EPISODE 1

"Lasting love has to be built on mutual regard and respect. It is about seeing the other person. I am very interested in relationships and, when I watch couples, sometimes I can sense a blindness has set in. They have stopped seeing each other. It is not easy to see another person."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

PART 1

 

RaShaun Patterson unlocked the door to the home he and his girlfriend, Yvonne Raymond, shared. He set his briefcase down by the door before looking through the days’ mail he’d brought in from the mailbox. After seeing nothing that needed his immediate attention, he threw the stack down on the table in the hallway and immediately started unloosening his tie.

 

“Vonnie. Babe, I’m home,” he called out as he walked further into the house. “Von…”

 

When she didn’t answer, he assumed she hadn’t made it home yet, which surprised him. RaShaun knew she remembered they had plans. He’d reminded her when they spoke earlier on the phone.

 

He looked down at his watch. “Come on, Von, you know we have reservations in a couple of hours. It’s already gonna take you that amount of time to get ready.”

 

Grabbing the phone, he called her cell but the call went straight to voicemail. RaShaun left her a quick message, and then went to the bedroom to get out of his work clothes. He unbuttoned his shirt and threw it on the bed. His pants quickly followed. He’d just pulled out a pair of basketball shorts and t-shirt from his drawer when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Turning to face his reflection, RaShaun lifted his arms and flexed his muscles.

 

“Not bad,” he observed with a slow nod. “‘Bought time.”

 

RaShaun had always been active but admitted he’d slacked off. For the past few months, though, he had been hitting the weights hard. He would be thirty-five next year and was determined to reach that age looking even better than he had at twenty-five, and if he said so himself, he’d succeeded. Yvonne seemed to think so, too, constantly running her hands over his chest and arms and making admiring comments about his newly muscled physique.

 

RaShaun smiled as he thought about his girlfriend. Today made two years that they’d been together. Although they loved each other and were committed to their relationship, RaShaun would be the first to admit it hadn’t been easy at times–especially lately.

 

His smile slipped a bit as he thought about the rough patch they’d been going through. RaShaun took most of the blame. He knew he hadn’t been as attentive as he should’ve been due to his ambitious career goals, but he was determined to change that, starting tonight.

 

His job as an executive at one of the top banks in Arizona was a demanding one. He’d moved back home to Phoenix four years ago after he’d been offered the senior management position that came with a hefty salary. After working his ass off, he now had his eye on that Vice-President spot which would be opening as soon as their current VP retired in a few months.

 

As the only black man in the running for the job, he’d worked twice as hard to stand out, show and prove that he was the most qualified. From what he’d heard, he had it in the bag, but nothing was a sure thing. He wouldn’t slow down until after it was official and his name was on the door of that big office on the top floor.

 

While changing into more comfortable clothes, RaShaun’s thoughts once again returned to tonight. He and Yvonne had made plans to enjoy an evening of dinner and dancing, and had reserved a room at a very expensive hotel in the city. He had already requested flowers, candles, and champagne along with chocolate covered strawberries to be waiting on them when they got there. Yeah, they needed this, and RaShaun couldn’t wait. He knew for a fact that Yvonne was just as anxious and excited.

 

Whistling quietly, he had just turned to leave the bedroom when he spotted a handwritten note taped to the television. He recognized the paper as Yvonne’s stationery.

 

Changing directions, he walked over to the television with a frown and read the words written in big, black letters: PLAY ME.

 

An arrow pointed to the DVD player he refused to get rid of in an era of streaming movies. Frowning slightly and curious as hell, RaShaun picked up the remote control and turned the television on. After pushing the play button, he backed up and sat down on the bed.

 

When the picture came on the screen, he saw Yvonne standing there, apparently making sure the camcorder was positioned at the angle she wanted it. She hit a button to zoom in so that he had a nice view of the bed, then straightened up and walked back a few steps.

 

“Damn,” RaShaun mumbled under his breath when he saw what she was wearing.

 

His eyes ran over the short, black silk robe that barely reached the tops of her thighs. His lust filled gaze lingered on the black fishnet stockings and high heeled, black stilettos before bringing his attention back to her face and the way she'd styled her shoulder length hair to frame her attractive features.

 

Yvonne rarely wore very much makeup, was gorgeous without it, but he couldn’t help but notice how her expertly made up face emphasized her large grey eyes and high cheekbones. He liked it. It gave her a look that was both mysterious and sexy.

 

“Hi, baby.”

 

Yvonne’s honey smooth voice floated into the room, sultry and seductive. She smiled into the camera, showing the deep dimples that RaShaun thought were so cute.

 

“By now, I guess you noticed I’m not home. I wanted to inform you there’s been a slight change in plans. After you finish watching this video, I’ll let you know what’s next on the agenda. But for now…”

 

She slowly untied the robe and let it slowly slide down her shoulders and drop to the floor in a pool of black satin. “I have a little surprise for you. A teaser, of sorts.”

 

“Dayum, woman,” RaShaun said out loud.

 

His eyes devoured the black lacy bra that barely covered the enticing mounds of her breasts. The tiny lace and satin panties left just enough to the imagination to get him hot and bothered. He paused in his eager perusal of her body to stare at the naughty garters that came down to snap onto the top of the silky fishnet stockings.

 

“Damn, my baby fine as hell. Definitely tearin’ that up all night tonight…” he mumbled to himself in the empty bedroom. 

 

Yvonne turned her back to the camcorder to give him a different view. She peered over her shoulder mischievously. “So. You like, baby?”

 

“I fuckin’ love,” RaShaun whispered in response.

 

His hot eyes remained riveted to Yvonne as she walked to the foot of the bed and crawled in. He bit back a groan as he watched her lush apple bottom swing tantalizingly from side to side until she got in the middle of the bed.

 

Yvonne turned around to face him again. “Now. Close your eyes.”

 

RaShaun kept them glued to the screen.

 

Vonne reached over to the nightstand, then hesitated and looked back at the camcorder. “Shaun…I mean it,” she said scolded with a mock frown. “Close your eyes.”

 

RaShaun groaned and obediently closed his eyes. His woman knew him too well.

 

After a second, he heard her say, “Okay. You can open them now.”

 

 Like a kid at his party eagerly waiting on the presents, RaShaun opened his eyes to see what she had in store for him. Once he did, he wasn't disappointed. Lying back with her head propped up on a couple of pillows Yvonne stared back at him with a knowing expression. His eyes widened when he saw the cute little pink toy she held in her hand.

 

They had used sex toys before, but they hadn’t used one like that. He looked closer and recognized it as one she’d pointed out to him online one night. He had been intending to order it as a surprise, but kept forgetting. Apparently, she’d gotten tired of waiting.

 

“Okay, baby, pay attention. Class is now in session.”

 

“You got my attention, that’s for damn sure,” he muttered under his breath, rubbing his goatee. “Please continue.”

 

Yvonne gave him a saucy wink as she hit the button to turn the toy on. It wasn’t very big, sort of a miniature version of the one they’d looked at online. The head was only two or three inches long and was curved at the tip. As it began to quietly vibrate, RaShaun could see little beads of what looked like pearls rotating within the shaft of the toy.

 

“Now what do you think I’m getting ready to do with this little thing, hmmm?” she asked RaShaun as she teasingly moved her bent legs from side to side.

 

“I don’t know, but please show me,” RaShaun said in an urgent voice as he moved to the edge of the bed.

 

“Okay. I’ll show you.”

 

RaShaun raised an eyebrow when she responded.

 

Yvonne moved the vibrator to her breast and circled it around her nipple. With her eyes closed, her lips parted slightly when her nipple puckered and hardened. She hit the button to speed up the vibration and moaned softly.

 

“I wish you here now, baby,” she panted. “I need you, Shaun.”

 

RaShaun lay back on the bed. Propping himself up with one arm, he made himself comfortable, then let his hand wander down the waistband of his sweats.

 

“But…later,” Yvonne said, abruptly turning the toy off and sitting up.

 

RaShaun’s hand froze. No. No. Nooo. He actually groaned out loud when she lowered the vibrator down on the bed beside her. “Dammit.”

