someone he could open up too. He had his chance with Sparrow but from what little information I had been able to gather it ended rather ugly.

“Enough of this love shit,” Ty grumbled, smoke filling the room with each word.

I nodded my head. “Alright, we’re making Sparrow’s drop tomorrow night. Then the next day, Saturday, we’re taking Dean down. I’ve got Sherry’s address and was able to get my hands on some money to help her disappear. Pierre’s in place with Raven. He’s going to do his best to make her late to her appointment with Dean on Saturday morning.”

“Cool, so tonight we can relax and get ready for tomorrow.” Ced took a deep swig of his drink and propped his feet up on the coffee table, ready to start his relaxation.

Ty pulled his cell from his pocket and softly swore. “Naw, we don’t have time for that shit. Raven just texted me.”

My body jackhammered up. “What’s going on?”

Ty stood and grabbed his jacket from the back of the couch. “Sparrow is on her way to see Sherry now.”

Ced and I scrambled to our feet and followed Ty out the door. We hopped into Ty’s black SUV and the tires screeched as we hurriedly pulled away from the curb. The balmy night air surrounded us and darkness encased us.

My heart thundered in my chest as I sent up a silent prayer for Sparrow’s safety. It would take us forty-five minutes to get to Aurora. A lot could happen in forty-five minutes especially when dealing with someone as unstable as Sherry.

We had an unspoken agreement that no matter what none of the girls would be harmed. We’d all catch a bullet before they got a scratch. If a hair was out of place on Sparrow’s head, I was going to kill Sherry. I would hate to do it, but like I said before there was no way, in situations like these, that everyone could make it out alive.

Chapter 49

RAVEN

I was happy for Robin. She was finally moving on with her life. It didn’t matter that she had ruined a man’s life in the process. All that mattered was that she was finally going to be happy. Hopefully, I would be joining her in the world of happiness in two short days.

Though I was happy for Robin I was worried as hell for me and Sparrow. Sparrow was on her way to see that crazy bitch Sherry. I didn’t want her going alone so I texted Ty to see if he could at least ride past to make sure she was okay. There was no doubt in my mind that he would do more than pass by. That man had it bad for Sparrow. Sighing, I got up from the dining room table. There was no use sitting around worrying about my baby sister since Ty could handle it.

My phone vibrated against my hip and I grabbed it from my skirt pocket. Dean had taken to texting me lately and it was getting on my nerves. He would text me every few minutes about the drop I was supposed to make for him. Of course the only thing I could do was respond. He had me over a barrel. There was nothing I could do. I wanted my life back and this was the only foreseeable way to get it.

That wasn’t to say I wasn’t scared. I would be traveling across the country alone and pregnant. I had finally convinced Pierre that I was going to a conference for interior designers. I hated to lie to him but what other choice did I have? With everything my sisters were going through I knew he wouldn’t bother to confirm anything with them. Plus, he trusted me. Damn, I hated to abuse that trust.

Sparrow said she had this eerie feeling that one of us would be in danger. I hated to tell her that it was probably all three of us but she was convinced it was either her or Robin. I shook my head. How did all three of us end up fucking up our lives? You would think that we would be smarter than that. That just goes to show that even the smartest of women could still have their lives put in the shit hole with a few bad decisions.

Strong arms wrapped around my growing waist and I leaned into them. Pierre placed tiny kisses along my neck as his hands drew circles on my stomach. I felt his erection poking me in the ass and I sighed. Ever since finding out I was pregnant we both were hornier than ever. With everything going on I felt the need to be in control tonight. Lord only knew if I would live beyond Saturday and I wanted to make tonight count.

I pushed out of his embrace and sashayed to the bedroom. I had officially moved out of the home I shared with Dean and into Pierre’s Sycamore home. Since my arrival I had felt completely at peace and had yet to change anything outside of adding my belongings.

I entered the room and stood in front of the bed. Pierre came in soon after. He stood in front of me and looked me in the eyes. “Strip,” I said with my voice full of the confidence he had given me.

I watched in sensuous heat as hints of his honeyed skin became visible for my pleasure. His body was the thing dreams were made of. I wanted to tell him to go faster but the anticipation would be worth it. Just the feel of him against me could drive me over the edge.

When Pierre was completely naked I had him sit in one of the chairs next to the window while I rummaged through an antique chest near the foot of the bed. I knelt before him and tied his arms and legs to the chair with silken ropes. I stood and turned the lights off in the room before disrobing. Opening the drapes covering the window, I allowed the room to be bathed in moonlight and the twinkling of the stars. I kissed him deeply, reveling in his taste. His flavor was decadent, indulgent, and sinful. I luxuriated in the feel and taste of him for a moment longer before I regrettably pulled my lips from his.

Placing my back towards him, I lowered my pulsating body on to his. Inch by glorious inch filled me to bursting. I sat astride him, wallowing in the feel of him buried inside me. Pierre’s hips bucked in vain. I was in control of this show.

Slowly, I raised myself only to quickly lower. Up and down I moved. My breath came in gasps. The sound of my heavy breasts slapping together filled the room. The glow from the night sky gave our naked bodies an ethereal appearance. Pierre’s soft whimpers floated from behind me into my ear canal and exploded in a barrage of sexual fireworks.

I was drunk off lust and high off love. My body no longer belonged to me but to the moment. I was Pierre’s and damn if it didn’t feel overwhelmingly good. I wanted to show him in everything I did how much his love was appreciated. This was one of those ways. Up and down I moved.

He had forgiven me when another man would have left. He had given me back the control that Dean had stolen from me. With his ring he had shown the world the depth of his love for me. With his child he had shown the world the depth of his lust for me. For those things I wanted to show him how much he meant to me. Up and down I moved.

No amount of words could express the intensity of my love for Pierre but my cries of pleasure, moans of ecstasy, and screams of climax could come close. It was only in those moments that my entire being could articulate the extent of my feelings. Up and down I moved.

Like two cars headed towards each other on a collision course we were ready to explode. Faster I moved my hips. My thighs burned. My head spun. My breathing became even more labored. My heart pounded in my ears. Tears escaped my eyes. I came in spurts of ecstasy as I fell into forever with Pierre right behind me.

I leaned against him, my hips still circling slowly. My body continued to jerk. I released his hands and they were all over me at once. The feel of his fingertips against my naked flesh had me cumming again. It had always been that way with us. I could cum from his mere touch.

I stood and released his legs. Pulling me close, Pierre stroked my damp hair and kissed me deeply. He backed me up to the bed and we fell atop the soft blankets. We burrowed underneath the comforters. Wrapped in Pierre’s arms, I fell into a peaceful sleep. The worries of the upcoming days were effectively evaporated from my mind.

Chapter 50

SPARROW

I whipped my black on black SUV through the streets of Aurora like I had lived there my entire life. Pass the downtown lights and condos I drove through the real Aurora, the suburban ghetto that had claimed many lives. I prayed mine wouldn’t be added to the list.

Raven had asked me why I didn’t inform the police about Sherry. Why? Because I knew how these things worked. A good friend of mine was stalked and all she got was a piece of paper stating that her stalker couldn’t come within a certain number of feet of her. Yeah, a piece of paper was going to stop people from harming you.

I could have taken Sherry to court, but I knew in my heart that would only fuel her vengeful fire. She made it very clear that she had nothing else to lose. She wouldn’t hesitate to harm me, Isaiah, or my family if she didn’t get what she wanted. So, I was going to give her what she wanted. I had scrambled to get my hands on this cash but it would be well worth it. If I was smart then I could make it all back within a year.

Dressed in black from head to toe, I could easily maneuver through the streets of Aurora on foot if things got too crazy. I had called Raven to tell her where I was going. I knew that she would tell Robin and she would tell Blue but I didn’t care. By the time he got here everything would be settled.

I arrived at my destination and parked the car near the front door. I took a deep breath then another before grabbing the duffel bag full of money and stepping out of the car. I looked up and down the street. There wasn’t a soul in sight. That was a bad sign. These streets were always buzzing. For them to be as deserted as Main Street in an old western at high noon was bad news.

Pushing the thoughts from my mind, I entered the old brick school building. This was one of hundreds of schools around Illinois that had been shut down due to poor test scores and no funding. I made my way to the top floor and looked around for Sherry.

“You’re late, Sparrow.”

I turned towards the voice, but I didn’t see anything in the darkness. “Sorry, I got held up.”

“I don’t like excuses, Sparrow.”

