Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Are Your High-Heels Making You Sick?







Amazon.com. Buckle Stiletto High Heels

Are you wearing shoes that make you sick? If you're like most women your closet is filled with your favorite three-inch Stiletttos, Pumps, Slingbacks, Wedges, and Flip flops. But did you know that some shoes can be hazardous to your health?

For years, Podiatrist have been warning women about the damage high heels can cause to the feet, yet many women continue to sacrifice comfort for fashion. After all, how can a woman slip her feet down in a pair of flats after handing over $200.00 for a nice outfit?  What's a girl to do?

But studies show that women experience far more foot problems than men___foot,  back, and knee problems are due to wearing high heels.  The main reason, majority of women choose the incorrect height and style footwear. There is nothing sadder than a women squeezing her feet into shoes that are too small. Whether it is high or mid-heels, it can cause a painful knot on the back of the heel. The rigid material presses on the back of the heel and some  women develop what is called a "pump bump" which can lead to blisters, swelling, bursitis, even pain in the Achilles tendon. Ice, orthotics, and heel pads may provide pain relief -- along with better shoes. The bony protrusion is permanent. If you are overweight, the feet maybe prone to even more problems, there is pressure on the feet, they become larger and flatter.

Wearing high heels can also cause a condition known as Claw Foot or claw toes, where the bottom half bends down, making your toes look like claws. The condition is uncomfortable but not serious. High-heels also force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot. Too much stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.

"Everyone knows that high heels are bad for you," said Danielle Bakema," a bio chemist who conducted the new study at Iowa State University in Ames. "Wearing high heels puts individuals at even greater risk of developing knee osteoarthritis later in life. It can get to the point which there's bone to bone contact, and knee replacement."

DPM Hillary Brenner,a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, says
"Switching to lower heels will help you avoid problems with the metatarsal bones. The lower you go, the more natural your foot position will be. Brenner recommends choosing heels that are no more than 2 inches high-- and even those should be worn in moderation.

So what do you do if you still decide to wear high-heels? Here are some tips to find shoes that look and feel good.

Amazon.com-Open Toe Platform Wedge

#1. Make Sure The Shoe Fit: Shoe sizes changes over the years, due to hormonal and natural changes because of aging. Next time you shop for heels, be sure to measure your feet for length and width.

#2. Too High: One of the most common problem with heels is pain under the ball of the feet due to, to much height. Too high heels puts more stress on the ball of the feet, ankle, and knees.

#3. More Coverage: Strap styles shoes are extremely popular, but have inadequate support, causing motions on already unsteady, high heels. It better to choose styles that fit the shape of your foot well, with shoe material to hold your foot in the shoes.

#4. Toe Torture: It is torture. The toe is cramped into a tiny shoe, without much material to cover the toe, forcing the toes to work hard at being stable. This can cause problem like hammer toe or claw foot. It will better to choose a shoe that has more material across the toes.

#5. Change To More Friendly Foot Wear: These include-slingbacks, slip on shoes, clogs,
 low heel sandals, lace up walking shoes, low heel toe pumps, loafers






Sammie Ward is a Author/Writer/Publisher. Visit her website at:http://www.authorsammieward.com. Don't forget to follow her at Twitter and Facebook
 
                                  

                                                  Danger of Wearing High Heels
 
 
 

 

 



Copyright(c)2015 Sammie Ward
 

Classic Movie (Imitation Of Life) 1959-Lana Turner, Juanita Moore







Imitation Of Life
I remember watching, "Imitation of Life" starring Lana Turner and John Gavin with my Mother for the first time and cried like a baby. I must have with through a box of tissue. Whenever I watch this great classic, the tears still flow. To hear Mahalia Jackson sing, "Trouble of The World," at the end breaks your heart into a million pieces. If anyone can sit through that scene and not shed a tear___they are not human.

 Imitation of Life, is one of the biggest/best films of Lana Turner's career. It was the fourth-most successful motion picture of 1959, grossing $6.4 million and  earned a Academy Award nomination performance for Juanita Moore, which was rare for a African American at the time. The film focused on the problems of two black characters, a plot that was almost unheard of at the time. The film is considered a masterpiece, for Director Douglas Sirk.

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In this Romantic Drama, a struggling actress, raising a six-years-old daughter, takes in a black woman and her light skinned daughter. Both daughters  are intolerable and trying to deal with emotional issues. Annie is neurotic and obnoxious. Sarah Jane doesn't like being black and tries to pass for white, rejecting her mother's love and breaking her heart. Laura rises to fame and become successful, ignoring Sarah Jane. As years of selfishness and denial pass, tragedy strikes and forces the women to come to terms with their own identities.


They don't make films like this anymore. It is the reason, I'm hooked on these movies. Today, I make it movie night. I pop a large bag of popcorn, plop down on the sofa__in my pajamas of course and get lost in time.

Joan Crawford
Since classic movies has become my favorite past time. My list of favorite movies, actors, and actresses have grown over the years. For instance, Joan Crawford mesmerized me whenever she was on the screen. Whether she was playing, a love interest, a vixen, or a woman is distress, she gave a grand performance. For instance in the movie, Mildred Pierce, she was a successful businesswoman, that doted on her daughter with detrimental consequences. A powerful and convincing role, she won me over. I will be a fan forever.

I will always watch, Bette Davis. The first time I saw her was in "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?"  A psychological thriller about a actress who holds her cripple sister captive to get people to idolize her. She made my skin crawl. It was a successful role for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.  Earning a Academy Award nod for both women.

There are many other lovely ladies I loved on the screen, Doris Day, Thelma Ritter, Rita Hayworth, and Grace Kelly to name a few.

Errol Flynn
I can't forget the men. I became a huge fan of Errol Flynn, after watching him in Dodge City, Captain Blood, and Robin Hood. It's hard not to love him.

Who wasn't on the edge of their seats, watching Rod Taylor in Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds" or laugh at Rock Hudson performance as a fake, Texan to win over Doris Day in "Pillow Talk."


As you see I'm a classic movie fan. I can't help it. The looks, the glamour, the fashion, and the stars fascinates me.

Are you a Classic Movie fan? If so what is your favorite movie?

  

Sammie Ward is a Author/Writer/Publisher. Don't forget to follow her at Twitter and Facebook



                                             Mahalia Jackson- Trouble Of This World





   

Copyright(c) 2015  Sammie Ward 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Smooth Operator-(Cub Bites) Sammie Ward








In "Smooth Operator", Meesha Covington almost loses her boyfriend, Detective Taylor Ross, during an undercover operation, and ends their engagement. Now she just wants a normal man working a normal 9-5 job. She believes she may have found that man when Attorney Lorenzo Cullins walks into her restaurant. But will the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend, Taylor Ross sudden throw a monkey wrench in her plans with Lorenzo?










****
Meesha Covington spotted him the moment he entered Belle’s. Her heart skipped a beat as it always did since he began coming into the diner a month ago.

She watched, fascinated by the way the five foot eleven inches tall, brown-skinned, medium built, well dressed man in a tailored suit moved with ease. He wasn’t part of the usual crowd that came into Belle’s. There was a confidence about him that set off her sexual meter. At the moment it was registering off the charts. He must have known she was looking—he turned, flashing her a smile. She felt warm from head to toe.

The place was busy. Every booth was occupied and there were no vacancies at the counter. Many of the customers who frequented Belle’s were regulars who enjoyed Soul Food. The atmosphere allowed them to unwind and enjoy a good meal with the family, with someone special, or by themselves if they preferred.

He always came in alone, always sat in her station, and always ordered the special. He didn’t speak but always left a generous tip. The most important thing she noticed was that he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

It had been two years since she’d been with a man, since her engagement had ended with Taylor Ross. Taylor was a Detective with the narcotics division of the local police department. It was always her worst fear that she’d receive a phone call, telling her that he had been shot or worse.

She remembered the day vividly. She was at her parents when she received the call that he was in the Intensive Care Unit. He’d been shot in the chest during an undercover drug investigation with a drug Kingpin, Chamber Lawson. The bullet narrowly missed his heart.

He’d been obsessed with bringing down Chamber Lawson, a major drug dealer in the southeast area of Washington, DC. The same neighborhood he was raised in. He’d been investigating a drug connection in the local high school where his younger brother, Juan, had been found dead from a drug overdose, several months earlier. The star of the basketball team, Juan had been accepted to a prestigious university on a basketball scholarship. His dream had been to play in the NBA.

She arrived at the Washington Hospital Center to find him fighting for his life. He looked helpless. The doctor didn’t believe he would make it through the night. Meesha and family members staged a prayer vigil by his bedside, day and night. A couple of days later, he opened his eyes. She’d almost lost him and never wanted to feel that type of fear again. Her peace of mind was short lived.

Lawson denied shooting Taylor. He had the best lawyers on his payroll and was acquitted on a technicality. Taylor was determined to put him behind bars. The verdict, along with Taylor’s obsession to catch Lawson, put a strain on their relationship. She had enough. She refused to stand by and watch him put his life in danger again. The engagement ended. But there was something about the stranger that made her want to try dating again.

She placed the plate of food in front of the previous customer, making her way toward his table, when Angel, her best friend, and cashier stopped her. “Your boyfriend is here,” she mused.

 During the day, Angel Barber worked at Belle’s. She left the diner and moonlighted at another restaurant several nights a week. She needed the extra money to open her own restaurant.