 

Yvonne looked at him from the television screen through eyes heavy with desire. “Tonight, I’m going to fulfill all of your desires and fantasies. I left a set of instructions for you on the nightstand. All you have to do is show up.”

 

She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up before slowly walking to the camcorder. “I love you, RaShaun. See you in a couple of hours.”

 

 

 

 

PART 2

 

 

RaShaun had just pulled on his slacks and was buttoning his shirt when his phone rang. He blew impatiently when he looked at the caller ID and saw it was his best friend, Quincy.

 

“Yeah, Q. What’s up, man?”

 

“Nothin’ much, Rah, just calling to check on you, makin’ sure you’re ready for your big night.”

 

RaShaun’s impatience turned to nervousness. He pulled the small, square jewelry box from this pocket and opened it with hands that trembled. The ice pink princess cut diamond engagement ring glimmered and sparkled from where it lay in its dark blue velvet, cushioned bed.

 

“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess,” he answered quietly. With more confidence, he added, “Yeah. I’m ready. I love Yvonne, and I know I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

 

“You couldn’t have picked a better woman, Rah. Now just relax and enjoy your evening. By the time I talk to you tomorrow, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a member of a unique brotherhood called marriage,” he laughed.

 

RaShaun laughed with him when he heard his sarcastic tone. The two men talked for a minute more before hanging up. RaShaun finished getting dressed and turned off the lights and locked the door, trying to ignore the nervous twinge that twisted in his gut. The next time he and Yvonne came back to the house they shared, it would be as an engaged couple.

 

He thought about that for a minute and then smiled. Hurrying to his car, he whistled under his breath, eager to see his woman, who he would soon be calling his fiancée…then his wife.

 

 

 

 

PART

 

Half an hour later, RaShaun grabbed the dozen red roses he’d stopped to pick up for Yvonne then took his claim ticket from the valet. Patting his pocket for the twentieth time, he felt the ring resting against his thigh, burning through the fabric and scorching his skin like a piece of hot coal.

 

He walked through the lobby of the newly constructed hotel where they would be staying. The ultra modern décor, grandiose chandeliers and modern furniture boasted luxury at its best.  The five-star restaurant he spied in the distance was one of the best around, and had already been in many well known magazines as one of the restaurants to dine in for an extraordinary cuisine experience.

 

Making his way to the bank of clear Plexiglas elevators, RaShaun casually looked around as he waited for his to descend. When his eye passed over one of the other elevators, he frowned and did a double take. One of the passengers on the elevator looked familiar. He took a step back to try and get a better look, but his elevator opened before he could get a clear view. Shrugging, he instantly put it out of his mind and stepped inside.

 

All thoughts turned to Yvonne and their evening ahead. The two of them had an explosive sex life and loved to experiment. No matter what they may have been going through in their relationship, that was one thing that hadn’t been affected. He couldn’t wait to see what she had in store for them tonight.

 

The elevator stopped at his floor and opened, interrupting his inner musing. He stepped into the hallway and headed to their room. Yvonne’s note had informed him that they would first have an early dinner before continuing with their evening.

 

Then it would be time to satisfy all of their other more basic appetites…

 

 

 

 

PART 4

 

 

 

Brandon Valentine averted his face when he saw RaShaun looking his way. Luckily, RaShaun’s elevator came mere seconds before Brandon’s got to the lobby, but just to be sure, he casually glanced to his left, making sure RaShaun was safely on his way up to the room where Yvonne was waiting. Seeing that the coast was clear, he headed to the bar of the hotel’s restaurant.

 

“What can I get for ya'?” the bartender asked when he walked in.

 

“Whatever’s on tap is fine,” Brandon replied taking a seat on one of the stools.

 

While he waited for his beer, he thought about the conversation he’d just had with Yvonne. Not that he would exactly call it a conversation. Yvonne had been shocked to see him when she opened the hotel room door. She’d, of course, been expecting RaShaun. When Brandon had refused to tell her how he’d known she would be there, she had been livid.

 

The corner of Brandon’s mouth curved upwards. She really needed to choose her friends more carefully…

 

His smile disappeared just as quickly when his thoughts turned to RaShaun. Patterson didn’t know him, but Brandon knew who he was. More than once, Brandon had stood mere feet away from him, watching and observing a few times when he’d been with Yvonne. Once or twice when he’d been alone or in a restaurant at a business meeting while Brandon sat a few tables over. They had even locked eyes a couple of times. That’s probably why RaShaun had paused when he’d caught a glimpse of him a few minutes ago.

 

Brandon took a long swig of the beer that the bartender had placed in front of him and thought about the night he’d first met Yvonne. It was no coincidence that he’d ‘just happened’ to meet her at that nightclub a couple of months back.

 

Once they started talking, he worked it in the conversation that he was in the market to buy a house since he’d just moved back. One of her girlfriend’s had chimed in that Yvonne was a real estate agent when she’d seemed reluctant to confess that bit of info. Brandon had pretended not to see the glare Yvonne had sent the woman, and by the time he walked away from their table, he’d convinced her to help him before she even realized she’d agreed to it.

 

While looking for a house, their relationship had been friendly, but professional, nothing more than a realtor helping a customer. Brandon had made sure not to get out of line, and eventually Yvonne had let her guard down. Several weeks in, as luck would have it, she’d found the perfect house for him. After seeing it, Brandon had agreed and suggested they go out for a celebratory drink.

 

The alcohol had lowered her defenses and before long Yvonne confided to Bandon that she and her boyfriend were going through a rough patch. Yvonne took great pains to convince Brandon that she loved RaShaun, but Brandon had detected the loneliness in her voice. That’s when he knew he had her. Lonely women were his specialty.

 

Once they’d gotten outside to her car, Brandon had made his move and kissed her. Yvonne had offered a token resistance, but it hadn’t been long before she’d returned the kiss just as eagerly. She didn’t come to her senses until Brandon had tried to inch his hand up her skirt. Looking distraught at what she’d allowed to happen, Yvonne had pushed him away and quickly jumped in her car and driven off.

 

That had been the last time he’d seen her before tonight. Another agent had handled the closing on the house and Yvonne had blocked his number from the cell phone she used for business. Luckily for him, she had envious females passing themselves off as caring friends who’d given him the number to her personal cell.

 

Hesitating for a moment, Brandon took his phone out and sent her a quick text. Afterwards, he absently stared at the screen, lost in his thoughts, until he when he heard a loud whisper coming from just behind him.

 

“Girl, he is so foine. That makes no kind of sense!"

 

Brandon didn’t turn to look at the two women standing a few feet away. He didn’t have to. He’d noticed them slowly inching over to him for a while now…

.

“Yes, Lawd. He sure as hell is,” the other one answered. “I wonder if he’s here alone.”

 

“I don’t know, but what I wouldn’t give to sample some of that sweet caramel…”

 

 “Shhhh. Girl, he’s going to hear you!”

 

The corner of Brandon’s mouth tugged upwards because he knew that’s exactly what they intended to happen. He still didn’t turn around, though. Instead, he finished the last of his beer then stood up to leave. He’d only taken two steps when the women all but bumrushed him and blocked his way before he could leave.

 

“Excuse me. We couldn’t help but notice you from across the room. You’re very handsome. Has anyone ever told you that you look like that actor, Shemar Moore?”

 

“Just younger,” the other one chimed in enthusiastically.

 

Brandon eyed them with amusement, his gaze slanting from one woman to the other. Both were professional looking beauties who didn’t seem to have a problem saying what was on their mind.

 

 “Actually, yeah,” he answered. “I can’t see it, but I’ve heard that more times than I can count.”

 

The petite, slightly more aggressive sista licked her lips seductively and stepped closer. “You weren’t leaving, were you?”

 

“Yeah, I just stopped in to have a drink.”

 

“Well, since you’re here by yourself maybe you could stay and have one drink with us.”

 

Brandon hesitated, then slowly shook his head. “I appreciate the offer, but–”

 

“Oh, come on, one drink won’t hurt,” the other one added. “I’m Patrice, by the way, and this is my friend Jocelyn.”