I continued to turn slowly in a circle, trying to figure out where she was. Dust and cobwebs surrounded me along with rotting wood floors and peeling paint. The smell of mold and mildew combined with the feel of dirt, grime, and shattered dreams made me feel extremely uncomfortable. It was crazy but I would have felt a whole lot better if I could have seen Sherry.

Finally, out the corner of the damp room, Sherry stepped into view. A single orangey-yellow light dimly illuminated her frame. The dust caked windows made it impossible for the light from the outside world to penetrate through.

I watched with bated breath as Sherry stepped towards me slowly. She was dressed in all black and her hair was pulled back from her face, allowing me an unimpeded view of her face. Her arms hung to her side. The light reflected off a shiny object in her left hand, a gun. My heart thundered in my chest and my hands repeatedly constricted and relaxed on the handle of the duffel bag. This was a lot more than I expected.

I fought the urge to back up as she continued to move forward. Her cheeks were stained with dry tears and her nose was red from wiping it on the sleeve of her hoodie. Her eyes reflected all the immense loss and contempt that was deep in her soul.

Taking a deep breath, I prepared to speak. “What’s with the gun?”

“Throw the bag towards me.”

I did as she said.

“Good job.”

She pointed the gun directly at me while lowering to the floor. Her greedy laughter filled the air as she rummaged through the bills. Her laughter quickly turned to sobs and my heart plummeted to my stomach.

I took a cautious step towards her, my boots crunching the dirt and debris beneath my feet. Sherry jumped to her feet and swiped at her tears. “What’s wrong, Sherry?”

“I don’t know,” she said, running a hand through her bound locks. “I thought this would make me happy but it didn’t.”

I chanced another step towards her, my arms outstretched. “Money can’t take the pain away. Nothing can ease the pain except acceptance. You can’t run from it. You have to face it head on.”

“I’ve accepted it. I’ve accepted that you have caused me more pain than you can imagine yet you get to live a fantasy life. How fair is that? I lost both of my parents and I was fine with that but then I lost my brother. He was my twin…my other half. I was so depressed that my husband left me and took my children. I’m alone in this world. Everything and everyone I have ever loved is gone and it’s your fault!”

“I don’t know how many times or ways I can apologize. I told your brother how I dealt with things. I didn’t do love then.”

Sherry stepped towards me. This time I did take a step back. “But you do it now, huh? You get to be happy with Isaiah while my brother is rotting in the ground? I don’t think so. If he couldn’t have you then no one will.”

I didn’t have time to assess my level of fear before I was on the move. I wasn’t going down without a fight. Thanks to the dim lighting and Sherry’s crying she missed her first shot. I crouched down and knocked her off her feet, a shot hitting the ceiling before the gun fell from her hand.

Both of our eyes followed its movements and we both scrambled to get to it first. Unfortunately, we reached it at the same time. I used every dirty trick to get that gun before Sherry. I pulled her hair, punched her repeatedly, and kicked her in the stomach. I was not going to die tonight.

We both refused to loosen our grip on the pistol. Lying side by side on the floor with the gun between us, we both tried to reach the trigger. I faintly heard my name being screamed in the background. I ignored it and focused all my energy on getting the barrel of the firearm aimed away from my chest. I tried to push it towards Sherry just as her finger squeezed the trigger. Fire filled my body and a scream left my throat.

I felt the sticky blood coat my body and panic set in. The only thought that kept looping through my mind was that I wouldn’t die tonight.

PART V

Chapter 51

RAVEN

The loud banging on my front door woke me up. The clock read two in the morning and I prayed that a drunken Dean wasn’t at my front door. Pierre quickly rolled out of bed and grabbed the gun that we kept in the night stand. He made his way down stairs and I threw on some clothes. Loud panicked voices greeted my ears but I stayed put. It wasn’t until Pierre screamed my name that I ran downstairs. The sight before me made me stop dead in my tracks.

In Blue’s arms laid a limp Sparrow. On either side of him were Ty and Ced. All looked like they had been to hell but Sparrow looked like she had been dragged through it. Her clothes and hair were covered in dust and grime. Blood and tears coated her face. Her eyes were dim and bland as if she couldn’t believe what happened to her.

“What the hell happened?” I screamed.

Before anyone could answer a car sped up our driveway. The door slammed and Robin raced up the sidewalk. Upon seeing Sparrow she echoed the same words that had just left my lips.

“Let me lie her down upstairs,” Blue said. He cradled Sparrow to his chest as one would do a small child. As soon as he reached the top of the stairs Robin and I turned our attention to Cedric and Ty.

Cedric spoke first, his gaze trained on Robin. She was in a fragile state of mind and no one wanted to upset her any further, but we all knew she wouldn’t leave until she knew what happened to Sparrow.

“Sparrow went to see Sherry. We don’t know what happened before we got there but when we arrived we heard two shots. We raced up the stairs and Sherry and Sparrow were fighting over the gun on the floor. We tried to get to them but before we could the gun went off. Sparrow screamed. We thought she had been hit but when we reached them it was Sherry that was dead. The bullet went through her chin. That’s why Sparrow is covered in blood.”

I leaned against the wall, trying to gather my emotions. I didn’t know what to say. I could only imagine what Sparrow was going through. How much more could my family take? Unfortunately that was a question that I’d have to wait to answer.

When Blue came back downstairs I motioned for Robin to follow me back up. I didn’t know what the men were about to do but I wasn’t stupid. There was no way they could leave Sherry’s dead body to be discovered. I’d let them take care of that while I took care of Sparrow.

I entered the first room on the right and saw Sparrow lying on towels on the bed. No words were spoken as Robin and I gathered Sparrow off the bed. We took her into the bathroom located in the room. I undressed her while Robin ran a hot bath.

Filling the sink with tepid water, I dipped a washcloth in it and tried to remove as much of the caked on blood as possible from her face and chest. Robin and I both helped her get in the tub. Gently we washed away the dirt, grime, and blood from her shaking body and washed her hair.

Thirty minutes later, we took her out, dried her off, and redressed her in a pair of my pajamas. I braided her damp hair while Robin turned down the bed. Just like when we were little all three of us climbed in the bed together with me on the right, Robin on the left and Baby Bird in the middle.

Chapter 52

BLUE

One thing I learned from dealing with Dean in my younger days was that you only had a limited amount of time to get rid of a dead body. After making sure that Sparrow was okay we stuffed Sherry’s body in the trunk of Ty’s SUV. Riding around with a body in the car was risky but we had no choice. We dropped Sparrow off at Pierre’s for two reasons, Raven was there and we needed Pierre’s help. Now, we were on our way to pick up Isaiah. Until now he had been kept in the dark about most of the situation but it wasn’t fair that everyone else had to clean up his woman’s mess. Naw, if he was going to be part of this family then he had to get his hands dirty like everyone else.

When we arrived at his house an awkward silence filled the air. This was the first time since Ty paid ‘Zay a little visit in the middle of the night a few weeks back that they had been in the same room. Now, they were about to commit a major crime together. I gathered some shovels from the garage and placed them atop Sherry’s body.

Isaiah looked as if he was about to vomit all over the backseat and Ced but that was too damn bad. He wasn’t getting out of this. I shook my head. I couldn’t believe this was the man Sparrow wanted to spend the rest of her life with. I had always thought she’d fall for a rough neck and not some insanely sensitive dude.

The ride to the burial spot was silent except for the directions Pierre would throw out to Ty on occasion. All of us were lost in our own thoughts.

Pierre was familiar with every burial spot Dean had. Sherry’s death had provided another layer of dirt that we would bury Dean with but that wasn’t for a few days. We had to focus on getting her body out of the car and destroying any evidence that would link it to Sparrow..

Ty shut off the lights as we entered a forest preserve in a remote suburb. We all hopped out of the truck and grabbed a shovel. We followed Pierre deep into the forest and stopped at a small clearing. We started creating a hole that wasn’t very wide but very deep. The last thing we needed was some wild animal digging up the body before we could implicate Dean.

After an hour of digging, Ty and Isaiah left to get the body. They came back in record time, a scowl on both of their faces. Yeah, there was bad blood there but for Sparrow they would work together. No words were spoken as Sherry was placed in the makeshift grave and covered with dirt. We brushed leaves on top of the space. Ced located a fallen tree that had suffered its death at the hand of a storm earlier in the week. We all helped to drag it over and put it on top of Sherry’s final resting place.