Meesha blushed. “He’s not my boyfriend.” She giggled. “Not yet.”

Angel returned the giggle. “Oh, come on. He only comes in to see you. He won’t sit in anyone’s station but yours. He has a crush on you.”

“Can I help it if he likes my service?”

Angel sucked her teeth. “Hmmm. I’m sure you would love to give him some service.” She rolled her neck. “Some uh, ‘special’ service.”

Meesha hit her on the arm. “Very special.” She hurried toward the stranger’s booth. The thought of Angel’s comment was still in the back of her mind. She stopped in front of him. The smell of his expensive cologne embraced her. She took a whiff. “Nice,” she said to herself.

“Good evening, welcome to Belle’s,” she said in her professional tone. He was studying the menu. He glanced up at her with romantic brown eyes. She found herself swimming in them. She swallowed the lump in her throat. “May I take your order?” she managed to get out. “Or will you have the special?”

“I’ll have the special.” He handed her back the menu. His eyes locked with hers. Her heart dropped in her stomach from the open stare. This time it was her who looked away.

 “I’ll be right back with the special,” she replied, taking the menu. As she walked away, he said, “Can I have a glass of water, please?” "Of course. I’m sorry.” She could have kicked herself. The customers always received a complimentary glass of water. It was obvious his presence had her going in the worst way.

“Thank you, Meesha.”

She stopped in her tracks, a surprised look on her face. How does he know my name?

“Did I pronounce it properly?” he inquired, glancing at the nametag on her uniform. “It is Mee-sha?”
The way he enunciated her name in his southern drawl was a turn on. It didn’t take much, and she couldn’t help but wonder what his voice would sound like in the bedroom, during the throes of passion.

She beamed. “Yes, you pronounced it right. It’s Meesha.”

“Good. I didn’t want to mispronounce it.” He smiled a beautiful smile, exposing straight, white teeth. “Meesha is a beautiful name. Just like the lady.”

“Thank you. You know my name, I don’t know yours.”

“It’s Lorenzo. Lorenzo Cullins.” He extended a large hand.

She accepted his handshake. The touch of his long strong fingers on her skin her caused her to tingle inside. She hadn’t experienced anything so tantalizing since Taylor. “It’s nice to officially meet you, Lorenzo.”

“Same here. I’ve always wanted to introduce myself, but never got up the nerve.”

“You don’t look like the shy type.” She grinned from ear-to-ear. She couldn’t believe they were actually talking.

He shrugged. “Usually, I’m not. But, uh, there is something about you.” He tilted his head to one side, his gaze traveling up and down her five foot four inch petite frame. “I don’t know what it is, but it makes me nervous.”

“Believe me, sweetheart, I’m harmless. I don’t bite.” His remarks made her feel naughty; she couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to make nonstop love to him. “Unless you want me to.”

“I just bet you are.” He winked at her.

Meesha turned and headed toward the counter. She placed Lorenzo’s order with Jarvis and proceeded to wait on her other customers. Whenever she passed Lorenzo’s table their eyes would meet. Her heart did flip-flops.

“Will there be anything else?” she asked, when Lorenzo motioned for the bill. “What about dessert?” she suggested. Me? She had made progress with Lorenzo, she didn’t want to lose the good vibe they had going. She may not have been out on a date in over two years but she knew when a man was interested. He was interested. “We have apple pie. The best in the district.”

“Sounds delicious. I would love to take you up on the apple pie, but I have to get back to work.” He stood.

“Oh.” She was trying to hide the disappointment in her voice.

He smiled again. “Can I get a rain check?”

“Sure.”

“Oh, and I like whip cream with my apple pie.” This time the smile was mischievous. Reaching inside his suit pocket, he pulled out a card. “Here’s my card.”

“I’d like that,” she said on a puff of breath. Taking his card, she jotted her number down on a napkin, and handed it to him.

“I better get going,” he said. “Running late. I’ll call you.” He softly touched her on the shoulder, offering her one last smile, and was out the door. She was on cloud nine. She glanced down at the card he’d given her. Lorenzo Cullins, Defense Attorney-At-Law
.
She hurried to the employee lounge where Angel was having lunch. She dropped in the chair next to her and bragged about Lorenzo being an attorney.

“A lawyer? Go on, gurl. Lawyers make good money.”


She studied Angel’s face. “I know. The man is handsome and has it going on. I could tell from the way he dressed and carried himself that he was educated, but I never thought he was a lawyer.”

“I thought he was a drug dealer or something,” Angel quipped.

Meesha shot her a look. “Why?” She could feel herself getting upset. “Why, whenever a black man does well, does he have to be involved in some kind of criminal activity?”

“Because they usually are. Just be careful,” Angel warned. “Is he married?”

 “I didn’t notice a wedding ring,” Meesha defended.

“That doesn’t mean anything these days,” Jarvis the Dishwasher chimed in. “I’ve been married five years. I don’t wear a ring.”

“Why not?” Meesha asked.

“A piece of jewelry doesn’t mean anything. A man or woman is going to do what they are going to do, regardless of it.”

“I agree. Sex is better when it’s forbidden,” Angel threw in.

 “True. True,” Jarvis agreed,  he added on his way out the door.

“You both are trifling.” Meesha giggled.

“Married or not, you need to get yourself some. You are long overdue. Probably got cobwebs.” She joined in Meesha’s laughter. “Do you still know how to do it?”

“Oh, you got jokes.”

“Not having sex in two years is the joke.”

Angel and Meesha had been friends since the twelfth grade. Most people couldn’t figure out how she and Angel became and remained friends. If there were any two people who were different, it was Meesha and Angel. From the time they met in algebra class they hit it off. It was their different personalities that attracted the other. Meesha was stable, calm, and cool, while Angel was wild and full of excitement. No adventure for her was off limits. To hear her speak of opening her own restaurant was a sign of maturity. At least Angel knew what she wanted to do with her life. Since her breakup with Taylor, she put her life on hold.


  Buy Now At Amazon
 Angel began working at Belle’s in high school. She put in a word for her to get on at Belle’s. The   tips were good and Meesha managed to put away a little nest egg. She even thought about going to college. A straight “A” student, her parents would be pleased. She was great with numbers and considered a career in accounting. Her family went through the roof when she turned down an academic scholarship to Georgetown University to move in with Taylor. Her family called her young and foolish. They believed she should have been interested in furthering her education, and not the kind Taylor was giving her.

The thought of Taylor put a smile on her face. He was an expert lover. She could still remember the feel of his hands stroking her body inside and out, hurtling her beyond the point of return; leaving his special brand of lovemaking in her heart forever. He’d been the first man that she shared her body with.

For months after the relationship ended, her body throbbed, craving the pleasures he had given her, remembering the sexual escapades they shared. To deal with those uncontrollable feelings, she spent all her time working at Belle’s. She hadn’t thought about being with another man until Lorenzo walked through the door.

Meesha bit on her bottom lip as she listened to Angel babble on about how good sex was after a long absence. Meesha wasn’t listening. All she could think about was seeing Lorenzo again.

Several hours later, she headed toward the exit. She breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long day. She was looking forward to taking a long, hot bath.

****
Meesha activated the lock to her apartment door and entered the living room. Decorated in tan, the room possessed a wall-to-wall black coated tubular entertainment center, consisting of a TV, DVD, VCR, and numerous CDs and VHS tapes. Custom design cherry furnishings added to the ensemble. Paintings of her favorite artist, Ernie Barnes, hung proudly over the sofa.

She strolled into the bedroom and placed her purse in the Francesca rocking chair. Picking up the remote control, she aimed and turned on the television. Flipping through the channels, she found an episode of The Cosby Show.

She undressed and headed into the bathroom to shower. Moments later, she turned off the shower and toweled dry. Reentering her bedroom, she began moisturizing every part of her body. When that was finished, she slipped into a two-piece short set. As she closed the chest drawer, her gaze was drawn to the photograph of her and Taylor, tucked safely at the bottom of her clothing. The picture was taken on a boat ride around the Baltimore Harbour, several months before he was shot. They shared a lot of great times together. She remembered many hot, steamy, and romantic nights they spent together at the apartment, sprawled out on the floor, making love. As good as those nights had been, they hadn’t been enough to save the relationship. She returned the photo to the drawer.

Deciding to watch television, she crawled into bed. She put it in her mind to relax. She stretched out, propping up pillows against the headboard to get comfortable. She wasn’t going to think about Lorenzo. She gazed at the television set, hoping to become hooked by the hilarious antics in the Cosby episode. The commercial break found her staring blankly at the TV. The soothing shower and laughter from the sitcom, hadn’t done anything to relieve the sexual tension she was feeling toward Lorenzo. The Cosby Show returned, snapping her from her fascination surrounding the man of her desire. With her hand poised inches from the power button, she turned the set off and settled down in bed.

Later that night, she tossed and turned, her mind repeating the conversation she shared with Lorenzo. Eventually, she dozed off to sleep, dreaming of Lorenzo.




-End Of Excerpt-



Sammie Ward is a Author/Writer/Publisher. Don't forget to follow her at Twitter and Facebook. 

                                                
Copyright(c)2015 Sammie Ward

Weekend Escapade (Cub Bites) from Sammie Ward





Weekend Escapade


In "Weekend Escapade," Shana Dobbs is trying to bounce back after a painful divorce. She vows never to get hurt again and has sworn off ever falling in love. To put her life back in prospective, she decides to spend the weekend at a friends' cottage. But Shana's new outlook on life is tested when a mix-up in dates causes her to share the cottage with handsome, hunk, and business Evan Smith.