 

Brandon shook the hands they offered during the introduction. “Nice to meet you lovely ladies. My name is Brandon.”

 

“Brannndonnnn,” Jocelyn repeated in a slow purr. Sidling up even closer, she tilted her head and blinked her lashes. “Please. Just one itty bitty drink. It’ll be on us.”

 

Brandon glanced around the bar. Again, his first instinct was to decline their offer, but hell, he didn’t have nothing better to do. “Why not? But I’m buyin’.” He raised his arm to the bartender. “Let my man here know what you want to drink then tell me why two lovely ladies like yourselves are here all alone on a Friday night.”

 

They preened like flowers being watered on a sweltering, hot day under the attention Brandon gave them. He politely engaged in the conversation and answered their probing questions easily enough, but part of his thoughts remained on Yvonne and what his next move would be. He could tell from the kiss they exchanged that she had feelings for him, even if she didn’t want to admit it yet.

 

He could wait. He had nothing but time.

 

 

 

PART 5

 

RaShaun stopped in front of the room and unlocked it with his key. When he opened the door, his smile grew. Very nice.

 

The lights were set on dim while soft music played in the background. Countless scented candles had been lit and burned all over the room, and a small cozy table was set for two. A serving cart sat parked next to it with several silver domes covering their food along with an ice bucket of champagne.

 

Still looking around, RaShaun closed the door behind him and walked to the middle of the room. He was just getting ready to call out for Yvonne when he heard her behind him.

 

“Hi handsome,” she greeted him softly.

 

 RaShaun quickly turned around, momentarily speechless when he saw her walk out of the bedroom wearing a sexy little black dress that fit her body like a glove. She had on the same black stilettos from the video. His eyes followed the silk stockings until they disappeared under the hem of her dress. His mind raced as he wondered whether or not she was wearing those sexy garters as well.

 

“Von, you look…damn, woman!” He exclaimed, finally finding his voice.

 

RaShaun slowly walked towards her, and after giving her the roses, leaned down to kiss her soft, glossy lips. Her smoldering eyes still had that slight hint of mystery lingering in them, and that turned him on even more.

 

“Did you enjoy your surprise?” she asked him slyly, referencing the video she’d made for him.

 

“Hell yes.” He pulled her closer as she held the roses to the side and slid her other arm around his neck. “Very sexy.”

 

This time the kiss he gave her had a bit more urgency to it. Yvonne eagerly opened her mouth, allowing his tongue to slide inside to caress and tenderly cradle hers.

 

“I want you, baby,” RaShaun whispered against her lips. “Come on. We can eat later.”

 

He tried to pull her to the bedroom, and for the briefest of moments, Yvonne followed his lead, but stopping suddenly with breath heaving from arousal, she pulled back.

 

“No, wait.” She looked at him with dreamy eyes that told him she wanted him just as much. “Not yet.”

 

“Yesss,” he hissed, kissing her neck while urging her backwards. “Now.”

 

But Yvonne laughingly stepped out of his reach. Looking down at the roses in appreciation, she closed her eyes and leaned down to sniff their sweet fragrance. Giving him an adoring smile, she took his hand and led him towards the dining table.

 

“Come on. Give me a chance to feed one appetite at a time,” she teased as she set the roses down.

 

“Fine,” RaShaun said grudgingly. “It does smell good.”

 

Grabbing the bottle of champagne he popped the cork, quickly pouring the sparkling bubbly into the champagne flutes and handing Yvonne a glass. Picking his up, they raised the glasses for a toast.

 

“To us, now and forever,” RaShaun said.

 

“To us,” Yvonne repeated softly.

 

They smiled at each other and took sips of the champagne. RaShaun glanced over the table. “Everything really does look nice, sweetie.”

 

“Thank you. Now, sit.” She gently pushed him down in the chair. Placing her glass on the table, she uncovered their plates.

 

Yvonne laughed when RaShaun’s stomach growled in anticipation as all of his favorite dishes were revealed. “So much for me having your undivided attention, huh?”

 

He looked at her and grinned as she sat down. After fixing their plates, they started eating and telling each other about their day. Before long, RaShaun had her laughing uncontrollably at a silly story about one of his co-workers as he refilled their glasses.

 

“RaShaun, stop!” she giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. “He did not say that!”

 

“Swear to God, he did Von,” RaShaun chuckled. “It was all I could do not to bust out laughing. You should’ve seen Johnson’s face. He was so mad his face turned purple.”

 

Yvonne leaned back in her chair and dabbed at her eyes with her napkin. Smiling, she picked up her glass and sipped her champagne. While watching him finish the last of his food, RaShaun noticed that her eyes suddenly took on a faraway look.

 

“Hey, am I boring you?” he teased, reaching for her hand across the table.

 

Yvonne shook her head and brought her attention back to him. Standing, she walked over to him and stood between his legs when he pushed his chair back. Hugging his neck, she bent down kissed his waiting lips.

 

She lifted her head and stared him deep in the eyes as she ran her hand gently over the side of his face “I love you, Shaun.”

 

“I love you, too, Yvonne. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. You know that, don’t you?”

 

RaShaun swallowed nervously, wondering if this was the right moment to propose, but then she distracted him by sitting on his lap and claiming his lips in another kiss. His hand moved along the silky length of her thigh to travel under her dress.

 

“Wait.” Yvonne grabbed his hand and held it in place. “Let me change into something more comfortable first.”

 

“You look just fine to me,” he whispered in a low, husky voice. “You don’t need to put on anything at all. Actually, just the opposite–you need to take some things off.”

 

Yvonne stood up and took quick steps back out of reach of his grasping hands. “Oh, no. I looked around until I found the perfect little sexy outfit and I’m at least going to wear it for a few minutes. Besides…we’re going to be having a guest soon, and I want to make sure I look good enough to keep the majority of your attention on me.”

 

“You do that already, baby.” Then his eyes narrowed a little as the first part of her sentence sank in. “And what do you mean ‘a guest’?”

 

“You’ll see,” Yvonne sang out teasingly, heading in the direction of the bedroom. “She’ll be here in a few minutes.”

 

RaShaun’s eyebrows rose. “She?” he repeated.

 

“She.” Yvonne answered softly before closing the door with a smile.

 

 

 

PART 6

 

 

RaShaun got comfortable on the sofa, letting his imagination take over while he waited for Yvonne. He went through a list of possibilities of the things she had planned for them. His mind had just jumped to scenario number two, when he heard her cell phone buzz. He looked around and saw it on the end table by the couch. He had put his on mute so that they wouldn’t be disturbed, so he picked hers up to do the same.

 

“Definitely don’t want you spoiling the mood,” he said of the phone.

 

Before he turned it off, though, a message popped up on the screen. RaShaun read it without thinking, and when he did, a deep frown formed on his face.

 

“What tha’ hell…”

 

Behind him, Yvonne opened the door and posed in the doorway of the bedroom.

 

“Okay, baby. You can turn around now,” she purred in a sexy voice. When RaShaun continued to sit there as if he hadn’t heard her, she repeated herself.  “Shaun, you can…”

 

The words drifted off before she could finish her sentence when she saw the furious expression on his face when he stood up and glared at her.

 

“RaShaun? Baby, what’s wrong?”

 

“‘What’s wrong’, Yvonne? You tell me. And while you’re at it, tell me who in the hell is Brandon?”

 

Yvonne leaned weakly against the doorframe, her eyes locked on her cell phone clenched in his hand. “What?”

 

 “You heard me. I wanna know why some other man is texting shit like this to you on your phone?”

 

 

 

PART 7

 

 

 

RaShaun asked the question quietly, but Yvonne knew him well. The quieter his tone, the deeper his anger ran. Her breathing quickened, coming in deep, rapid breaths. Her heart felt as if it were ready to jump out of her chest. This was her worst nightmare come true.

 

“I…. he…” She cleared her throat and straightened away from the door.

 

RaShaun tilted his head, his eyes never letting her out of their intense grasp. She knew he was quickly losing the battle to control his temper.