As we made our way back to the car and drove off I felt a twinge of sadness. I felt bad for Sherry. She had lost everything in her life. She felt her brother’s death was on Sparrow’s hands. It wasn’t. He knew what he was getting into but didn’t know how to handle the rejection. Just like Sherry couldn’t handle the fact that her twin was emotionally disturbed.

The crazy thing was that they both committed suicide. There was no way that Sparrow pulled that trigger. The way her hands were on it there was absolutely no way. She was pushing it towards Sherry from the back. Sherry’s hands were on the front, her finger on the trigger. I guess she figured that her one last act on this Earth would be to set Sparrow up for her death but she didn’t figure on us being there.

Shaking my head, I leaned back in my seat. Sparrow would be okay. Out of all my sisters she was the strongest. She would make it through this and Isaiah would help her. In the morning we would get Sparrow out of Raven and Pierre’s home and back to Isaiah. I needed Raven and Pierre to focus on the events that would take place on Saturday.

Shit, there was no rest for the fucking weary. I had just buried a body now I had to dance with the fucking devil. Then I’d have to focus on helping Robin regain her sanity. I just hoped when this was all over that nothing else would happen. I didn’t think I could handle another round of the Lady Bird’s bullshit.

Chapter 53

ROBIN

Poor Sparrow. How could a person come back from that? The bitch had tried to set her up for murder. I could only shake my head. Sherry was a sick woman.

I was glad that Isaiah was taking care of her because I had way too much to do. It was Friday morning and I had a lot of work to do. Blue and I were leaving Sunday evening and I still had to pack up the rest of the house and put some of my furniture in storage.

I was expecting Cedric to come over the next evening before I left for the airport and officially buy the house from me. The doorbell rang and I put down the lamp I was wrapping in bubble wrap. I swiped my hands through my hair and made my way to the door. I opened it without checking the peephole and my breath caught in my chest.

“Good morning, Robin.”

“Good morning, Cedric,” I sighed.

Damn he looked good. It seemed as if the sun was shining just on him. His white teeth gleamed against his chocolate skin. The dark wash jeans, white tee and army green jacket emphasized his perfect physique. In short, he was breathtaking.

I stepped back and allowed him to cross the threshold. “What are you doing here, Ced?”

“Well, I have some time and I wanted to see if you needed any help packing.”

I nervously bit my lower lip. “Yeah, I definitely need the help.”

He bypassed me and went into the living room. He assembled a box and began wrapping up knick-knacks. Watching him wrap up my fragile belongings as I boxed up books gave me a sense of something that I hadn’t had in a long time. Peace.

For over an hour we worked in a comfortable silence. We would have continued this way if I hadn’t asked the question that had been nagging me for the last forty-eight hours. “Why do you want to be with me?”

“What?” he asked, confusion knotting his brow.

“Why do you want to be with me? I’m damaged goods. I’ve trapped a man, set him up for a professional and personal downfall, and created my very own media circus. Yet you still want me. I don’t get it.”

He put down the crystal vase he was wrapping and paced in front of my fireplace. “I’ve loved you as far back as I can remember, Robin. I always thought one day you would be mine. Then that one winter break you came home and you finally looked at me the way I had always dreamed. I thought you had finally seen me as a man and not just one of Blue’s friends. Then you left. Next thing I knew you were acting as if what happened between us didn’t happen at all. I went with it because I wanted to see you happy but I’ve never stopped loving you.”

“But…” I tried to interject.

The hardness in his gaze stopped me from continuing. He was in the middle of baring his heavily guarded soul. I knew that this wasn’t an everyday occurrence and I’d be wise to shut the hell up and let him continue.

“As I was saying, now that you are available I will not let you slip through my fingers again. Yeah, you’ve got some bumps and bruises but you are still the total package. You’re smart, funny, ambitious, kind, and nurturing. You love with everything inside of you. I want to be that man that you unleash all that affection on. Believe me when I say I will not abuse it.” He glanced at his watch and turned back to me. “I have to go now but I want you to know something. Just because you are going across the country doesn’t mean that my agenda will be detoured. I will do everything in my power to make you mine.”

Well, damn, I thought to myself as I watched him leave. What was a woman to do when a man clearly laid out his plans to become a permanent fixture in her life? I didn’t know about other women but I was going to do my damnedest to make sure that I was mentally, emotionally, and physically ready when Cedric came for me.

The doorbell sounded and I thought it was Cedric coming back to give me the kiss that my lips desperately craved. Opening the door, I was deeply disappointed.

“Hey Mom,” I muttered, stepping aside to let her in.

“Hey baby, how are you?”

I kissed her cheek and led her into the living room. “I’m busy packing.”

She sighed heavily and flopped on the couch. I rolled my eyes. Tianna Bird was a fan of theatrics. “Robin, I do not understand why you are going to New York with Blue. You don’t need to go across the country. What you need is a good man.”

“Mom, I am not in any position to date anyone right now. I need to get myself together. I have some issues I need to work through…”

“Whatever,” she said, effectively cutting me off. “None of my children have issues. What you need to do is find someone to settle down with and I have the perfect guy for you. His name is Leonardo. His mother and I are in the same Woman’s League. He’s handsome, successful…”

“Enough! I’m sorry for yelling at you, but damn, Mama. I don’t want to meet Leonardo. I don’t want to go on anymore blind dates. I want to be left the hell alone. I want to work on me. Then once that’s done I want to date Cedric.”

“Cedric! That hoodlum? Hell no! No daughter of mine is dating some common thug. It’s bad enough that Blue still insists on consorting with him and now you? No, you are going on a date with Leonardo and that’s it.”

I looked at my mother as if she had lost her mind. I was very much grown and didn’t need my mother trying to run my life. Yeah, it had gotten a little off track recently but some of that was her fault. It was her constant pushing that had me going to desperate lengths. I told her as much.

“You are not going to blame this on me. I didn’t tell you to get involved with a married man. You know how I feel on that subject. I don’t understand why you can’t get it together, Robin. Your sisters have loving men in their lives. They are happy. Raven is pregnant. She and Sparrow are both getting married. I want the same for you. That’s why I’m going to teach you how to keep a man.”

An appalled bark of laughter poured from my mouth before I could stop it. I had reached my breaking point. “You are going to teach me how to keep a man? You, the woman who can’t even keep her own man at home, are going to teach me how to keep a man? That’s rich. Are you going to teach me how to fly too?”

“Robin…”

“Or maybe you’re going to teach me to be an attentive mother. Lord knows you have experience with that.”

“Robin…” My mother’s voice held a warning in it but I didn’t care. I was on a roll.

“You want to know why I can’t get my shit together and why I make the most horrible choices when it comes to men. It’s because of you. All of my life I watched you let Daddy run around town with one bitch, two bitch, red bitch, blue bitch. Yes, I said let. A man will only do what you allow him to do. And now you have the audacity to want to help me keep a man. Why don’t you try keeping yours first then you can talk to me. It’s time for you to go.”

Without sparing me a single glance, my mother stormed out of my house. I might have gone a little too far but I was tired of everybody thinking they knew what was best for me. I knew I had made some bad decisions but damn, at least give me a chance to correct them. I wanted to make my own decisions when it came to my love life and the man in it. I wasn’t sure Cedric was the best choice but he was my choice and that was all I wanted. A choice.

Chapter 54

TIANNA BIRD

I was not the naïve, overly emotional woman that my children made me out to be. They didn’t understand how much I loved their father. Well, maybe Sparrow and Raven did now that they were in love. But they still didn’t understand why I stayed after all of these years. Hell, a part of me didn’t understand why I stayed.

Thirty-five years. Thirty-five long years I had put up with Jay Bird’s shit. I had dealt with women young enough to be my daughters accosting me in the streets, showing up at my house, and calling my phone day and night. A part of me could feel their pain. I had fallen hard for Jay Bird too. His confident swag, his model good looks and a dick that could touch every nook and cranny had me ready to give that man any and everything.

Despite all of his failings, I knew deep down he was a good man. He was a scarred man but he was good. I knew his story. I knew how his mother had treated him and any other male that crossed her path. I knew how it made him feel. So, in spite of his shortcomings I stayed. It wasn’t easy and yeah, I had lost my mind a little bit during our marriage.

I had quit my job and took to following him around all times of the day and night. I wish I could say I had thought about leaving but it never crossed my mine. I loved Jay with everything I had inside me. Unlike my parents, I wanted my marriage to work. I wanted my kids to grow up in a two parent home. I tried to keep things under wraps from my children but once the women started showing up at the house it was a done deal.