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*****

I stuffed the copy of the final divorce decree in the top drawer of the dresser with extra force. After four years, my marriage to Earl Boykins was officially over. To be honest, it was over as soon as we said ‘I do.’ The only good deed that came out of the resolution of the marriage, was that I reclaimed my maiden name. A successful financial consultant, I didn’t need or want monetary support from my ex.

Closing the drawer, I took a deep breath. Like the drawer, that chapter of my life was closed. It was time to move on.

Releasing a slow breath, I stole a glance in the mirror, and ran my fingers through my hair. It was a good thing I was on my way to a hair appointment, because I had new growth sprouting up like weeds. I’d been so busy with work lately; I hadn’t been able to schedule my appointment. I was sure, I was going to hear it from my stylist, Ty James.

I fluffed my hair, thinking of the new hairstyle I wanted to try. Maybe Ty wouldn’t be so hard on me once he saw the new look I was thinking of trying. He’d been after me for a while to wear my hair shorter, instead of my long flowing mane.

I grabbed my keys and purse, and hurried outside. Once behind the wheel of my car, I was still a little edgy. Since leaving my parents’ house, six years ago, this was the first time I was on my own.

When I arrived at New Waves Hair and Weave, Ty was still working on his previous appointment. His skilled fingers and mouth were running a mile a minute. He had a steady flow of clients. I was lucky to get booked into a cancelled slot.

Ty’s eyes landed on me the moment I came through the glass doors. He smiled from ear-to- ear and waved. “Take a seat. I’ll be with you in a minute,” he said in a light, sensitive voice.
Ten minutes later, I relaxed in the chair, listening to the soothing sound of jazz music, filtering through the hidden ceiling speakers. I allowed the warm steam to caress my face. The rich avocado mask opened my pores, and the cool cucumber solution placed over my eyes attempted to alleviate the stress of the divorce and of my job as Administrative Assistant of the Department of Agriculture.

“No he didn’t,” Ty squealed in disbelief. “Let me get this straight, Earl told you he committed adultery because you accused him of it.”

“That’s what he said,” I chimed in. “You and I both know I accused him because he was cheating.” Ty placed his hands on his thin hips, flashing me an animated stare. “He could have come up with a better excuse than that. Well, everything is final now, you don’t have to worry about that no-good, cheating scoundrel.”

“I know,” I said in a dry voice. Ty swirled me around in the chair to face him. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I just feel like a failure.”

Ty pointed the brush at me. “Oh no you don’t. I’m not going to let you blame yourself for that man’s infidelities. He cheated on you, remember?”

“You’re right. You’re right.” I bobbed my head up and down in agreement.

“One day you will meet the right man.” He arched an eyebrow. “If I were into women, I’d definitely go after you.”

I had to laugh.

He reached up, running his fingers through my hair. “Now what do you want me to do with this mess? It looks awful. New growth everywhere.”

I frowned. “I’m thinking of a new style to go along with my new attitude.” I reached in my purse and showed him the picture that I cut out of a black hair magazine. I wanted my shoulder-length hair cut short like Halle Berry once wore.

Ty studied the picture. “You sure about this?”

“C’mon, Ty. You have been trying to convince me to cut my hair for a while, and now you’re questioning my decision.”

“I just want you to be sure.” He placed the photo on the mirror at his station. “Alright. Let’s get started. Are you still headed up to the cottage this weekend?”

I didn’t respond. Ty swiveled the chair around, again “You are still going?”

 “I’m having second thoughts.”

The first time I approached Ty about the use of the cottage, Earl and I had been separated for six months. Earl sweet-talked me into giving the marriage another chance. We spent a romantic weekend at the cottage on a second honeymoon.

Several months later, I discovered Earl was still playing around. I filed for divorce, this time without hesitation. I received the final decree in the mail a week ago.

When I first inquired about the use of the cottage, I was sure I could go back without Earl.
Now, I was not so sure.




-End of Excerpt-

Sammie Ward is a Author/Writer/Publisher/Blogger. Be sure to follow her at Twitter and Facebook.





                                     The full audio book is available at: Amazon.com and Audible.com 



                             Copyright(c)2015 Sammie Ward        

Novel Sample "Love To Behold" from Sammie Ward





Love To Behold

In the novel, Love To Behold " Bridal Consultant, Valencia Hill has never planned her own wedding. But when one of her clients invites her to a party, she is mistakenly introduced as professional baseball player, Michael Gomez's girlfriend. Though it's not true, Valencia can't deny her attraction and wouldn't mind making the revelation true, but Michael Gomez has a past of not being able to settle down with one woman, can Valencia be the one to tame him and finally make a trip down the aisle?




Chapter 1

What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder: St Mark 10:9

The Baptist Church in College Park, Maryland brought family and friends of Suzanne Bell and Bradford Stokes together for the event of the year. One family traveled from as far away as Okinawa, Japan to see the couple exchange vows after five years together. It didn’t matter to the wedding guests the circumstance that finally made this day possible. They were ecstatic. All that mattered was that Bradford and Suzanne would become one flesh.

 Bradford, an anchorman with CNN news, was transferring overseas, and Suzanne would be accompanying her new husband. Although their decision to marry was sudden, the couple knew exactly what type of romantic surroundings in which they wanted to exchange their vows.

The sanctuary had been transformed into a spring wedding theme. Nasturtium flowers replaced the traditional rose petals in the flower girl’s basket. Yellow tulips were placed inside the pew bows. Arrangements of spring flowers were included on the altar, candle displays, bouquets, and a single boutonniere.

Valencia Hill, the Bridal Consultant, stood in the open double doors. She smiled and clapped when the groom kissed his bride, signifying the end of the ceremony and the beginning of a union.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Bradford Stokes,” Reverend Otis Martindale announced amid loud applause and soft sobs of happiness.

The couple made their way down the aisle, and Valencia hurried toward the dining area to make sure everything was running smoothly. As owner of New Beginnings in Washington, DC., she’d been at the church since nine o’clock in the morning to oversee the delivery of the contracted services.

She spent long hours away from home. It didn’t matter, though. It wasn’t as if there was anyone waiting for her. One day she hoped to have her own wedding. She almost did once, but as it turned out, it wasn’t meant to be. She wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. Not anymore. But why couldn’t she meet a caring, loving, eligible man who could appreciate an educated, independent woman? Several men asked her out, but she declined. Ever since her disastrous wedding day with Malcolm Wright, she’d been leery about entering into a relationship. She longed to find someone to love, marry, and have children with. However, in order to do that, she’d have to let go of the past.

This coming July would have been her two-year anniversary. She still remembered that day vividly in her mind as if it were yesterday. The church was filled with family and friends. Everyone was in attendance except the groom. He chose the biggest day of their lives to decide he wasn’t ready to get married. She survived the ordeal, but not without embarrassment and emotional scars…scars that refused to heal.

To ease the pain and fill the empty void, she threw herself into her work. For her efforts, she could boast of a two hundred-thousand-dollar home and a lucrative income. At thirty-two, she had accomplished all her goals except for one. True love. With all of her accomplishments, she wondered why one seemed to elude her.

Valencia was content with her life. What was she really missing? She didn’t have to go home to cook, clean, or raise children. She owned a successful business. Had a job she loved. It had been a while since she’d been out, but she was free to go whenever and wherever she chose. Freedom, what woman would want to give that up? Not her. For instance, the next day she was invited to Autumn Mills’ gala.  The two met when another client recommended Valencia for wedding planning services.

Later that evening, Valencia stepped in the entryway of her home to hear the antique grandfather clock chime the hour. Six o’clock. She placed the bags on the sofa. Even though she spent long hours away from home, when she returned, she enjoyed the intimate ambience she created for herself. After stepping out of her high-heel, navy blue pumps, the feel of her feet sinking into the plush cream-colored carpet brought immediate relief. Shoes in hand, she walked into the bedroom.

The grandiose room was furnished in dark Italian walnut. Fresh-cut lilies and scented candles placed on a silk trade table emanated a fresh, clean fragrance in the air. Two chairs flanked the chamber. Located in the center was a four-post bed adorned in Paris Blue, complete with matching throw pillows and drapes. Artwork from the Impressionist era hanging on the soft white walls completed the sensual surrounding. Even though romance had not been in her life, she wanted to keep the atmosphere as if it had.

Valencia headed to the walk-in closet, placed the shoes in the hanging rack, unbuttoned and removed the navy blue double-breasted jacket and matching pants, then hung the outfit on a pink padded hanger. She felt good inside. Suzanne was glowing when she and Bradford left for their two-week honeymoon in Aruba. The expression on Suzanne’s face was what made her job all the more fulfilling.

She’d like to think she was providing a positive experience in couples’ lives. Her family, full of bankers and doctors, thought she would follow in their footsteps. She did, just in a way  that they never imagined. After graduating from Morgan State with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and working for a year at a prestigious firm, she decided accounting was not what she wanted to do with her life. Her family was not happy when she informed them of her decision to leave her job to start a business.

No one expected the obedient, youngest sibling to behave in such a way. Her brother, Ahmad, was a neurologist and sister, Selena, found a career as a corporate banker. Her parents were extremely proud of their choices. The family tried to persuade her to change her mind, even told her she was making a mistake. Valencia was determined to prove them wrong.