 

Yvonne took a couple of steps his way. “RaShaun…baby, it’s not what you think.”

 

“Okay. Then stop stalling and answer my question,” he answered in that same quiet tone.

 

“I know how this is going to sound, but he’s a client. I was helping him find a house.”

 

RaShaun’s expression didn’t change, but his voice turned cold and sharp. He held up the phone. “A client…”

 

The words rushed out of Yvonne’s mouth as if they were running a race with the finish line in sight. “Yes. Someone I met a couple of months ago. We exchanged a few words, and it came up in the conversation that I’m a real estate agent. He mentioned that he had just moved back into town, and was looking to buy a home, and asked if I could help him.”

 

 “That doesn’t explain this message.” The skepticism in his voice was clear. “I wanna know what the hell is going on, Yvonne.”

 

 “Nothing. Nothing is going on…” Her voice trailed off when she heard how weak her voice sounded. She had never been good at lying.

 

“He’s just a client,” she said again. “That’s all. I found a house for him fairly quickly and I haven’t seen him since.”

 

RaShaun raised an angry eyebrow. “And that’s all there is to it. Nothing else is going on. Nothing else I should know.”

 

The moment hung between them. Yvonne held her breath. She knew what she said next would determine how things played out from there. “No. Nothing.”

 

He stared at her for a moment before quietly asking, “Why are you lying to me?”

 

Yvonne felt lightheaded. He knew. “I…I’m not.”

 

“This message doesn’t sound like ‘nothing’. Here let me read it to you,” he said matter of factly.

 

“No!” Yvonne’s eyes widened as she held her breath. She didn’t know what the message said, but it couldn’t be good. Her heart sank when she listened to RaShaun read the damning words in a stiff, frigid voice.

 

“Hey. It’s me. Just wanted you to know I’m thinkin’ ‘bout you. I know youre with your man right now, but hit me back if you get a chance. Miss you, sweetness.”

 

RaShaun’s accusing eyes met hers. “So. You wanna tell me again that it’s nothing?”

 

 

 

PART 8

 

 

 

 

RaShaun’s blood boiled dangerously high as he read the message out loud. Anyone looking at him would think he was unaffected, but he was angrier than he could ever remember being in a long, long time.

 

He kept his eyes trained on Yvonne and took note of the different range of emotions that morphed over her face. Fear, shame…guilt.

 

Fuck!

 

“RaShaun, I told it’s not what you think…”

 

RaShaun interrupted her, his voice rising in anger. “You keep saying that, Yvonne, but you not telling me nothin’. What you are doing is standing there lying to my face, then I read something like this from a motherfucka who sounds like he’s your lover or something…” He paused as a thought hit him and left him chilled to the bone. His eyes narrowed in angry accusation. “Is he?”

 

“RaShaun, no! Baby, it’s…complicated.”

 

“Well you need to ‘uncomplicate’ it now, Yvonne! Who is this? You met him where?”

 

Yvonne swallowed several times to get past a lump lodged thickly in her throat. “R-Remember when I went out to the club a couple of months ago with Kiki and Nicole? It was the weekend Nicole was in town visiting, so we all hung out that night.”

 

At the mention of the one friend in particular, RaShaun let out a sound of disgust and shook his head.

 

KiKi. He should’ve known.

 

He couldn’t stand Yvonne’s loud mouthed, messy friend and she knew it. No matter how much he told Yvonne that woman didn’t mean her any good, she didn’t wanna listen. Matter of fact, it made her dig her heels in deeper and while coming to KiKi’s defense. Her favorite argument was that she was not going to one of those women that put her friends down just because her man didn’t like them.

 

 He lifted his eyes to Yvonne. “So you met him that night?”

 

 “Yes. He struck up a conversation with us and mentioned he had moved back to town.”

 

“So, what, you jumped and offered your services?” he sneered.

 

“He asked, but I told him no, and that I could recommend another agent. But…”

 

When she grew quiet, he asked, “But what, Yvonne?”

 

 “Sometime during the evening, Kiki said she gave him my business card.”

 

RaShaun turned away and took a few steps, nodding his head. There it was. He knew that manipulative bitch was in all of this some kind of way.

 

With his back still to her, RaShaun swallowed hard to push down his anger. It didn’t help. It was still there, threatening to smother him alive. 

 

He waited several moments before prompting her to continue through teeth that were clenched tight. “Okay. Kiki gave him your business card. And…?”

 

“I agreed to help him find a house. After a couple of weeks, I came across one that I thought he’d like, but I couldn’t get the key to show it until late evening. When he saw it, he wanted it right away. Afterwards, he asked me out for a drink to celebrate. It was all very innocent…at…first.”

 

RaShaun slowly turned to face her. The more she talked, the harder his face became, especially when she tacked on those last two telling words at the end of the confession. “What do you mean it was all very innocent at first? What are trying to say? You got feelings for this guy, Yvonne?”

 

She forced herself to meet his unwavering gaze. “I want to be honest with you, Shaun…”

 

“Please do,” he snapped sarcastically.


 Yvonne twisted her hands together, but didn’t look away from him. “Do I have feelings for him?” she whispered. “I wouldn’t say that, but I was…attracted to him.”

 

RaShaun looked up at the ceiling and exhaled the breath he’d been holding as he waited for her answer. “I cannot believe this fucking shit,” he said softly to himself, shaking his head. The gaze RaShaun directed back to her burned her to her soul. “I’m gonna ask you this one more time. Did you have sex with him, Yvonne?”

 

“No!” Yvonne walked over to RaShaun and grabbed his hand, gasping as he snatched it away. “I swear I didn’t sleep with him.”

 

Something in her voice made RaShaun’s eyes narrow suspiciously. “But something happened…”

 

Yvonne lowered her eyes. Her silence said it all.

 

“Did you kiss him?”

 

“RaShaun–”

 

“Answer me!” His thunderous roar resounded around the room. He was tired of bullshitting around. He’d been made a fool of long enough. “Did…you…kiss…him…”

 

 Yvonne covered her mouth with her hand. Having no other choice, she reluctantly nodded. “Yes.”

 

 

 

 

PART 9

 

 

 

RaShaun’s chest heaved with each breath he took. The muscles in his jaw coiled tight as he stared her in the eye. “You let him touch you?”

 

“No! I haven’t seen him since that kiss. I don’t know how he got my personal cell phone number or how he found out…” Yvonne abruptly cut off the rest of her sentence as if realizing she was revealing something she’d intended to keep quiet.

 

RaShaun’s eyes glowed bright with anger. “How he found out what?”

 

Yvonne looked around the room, but knowing there was no way to avoid telling him, brought her eyes back to him and whispered, “He stopped by the hotel room.”

 

His brows bunched together in a furious scowl. “When?”

 

“A few minutes before you got here.” Then she added in a rush, “But I honestly don’t know how he found out because I haven't talked to him in weeks.”

 

Releasing a hiss of disbelief, RaShaun forced himself to walk away from Yvonne. He didn’t even want to look at her. Everything that came out of her mouth was either a lie or more evidence of her deceit. After she’d kept so much from him there was no way he could believe anything she said now.

 

He paced back and forth, feeling himself entering a level of anger he rarely reached. Blood rushed to his head, leaving him dizzy, seeing red. He’d never been so angry in his life. Never felt so betrayed. His outlet for the explosion building up in him at the thought of her with another man came to a head. With a loud roar of outrage, he stalked over to the table where they’d just finished eating dinner and swept everything to the floor in one violent swipe.

 

Yvonne screamed and jumped back. “RaShaun! It…It didn’t mean anything!”

 

“It didn’t mean anything?” he shouted, hurling her words back at her with the speed of a discharged bullet. “Do you know what you’ve done? What you’ve done to us? You destroyed everything over some bullshit that ‘didn’t mean anything’!”

 

“We…we can get through this.” But Yvonne’s voice lacked conviction as if she wasn’t sure what to think.

 

“We can get…” RaShaun parroted before his expression grew incredulous. Was she fucking serious? He shook his head. “Nah. Nah, baby, I doubt that very seriously.”