How do you explain to your children why a woman was at their house on Christmas day screaming like a lunatic? How did you look those same children in the face after forgiving their father for the millionth time? It wasn’t easy and I knew they all resented me for it. I was as much to blame as Jay Bird for the blemishing of my kids’ souls. I altered their views on marriage and love by staying with the only man that I had loved. A man I loved more than myself.

Why did I stay? I had been asking myself that question a lot as of lately. Part of it was that I loved him so much. Part of it was that I knew if given the chance I could show him how beautiful our love could be. The other part was that I was scared. I was scared of being alone. I was scared of failing at my marriage. I was scared of being a single mother to three kids I hardly knew anything about because I was so busy chasing their damn daddy around Chicago.

But now, in my late fifties, I was tired of trying. How can you love someone that barely loved themselves? It was too hard and I was too tired. I was too old to be playing these games with Jay, games that he should have been done playing over thirty years ago.

So, once I left Robin’s house I went straight home and gave him an ultimatum. Either he would quit fucking around or I was leaving. Over the years I had begged him, asked him, and pleaded with him to stop messing around me but I had never threatened to leave. The panic on his face let me know that he understood I was serious. I wasn’t going to deal with this anymore. Jay Bird could shape up or ship the hell out. Either way, I was going to start living for Tianna.

Chapter 55

SPARROW

Nightmares chased me out of bed late Friday morning. So, I threw on the first thing I saw, brushed me teeth and washed my face. I made my way downstairs and decided to make breakfast for ‘Zay. He had been on me like white on rice since he picked me up from Pierre’s a few hours ago and I just needed a minute by myself.

I had barely slept. Even when I was sandwiched between my sisters in the bed, just like when we were children, sleep eluded me. Images of the incident with Sherry kept me from shutting my eyes. It wasn’t the blood, body matter, or the paralyzing fear I felt when the gun sounded that kept me awake. It was the look in Sherry’s eyes, the look of pure vindication.

She had pulled the trigger to set me up. Lord knows how that situation could have gone down had Blue, Ty, and Ced not been there. As soon as I heard the gun blast off and seen the light behind Sherry’s eyes diminish I knew I would never be the same. I was so afraid that I could barely move let alone utter a sound. Blue rushed over to my blood soaked frame and immediately begin checking for entry points. The terror in his eyes set my soul on fire. I had never known Blue to be scared of anything. Even when we were children he was always fearless. The fact that I had scared him made me feel so guilty. It was my lifestyle, my bad decisions that had put us in this predicament.

I had never loved my brother more than I did last night. He held me to his chest like a small child while directing Ty and Ced to clean up any evidence of me being in the vicinity. He took me to the only place I ever felt truly safe as a child…with my sisters. It wasn’t until ‘Zay picked me up out the bed that I uttered a single word, his name. He smelled to high heaven but it didn’t matter, just being in his arms caused tears to run down my swollen cheeks. If I didn’t know before I knew now that I was loved beyond words.

Bringing my attention back to the present, I fried up some thick cut bacon, scrambled some eggs, boiled some grits, and baked some biscuits. I had just brought out the orange juice when I heard ‘Zay’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.

Shirtless and unshaven he looked ruggedly handsome. Damn my body for stirring at the sight of him. He came straight to me and brought me against his body in a tight embrace. It felt so good just to be held. I could have stayed that way forever but the sound of popping grease on the stove brought me back.

I pushed out of his arms and turned my attention back to cooking my man a meal. “I hope you’re hungry ‘Zay.”

“Yeah, I am,” he said huskily. We both knew he wasn’t talking about the food.

I placed a plate piled high with goodies in front of him. I poured two glasses of the juice and sat down next to him at the island. We ate in silence, the side of my body rubbing against his.

“Sparrow, I need to ask you something.”

My heart thundered in my chest. Jesus! How much more was I going to have to deal with in the next forty-eight hours? I couldn’t deal with anymore bullshit.

“Will you marry me?”

I looked at him, confusion etched on my face. I could have sworn that we had already discussed this. Judging from the huge rock on my finger, I was sure we had. “I thought we were engaged?”

His smile illuminated his face. Damn, ‘Zay was sexy. “Yeah, we are. What I’m asking is will you marry me sooner rather than later?”

I swallowed the spoonful of grits I had just shoveled in my mouth. “How soon are we talking?”

“I was thinking July, so about three and half months from now.” My face must have mirrored the shock that welled up inside me because he chuckled and laced my fingers through his. He kissed my knuckles and sighed. “If this whole situation has taught me anything, it’s that life is not promised. A person could be here today then gone tomorrow. I don’t want to waste another second not being bound to you in the most spiritual and legal way possible.” Sighing, he rubbed a hand down his face. “I don’t want to get into too many details, but I did some shit last night that might come back to bite the both of us in the ass. Once we’re married we won’t have to testify against each other if it comes down to it.”

My mind was swirling. What in the world was ‘Zay talking about? If Blue had gotten him mixed up in some shit I was going to kill him! Too much was going on right now to think clearly, but that was the way life went. You made decisions on the fly and hoped to God that things turned out well. Three months? Could I plan a wedding that quickly? I guess I didn’t have a choice.

“Yeah, I’ll marry you, ‘Zay.”

He leaned over to kiss me briefly on the lips and I deepened it. I needed it. I needed to feel something other than fear and desperation. Lips still connected, Isaiah lifted me out of my seat and placed me in his lap. His large hands slid underneath my short shorts.

My entire body ignited from his touch and I moaned deeply. ‘Zay’s skilled hands had me out of my shorts and his pants around his ankles in no time. He slipped inside me and I came on contact.

The friction, the heat of his body against mine set me on a whirlwind of love and lust. A kaleidoscope of colors burst in front of my closed eyes. Up and down I rode my soon-to-be husband. It felt so good, so right. No man had ever loved me as completely, as thoroughly as Isaiah. I pried my mouth from his and screamed at the top of my lungs. The pressure was so great that if I didn’t vocalize it my head would have exploded. Passion thundered and orgasm rained from the both of us until we were limp with satisfaction.

Isaiah regained his strength faster than I regained mine and brought our connected bodies upstairs. With my body astride his, still intimately connected, I fell into a peaceful sleep. The warmth of his body and the shelter of his love kept the nightmares at bay.

Chapter 56

BLUE

While Cedric was helping Robin pack, Tyler, Pierre, and I were putting things in motion for the next morning. Ty’s little buddy had flipped on Dean. Pierre had gathered piles of information on Dean by hacking into his personal accounts. That incriminating evidence had been anonymously delivered to the authorities.

According to one of my contacts shit was going down at the local police station. They were rushing to pull a raid on Dean’s condo the next morning. It always surprised me that Dean lived and did business in the same place. I guess he figured he was so untouchable that he could live in an all glass building handling some of the biggest drug deals that go down in the city and nothing would happen. He was wrong.

The only thing left to do was pin Sherry’s murder on Dean. That wouldn’t be too hard to do since she was buried in his makeshift graveyard. Plus, the way the bullet went through her chin was the same angle another person would have used if they had been pointing the gun at her. The difficult part was getting the evidence in his possession. It wasn’t as if I could just walk up to him and hand him the scrubbed gun and shell casings. I had to get slick.

I glanced at P and I knew he would handle the technical aspect of everything. He was hunched over his laptop in my motel room, his fingers dancing over the keys and creating a staccato rhythm. Somehow he had finagled a way to send emails to one of Dean’s associates using Dean’s IP address. These emails would allude to the fact that the gun was buried in Dean’s mom’s backyard. Technology was a motherfucker.

There was sharp knock on the door and all three of us shared a look before I stood to answer the door. My hand gripped the handle of the gun in my waist tightly as I glanced through the peephole. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it was Ced. Quickly, I opened the door and let him in. A goofy smile basked his face and I rolled my eyes. I didn’t have time to deal with another love struck friend. Pierre gave Ced a knowing look and Ty grunted in frustration. It looked like he and I were the only ones who looked forward to a cold and lonely bed when this was over.

Three hours later, we were shrouded in darkness as we made our way through the suburban streets. Pure and undiluted adrenaline pumped through my veins as I turned the lights off on my rental a block from our destination. This was how it always was for me when I was doing something illegal. It was a mixture of danger and excitement. The only time I ever felt anything close to this was when I was having sex with the right woman. Bringing my thoughts back to the present, I sent a quick prayer up to the Lord and braced myself for what was to come.