She worked day and night to get New Beginnings off the ground. The previous year, it had grossed high profits. Her family didn’t have to worry. The business was a success. Her clients were among the affluent in the community. She’d planned weddings for politicians, celebrities, doctors, bankers, and athletes just to name a few.

She finished undressing, slipped on a white silk robe, and headed for the bathroom when she noticed the red message light flashing on the answering machine. There were two messages. One was from her mother, wanting to know what time to expect her on Sunday for dinner, and the other call was from Autumn an client, who was getting married in one month. All arrangements were complete except for their choice of a wedding song. She couldn’t make up her mind. Her selection kept changing every five minutes.

Valencia listened as Autumn’s excited, southern voice instructed her that she had found the ideal song. “I found the perfect song. I heard it on the radio this morning.”

Autumn’s family moved to Arlington, Virginia from Atlanta, Georgia when she was ten years old. Her father, Phillip, accepted a job with the State Department in Washington, DC. Ellen, her mother, was a professor at Georgetown University. Her senior year in college, Autumn met and fell in love with Andre Bowman, an up and coming baseball player who signed with the Baltimore Orioles. They dated for eight years before getting married.

“The song is “On The Wings of Love” by Jeffrey Osborne. I think it’s perfect. Call me when you get in.”

Valencia grinned. This was the fourth perfect song in one month. Autumn’s first choice was Luther Vandross’ “Here and Now.” A week later, it changed to “When I’m With You” by Tony Terry. Three days later, it was “Happily Ever After” by Case. All four selections were beautiful love ballads and had been used at numerous weddings.

She opened the top drawer of the nightstand, removing her day planner. She found Autumn’s number, picked up the cordless phone, and dialed. It was answered on the third ring.

“Hello, Autumn. This is Valencia. How are you?”

“I’m fine. Thanks for calling me back so quickly.”

“No problem.” Valencia sat on the edge of the bed, folding one leg underneath her. “On the Wings of Love” is the wedding song now?” For the moment, she said to herself. She had a feeling the song was going to change again before her wedding day.

Autumn giggled like a nervous school girl. “I know. I know. I keep changing our song, but I believe this is the perfect one. You must think I’m an airhead. One of the most important days of my life and I can’t decide on a wedding song.”

Valencia knew it was common for brides to fret over every detail. Still, it was her job to ensure Autumn’s vision and personal preferences were carried out. Everything had to be perfect. Listening to couples’ requests was part of her job. As a wedding consultant, it was her job to listen to problems, complaints, and compliments.

“Of course not. All of the songs you mentioned are great wedding songs.”

Autumn sighed. “I just have to choose one. I already gave Damien a list of songs I want him to play at the reception.”

Damien Love was one of DC’s popular radio personalities and Andre’s cousin. He agreed to DJ at the wedding without pay as a wedding gift. “Damien is really a great DJ. I listen to his show every morning.”

“Well, you will get a chance to hear him live,” Autumn said. “He will be providing the music at the pre-wedding party tomorrow.”

“I’m looking forward to hearing him.”

They spoke a few minutes more before Valencia hung up and placed a call to her mother. She wanted to discuss her upcoming visit on Sunday. Afterwards, she headed for the bathroom, thoughts of the following day running through her head as water flowed from the mouth of the tub. She hoped she had made the right decision accepting Autumn’s invitation.



Chapter 2


“Val, I’m glad you’re going to the party.” Mrs. Hill turned back to the frying pan and turned the chicken. Stepping back from the stove, she bent low to check on her cornbread in the oven.

“I really don’t want to go. I have better things to do.”

Mrs. Hill sat down at the chrome table in the dining room that she and Norman Hill purchased for their home twenty-five years ago. The four-bedroom, two baths, wooden frame house was filled with good and bad memories.

“Like what? You’re the wedding consultant. What do you have better to do? Spend another night in front of the television watching reruns of old black and white movies?” Beatrice grabbed her youngest child’s chin in her hand. “Valencia, you’re a beautiful, intelligent woman. It’s been two years. It’s time to stop sulking over Malcolm.”

Valencia lowered her eyes. “I’m not sulking over Malcolm.” Her family and friends might have a full social schedule, but she enjoyed spending quiet time alone at home watching classic movies or curled up with a good book.

“Sure you’re not.” Beatrice reached out, covering her daughter’s hand in reassurance.

Valencia frowned. “Just having second thoughts about the party, that’s all.”

Beatrice wagged her finger at Valencia. “You’re going to that party. It will do you good to get out. Dance. Mingle.” She got up and went to check on her frying pan. “Who knows, you may even meet someone.” She glanced over her right shoulder, a hopeful glint in her eyes. “I’m tired of seeing you rambling around in that big old house, alone.”

Valencia rolled her eyes upward. “I’m not alone. I have friends, Simone for instance.”

 “It’s not the same as being friends with a man.” She winked at her daughter. “And you
know it. You can’t snuggle with Simone.” Mrs. Hill gave Valencia a curious look.

Valencia met her glance with a glance of her own. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Just checking. If you were, I wouldn’t love you any less.”

“Well, I’m not.” Valencia walked over to the counter. She grabbed a crouton from the salad bowl and popped it in her mouth. “I have to admit, I swore I was through with men after things with Malcolm.”

Beatrice opened the oak cabinet, removing a platter. “Bury those memories of Malcolm. Move on.”

“I have moved on.”

Beatrice placed fresh, hot slices of cornbread on the platter. “One day I want to see you plan your own wedding.”

“I need to meet someone for that.”

Beatrice glanced over her shoulder laughing. “Yes, you do.”

She playfully slapped at her mother, joining in her laughter. “Behave.”

Mrs. Hill threw her hands up in a surrendering gesture. “I won’t say another word.”

“Until tomorrow.” Valencia strolled over to the dining room table. Grabbing her purse,
she placed the thin strap over her shoulder. “I better get going.”

“Try and have a good time.” Valencia’s mother walked over to her, enclosing her arms around her and planting a kiss on her forehead.

Still wondering if she had made the right decision, but knowing it was too late to bow out, Valencia opened the car door and settled behind the steering wheel. As she shut the door, Valencia thought about what her mother said regarding letting go of the past. Easier said than done, she thought as she backed out of the driveway.

By the time Valencia arrived, the party was in full swing. There were people sitting at the built-in bar and standing in clusters. She sauntered in the room as she studied the sights and sounds around her.

A moment later, she was greeted by Autumn who smiled from ear to ear when she spotted her. “You made it. I was beginning to think you changed your mind.”

Valencia returned the smile. “I told you I would be here.”

“Come on. There are some people I want you to meet.”

The host wound her arm through Valencia’s as she began making introductions.

                                                               *****

Michael Gomez was bored with the woman standing next to him trying to pique his interest. He looked at the woman who introduced herself as Sparkle and said, “I’ll pass.”

She understood the meaning and disappointment crossed her face.

Michael was through with that part of his life. He was looking for something with more substance. He had worked very hard to make his way out of the ghetto of Chicago. A straight ‘A’ student, he earned an academic scholarship to Northwestern University where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Educational and Social Policy. One day, on a dare from a friend, he tried out for the college baseball team. Born with natural athletic ability, he earned a position as a right fielder. While still a freshman, he led the team in batting average, RBI’s, and stolen bases—a trend he managed until his graduation, where he was a first round draft pick with the Texas Rangers. Five years later and a free agent, he negotiated a deal to play with the Baltimore Orioles. That part of his life was fulfilled, but lately, things had become too routine and empty of emotional ties. He needed and was ready for a change.

Looking for his teammate, Andre Bowman, Michael maneuvered through the crowd, shaking hands and acknowledging guests. His gaze fixed on a woman who was chatting with Autumn and Andre. He took in everything about her in one full glance. The woman, whoever she was, was breathtaking. A true African-American queen in his eyes. He had to meet her. She was at least five-seven, not that slender, but medium build. The tan, spaghetti-strapped dress covered every curve and ended several inches above her knees, clinging to the outline of her full breasts. Her narrow waist, slim hips, and shapely legs in high heel pumps rounded out the physical package.

Staring at her, Michael experienced an emotion he’d never felt before. He saw a woman he wanted, he craved, and absolutely had to have. He couldn’t believe it. His insides quivered with desire and longing. Who was she? There was only one way to find out, so he headed in their direction.


Extending a hand, Valencia concentrated on greeting the next guest. A small gasp of surprise escaped her parted lips when she tripped and almost landed on top of Andre who was standing next to her.

“I’m sorry. Are you all right?” the man, whose foot she had stumbled over, questioned before getting up and hurrying after his date.

“Can you believe that?” Autumn said in disgust. “He’s more worried about his date than
you.”

Valencia shook her head. She was embarrassed. The man’s behavior reminded her of the reason she didn’t attend parties. Talk about rude. She couldn’t believe how he just walked away.

“Are you all right?” Michael asked in a concerned voice over her right shoulder.

Valencia turned, getting her first view of a perfectly sculptured face. She wasn’t prepared at all. He absolutely took her breath away. His light brown complexion drew her in. The sights and sounds of the party faded into oblivion. His looks could only be described in one word. Exquisite.

She slowly exhaled. He stood a little less than six feet. His cocoa skin tone enhanced his features. His black, curly hair was cut close to his head. He had high cheekbones; a thin, delicate nose; a sensual set of thin lips; and beautiful, dark eyes with long flowing lashes that complimented his mixed Hispanic and African-American ancestry. He sported a diamond earring in each ear. She had never seen anything like him.