 

“RaShaun–”

 

“What’s his last name?”

 

“Wh-What?”

 

“What…is…his… last name!” he yelled because his patience was now nil to none. “What’s his name, where does he work!”

 

“Okay, okay! His last n-name is Valentine. Brandon Valentine, but I don’t know where he works.” It was clear from RaShaun’s expression that he didn’t believe her. “I swear I don’t know, RaShaun. He paid for the house in cash.”

 

RaShaun’s brows lifted in momentary surprise. He glanced back at Yvonne’s phone and memorized the number Brandon had sent the text from. Then, snatching his jacket from off a nearby chair, he tossed her phone on the couch and headed for the door with long, angry steps.

 

“RaShaun, don’t leave,” Yvonne cried. “Wait! Please!”

 

RaShaun paused with his hand on the doorknob. After a few seconds, he turned to look back at her. “Do you know how many times I could’ve cheated on you? Huh? I get hit on by women almost every fucking day. But I never had the desire to even look at anyone else, let alone touch them. You were it for me.”

 

Yvonne’s face collapsed when he used the past tense, all but signifying that they were over.

 

RaShaun looked at her with anger, hurt and disappointment. He thought about the engagement ring in his pocket that he’d planned to surprise her with tonight when he asked her to marry him. He let out a hard laugh. Guess the surprise was on him.

 

“Happy Anniversary, Vonne,” he said sarcastically.

 

Slinging the door open, he came up short when he saw a pretty sista poised and ready to knock on the door. She looked at him in surprise, her eyes slowly sweeping over him from head to toe. From the gleam in her eyes it was clear she liked what she saw very much.

 

“Hi. You must be RaShaun,” she said in a soft, seductive voice. “I’m Peaches. Your girlfriend invited me over to help you two…celebrate.”

 

RaShaun’s eyes swept over her in distaste. “Nah. There’s no celebration here tonight, but hey, go on in.” RaShaun brushed past her to get to the hallway and threw parting words of loathing over his shoulder. “I’m sure you two can find ways to entertain yourselves.”

 

“RaShaun!” Yvonne ran to the door, impatiently pushing the woman out of the way, but RaShaun had just stepped onto the elevator. “RaShaun!”

 

Yvonne stood there for a moment after the elevator doors closed, then slowly walked back into the room. The woman looked at her in confusion before her expression changed to one of lust once she took in Yvonne wearing the revealing sexy lingerie.

 

“Honey, I don’t know what’s going on, but your man’s right. I’m sure we can have a good time together.” She walked up to Yvonne. “Believe me. Once you been with Peaches, you’ll be saying ‘RaShaun who’?”

 

Yvonne looked at her with a frown. She had almost forgotten the woman was there. “Get out.”

 

“Come on, baby, don’t be like that.”

 

“Get…out!” Yvonne screamed as she held the door open.

 

The woman rolled her eyes at Yvonne. “Your loss, honey,” she said, sucking her teeth. “But I still need to get paid, whether we party or not.”

 

Eyes squinting in anger, Yvonne hurried to the couch and grabbed her wallet out of her purse. She pulled out a wad of bills. Without bothering to count how much was there, she went back to the woman and shoved the money in her hand. Holding the door open, she pointed for her to get the hell out of the room. The moment she was gone, Yvonne slammed the door behind her and ran to the bedroom to change clothes.

 

She had to hurry and find Shaun because ‘Peaches’ was right about one thing. If she didn’t fix things with RaShaun?

 

It would definitely be her loss.

 

 

 

PART 10

 

 

 

RaShaun unlocked the front door to his house and let himself in. After closing the door and setting the alarm, he paused in the foyer, his mind a thousand miles away from the spot where he was standing.

 

He was still trying to process how things had spun out of control so fast. Two hours ago, he had been on top of the world, in love with the woman of his dreams and ready to ask her to marry him. Now…

 

RaShaun exhaled and took slow steps into his house. Tossing his keys on the small table by the door, he went to the kitchen and opened the dark wood cabinet over the sink. Grabbing a fifth of Crown Royal and a glass with one hand he went to the living room. After unbuttoning his shirt, he sat down on the couch and poured a healthy splash of alcohol in his glass.

 

Downing it in one swallow, he grimaced when the alcohol burned a trail from his throat to his stomach. Welcoming the jolt it gave him, he filled the glass to the top this time before leaning his head back on the couch.

 

Staring up at the ceiling, he went over the conversation he’d just had with Yvonne. If anyone had told him his woman would step out on him, cheat on him, and lie right to his face, he would’ve been ready to defend her to his last dying breath. That was the strength of his belief in her. In them.

 

RaShaun took a big gulp of his drink. So much for truth, trust, and honesty. Apparently it was highly overrated because he had no doubt Yvonne would not have told him shit about this Brandon dude if he hadn’t seen that fuckin’ text message.

 

Upending the glass to finish the Crown in his glass, he grabbed the bottle for a refill. He knew he’d have one hell of a blinding headache in the morning, but he didn’t care. Tonight alcohol would be his coping mechanism. Even if he had to finish every single drop he had in his house, RaShaun was determined to numb the pain he felt and dull the ache pounding away at his chest. Tomorrow would take care of itself.

.

 

 

PART 11

 

 

 

Yvonne drove up to her house and sighed with relief when she saw RaShaun’s car in the driveway. Turning the ignition off, she quickly jumped out and slammed the door behind her before hurrying to the front door of her house. Whatever she had to do to make things right with RaShaun, she’d do it. She just prayed he’d give her another chance.

 

 RaShaun was a good, kind, and decent man. There weren’t many around like him. She knew that. No matter what she may have been going through when she met Brandon, she had to get past it and focus on Shaun. She didn’t want to lose him.

 

Nervously fumbling to insert the key into the lock, Yvonne let herself in the house and closed the door behind her. Walking quickly to the living room, she came to a sudden stop when she saw RaShaun leaning back with his head resting on the cushions of the couch. His eyes were closed, but she could tell by the way his body tensed that he was aware she was in the room.

 

“RaShaun.” She called his name softly. When he didn’t respond, she called out to him again. “Baby…”

 

He sat suddenly up and reached for the bottle of alcohol on the table in front of him. Purposely ignoring her, he poured more liquor in his glass. After swallowing it all at once, he finally turned his head to level a death stare at her.

 

Yvonne almost took a step back to take shelter from the fire smoldering in his eyes, but she willed her feet to move towards him and stand by the couch.

 

“Shaun, we need to talk.”

 

“Nope. I think we’ve said just about all we need to say.” His voice was low and raspy. The degree to which he slurred his words gave Yvonne an idea of just how much he’d had to drink.

 

“RaShaun, I didn’t cheat on you. I would never, ever allow things to go that far. You have to believe me.”

 

When he shot up from the couch and glared at her, Yvonne couldn’t stop herself from taking an involuntary step back this time.

 

His eyes ripped slowly down her body as if he couldn’t stand the sight of her. “Let’s be clear about something. Just because you hadn’t gotten around to fucking him doesn’t mean you didn’t cheat.”

 

Yvonne couldn’t meet his eyes because she knew what he said was true.

 

“Let me ask you something,” he sneered. “What is situation was reversed and I’d been seeing another woman. Let’s just say, oh, I don’t know. Terri.”

 

Yvonne flinched. Before she could stop herself, her eyes rolled with a hard snap. He knew that was the one person who would get a surefire reaction out of her.  RaShaun and Terri had dated all through high school, and even though they’d broken up after RaShaun’s second year at Penn Sate, they were still on friendly terms.

 

RaShaun and Yvonne had run into to Terri one night at dinner. The moment RaShaun introduced them, it was clear that Terri didn’t like her. It was also clear from the way the other woman looked at RaShaun and clung to his arm that she wanted him back. RaShaun assured Yvonne that it would never happen, but still. Yvonne couldn’t stand her and RaShaun knew it.

 

“You’re saying if Terri sent me provocative messages or if I made out with her, but stopped just short of having sex, you’d be okay with that? Because according to you, that wouldn’t really be cheating, right?”