In rush of synchronized movements, our shadowy figures jumped out of the vehicle. The block was quiet just the way I liked it. There wasn’t a soul in sight that could identify us later. We rushed to the house with Pierre and Cedric going towards the back and Ty and I through the front. Though it was the middle of the night, we couldn’t take a chance of Dean’s mother waking up. She had to be dealt with.

Ty quickly picked the lock and we entered swiftly. We stayed low to the ground and crept up the stairs. The last door on the right was cracked open and the soft glow of a night light illuminated our path. We slipped into the room and closed the door behind us. Ty shut the heavy drapes that covered the windows, blocking out the night time sky. I looked at the woman that had helped make Ray’s life a living hell.

Brianna Smith was a bitch of major proportions. She may have appeared to be the loving, doting mother but you know what they say about appearances. In Brianna’s eyes Raven was never good enough.

She did everything in her power to ruin the marriage between Dean and Ray. She begged Dean not to give up dealing. She put other women in his path. She constantly planted seeds of doubt in Dean’s head about having a baby with Ray. Dean was his own man and made his own decisions but when it came to his mother he was still a little boy. He was her baby, her youngest child. She wasn’t ready to let go and he wasn’t ready to get off of her titty. In the end, it was Raven who suffered.

I would be lying if said I wouldn’t garner some pleasure from what I was about to do to her. A chloroform soaked rag was pressed into my hand. I stood over the bitch and covered her mouth and nose. Her panicked filled eyes flew open. Her hands gripped my forearms, her nails digging into my skin through my hoodie. I stared deep into her eyes and instinctively knew when recognition hit her. She fought harder. She held her breath. I had to give it to her; she wasn’t going down without a fight. Her will was strong but mine was stronger. Hot air caressed my palm through the cloth and I knew that she had exhaled. I leaned into her and right before she passed out I whispered, “Tell your son that Blue did this to you.”

A lone tear escaped her right eye and her body went limp. Ty peered out the window and saw that Pierre and Ced were done burying the gun and shell casing from Sherry’s murder. We made our way down the stairs to the den.

Inside the wall, behind a painting, was a safe. Only Dean’s closest people knew about it and even fewer knew the code. To Dean I was family. I knew the code. I quickly unlocked it and slipped in all the damning evidence that would put Dean away for a long time. Documents upon documents detailing everything from off shore accounts in Dean’s name to the bribing of government officials. If we were going to take Dean down we needed to make sure that those who had the power to get him off were taken out of the picture.

I closed the safe and made sure everything was the way we had found it before we left the house. All four of us hopped in the car and made our way towards downtown. It was four in the morning and the raid would go down in about two hours.

We stopped at a fast food spot and grabbed some food for the show. I took a page out of Robin’s book and invited the press to the main event. This was going to shake Chicago to its dirty political core. I couldn’t help but laugh. Two of my sisters had affected the political realm of Illinois in less than five months. First Robin and Princeton and now Raven and Dean.

We pulled up across the street from Dean’s condo. The glass and steel structure gleamed in the early morning light. We all stepped outside and leaned against the car while sipping our coffees and eating our breakfast sandwiches. The sky was a pretty blue and fluffy white clouds dotted it. Yep, it was going to be a beautiful day.

Black van after black van pulled up in front of the building and police surrounded the building. News crews lined the streets. I knew the same thing was happening over at Brianna’s. In a coordinated fashion, the officers entered the building. It was beautiful really. It was like a watching a well-choreographed ballet. Silence then commotion broke out. It could be heard from the open windows on Dean’s floor.

Minutes later a handcuffed Dean and a woman, clothed only in slippers, cutoffs, and a jacket, were escorted out of the building. In an effort to embarrass Dean, the officers left him outside in the open with only two officers surrounding him for the press to photograph and the public to ridicule. Helicopters flew overhead, reporters were cackling into microphones, and spectators were watching in awe as box after box of evidence was brought out of the building. I smiled at Pierre. He had done his job and done it well.

A few days ago, P had planted all of it in Dean’s house. The doormen knew him so it was easy to get inside. Dean was sloppy. He thought he was invincible. He never dreamed that anybody would come back after he disowned them and he never dreamed that anyone would orchestrate his demise. He thought wrong.

From our spot on the street we had an unobstructed view of the circus and Dean. Anger, embarrassment, and bewilderment played across his face. A sense of joy and relief filled my body.

The police chief came out of the building and stood in front of the array of cameras. “Today is a good day for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. Thanks to a group of concerned citizens, we were able to trace the majority of the state’s drug crime to this man, Dean Smith. Not only has Mr. Smith been the leader of major drug ring for years, but his connection with certain government officials has allowed him to prosper while our communities suffer. I am proud to be a part of this apprehending of Mr. Smith. That is all for now, thank you.”

The reporters all started talking at once while the officers dragged Dean to the car. As if he felt our eyes on him he turned towards us and stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes graced all four of us but lingered on me the longest.

Betrayal leapt into his eyes when he saw P, confusion when he saw Cedric, and anger when he laid his eyes on Ty but when he saw me it was an emotion that none of us expected. Fear. Pure, cold fear danced in his eyes and he dealt with it the only way he knew how…by lashing out.

“BLUE!!! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, BLUE!!! I’M GOING TO KILLYOU!”

Smiling, I turned and got into the car.

“YOU HEAR ME? I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, MOTHERFUCKER?”

Leaning against the leather seats, I chuckled. “Not if I kill you first, motherfucker. Not if I kill you first.”

Chapter 57

RAVEN

I was going to kill Pierre! He left late last night to meet up with Blue and took my car. Now, I was running late to meet Dean and he still wasn’t back. Tired of waiting for his behind to show up, I called a cab and waited.

Forty-five minutes later, I was riding down Dean’s street. Traffic was worse than usual. What else was new for a Saturday in Chicago? As we inched closer to the building I learned the reason to the abundance of traffic. There were news cameras everywhere. Something had happened. Which wasn’t surprising since this was Chicago and shit always seemed to go down.

I cursed softly. How in the hell was I supposed to get into the building with media everywhere? If Pierre saw me on the news creeping into Dean’s building then I would never hear the end of it.

I contemplated having the driver pull around to the back of the building when the flashing lights of police cars caught my attention. In front of the cameras and next to the police chief was Dean in handcuffs. My mouth dried up and my pulse raced.

I paid the driver and jumped out of the car. I pushed my way through the crowd and was able to hear the only part of the chief’s speech. I stood there stunned as I heard the chief say that they were pressing charges on Dean. It felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The epitome of evil was finally being exorcised from my life. I had never felt so happy.

The police were leading Dean away when something in my direction caught his attention. I prayed to God that he hadn’t seen me. Anger enflamed his eyes and I thought I was done for.

“BLUE!!! I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, BLUE!!! I’M GOING TO KILLYOU!”

Blue, I thought to myself. I turned in the direction he was looking and saw Blue, Cedric, Ty, and Pierre leaned against a car. The sly smile on Blue’s face sent a chill through my body. There was more to his being here than watching Dean fall.

“YOU HEAR ME? I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, MOTHERFUCKER?”

Blue got in the car and they drove in the direction of the interstate. I hailed a cab and made my way back to the house in Plainfield since it was closer than Pierre’s. I tried calling Blue, Pierre, Ty, and Cedric, but no one was picking up their phones. I had an uneasy feeling about their involvement with Dean, but unfortunately I would have to wait for answers.

As soon as we pulled up to the house I used to share with Dean in Plainfield the uneasy feeling I had turned into panic. An unmarked police vehicle was waiting outside for me. Two tall detectives were leaned against it. I knew I should have contacted my lawyer immediately but I was tired, emotional, angry, and pregnant. I wanted this nightmare to finally end.

I paid the cabbie and walked towards the officers, my stomach churning all the way. “Good morning, gentlemen. How can I help you?”

“I’m Detective Johnson and this is my partner Detective Holstand. Are you Raven Smith?” I nodded. “I assume you know that your husband, Dean Smith, has been arrested this morning on a battery of charges.”

“Yes, I am aware that my soon-to-be ex-husband was arrested.”

Johnson’s left eyebrow inched up at the mention of Dean being my ex-husband. “Well, you must know that we have some questions for you. If you’d like to come with us to the station so we can make it official that would be much appreciated.”

I took a brief moment to think about it. Like I really had a choice. I hopped in the back of the police car and texted Sparrow what was going on. I knew my parents and their lawyers would meet me at the station.

I had never been in trouble in my life, had never been to a police station but here I was in an interrogation room with my lawyer on my left all because of Dean. Naw, I couldn’t blame it all on him. I knew what I was getting myself into when I married his ass. The detectives sat across from us behind the wooden table. An orangey-yellow light bathed the small space in a hellish glow. A manila folder stuffed with papers sat between us.