“I’m fine. Thank you for asking.”

“You’re so beautiful men just fall all over you.” Michael said.

Valencia looked around and thought she would faint from the sight of him. She tried to sound as casual as possible. “I’m flattered. But he wasn’t falling for me.”

Michael bent his tall frame a little closer. “I disagree,” he said, flashing a handsome smile and displaying even, white teeth. “I’m falling for you as we speak.”

Lord, help me. His voice was low, husky, and sexy. Smooth, she thought. That was a good line. She’d never heard that one before. Definitely worth a cool point.

Andre cleared his throat. “Valencia, the man drooling over you is Michael Gomez. Michael Gomez, Valencia Hill, our bridal consultant. Michael is my best friend, teammate, and the best man at the wedding.” He flashed Michael a smile.

Michael offered Valencia his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Valencia.” Michael’s hand clasped hers, enveloping it in heat.

Valencia tried to ignore the warmth it generated and the fact that he held her hand a little longer than necessary. “Same here, Mr. Gomez.”

“Please, call me Michael.”

A shiver slithered up and down her spine from Michael’s open, direct stare. “Michael,” she repeated. “You and Andre are teammates?”

“Yes. I play right field.” Michael angled his head, fascinated by the vision of beauty standing before him. “Do you follow baseball?”

“No, I don’t,” Valencia answered.

“Neither did I before Andre and I met,” Autumn chimed in. “I didn’t know a thing about RBI’s or batting averages. Now, I’m a pro.”

“True.” Andre smiled over at his bride-to-be. “She screams louder than everyone at the game.”

“Valencia, you should come with me to see the team play,” Autumn suggested. "It will be fun."

 The ends of Michael’s mouth curved into a smile. “What you don’t know about the game, I’ll be glad to explain to you.”

Andre and Autumn stared at each other. Autumn raised a perfectly arched eyebrow in approval. She hoped the two would hit it off.

If Valencia didn’t know any better, she would have sworn Michael Gomez was flirting with her. As far as she was concerned, he was wasting his time. She didn’t have time to go to a baseball game with him or anyone else. “I’ll think about it. I’m not much of a sports fan.”

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to change that. May I get you something to drink?” Michael asked Valencia, trying to change the subject.

 Autumn handed Andre an empty champagne flute. “I’ll have another glass of champagne, please, honey.”

Valencia looked at Michael. “I’ll have the same, thank you.”

“I’ll be right back.” Michael headed to the bar with Andre following close behind.

 When the two men were out of earshot, Autumn grabbed Valencia’s arm in excitement. “I think Michael likes you. He can’t take his eyes off you.”

Valencia tried to pretend that she hadn’t noticed him staring at her. “I know.”

Autumn’s face beamed. “From what I saw, the feeling is mutual. You were staring at him, too.”

Valencia was embarrassed. “I must admit, the brother is fine.”

Autumn was excited. “This is great. I think you two make a good couple.”

“Wait a minute,” Valencia began to say, when she noticed a tall, attractive, caramel- skinned woman making her way toward them. She was dressed like she just stepped out of the pages of Vogue magazine.

Autumn followed her gaze. “What is she doing here?” Her warm smile turned cold. “Who is she?” Valencia inquired.

“No one you need to worry about.”

The woman stopped in front of them. She flashed a transparent smile a blind man could see through. “Hello, Autumn.” She was speaking to Autumn, but her gaze was locked on Valencia. “Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials,” she quipped.

“Thank you, Kendall.” Autumn returned a tight smile. “I’m sure you meant that from the bottom of your heart.”

Valencia did not know what was going on between the two women, but it was obvious they disliked each other.

“Are you going to introduce us?” Kendall tilted her head to the side.

“Why, of course,” Autumn exclaimed in that southern dialect of hers. “Valencia Hill, this is Kendall Morrows. Kendall Morrows, Valencia Hill, a friend of mine, and Michael’s girlfriend.

Caught off-guard by Autumn’s unexpected remark, Valencia’s jaw dropped. She didn’t know what to say. Kendall made it easy for her.

Kendall flashed Valencia another factitious smile. “You’re Michael’s girlfriend?”

Valencia wanted to say no, but when she looked over at Autumn who was wearing a desperate expression on her face, she replied, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

Kendall looked down her nose at Valencia. “How long have you two been dating?” The question was asked in a hard tone.

Valencia’s breath caught in her chest in response to Kendall’s query. Her gaze skidded over to Autumn’s as she stared back at her. She nodded. How did she get herself in this situation? How would she get herself out? All she had to do was tell Kendall that she was not Michael’s girlfriend. But she didn’t. “A while,” she said quickly, knowing it was the farthest thing from the truth. Ten minutes ago, she had never even heard of Michael Gomez.

Whatever Kendall was going to say died on her lips when Michael and Andre appeared with the drinks. Kendall glared at Michael as he handed Valencia the flute of champagne.

“Michael, I was just introducing Valencia, your girlfriend, to Kendall.” Autumn nodded at Michael for him to follow her lead.

Michael looked over at Valencia. She lifted her chin, meeting his gaze head on. “Thank you, Autumn, for keeping my girl company.” He placed an arm around Valencia’s waist and pulled her to his side. “How are you, Kendall?” He had gone out with Kendall in the past, but she was determined to make it more than it was.

“I’m fine,” Kendall responded in a sharp tone. “So, you two have been dating for a while?”

Michael didn’t know what had been said among the three women, so he went with his gut instincts. “Yes, we have. We couldn’t be happier.” Lowering his head, he pressed his lips lightly to Valencia’s. She breathed lightly between parted lips at the sweet tenderness of the kiss.

Autumn and Andre stared at each other in surprise. Kendall’s gaze was locked on the couple.

“Isn’t that right, sweetheart?” Michael whispered, his breath hot against her ear.

 A delicious shudder heated her body. “Yes, it is,” Valencia answered softly.

“I wish the both of you good luck,” Kendall replied in a low voice taut with anger, then turned and walked away.

Filled with humiliation, Valencia turned to Autumn. “Why did you introduce me as Michael’s girlfriend?” She couldn’t miss the huge smile on Michael’s face.

“It just slipped out.” Autumn defended her actions.

Valencia stared at a retreating Kendall. She couldn’t help but wonder what her connection was to Michael.

“Andre, let’s go check on the other guests. You two enjoy yourselves.” Autumn gave Michael and Valencia one last smile before walking away.

Valencia waited until they were out of earshot before turning to Michael. “I can’t believe what just happened. Kendall thinks I’m your girlfriend. And you went along with it.”

Michael placed his arm around her waist. “What’s wrong with being my girlfriend?”

Valencia stepped out of his embrace, shaking her head. Was he serious? Pretending to be his girlfriend was one thing, but Michael was taking it too far.

“I’m not your girlfriend.”

He smiled. Two dimples appeared as if loving fingers had squeezed his cheeks. “You said you were.”

Valencia lifted her chin. “I only said it to help Autumn out.” She pointed back and forth between them. “We don’t even know each other.”

Michael angled his head. “We have to fix that. We have to go out. Get to know one another.”

“We do?” she challenged. Actually, she wouldn’t mind going out with him, but didn’t want to be another female statistic. A professional athlete? She was sure women like Kendall were tripping over themselves to get to know him.

“Of course. That’s how relationships begin.”

“I can just imagine your definition of a relationship. You take me out, wine me, dine me, and then look for something in return.” She emphasized the word something.

Michael tried to look hurt. “I’m not that type of a man.”

Yeah right, she said to herself. “I’ve heard about professional athletes. The report isn’t that glowing, believe me.”

He knew professional athletes had a reputation for being philanderers, and he’d be the first to admit he was no angel. For some reason, though, he believed this woman could make him a one woman man.

“Don’t believe everything you hear/read in the media. Reporters will say or write anything to get people to read their stories. You can’t judge people by that stuff.”

She cocked her head to one side and gave him an inquisitive look. “None of the stories are true?”

He paused a moment. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Valencia was right. She thought about what her mother told her. You can’t judge all men by one man’s actions. She felt terrible, judging him without knowing him. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I didn’t mean to judge you.”

“I know how you can make it up to me.” He leaned closer and she found herself drawn into his gaze. He was standing so close, only sheer power kept her from taking a step backward. “Go out with me. That way I can prove to you that what you heard about athletes is not true.”

Valencia could not believe how persistent he was for her to have dinner with him. He was almost pleading. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I think it is.” He arched an inquisitive eyebrow. “Unless you already have a boyfriend.”

She leveled him a stare. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Husband?”

 “No.”

“Girlfriend?”

Valencia gave him a don’t even go there look.

Michael laughed. “That’s good.” A look of satisfaction crossed his face. He continued to look directly in her brown eyes. “Then there is nothing stopping you from having dinner with me sometimes.”

She placed the champagne flute on the tray a hired waiter was carrying. “Are you always this persistent?”

Her statement made him laugh. “It got me where I am today. I’m sure you possess the same quality. That characteristic is needed to become a successful bridal consultant.”

“And business owner,” she added.

His eyes stretched. “You’re a business owner?”

She smiled proudly of her accomplishments. “Yes, I own New Beginnings. It’s the name of my bridal consultant firm.”

“An entrepreneur. The lady is not only beautiful. She’s intelligent. I like that.”

 “Thank you.” She beamed. She was proud of her accomplishment.