 

Yvonne wisely bit her tongue to stop from saying anything. That would only make things worse. They both knew he had made his point.

 

Deciding to switch tactics, she walked over to him and placed a hand on his chest, ignoring the way he looked down at it with a frown, then back up at her.

 

“I love you so much, Shaun. Can…Can we please just get through tonight, then work everything else out tomorrow?” Yvonne stepped closer to him. “Please?”

 

When he didn’t push her away, she slid her hands around his waist and stood on tiptoe, lightly brushing her lips against his. RaShaun closed his eyes as she kissed him softly again and again, outlining his lips with her tongue, ready to show him exactly how much he meant to her.

 

 

 

PART 12

 

 

Why did he have to want her so damn much? Even now...

 

RaShaun felt his lips automatically open to her tongue. He bent his head a bit to allow her to kiss him more completely. God knows he shouldn’t want her now, but he did. Yvonne was in his blood. She was vital to him like the air he breathed, and right now, in that moment, she was so fucking necessary.

 

Unable to help himself, his moan started deep in the back of his throat when she pressed her body close to his. She pushed his unbuttoned shirt off his shoulders and down his arms to let it drop to the floor. This time it was her turn to moan in pleasure as her hands glided over his chest.

 

“Your body…” she whispered against his lips. “So…perfect.”

 

RaShaun watched her through heavy-lidded eyes. Her soft lips rained barely there kisses from one width of his wide chest to the other. Her hands moved over the muscles in his ripped abs while her tongue licked his nipples in a way she knew drove him insane.  

 

“Mmmm….” RaShaun brought his hand up to tangle in her hair before roughly pulling her head back far enough to grind his mouth down on hers. 

 

Yvonne allowed him to have his way. Her hand reached down to cover the massive erection nearly bursting the seam of his zipper, squeezing and rubbing the outline of it with one hand while unbuckling his belt and unsnapping his pants with the other. When she eagerly slipped her hand down the front of his underwear and started stroking the monster she’d awaken, he came to his senses and realized what he was allowing to happen.  

 

“Yvonne…”


“I want you, Shaun," she murmured against his lips. “Please don’t tell me no.”


RaShaun grabbed her wrist to halt her movements. “ I can’t do this, Yvonne.”

 

“Why not? I know you want me, too. I can feel how much.” She tried to push him down on the couch. “Just relax and let me love you, show you how much I–“”

 

“‘Let you love me?’” he repeated harshly, abruptly slinging her hand away from him. “I thought that was what I’d been doing for the last two years. We both see where that got me, doesn’t it?”

 

RaShaun gave her a scathing glare before turning his back to fix his pants. After he finished buckling his belt, he reached up to massage the back of his neck with a trembling hand. He tried to shut out the picture of her with another man, kissing him the way she’d just kissed him, touching him, letting him touch her. But it was no use. The images seemed determined to play out in his mind up close and in living color.  

 

“I can’t do this,” he muttered to himself, slowly shaking his head. “Not right now.”

 

“RaShaun–”

 

“Yvonne, I...we need some time .”

 

“No! We can get through this,” Yvonne pleaded in a thin, shaky voice. “You can’t tell me you don’t love me, Shaun.”

 

“It’s not about whether I love you or not,” he replied in a gravely voice, turning to face her. “I don’t know if this is even worth salvaging. I don’t even know if I want to.”

 

“RaShaun–” Yvonne stared at him in disbelief as everything finally started to sink in.

 

“I'm not gonna lie. Yvonne, I love you, but I'll be damned if I stay in a relationship where I have to constantly wonder whether or not my woman is thinking about me or some other man. You're either in this thing one hundred percent or not at all, and right now it looks like it’s the latter.”  

 

Yvonne stood listening to him with her head bowed and her arms wrapped around her trembling body. RaShaun held his breath and waited for her to speak. Deep down inside, underneath all the anger and pain and distrust, he wanted her to convince him that she didn’t want to be away from him, and that this …flirtation…had all been a big mistake. RaShaun waited for her to say that she knew what she wanted, waited for her to show him she was willing to fight for it, but when she slowly, almost reluctantly lifted forlorn eyes upwards to meet his, he had his answer. 

 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I never meant to hurt you. You have to know that.”

 

RaShaun’s lips tightened. “I guess this is it, then.”

 

 “I love you, RaShaun, I do, but...I think you're right. It would be best for us to be apart…for now.” She held his gaze as tears ran down her face.

 

 His heart beating fast and hard, he nodded. “Okay. I, uh, I guess tomorrow we can talk about how we’re gonna do this.”

 

“No. This is your house. I’ll move out. I can stay with Tara until…until we decide what we’re going to do about…about us.”

 

His stomach muscles tightly knotted, RaShaun watched Yvonne turn and leave the room to go to their bedroom–or what used to be their bedroom. He sat down heavily on the couch and dropped his head in his hands. RaShaun didn’t want to admit it, but this had rocked him to his very core. He was a man who liked his life neat and in order. It was now tilted on its axis and spinning helplessly out of control. 

 

He didn’t know how long he sat on the couch, how long his thoughts tortured and taunted him, but by the time his blurry eyes finally closed the sun had begun to peek through the darkness outside, signifying the start of RaShaun’s first day as a single man.

 

 

 

PART 13

 

 

 

“Yvonne, I cannot believe you’re going through with this. Are you crazy?”

 

Yvonne walked past her cousin, who was also her best friend. She gripped the handle of one of her suitcases and continued to the spare bedroom where she’d be staying until she had time to clear her head.

 

Tara was right on her heels. “Girl, what is wrong with you?”

 

“Tara, please. This is what RaShaun wants. What we agreed on. We need time apart right now.”

 

“Bitch, please. You can use that tired ass line with somebody else, but don’t try it with me. I know exactly why you need time away from your man…and his name is Brandon!”

 

Yvonne rolled her eyes. “I knew that’s what you were going to think. I promise you, this is not because of Brandon.”

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

Yvonne sat down on the bed and looked at her cousin. “I’m serious, T. I mean, yes, I admit the attention he gave me was flattering, but even before I met him I was beginning to wonder if being with RaShaun is what I really wanted.”

 

Tara lowered herself to the floor in front of Yvonne. “You cannot be serious. You and RaShaun have been together for two years. You have…or rather, had one of the best relationships I’ve ever witnessed. The man is damn near perfect. He’s gorgeous, intelligent, sexy, and fine as hell. On top of that, he’s crazy about you. What else could you possibly want?”

 

“Tara–”

 

“No, cousin, take it from me. There aren’t many men out there like him.”

 

“I know that, Tara.”

 

“If you know, then take your ass back home and beg his forgiveness before it’s too late.”

 

“I just don’t think I’m ready to settle down yet. And again, it has nothing to do with Brandon. RaShaun was right about this. I just think I need to take some time for myself and live my life before I move on to ‘happily ever after’, and I know that’s where RaShaun is heading.” She paused then whispered to her cousin. “He bought me a ring, T.”

 

“Shut up!” Tara gasped. She covered her mouth with her hand before exclaiming in excitement, “He proposed to you?”

 

“No. But I was putting some of his clothes away a couple of weeks ago, and I saw it, right there in the drawer. To be honest, it freaked me out a little bit. I mean, I love RaShaun, I do. But I don’t know if I’m ready to get married.”

 

Tara scowled and held a hand up to stop her. “Wait a good got damn minute. Let me see if I understand what you’re saying here. Your stupid ass starts messing around with Brandon’s no good carcass–”

 

“I did not mess around with him.” Yvonne pushed the words out through gritted teeth.

 

Tara leaned forward and glared darkly at her cousin. “You kissed him didn’t you?”

 

Yvonne hesitated. “Yes. Once, but–”

 

“I don’t care how many times you kissed him, it’s still cheating. And all because your wonderful boyfriend bought you an engagement ring? Von! Listen to yourself! You’re not making any sense!” Tara closed her eyes and shook her fists to the sky. “Girl, if I didn’t know you were only twenty-eight years old like me, I’d swear you were going through a mid-life crisis. I always said Aunt Jean and Uncle Rob sheltered you too much!”