Holstand rubbed his large hands down his face and sighed. “Mrs. Smith, I’m going to get straight to the point. Your husband tells us that you orchestrated this entire thing. Yeah, you’re the pretty mastermind behind Chicago’s drug game. In fact, he called us last week saying you were going to meet some Colombians across the country. Yeah, we were planning to meet you out there with our friends the DEA.”

My head snapped up. What the fuck was he talking about? Before I could ask, my lawyer spoke up. “This is all very entertaining but unless you have an arrest warrant then my client and I are leaving.”

“We don’t have a warrant but we do have a few questions. One, were you the financer behind Dean’s illicit activities? Two, were you aware of the criminal activities taking place?”

Again, I didn’t have to answer. “My client is not and has never been the financer of any illicit activities. She was married to Mr. Smith. So, what was her money became his as soon as they said their marriage vows. Mrs. Smith was not aware of any criminal dealings of her husband. I’m sure you know that any and all evidence was found away from their family home in Plainfield. I’m sure you are also aware that an informant named Dean as the brains behind the operation. You are also aware that my client filed for divorce from her husband months ago and has since moved on. Since we answered your questions and you are lacking a warrant, my client and I are leaving.”

An hour later, I was once again being dropped off by a cab to my home in Plainfield. Four cars were parked outside and I knew my family was there. I only had words for one.

I walked into the house and straight to Blue. My palm connected with his face swiftly. I reached back again to slap the shit out him when Pierre caught my wrist.

He brought me to his chest and my curses and screams were muffled by his shirt. Pierre dragged me upstairs and I could hear heavy footsteps following behind us. A door opened, closed, and locked and Pierre released me.

As soon as I was free I pounced. “Blue what the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

I tried to reach him again but Cedric blocked me.

“Ray, you need to calm down. You’re pregnant. I need to tell you some things but I need you to promise me that you will stay calm.”

I took a deep breath and sat in the nearest chair. Shock was all I could feel as Blue detailed everything that had gone down over the last decade. Nothing was left out-- how he worked for Dean, how Pierre came to be a part of my life, and the events of the last few months. I knew Blue was up to something when he first came to town. I just didn’t know that he was playing the role of avenger.

When his story ended, he kissed my cheek and left the room, Ty and Cedric trailing behind him. Silence filled the space between Pierre and me. I watched him nervously pace in front of me. I let him stew for a few moments before I granted him mercy.

I stood in front of him and wrapped my arms around his muscular frame. Tears rolled down my cheeks. It was finally over. I was done. I was done being with Dean. My parents’ relationship no longer had the stronghold it once had on me. I was able to finally love a man without desperately clinging to the lies he told. I knew I deserved better and I finally had it.

I was a free woman. I was free from my insecurities. I was free from fear of being without a man. I was free to love who I wanted without the threat of retaliation hanging over my head. Most importantly, I was finally free of Dean. I knew it wouldn’t be forever. He would eventually be released and come looking for me, but, for now, life was good.

Chapter 59

ROBIN

Men could make even the sanest woman lose her natural born mind! That was exactly what happened to me. These last few months had been pure hell. I had lost a baby, the man I thought I loved, my career, my reputation, and any resemblance to sanity. I was at rock bottom, but at least there was nowhere else to go but up. Walking around my empty house, I breathed a sigh of relief.

If I worked hard then maybe I could have a normal relationship with a man. I hoped that man was Cedric, but only time would tell. I had to work on me and my sanity first. I had serious issues. My parents’ dysfunctional relationship had affected me more than I had ever realized. I wanted a normal family life at any cost and it almost landed me in jail or the insane asylum.

My jealousy of my sisters’ relationships had eaten away at all rational thought. I desperately wanted what they had. I knew one day I would get it, but only if I learned to love me first. I deserved more than to be someone’s last resort or plaything.

I felt bad for Princeton, but at the same time he helped bring this on himself. Had he not used and abused me then maybe things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did. I knew that this situation was far from over. I would have to see him and Anita again at court hearings. I just hoped I would be able to handle it when the time came.

I sighed deeply. I didn’t want to think about that shit at the moment. It had taken up too much of my thought process to begin with. Picking up my last suitcase, I looked around the house one more time. Interestingly enough, I didn’t feel not one ounce of sadness. In fact, I felt relief and the sort of anxiousness one feels before something great happens to them. I stepped out the front door and locked it, placing the keys in the lockbox Ced had installed on the porch.

I got in my car and rode down that block for the last time. The road ahead was clear and brightly lit like my future while the view in my rearview mirror was dusky like my past. I turned off the block onto the main street, leaving the dark and sorted past that had screwed me behind.

Chapter 60

SPARROW

Lies and sex…the roots of all my problems. Correction! They were the roots to all of my problems. Wrapped in Isaiah’s arms I felt nothing but total peace. Lord knows I didn’t think it was possible.

If you would have told me three months ago that things would end with me on top, I would have called you all kinds of crazy. I started off with a stable full of hoes, a stalker, and a man I didn’t want to give my heart to. Now I had a wedding to plan, a family to build, and wonderful life to look forward to. Now, if only the nightmares would go away. I felt horrible about Sherry, but I wasn’t surprised about how things turned out. She was mentally unstable. The thought of what she had almost pulled off still gave me chills.

I pressed my body closer to ‘Zay’s and was rewarded with the tightening of his arms. I pushed the negative thoughts of the last few months from my mind and focused on the future. I had less than two months to plan a wedding. I moved the wedding up to accommodate Raven’s growing belly. I didn’t want her water to break and her and the baby to steal my spotlight on my day.

Life was crazy. I was now enjoying the one thing I had run so hard from all of my life. Love. I didn’t know how I survived before. I couldn’t imagine my life without ‘Zay and the love we shared. I couldn’t even remember why I ran so hard from him and us to begin with.

I guessed I was so afraid of becoming completely absorbed by Isaiah like my mother was with my father. I knew now that it wasn’t possible when you trusted the right man. When two people loved, respected, and enjoyed each other they helped each other be the best individual they can be. They didn’t use love as a weapon but as a tool to build a blessed life together. They helped heal the scars incurred through life’s lessons and provided a barrier to future hurts.

I knew now that no matter how much I ran I would have ended up right here in Isaiah’s arms. I deserved more than fleeting moments of lust. I was done with that. I was done with running from my fear. I was done running from my past. I was done running from love. I was done running from my destiny.

I sighed deeply. Two months was a short time to plan a celebration, but if anybody could do it then it would be me. It was going to be done in typical Sparrow style: loud and vibrant! Yeah, I had a lot of work to do and more than likely a lot more drama to deal with but it would all be worth it to finally be Mrs. Sparrow Bird-Catcher.

Chapter 61

BLUE

I settled back in my plane seat with Robin by my side. I ignored the interested glances of stewardesses and passengers. Pulling my phone out, I put my headphones in and turned the volume all the way up. I closed my eyes. The flight from Chicago to New York couldn’t end fast enough. I couldn’t wait to get home even though I would be returning to Chicago in a few months for Sparrow’s wedding.

After months of hard work I was finally on my way back home. Dealing with the Lady Bird’s bull hadn’t been a cakewalk. If I was any other man, I would have been having nightmares but I was a soldier so it wasn’t anything to me. I would lock this adventure away deep in my dark corners soul with the others.

I kind of did feel bad for Princeton. He had run the wrong game on the wrong woman. Unfortunately for him, he handled it the wrong way. Yeah, Robin could, and should, have handled it better too. Trapping a man never worked out in anybody’s favor. But he shouldn’t have put his hands on Robin. He had better be counting his lucky stars that he was in police custody and not walking around the streets otherwise Cedric would have taken care of him with or without me.

I hoped Cedric and Robin could finally get their shit together and make it work. Only time would tell. I wasn’t as opposed to it as I would have been years ago. I knew he would make my sister happy and that was what mattered most to me. I was sure they could make a life together if they really worked at it. Everyone needed love.

I wasn’t looking forward to going home to a cold bed. Nothing helped ease the stress like pair of creamy thighs, but I’d have to wait on that. I couldn’t call any of my young lady friends to occupy my bed with Robin living with me. That would be awkward as hell.

I also felt bad for Sherry. She needed help but she decided to take matters into her own hands. Lord only knows what would have happened if I hadn’t been there that night. We would have been planning BB’s funeral instead of her wedding.