“Are you from the area?” he inquired.

“Born and raised in Virginia. So where are you from? When did you begin playing baseball?” Valencia blabbed a series of questions.

He flashed that beautiful smile of his. “If I answer your questions, does that mean I’ll get a date?”

Valencia returned his smile. “Maybe.”

Michael shook his head. He wasn’t used to working hard to get a woman to go out with him. Valencia Hill was different. That fascinated him even more. “I’m from Chicago,” he began, “the Southside. My father is African-American and my mother is Hispanic. I began playing baseball my freshman year of college. Never picked up a bat before then. Still, the sport has been good to me.”

“Impressive.” She bobbed her head up and down, prompting him to tell her more. “Where did you go to college? What was your major?”

“Okay, okay,” he said, laughing. “I went to Northwestern University in Chicago. I majored in Education and Social Policy.”

“Education?” Her eyes stretched.

“You look surprised. I like working with kids. When I retire, I plan to teach. During the off season, I mentor at the Boys and Girls Club.”

The more Michael disclosed about himself, the more Valencia liked him. He seemed sincere enough.

“Tell me about Valencia,” Michael probed.

“Well, I graduated from Morgan State with a degree in Accounting. I’m the youngest of three children. I have one brother and one sister.”

“I’m the oldest of two. I have a sister,” he volunteered, then added, “Accounting is a great career choice. What happened?”

Valencia shrugged. “It wasn’t the career for me. I came from a family of bankers and doctors. Accounting is what they expected me to do.”

Michael nodded. “You wanted to plan weddings?”

Valencia pepped up. She loved discussing her career. “I like creating, organizing, and planning. I wanted to be my own boss. Being a wedding consultant is very fulfilling. There’s nothing like creating the dream wedding for couples.”

“What about your own dream wedding?”

Valencia took a glass of ginger ale from the passing waiter’s tray. “What do you mean?” The last thing she wanted to do was talk about planning her wedding.

The light that was in Valencia’s eyes died out. Michael had a feeling he’d wandered into sensitive territory. “I mean, what type of wedding would you plan for yourself?”

Valencia took a sip. “I haven’t thought about it.” She lied. The truth was she knew exactly what type of wedding she wanted. She’d planned her wedding with Malcolm only to see it evaporate before her eyes. “What’s going on between you and Kendall?” This time it was her turn to change the subject.

Michael paused. How could he tell Valencia that she’d been right in her assessment about his past? He had a feeling she would never go out with him if he confessed the truth. His best chance was for her to get to know him, discover for herself that he’d gone through a lot of self- awareness the past couple of months. He wasn’t the man he once was.

“Nothing.” Michael hated lying to Valencia. It was not a good way to get to know her. “Kendall wants to be more than friends.”

“And you don’t?” she inquired.

“No.”

“She’s a very attractive woman.”

Michael looked her up and down seductively. “So are you.”

 Valencia’s response was to break into a wide smile.

“There it is.” Michael returned her smile. “You have a smile a man can get lost in.”

Although he hadn’t physically touched her, Valencia felt as if he stroked her with his words.

The rest of the evening passed quickly. Valencia began to feel at ease and enjoyed herself. Michael remained at her side, introducing her to friends and other teammates. As she watched him interact with the guests, she found him to be attentive, down to earth, and approachable. For a man of his status, there didn’t seem to be a hint of arrogance about him.

After several hours of nonstop music, DJ Love slowed things down and lowered the lights. Soon, Valencia found herself dancing in Michael’s arms. She clasped her hands around his neck. They moved in perfect rhythm, matching each other step for step. Michael’s hand traveled the hollow of her back.

Valencia locked herself into his embrace. His hands dropped to her hips, locking hers to his. Her breasts pressed heavily against his chest. She groaned inwardly as she tried to ignore the warmth between her thighs that occurred from the hardness of his solid body.

When one song finished, Michael held her through the next one. It was as if he didn’t want the evening to end. She felt safe and protective in his arms. No matter how she fought it, she was very attracted to him. She knew he felt the same way about her, but she wasn’t ready to enter into a relationship.

Valencia stepped out of his arms and cleared her throat. “I better get going.”

Michael could feel her trembling. He looked at her with concern. “Why? What’s wrong?” “Nothing,” she stammered out. “I just have a busy day tomorrow and need to get up early.” Valencia could tell by the look in his eyes he was disappointed.

“Come on. I’ll walk you out.” Michael reached out, lacing his fingers with hers to lead her through the crowd. She didn’t attempt to pull away.

After saying good night to Autumn and Andre, they stepped outside into the cool, spring evening. Valencia could not have been more grateful. It gave her overheated body a chance to cool down.

“Where’s your car?” A strong hand pressed into her back. The touch of his hand was almost unbearable in its tenderness. She couldn’t help but wonder what kind of lover he would be. Would he be slow and thoughtful, or wild and aggressive? Maybe he was both. She pushed the thought aside. Get a grip, girl, she told herself.

Two years. It had been that long since she shared her body with a man. Was that the reason she was so attracted to Michael? Then again, it could have been the champagne she’d been drinking. She wasn’t much of a drinker.

“Valencia?” Michael’s voice broke into her thoughts.

“Around the corner.” When she arrived, all the parking spaces close to the house were taken.


“I’m closer. I’ll give you a ride to your car and follow you home.”

She could have argued with him, but why bother? He probably would just followed her anyway.

Michael’s fingers closed around her elbow and guided her to a black Lexus. He swept back his jacket, pulled out a set of keys, and deactivated the alarm. He opened the passenger door and she climbed inside.

A few minutes later, she started her Maxima and pulled out of the parking space. Michael followed closely behind her. She occasionally glanced in her rearview mirror to see the lights of his car.

She gripped the steering wheel. “I should have objected to him following me home. I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. I don’t care how fine he is,” she said aloud. “I’m not going to invite him in. It’s bad enough I was introduced as his girlfriend, but he isn’t getting any privileges.”

With her heart pumping, she pulled into the garage of her home. Michael parked behind her and got out. She opened her car door and got out, also. “Thanks for following me home, Michael.”

“Anytime,” he said as he cleared his throat.

Silence enveloped them as Michael escorted her to the door. He hoped the silence didn’t mean she was angry at him about what happened at the party. He let his emotions get the better of him while she was in his arms. He couldn’t help it. There was something about this lady that just caused his pulse to speed up every time he looked at her. His gaze stayed on her face and then dropped to her lips as he remembered the softness of them on his. His body ached to taste them again.

“I had a great time.” She reached inside her purse for her door key.

“Me, too.”

When she pulled out the key, he caught her hand in his. “Here, let me do that,” he offered. The mere touch of his hand sent a warming shiver through her. He unlocked the door and handed her back the key.

Valencia stared at him for a long minute. It had been ages since a man accompanied her home. She wasn’t sure what to do. From the intensity in Michael’s eyes, she knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to kiss her again. She remembered the feel of his lips interacting with hers. She wasn’t in control of that situation, but this was on her terms. She wasn’t about to let Michael kiss her goodnight.

“I better get inside,” she said after a long breath, crossing the threshold into the foyer.

 “You never answered my question,” he reminded her, not ready to let her end the night.

Valencia turned to face him. “Which one?”

“Will you have dinner with me?”

She angled her head to the side. “Can I call you? I have to check my schedule. I have a lot of weddings to plan.

He gave her a gentle smile. “All right, we’ll do it your way.” Michael reached in his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, took out a piece of paper, and wrote his number on it. “Don’t just take my number and not use it. If I don’t hear from you, Valencia Hill, I will show up at your place of business.” Michael grinned, boldly taking Valencia’s hand in his. “Goodnight.”

Without another word, he turned and strolled away. He opened the car door, and slid behind the wheel. Before he started the engine, he looked back at the house. She had gotten to him. Something no other woman had ever accomplished.



-End Of Excerpt-





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Love To Behold Audio Sample



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                                                       Copyright(c)2015 Sammie Ward


Sample Chapters 1&2 From Suspense Novel "7 Days" Sammie Ward






7 Days


In the Romantic Suspense"7 Days" After sixteen years of military service to his country, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Sexton of the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is looking forward to retiring in seven days, but when an army nurse is murdered in the officer's quarters, time is against him to find the killer.



Captain Dominique Frazier is an army nurse and hasn't seen Victor since spending two romantic weeks with him in Europe that left a devastating betrayal that has shattered her trust in military men. Fate throws them together when Dominique is assigned to a base near Victor. He is determined to pick up where they left off, but Dominique is determined to hide her desire for him. 


When the evidence leads to Dominique's uncle, Senator Harold Upton and Victor's former commander is involved in the most important battle of his military career. He has to fight to solve the murder and win the love he and Dominique once shared.


 DAY ONE-FRIDAY

Lieutenant Colonel Victor Sexton had to go through with it. He realized it the moment he was handed the message from Rosetta Upton, the wife of his former Delta Force Commander and now senator. He was certain she was calling to make sure he’d keep the blind date that night with her niece. A mixture of dread and anticipation bounced through him.