 

“Tara, they did not!”

 

“Hmph!” The short sound of rebuttal was the extent of Tara’s answer, but it got her point across.

 

“I don’t know how else to explain it.” Frustrated, Yvonne tried to put her feelings into words. “Sometimes I look at you and our friends, footloose and fancy free, coming and going as you please, taking trips, seeing whoever you want to see. I’m beginning to think I’m missing out. I’d rather find out now than marry RaShaun and discover I made a mistake years down the road.”

 

Her cousin sat looking at her and shaking her head in defeat. “Okay, Von. I just hope you know what you’re doing. Let me just say this, and it’ll be the last thing I say on the subject. I know it’s a cliché, but the grass is not always greener on the other side, chica. Yeah, it may look like everyone you know is ballin’ and wildin’ out and shit. But at the end of the night, we’re coming home to cold, lonely beds. Hooking up with these losers out there gets old quick. I sincerely hope by the time you come to your senses, it’s not too late.”

 

She stood up to leave so that Yvonne could have some time alone, but before she walked out the door, she turned back to say one more thing.

 

“And I hope you’re not taking it for granted that RaShaun will be waiting on you to ‘sow your wild oats’. Bitches have had their eyes on RaShaun for a long time, even when you two were together. Once they find out he’s single, well…I doubt if he stays that way for long.”

 

 

 

PART 14

 

 

 

The next Saturday morning after his and Yvonne’s break-up, RaShaun found himself with his best friend, Quincy, shooting hoops at the park. RaShaun hadn’t been in the mood, but Quincy had insisted he get out, telling him he didn’t need to stay closed up in his house thinking about his problems with Yvonne.

 

RaShaun understood and appreciated the effort, but the problem he had with that was Quincy was a top grade shit talker whenever they played ball, and today was no exception. RaShaun’s fuse was short, a ticking time bomb. Quite honestly, he wasn’t in the mood for Q.’s mouth. For that reason, when it came time to check the ball for game point, he threw it at Quincy harder than necessary on purpose.

 

“Oomph!” Q. shot RaShaun a dirty look, and threw the ball back to him. “Damn, Rah, you don’t have to try and knock me out with the ball, alright?”

 

“For once, can we just play without you mouthin’ off after every shot you make?”

 

“Oh, because I’m winning, it’s mouthin’ off. Ain’t my fault you playin’ like shit today, bruh. Took you two losses to finally play some decent ball.”

 

RaShaun stared at him for a moment. Suddenly, he faked to the left then swerved right, rushing past Quincy to the goal. RaShaun intentionally knocked him down flat on the concrete before making the shot. After the ball swished through the nets, he stood over Quincy and said with straight up insincerity, “My bad, bruh. Game.”

 

Stepping over him, RaShaun left Quincy on the ground trying to catch his breath, and went over to the bench where he’d left his gym bag.

 

Q. finally pulled himself up and limped over to sit down beside RaShaun. “Now that was fucked up, Rah. I was just jokin’, man.”

 

“Well, now you see how funny I thought that shit was,” RaShaun muttered, sitting back and looking at the activities going on around them.

 

“You know, I ought to have you arrested for assaulting an officer of the law.” Quincy pulled out a bottle of Gatorade and drank thirstily.

 

“Just because you’re a detective, doesn’t mean I won’t whip your ass just like I did when we were kids.”

 

They were both silent for a few minutes before Quincy addressed the subject they’d both been avoiding. “You talked to Yvonne since she left?”

 

RaShaun hesitated before shaking his head. She was staying with her cousin, Tara, but other than calling RaShaun to let him know where she was, he hadn’t heard from her again.

 

“What about the dude she was messin’ with. You found him yet, because if you haven’t, just give me his name and I can put it in the system and find out his info…”

 

This time, RaShaun shook his head emphatically. “Nah. Don’t worry ‘bout it. For the first few days, I was tempted to track him down and beat his ass, but this ain’t his fault. He was just doin’ what motherfucka’s do. I blame Yvonne. When he came at her sideways like that, she should’ve shut him down from the get go and put him in his place. Since she didn’t, I’ll be damned if I make myself look like even more of a fool by runnin’ up on this guy wanting to fight him.”

 

Bringing the sports drink to his mouth, RaShaun made an effort to push the anger away that he felt creeping up on him. He had been in a bad mood the whole week. He’d had to apologize to his secretary three times for snapping her head off about something that he had screwed up on. By the middle of the week, his co-workers were giving him a wide berth. The slightest thing they said set him off, no matter what it was.

 

Leaning forward, he put his elbows on his knees and wiped his face with his towel. He was so tired, but he couldn’t sleep at night. He’d lain awake for the last five nights staring at the ceiling in the dark trying to pinpoint exactly where things had gone wrong between him and Yvonne. Had he done something? Could this be his fault in some way?

 

 Yeah, he’d been preoccupied with his job, but he thought Yvonne understood how important his career was to him. After he got this promotion, he’d planned on slowing down some, but until then he needed to bust his ass to make it happen.

 

RaShaun sighed and shook his head. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t miss Yvonne, but he’d be alright. Everything would work out the way it was supposed to, and if that meant this separation was a permanent one, then so be it.

 

He glanced at his friend and stood up. “Look, I think I’mma head out. Got some things I brought home from work that I need to catch up on.”

 

“You sure you don’t wanna come by the house? Gina told me to tell you she’s making your favorite, quesadillas, homemade guacamole, and tamale dip. We can eat. Drink some beers. Watch the game…”

 

RaShaun thought about it then shook his head. “Nah. I don’t think so. Tell Gina I appreciate it, though. Maybe next time.”

 

“I understand. Alright, let’s jet. I done whipped your ass enough for one day,” Q. said with a grin while gathering his things.

 

RaShaun threw his bag over his shoulder as they began to walk across the park to their cars. “Man, you delusional. If memory serves me correctly, we played three games, I won three games. Whipped my ass,” he muttered. “In your fuckin’ dreams.”

 

They continued to throw parting shots back and forth like they’d been doing for years. RaShaun knew it was Q.’s way of getting his mind off his problems, and he was grateful. Seemed like it had been forever since he’d found something to laugh about.

 

They were a few feet from his car when RaShaun heard someone call his name. He turned around expecting to see someone he knew. Although the man standing a short distance away from him looked familiar he knew they’d never met.

 

“Yeah. Can I help you?”

 

“You’re RaShaun, right? RaShaun Patterson.”

 

RaShaun’s face grew stiff. “Who’s askin’”

 

“Oh, that’s right. You don’t know who I am, do you?” The other man bit back a shit eating grin and looked at his boys, who were standing behind him with their arms folded glaring at RaShaun.

 

“I’m Brandon. Brandon Valentine.”

 

 

 

PART 15

 

 

 

RaShaun’s face turned ice cold. He came a standstill and stared at Brandon, trying to control the urge to rip his head off his shoulders.

 

Quincy stopped and looked at RaShaun with a questioning expression on his face. “Rah? Wassup, bruh?”

 

Brandon’s eyes ran over RaShaun, grinning as if RaShaun was the butt of a private joke. “Yeah. Wassup?”

 

RaShaun threw his bag to the ground. True enough, he hadn’t planned on going out of his way to find this bastard but he wasn’t going to walk away now that he was standing right in front of him intentionally provoking RaShaun in order to get a reaction.

 

“Wassup? Wassup?” he repeated. “Oh, I’m ‘bout to show you ‘wassup’ in just a minute.”

 

He took angry steps towards Brandon, but Q. rushed over and held him back a second before RaShaun was close enough to grab Brandon’s throat.

 

“RaShaun! Hol’ up, man! What’s wrong!” Quincy did his best to hold on to RaShaun, but it was fast becoming a losing battle.

 

RaShaun was raging mad. “Motherfucka, who the hell you think you talkin’ to, huh? Huh?”

 

He struggled with everything in him to get past Quincy. This mothafucka wanted to play with him? Cool. They would play. Nothing’ and no one was going to stop him from beating Brandon’s ass…including his boys who were standing behind him mean muggin’ RaShaun as if they were going to fight Brandon’s battle for him.