Baby Bird was getting married. God help ‘Zay! That man didn’t know what he was up against. Sparrow didn’t know when to sit her ass down and shut the hell up. She never listened and always thought she was right. I guess love really was blind. I just hoped love was also deaf because damn that girl had a mouth on her!

As for Dean, I knew that situation was far from over. If there was one thing I knew about Dean, it was that as long as he was breathing he would always get his revenge. He didn’t care how long it took. He would wait patiently until he could extract his pound of flesh. All I could do was sit back and patiently wait for the day that Dean would no longer be a threatening presence in all of our lives.

I was happy that Raven was finally free to love who she wanted. I couldn’t help but chuckle. She was beyond shocked when she found out that I had orchestrated the implementation of Pierre in her life. They were good together. He understood her, loved her, and would protect her. I knew P would make a great father. A way better one than his and mine combined.

That only left me and Ty as the lonely ones in the bunch, but I had feeling that wouldn’t be for much longer. Something was telling me that the woman I needed was out there and I just had to bide my time. I knew for sure that once I found her there wouldn’t be shit that would stand in the way of us being together. As for Ty, well, there some things about his past he needed to work out before he settled.

Taking a deep breath, I let the lyrics of Kanye and Jay-z take me away to Paris. This chapter was finally closed. I could finally get back to real life. I put Blue Bird back in his cage and released Dr. B. Maurice Bird. Time would tell if I would have to ever let Blue loose again. Knowing my sisters, I would say the chances were very likely.

Chapter 62

EPILOGUE

JAY BIRD

I took another sip of champagne as I watched my baby girl dance with her new husband, a flurry of white surrounding her feet. In a room decorated in pale gold and royal purple, she stood out amongst the elegantly dressed crowd. The elaborate chandeliers caused the crystals in her gown to sparkle. She looked like a fairy princess, a couture Glenda the Good Witch. I couldn’t help but shake my head. Sparrow knew she shouldn’t have worn white. She was no virgin. From the huge smile on his face Isaiah didn’t seem to mind.

The love that they shared was evident in every movement. One would have to be blind not to see it and have a heart made of stone not to feel it. They had written their own vows for the ceremony. Tianna had shed tears during Sparrow’s vows but Isaiah’s made her weep.

He grabbed my baby’s hands and said with a reverence that even the coldest heat could feel, “In a wasteland of ordinary people we somehow found each other. Amongst the rubble we became extraordinary. With nothing but the hopes passed down from generations of loveless souls we soared amongst the clouds. Men, in their ignorance, have tried to possess you. I do not want to possess you. I want to stand by you, to hold you, and to love you beyond eternity.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, mine included. I had never been overly romantic, but even I kissed my wife deeply after that moving declaration. I had always liked Isaiah, but at that moment I knew my baby was in good hands. I couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law.

To her left, Raven and Pierre slowly rocking side to side to the beat. Her stomach separated them from completely embracing one another. Raven was about ready to pop that baby out at any moment. Her swollen stomach stuck out so far it was a wonder that she could see in front of her. Pierre waited on her so much and I couldn’t help but laugh at Ray’s ever growing annoyance. I knew that he would protect her and my first grandchild.

Pierre had done everything in his power to provide a stable and loving home for Ray and the baby. Their home was filled to the ceiling with happiness and love. That was a far cry from the loneliness that seemed to be as much a part of Raven as her natural beauty when she was with Dean. I wasn’t exactly sure what Pierre did for Dean in the past, but none of that mattered now. What mattered was that they were building a life and starting a family, a family that he wouldn’t ruin with infidelity and lies.

I glanced across the room and my gaze collided with Robin’s. She waved and I waved back. She and Raven both were a vision in purple and gold. I was so proud of her progress. She had come a long way. Her anxiety, jealousy, and guilt had given way to hope. She still had a lot of work to do, but I had to give her credit for at least trying to better herself.

I felt an enormous amount of guilt for being a bad example of the way a man treated the woman he loved. She had fallen in love with a man just like me, a man who only cared for himself and no one else. Princeton Tillers was learning a valuable lesson: karma was a bitch and her last name was Bird.

With two of my daughters spoken for, I truly hoped that Robin would open herself up to the possibility of happily-ever-after. I also hoped that she would learn to trust soon and give Cedric another chance. A man could only wait for so long. Unlike my wife, I wasn’t opposed to them being together. It would take a strong man to tame a Bird woman and Cedric looked like he was the right man for the job.

A high-pitched laugh grated on my nerves and I turned in its direction. It was the young woman Blue had brought with him. I shook my head. My son certainly knew how to pick them. Yeah, I said my son. I had always known Blue was mine. I just didn’t want to admit it. He was right. It was easier to think Tianna was doing the same shit as me than to accept the fact that I didn’t deserve the family I was blessed with.

Blue was a certified genius, but when it came to matters of the heart he was as simple as puzzle with two pieces. It wasn’t entirely his fault. He had learned from the best. He was following in my footsteps of running from love. From the exasperated expression he wore I think he was starting to realize that his choices in women were lacking. I just hoped he would spend his time in Vegas in a few weeks evaluating his personal life choices. He didn’t need some young bimbo. He also didn’t need any of these black socialites that were staring at him. He needed a grown woman who could appreciate and understand the dark sides that made him who he was. One that had that sexy combination of street and book smarts, just like his mother.

Blue’s friend, Ty, was on his right and he wore this forlorn expression. My heart went out to him. He had loved Sparrow for so long but it didn’t work out. I knew the reasons why but that wasn’t my story to tell. I just hoped he and Blue would find love. They deserved it after everything they had been through.

Tightening my arm around Tianna’s waist, I brought her closer to me. Damn, she was beautiful. To think I had spent so much time cheating on her.

After the confrontation with Blue and Tianna’s ultimatum, I tried to make a real effort at being a better husband. I even started going to counseling to eradicate myself of the demons my mother’s actions had cast on me. I had run so long from the love my wife had to give me, so afraid that I would lose myself in it. So, finally, I stopped running and just let it wash over me. It was as if seeing life in Technicolor for the first time, like being released from prison after twenty years and smelling a rose in the springtime sun. It was great to just bask in it and allow it to encompass me. I wasn’t saying that everything was perfect but things were damn sure better.

That was the same with everyone in my family. Robin and Blue were doing well in New York. Raven was planning her wedding to Pierre as soon as her divorce was finalized from Dean and she gave birth. Sparrow and Isaiah were thinking about starting a family of their own. Tianna and I were getting back on track and I was being a better father to all four of my children. With any luck the Lady Birds wouldn’t get into any more trouble and there would no more late night calls to Blue to rescue them.

Looking around the crowded ballroom, I smiled. Yeah, things were better for Bird family. I just hoped they stayed that way.

ANITA

Fire and ice. That was what engulfed me. Fire from the liquor I drank nonstop and ice from the depression that filled me to bursting. Life sucked. If it wasn’t for the need to use the toilet then I would never get out of bed.

Pulling myself out of the bed, I ran a hand through my mussed hair. I took another sip of the bourbon I cradled to my chest. The bottle empty, I tossed it in the corner with the rest. The clanking of glass on glass gave me a headache. Tears ran down my face and despair filled me.

My life was ruined and it was all Robin Bird’s fault! I knew Princeton had affairs. In fact, it was me who told him he could do it during the holiday season. I considered it somewhat of a Christmas present. I just assumed he would use protection. I guess what they said about assuming was true.

I didn’t agree with him putting hands on the pregnant bitch or killing the baby with an STD, but for her to ruin my dreams and aspirations was unforgivable. I had dreams of the Governor’s mansion and I was well on my way before she dashed Princeton’s political success before it even began.

I had done everything in my power to secure Princeton’s political achievements. I played the role of happy homemaker, I had the little brats, I kept his secrets, and I used my family’s money and influence to secure his political endeavors. I had even hired Robin to redecorate so I could keep an eye on her. I sacrificed for my husband. I’d done things that would have had even him looking at me sideways.

I did all of this and what did I have to show for it? Not a God damned thing! My husband was behind bars, my children were living with my parents, my yard was full of media, and my reputation was tarnished. All of our family’s dirty laundry would be aired in the public. More and more women were coming forward stating they had affairs with Princeton. Most I knew about, some I didn’t. All of them were beautiful women who looked nothing like me.

I wasn’t insecure. I knew why Princeton married me and it wasn’t for love. He saw me as a come up, a person to help him achieve his goals. I saw him as a way to validate myself. Did we ever love each other? I didn’t know. Did it even matter?