Victor stuffed the message in his army fatigues front pocket. His thoughts scattered as he strode through the highly polished hallway of CID. Long, smooth, and confident strides carried him to the office of Captain Jose Benitez. The room was empty. Since it was Friday and payday, Victor had dismissed a majority of the staff, a privilege he rarely allowed, but they had done exceptionally well on their last training exercise; therefore, they’d earned the day off. He was tough on his personnel, but the brand of military discipline and training he enforced could save lives — theirs and his.
Shifting his briefcase to his left hand, Victor pulled out the manila folder containing a copy of his discharge orders from underneath his right arm and placed it in the box on the desk marked IN. Next week he would begin his life as Victor Sexton, civilian, not commander of the Criminal Investigation Division, which conducted criminal investigation ranging from deaths to fraud on and off the military post.

“Attention!” Sergeant Juarez bellowed.

“At ease,” Victor responded. “I hope you have a quiet night.”

 “So do we, sir,” Private First Class Bone replied.

“Colonel Sexton.” Turning, Victor headed towards Sergeant James who met him before he left the building. “Sir, I’m glad I caught you,” he said. “I need your signature on some promotion orders.”

Victor nodded at the highly efficient soldier. “How many do we have?”

“Five, sir.”

“I’m happy to sign the orders. I like it when we pin more rank on our men and women. It helps keep morale up. Anyone from your section?”

“Sergeant Vivian Givens, sir. She made staff sergeant.”

 “Outstanding,” Victor said.

Victor quickly signed each document and returned the folder to Sergeant James.

 “Thank you, sir. Enjoy your weekend.”

“You do the same.”

Victor exited through the barracks doors and made his way to his black Pathfinder, throwing the briefcase onto the passenger seat. He turned the key in the ignition and pulled out into the late afternoon traffic.

To keep his mind occupied, he turned on the radio. Najee’s smooth saxophone playing accompanied him. It was hard to believe that he let himself be persuaded into a blind date. What was I thinking? He should have just said thanks, but no thanks. It’s not as if it was part of his military obligation, but Rosetta talked him into it. It was too late to back out without looking unsympathetic.

Rosetta’s niece had arrived two months earlier from Frankfurt, Germany. If he believed the senator’s wife had been the type to set him up, he would never have agreed to the blind date. Instead, he believed she was helping her niece be acclimated to the area.

Rosetta informed Victor she would make reservations at Cadence at eight under her name. Victor would meet his date there. Though Victor’s family owned and operated the club, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to meet his date there.

Indecision was a characteristic people who knew Victor would never associate with him. His outstanding military career demonstrated this. Commissioned in 1987 through the Army ROTC program with a Bachelors Degree in International Affairs and a Master Degree in Business Management from Howard University in Washington, DC, he was a third-generation soldier. Neither his father nor grandfather came close to matching his outstanding military career. The walls in his office and home were covered with awards and plaques. His uniform held ribbons for service.

Victor took pride in putting his life on the line for what his country stood for — freedom and democracy. As for his accolades and the danger and risks he took, the way Victor saw it, he was simply doing the job he was sworn in to do sixteen years ago. Before he was the commander of CID, he served fourteen years as a member of Special Operations, one of the most elite units in the world. He had represented the United States in numerous campaigns: Grenada, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf where he was wounded. He was awarded a Purple Heart, his second for bravery during combat.

Victor eased his truck in and out of the traffic forty-five minutes before parking in front of his split-level house and surrounding acreage. Victor had moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland two years after transferring from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He’d passed the house with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard after visiting Major Raymond Hall, a former team member who currently works at the Pentagon. Victor had stopped and copied down the Realtor’s telephone number.

A couple days later the agent set up an appointment to show him the house; two months later, Victor closed.

Victor got out of the truck and headed towards the front door. Shifting the briefcase to his left hand, he put the key in the lock and unlocked the door. When the door opened, he bent down to scoop up the mail. He entered the foyer then the living room.

Decorated in tan, the room possessed enough space to include the European wall unit and bar he had purchased on an assignment in Germany three years before. Standing six foot three, Victor needed space to move freely without bumping into furniture.

He maneuvered around the La-Z-Boy chair and dropped the keys and mail on the coffee table in front of the sofa. He tossed his briefcase on one of the cushions and looked at the telephone a few feet away sitting on the end table. It rang. Victor walked over to the phone. Maybe it was Rosetta calling to tell me she’d found someone else to take her niece out.

“Hello.”

“It’s about time,” the woman’s voice said on the other end. No such luck. It was his sister, Tonya Sims.

“Hello to you, too, sis.” Victor sat down on the sofa.

A soft chuckle came through the receiver. “Looking forward to your date?”

“I’d rather be in actual combat.”

“Stephen, I told you he’d try to wimp out,” Tonya yelled to her husband.

“I am not wimping out,” Victor said adamantly. He began unlacing his Forced Entry Tactical Boots while he held the phone to his ear with his shoulder. He removed the boots, placing them next to the sofa. “I’m just not sure, that’s all.”

Victor tried to come up with an image to match the description Rosetta had given him. Beautiful face; medium body frame; long, flowing hair; outgoing personality; and intelligent. She laid it on so thick that within seconds he visualized the opposite. Dog like features, horn-rimmed glasses, thick body, clothing buttoned from head to toe, and unsmiling.

He shuddered. That’s all he needed to spend the evening with, an ice princess. “I’m sure she feels the same way about going out with you. I mean, I can see how you would be apprehensive, but I’m sure it’s going to be fine.”

Victor closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the sofa. “I thought you would understand my predicament. She could be psycho or something.”

Tonya laughed. “I don’t believe the senator and his wife would set you up with someone with mental problems.”

Victor became silent.

Tonya interrupted his thoughts. “Is it her emotional or physical state that you’re worried about?”

“Both.” Victor laughed.

“Men,” Tonya said, grunting before joining Victor in laughter. “It’s always the looks.”

“I know you’re not talking, Ms. Stephen-Is-So-Fine,” Victor said in his best Tonya imitation. When she first laid eyes on her husband, Tonya had gone on for hours about how handsome she thought Stephen was.

Victor had no problem reminding her about that as they both laughed again. “Okay, okay. So looks are a little important. Who knows? She may look like Halle Berry.”

He chuckled. “I should be so lucky. If she looks like Halle Berry, I don’t think she would be going on a blind date.”

“You need to get back out there, Victor,” Tonya said in a serious tone. “I know how you felt about Felicia, but you have to get past that.”

Victor spoke to Tonya for a few more minutes, promising to tell her about the date. He knew his sister was right about one thing — he had to get on with his life. He’d been distrusting of women since Felicia Connors, his ex-fiancĂ©e, called off their wedding two years ago and knew this blind date could not turn into something serious.

He should have known better. In his line of work chances for a serious relationship, let alone marriage, was practically nonexistent. He was traveling to remote locations, sometimes at the last minute, and deployed for an unspecific time, which left him little opportunity for a social life. Felicia decided she didn’t like the uncertainty or the danger of his job. The excitement of being with a man in uniform soon wore off, reality set in, and the engagement ended. Even though Victor had seen it happen he believed their relationship was different and could stand the test of time. He was wrong.

Victor headed to the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of water. The liquid vanished in seconds. He headed into his bedroom. After turning the TV to CNN news, he went into his adjoining bathroom and lifted the water lever in the tub. Stripping off his uniform, he stepped into the warm, inviting downpour of the shower. He closed his eyes, enjoying the invigorating feel of the water on his physique. Rosetta never told him the name of his blind date. It didn’t matter. After tonight he’d never call her again.


*****
At five o’clock Friday afternoon, Captain Dominique Frazier floored the gas pedal in her Altima and zoomed across the Connecticut Avenue intersection. New to the Washington, DC area, she had been out purchasing items to decorate her apartment.

She had gotten up earlier that morning to make a day of it. It was the first time in the two months she had transferred from Germany that her life had slowed down enough for her to get settled. As an officer in the Army Nurses Corp, her days were filled with long hours in the emergency room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It was the first time she had nothing scheduled, and she intended to take advantage of the free time.

Although Dominique was dog-tired, she had forced herself to get out of bed. She had managed to unpack some of her household goods, which had arrived from Europe but still had several boxes to go through. She let out a small sigh. She hated moving, but it came along with her career choice.
Dominique looked through the windshield. It had been raining for the past two days. Some people complained about the absence of the sun, damp days and nights, but from where she transferred, no sunshine was the daily forecast.

She took a couple of days off to include unpacking, viewing a couple of movie DVD’s she had purchased several weeks ago still buried in a box somewhere, visit Aunt Rosetta and Uncle Harold on Sunday for dinner, and attend Lieutenant Robbin Greene, her friend/ coworker, 32nd birthday party.

Dominique stopped for the traffic light then glanced along M Street aligned with shops, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. The light changed and she pulled off. Her aunt and uncle were pleased she transferred to the area, but her uncle, Harold Upton, retired as a Brigadier General, and now served as senator of Virginia, was disappointed that she chose to live in D.C. instead of Virginia. Aunt Rosetta and Uncle Harold were the only family she’d ever known. They had raised her since the age of two when her own parents died in a motor vehicle accident. Everyone was surprised when Dominique joined the military. Despite her Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a sufficient trust fund left by her parents, Dominique believed the army was the obvious choice. She considered herself a military brat. She traveled and lived in numerous locations: Europe, Texas, Georgia, Japan, and North Carolina, to name a few. Uncle Harold, a former special operations commander, commanded troops in several campaigns and had a great influence on her. She was proud of his military and civilian career and hoped to achieve half of his accomplishments.