 

“What’s up, bitch!” RaShaun dug his feet in the ground, furiously trying to move forward and push past Q. “You hidin’ behind yo’ boys? You ain’t man enough to take this ass whoopin’ you got comin’!”

 

“I’on know nothin’ about no ass whoopin’, my brotha, but I do know I was man enough to take your woman. Yeah, that’s right. I know Yvonne left you, and guess what? She mine now.” Rubbing his hands together, Brandon looked back and laughed along with his friends.

 

Q. turned around to stare at Brandon in disbelief. Then it dawned on him who Brandon was. He looked back at RaShaun. “Oh, this him?”

 

“Yeah!” RaShaun practically had smoke coming out of his ears. “Q. let me go, man!”

 

Quincy took in Brandon’s conceited grin and the way he was deliberately taunting RaShaun. He dropped his hands to his side. “Kick his ass.”

 

The smile fell from Brandon’s face with the quickness of a lightning bolt. Seeing the murderous gleam in RaShaun’s eye, Brandon took a step back, but it was too late. RaShaun ran forward and tackled him to the ground.

 

“Ya’ll stay ya’ asses back!” Quincy yelled to Brandon’s friends. “Ya’ boy man enough to talk shit, he man enough to fight his own fuckin’ battles.”

 

The two guys looked at Q. then turned to watch the fight. A crowd quickly gathered around them. Several people took out their phones to record the fight and cheer them on.

 

RaShaun sat on top of Brandon and commenced to whippin’ his ass. Brandon tried to protect his face while still trying to block the body punches RaShaun threw. Finally, struggling mightily, he used all his strength to push RaShaun off him. He scrambled to his feet, but RaShaun was on him again, knocking him back on his ass. Brandon tried to crawl away, but RaShaun fell on him and push his face in the grass, trying his best to smother his ass in the dirt.

 

One of Brandon’s friends moved as if to help him, but Q. reached down in his bag and pulled out his badge. He held it up to them and slowly shook his head from side to side until they backed down.

 

“Now talk, shit, bitch!” RaShaun said through clenched teeth. “Say somethin’. I’m listenin’, pretty boy!”

 

“Yo, somebody done called five-o!” Somebody in the crowd shouted.

 

Quincy ran over and pulled RaShaun off of Brandon. RaShaun managed to land a kick to Brandon’s ribs before Q. hauled him to his feet.

 

“Ai’ght, man, ai’ght!” Quincy grunted. “Enough!”

 

Breathing hard, RaShaun pushed Quincy off of him. He paced back and forth while staring down at Brandon like an enraged bull. Brandon lay curled up clutching his side and moaning in pain.

 

“Oh, I ain’t gave you nothing to cry about yet,” RaShaun taunted, taking a couple of steps forward, as if contemplating whether or not to kick Brandon’s ass some more.

 

“Git yo’ ass over here!” Q. hissed, jumping in front of RaShaun and shoving him back when he spotted the police officers hurrying their way. “I know these guys. Let me do the talking. I mean it, Rah.”

 

Turning to the cops, Quincy nodded to each of them in greeting. “Officer Thomas, Officer Smith.”

 

The cops strolled over to Quincy with wary expressions. They observed Brandon grimacing and limping towards them, then took in RaShaun’s disheveled appearance and torn shirt. They both turned to Quincy and gave him a questioning look.

 

“Detective Donovan. Everything okay?” The female officer asked. “We got a call about a fight here in the park.”

 

“I…I want that man arrested for assault,” Brandon shouted, pointing at RaShaun. The cops kept their gazes trained on Quincy, who had transformed himself to his official persona.

“Case of self defense,” Quincy responded. “I was here with my buddy shooting a few hoops when this joker and his friends came over starting trouble. We tried to walk away, but Mr. Wise Ass here….” He gestured towards Brandon with his thumb. “Became confrontational, and well…as you can see…” He hunched his shoulders, silently telling them Brandon came out on the short end of the stick.

 

The cops looked at RaShaun. “Do you wanna press charges, sir?”

 

Brandon frowned in outrage. “What? Why in the hell are you asking him if he wants to press charges? He assaulted me!”

 

“Sir, we’re going to have to ask you to calm down.”

 

“Fuck calming down! I want his ass arrested! Now!”

 

The policemen stared at each other then looked at Quincy, who gave a quick shake of his head. They turned back to Brandon. “Sir, in cases like this, it looks like there’s an assault on both sides. If one of you is arrested, you both are arrested.”

 

“What?” Brandon screamed again.

 

“Now, do you still want to press charges, or can we consider this an unfortunate misunderstanding?”

 

At a loss for words, Brandon stared at the officers with his mouth open. After several moments he turned and pointed to RaShaun. “This ain’t over. Just so you know.”

 

Giving them all a look of pure fury, he turned to leave, but after only a half dozen steps, he stopped and looked back at RaShaun. The cocky expression he’d worn when he first saw RaShaun was back.

 

“And by the way. I was gonna keep your woman until I got tired of her then send her back home. But now I think I’ll keep her indefinitely, just for the hell of it.”

 

Growling like a wild animal intent on tearing his rival to bloody pieces, RaShaun started towards him with teeth bared, but one of the two cops stepped in front of him and placed a firm hand on his chest to stop him. Looking thoroughly satisfied with himself, Brandon walked off with his cocky grin firmly in place. They both knew, when all was said and done, he had gotten the last laugh.

 

 

PART 16

 

 

 

 

RaShaun finally made it home several hours later. He and Quincy had gone to a local bar when they’d left the park to allow RaShaun to cool down. Several of their friends had come in a little while afterwards and between them and the glasses of beer that Q. continuously kept coming, RaShaun was in a much better mood by the time Q. drove him home.

 

Ready to pass out, he walked a bit unsteadily to his bedroom. Hopefully, he wouldn’t have any trouble sleeping tonight for a change, and for that he was grateful. After using the bathroom to let out all of the beer he’d consumed, RaShaun turned the shower on and pulled his clothes off. He then stood under the beating water and closed his eyes, letting the rest of the tension seep out of his body.

 

His friends had tried to get him to go out with them later once they’d found out he and Yvonne had broken up, but he took a rain check. Tonight all he wanted was to crawl into his bed and hopefully not wake up until the morning.

 

Finishing his shower, he stepped out and wrapped a towel around his waist after he dried off. Passing by the mirror on his way out the bathroom, RaShaun paused and took a step back to look at his reflection.

 

“You gotta get it together, man. She’s not the only woman in the world. Man the fuck up and stop moping around like a li’l bitch.” He stared at his reflection for a few more minutes to make sure the words sunk in before going to the bedroom.

 

Glancing at his nice, comfortable bed in anticipation, RaShaun pulled the towel off and dropped it on the floor. He had just thrown the pillows on the floor, visualizing sinking down into his memory foam mattress that molded perfectly to the contours of his body, when he heard his doorbell ring.

 

“Dammit! Who the hell…”

 

He started to ignore it and get in bed anyway, but reluctantly grabbed a pair of jeans he'd thrown across a chair and put them on. 

 

“Who is it?” he yelled, stalking towards the front door when they rang the doorbell again.

 

“RaShaun?” A female voice called his name from the other side of the door. “I’d like to talk to you for a minute if I could.”

 

RaShaun frowned, trying to place the voice. It sounded familiar, but in his slightly inebriated state, he couldn’t put a face to the voice. Still wearing a curious frown, he unlocked the door and swung it open. Seeing who was standing there, he drew in a deep, chest expanding breath before slowly letting it out. Leaning against the doorjamb and folding his arms, his lip curled in distaste.

 

What in the hell was she doing at his house?

 

 The woman in front of him, however, never noticed his chilly reception. She was too busy eye fucking him for anything else to register, and it wasn’t difficult to figure out what direction her salacious thoughts had travelled.

 

As soon as her name pushed past his lips, the sound of it literally left a sour taste in his mouth that made him sick to his stomach.

 

“KiKi.”

 

 

 

 

 

© 2017 S.K. Hardy

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means without the written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.