Grabbing another bottle of liquor, I drank deeply. All I knew was that none of this would have happened if Robin had kept her mouth shut and gotten the abortion like she was told. But no, she had to try to steal my husband and when that didn’t work she set out to destroy us. Everything I had ever loved or wanted was gone and she was off in New York going on with her life.

I stepped into the bathroom and vomited up the liquor I had just poured down my throat. I turned on the shower and let the steam fill the bathroom while I rinsed my mouth out. Stepping inside the tiled enclosure, I let the water invigorate me, refresh me. The spicy scented soap washed away the aroma of vomit, must, and liquor I had been sitting in for God knows how long.

I stepped out the shower and put on clean clothes. The feel of freshly washed cotton and denim felt oddly new. I glanced at the calendar and realized I had been lying in my own filth for over two weeks.

I shook my head in disgust. This wasn’t who I was. I was a woman of action. I made shit happen. I didn’t let shit happen to me. This was a minor setback. I would get everything back on track. That Governor’s mansion was mine to be had. I’d be damned if I let an insane little bitch like Robin Bird take away what was rightfully mine.

That shit wasn’t going to fly with me. As usual, I was going to have to be the one to put everything back together since my useless husband was too weak for the job. She needed to be taught a lesson. She needed to know not to fuck with a woman’s family and professional life. She needed to know that she wasn’t the only one who could pull off a master plan. She needed to know that she wasn’t the only one who could use crazy to their advantage. Robin Bird needed to pay!

DEAN

Walking down the musty smelling corridor of the county jail, my stomach churned with a combination of anger, disgust, and anxiety. I had been locked away for over two months and it was driving me crazy.

All I did was walk around in this white jumpsuit, slippers and socks. We got to go outside for two hours a day, but even that was boring as hell. I spent most of my time alone in my cell. I didn’t want to get too close to any of these people. I kept them at arms-length unless it was dealing with business or benefiting me.

Spending your days and nights caged up like an animal allowed you to think of the people who put you there. It allowed you to plot against them, to think of ways to torture them for putting you away. Five people were responsible for putting me here. Raven, Pierre, Tyler, Cedric, and Blue were all going to feel my wrath once I was released. I was sure that my lawyer could get me off on one technicality or another and once that happened I was going to make sure each of them suffered, especially Blue. He had the worst of it coming to him.

There was no doubt in my mind that he was the mastermind behind this whole thing. We didn’t call him the “kid genius” for nothing. He set me up, drugged my mama, and blamed a murder on me that for once in my life I didn’t have shit to do with. Yeah, Piccolo had helped him but it was Blue that put everything in motion. I could feel it in my bones. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t afraid of Blue. He was too smart. He knew too much. He was that rare mixture of book smarts and street smarts. Blue was good with the hands and great at never getting caught. When he was still working for me, people feared him more than they ever feared Piccolo.

Piccolo! That name made my blood boil. While I was locked away, he was fucking my wife. He had gotten her pregnant and everything. That was my woman. I didn’t care if we were getting divorced. She was mine! I owned her. I had made her, trained her. Everything she had was because I got it for her!

Yeah, I was angry as hell at all five of them. I had put Tyler and Cedric on my payroll. I helped them get enough money to start their own businesses. I guess what they said was true: there was no honor amongst thieves. Or in this case, drug dealers and murderers. I couldn’t believe that after everything I had done for them that they would set me up. Yeah, I had tried to do the same to Ray but that was different.

Raven was mine. She tried to make a fool of me by stepping out with Piccolo. No one understood how embarrassing it was to hear in the streets that my right hand and my wife were fucking right under my nose! That he had gotten her pregnant! I couldn’t sit back and let that fly. Naw, I had to handle it. Some may have called me a coward for intimidating a woman but I wanted her to feel my pain. The ones you loved the most always hurt you the worst and I wanted her to know how much her disloyalty hurt me. I would never have laid a hand on her if she hadn’t gotten me so upset. This was all her fault! If she would have just been the good little bitch I trained her to be then everything would still be sweet.

Now, because of them, I was stuck in this shit hole with a bunch of convicts. Yeah, I had to get the hell out of here. My only saving grace was that I was running things while I was in here. I was still the man and no one could take that from me. A couple of the young bloods knew me from the neighborhoods. They had worked for me at one time or another. Once I got in here they made sure to pass the word around that I was top dog. That was what I liked—loyalty. They knew where their bread was buttered.

I shuffled down the narrow hallway into my cell, greeting others on my way. I flopped down on the hard bed and leaned back. I closed my eyes and daydreamed about my penthouse apartment. I could practically feel the Egyptian cotton against my skin and the heavy down comforters warming me. I could smell the Yankee Candles I kept burning and hear the soft moans of a hot young thing as I palmed her nipples.

A sound in my cell made my eyes pop open. I glanced towards the bars and saw five of the young bloods standing in my cell. I got up and smiled at them. They were always coming in checking on me.

“’Sup?” I asked.

They looked at each other as if they were nervous to ask me something. I shook my head. That was probably why their behinds were in jail now, too afraid to go after what they wanted.

“What is it?” They moved closer to me and I stood up. An uneasy feeling filled my stomach. “What the fuck do you want?”

A saw a fist out the corner of my eye and ducked just in time. Fists and feet from all the men came raining down on me and there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t a fighter. That was Piccolo’s job. I was always the one to use guns but the only ones who had guns in prison were the guards. I curled into a ball and waited for the beating to end.

Blood filled my mouth. I could feel my ribs being crushed and it became harder to breathe. Screams left my mouth but no one was coming. The prisoners didn’t interfere with other people’s altercations and the guards didn’t like me since I had taken down a few of their buddies with me. All in all, I was on my own.

Blood soaked my shirt and tears ran down my swollen cheeks. They were saying something to me but I couldn’t hear them over the blood pounding in my ears. Soon the blows to my body stopped and a lone figure came into focus.

I recognized him as one of my little worker bees. I knew his father. He was an old timer who had taught me some of the ropes. From what I could remember he worked with Ty flipping local businesses. Understanding dawned and panic caused my stomach to react violently.

“You know, Dean, you are quite the sloppy motherfucker. You walk in here like you own the place yet you have done so many of us dirty. We work for you, make you money, and how do you repay us? You turn your back on us as soon as we get pinched. That’s dirty.”

He helped me off the floor. I felt some type of relief that the beating stopped and that at least one of the men were willing to help me at least somewhat. I sagged against the white brick wall and looked him in the eye.

“Thanks man, I’m sorry.”

I truly meant it. I was sorry I was in this place. I was sorry that I had trusted and feared Blue. I was sorry that Raven had ever come into my life. I was sorry that I thought I was untouchable, invincible. I was sorry I hadn’t kept my shit together. I was so damned sorry.

He stepped closer to me. “There’s no need to apologize and no need to thank me.”

I smiled and scrubbed a hand down my face.

He smiled back and slapped me on my shoulder before turning away. He quickly turned back around and stabbed me in the stomach repeatedly with a sharpened handle of a toothbrush. My body sagged to the floor and I wheezed. Blood dripped from my lips. I felt the life slowly leave my body and the flames of hell nip at my heels.

“Naw, don’t thank me, Dean. Thank Blue.”

Also on Kindle


To Love a No Good Nigga

To the outside world, the Bird sisters have it all: money, power, a successful interior design firm, and beauty. However, on the inside, these three black socialites are a mess. They have allowed the dysfunctional and at times, emotionally abusive marriage of their parents to color their views on life and love. Robin is determined to have a family at any cost and is willing to destroy anyone standing in her way. Raven has been married for ten long years and sees no way out of her drug dealing husband's tight grasp, until she begins to fall for his best friend. Sparrow is afraid of becoming consumed by men and love like her mother, so she leaves a trail of broken hearts in her wake and some don't take the rejection as well as others. When all three sisters put their trust in the wrong men, they find themselves faced with deadly stalkers, scorned ex-husbands, and jealous wives that throw them headfirst into Chicago's underbelly. Help arrives from the most unlikely of sources, their baby brother, Blue-who has secrets of his own. With Blue and his associates by their side, Robin, Raven, and Sparrow are forced to reevaluate their life choices, commit unthinkable acts, and are pushed closer to the line of no return.

  • ISBN: 9781370997077
  • Author: Delphine Publications
  • Published: 2016-11-24 02:05:19
  • Words: 70702
To Love a No Good Nigga To Love a No Good Nigga