Dominique was anticipating decorating her apartment as she pulled in front of her building forty minutes later. Adjusting her bags in hand, she opened the door and stepped in the entryway just in time to hear the antique Grandfather clock chime the hour — six o’clock. She placed the bags on the sofa and noticed the red light flashing on the answering machine. Wondering who phoned, she opened the top drawer of the end table and retrieved a notepad and pen as she listened to the messages. There were two. One from a long distance representative trying to get her to switch carriers. How did they find me so soon? The one that caught her attention was from Aunt Rosetta.

Aunt Rosetta had called Dominique a week earlier and informed her that she was giving Dominique’s phone number to a fine commanding officer whom she and Uncle Harold looked at as a son. She thought they would make a cute couple. Dominique could just imagine why her aunt and uncle would like him. He was a former special operations officer like Uncle Harold.

Dominique listened as Aunt Rosetta voice filled the air.

“Hi, sweetie. I’ve arranged a blind date for you at eight o’clock at Cadence Supper Club. The reservation is in my name. I really think you’re going to like this young man. He’s like the son your uncle and I never had. Call me tomorrow and let me know how things go. Love you.”

Dominique took a deep breath and tapped her pen. Her aunt was meddling in her life again. She wondered how her date felt about Aunt Rosetta’s interference. Dominique was sure he was used to being in control, but not of this situation. He was only taking her out because her aunt had asked him to. It appeared Dominique’s aunt assumed she would be lonely at her new assignment.

Dominique wanted to make Aunt Rosetta happy, but wanted her to stop interfering once and for all in her love life. Aunt Rosetta and Uncle Harold Upton had been married more than thirty years, and Aunt Rosetta felt it was her job to match up all the single family members. Dominique agreed that she wanted a man in her life, but she didn’t need a mercy date, especially one from an unwanted arrangement.

Dominique stood, staring at the telephone. She actually felt sorry for her date. It wasn’t his fault he was in this situation. She knew how persuasive her aunt could be. Her head tilted to one side. “Why not?” Dominique said to herself. “It’s only one date.” She punched in Aunt Rosetta’s number and listened as the answering machine clicked on.

No one’s home, Dominique thought and shook her head. I can’t believe she set me up on a blind date. She left a message.

“Aunt Rosetta, I got the message and will meet…” Dominique realized she didn’t know the name of her date, “…my blind date tonight at Cadence.”

Dominique hung up and walked into her bedroom. She slipped out of her black, low heel pumps and glanced at her watch. She had two hours. She unbuttoned her green army jacket, shirt, and her matching slacks. She hung the uniform on a padded hanger and wondered if she had lost her mind accepting the blind date. She briefly thought about calling back to cancel. No one would blame her if she did. It was a blind date, and for all she knew he could be psycho. She pushed the thought away. There was another way to handle it.

Dominique sauntered over to the nightstand, picked up the phone, and pushed the numbers to Lieutenant Robbin Greene. Although married to Lieutenant Thomas Echols, Robbin chose to keep her last name, claiming it was a hassle to go through the paperwork to legally change it. Dominique hoped she did not have plans and could accompany her to the club. If her blind date didn’t turn out to be a wacko, then Robbin could make a hasty exit.

“Hello.”

“Hello, Robbin.” Dominique’s voice came across the line.

Although Dominique was an Army Captain and Robbin was a Second Lieutenant, they became fast friends after only two months of working together at the Medical Center. “Dominique, how are you?”

“I’m fine. You?” “Things could be better.”

“Maybe I have the answer.”

 “Oh?”

“Do you have plans for this evening?”

“I don’t have any plans,” Robbin vented. “Lover boy got started early watching sports. He’s parked in front of the TV.”

Dominique was aware of the strained marriage between Thomas and Robbin. Robbin had confided to her that she believed Thomas was involved with another woman, but she didn’t have proof. “How would you like to go out with me tonight?”

“Where are we going?”

 “Cadence.”

Robbin was celebrating her birthday at the upscale and classy establishment tomorrow night. Dominique was invited. She’d never been there, but her other girlfriend/hairstylist, Rowena Harris, recommended the club, boasting the clientele was impressive among the African-American community.

“What do you say?” Dominique pressed.

Instead of answering Dominique’s question, Robbin replied, “Maybe some fresh air is just what I need.”

“Meet me at my apartment at seven-thirty. I’ll fill you in on what’s going on.” “What do you mean, fill me in?” Robbin asked.

“I’ll tell you once you get here,” Dominique said. “See you around seven-thirty.”





Chapter Two

Dominique replaced the phone in the cradle. She finished undressing and slipped on a cream-colored silk Victoria’s Secret robe with matching sandals. Entering the bathroom, she turned the oval glass knob on the tub and water flowed from the faucet. Twenty minutes later, with her skin wrinkled from sitting in the water, she dried herself and then moisturized her body with Marc Jacobs Body Lotion. She stood in her closet and agonized over what to wear. She wanted to select the perfect outfit. She’d heard from other service members who frequented Cadence that it was known for its music, excellent food, and diverse clientele. Cadence drew people between the ages of thirty to sixty. It was more of a social and dining club for professionals who wanted to mingle with other professionals. It was a place where new friendships were formed and contacts made.

Dominique held a blue pantsuit to her chin as she slowly turned in front of the
mirror.

“Too boring,” she said, tossing the garment onto her canopy bed. Since she agreed
to the date, she wanted to select the perfect outfit. A moment later, she settled on a cappuccino colored, off the shoulder top with raglan sleeves and a bandless waist skirt with stitched down pleats.

The doorbell rang at thirty-five minutes after seven. Dominique put on her two inch cappuccino colored, sling back sandals and pressed the button for the intercom.

“Robbin?”

“It’s me,” Robbin’s excited voice said through the speaker.

Dominique buzzed Robbin in from downstairs. She left her apartment door open and headed to the bedroom. Exhaling, she performed one final appraisal in the floor- length mirror. She smiled, pleased with the image.

Robbin found Dominique in the bedroom, primping in front of the mirror. “Nice outfit,” Robbin complimented.

“Thank you. You look nice. I like that brown on you.”

Robbin stepped in the bedroom. She sashayed to the mirror in her brown wraparound miniskirt. The outfit was completed with matching four inch heel pumps, which showed off her long, shapely legs. “So what’s going on that you couldn’t tell me over the phone?”

Dominique turned around, looking at herself from behind in the mirror. She knew once she told Robbin the news, Robbin would think she had lost her mind.

“I’m going on a blind date tonight.”

Robbin looked at Dominique as if she’d grown two heads. “Blind date? You can’t be serious.” Her lower lip trembled as she attempted to come up with another comment. “Why?”

“I’m serious. I want you to come along with me to check him out.”

“Check him out?” Robbin placed her hands on her hips. “I don't believe you.”

 “Believe it. When it doesn’t work out, my Aunt Rosetta can stop trying to fix me
up with every available man in the Army.”

Robbin raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Have you talked to her about this?”

“Of course. You don’t know my Aunt Rosetta. It’s like talking to a brick wall. I’m through talking. I intend to prove blind dates don’t work.” Dominique went to the closet to retrieve her black, short jacket.

“How long has it been since you’ve been on a date?”

Robbin’s question caught Dominique off guard, and she stopped in mid-motion. “It’s been a while,” she answered, putting on the jacket.

“What’s a while?”

“Why all the questions?”

“Don’t you want a man in your life?”

 “Of course I do.”

Robbin smiled wickedly. “The way I see it, the Army is a smorgasbord of men waiting for you to make your selection. You can have him any way you want him.” Robbin counted on each finger. “Short, tall, younger, older, light, dark.”

“I get the picture.” Dominique knew Robbin and Aunt Rosetta didn’t understand why she felt the way she did about dating men in the military. “It doesn’t matter. As long as I’m in the military, I’ll remain single.”

Robbin frowned. “As long as you’re in the military, you’re going to remain single?”

“Yes. I definitely won’t date a man in Special Operations.”

“Hmm. Special Operations. Sounds like my type of man. Intriguing, dangerous, and tough.”

“Whatever.” Dominique grabbed her clutch purse off the bed. “Can we get this night over with?”

Robbin playfully bowed at Dominique and with a wave of the hand stated, “Lead the way. I still say he sounds intriguing.”

***** When Victor arrived at the club, it was in full swing. That was no surprise to him. Many of the patrons had fast become regulars.

“Hello, Colonel,” said the bartender, Israel Hunnicutt. “What’s going on in CID?”

Victor settled himself on the tall, padded barstool. “Same thing, just a different day.” He took a handful of peanuts from the bowl then popped some into his mouth.

“Then how about the usual?”

Victor nodded and Hunnicutt placed a scotch and water before him. Before he was a bartender, Hunnicutt served twenty-one years in the Army, retiring as a sergeant major. He moonlighted as a bartender several nights a week for enjoyment. Since Victor first met Hunnicutt more than a year ago he’d liked him.

“Is my brother in his office?” Victor asked, lifting the glass to his lips. The drink felt good going down the back of his throat. The warm sensation helped calm his jittery nerves.

“No. He’s somewhere out in the club. He’s training a new employee.”

“When you see him, tell him I’m in the office.”

“I’ll be sure to relay the message.” He raised his right hand and gave Victor a military salute.

Victor returned the salute and headed toward the office.

The hostess, Kim Moffett, clothed in black slacks, red vest, and a white blouse, came into view. “Hello, Colonel,” she greeted. “Are you ready to be seated?” She flashed him a warm smile. “Your party hasn’t arrived yet.”

Victor’s brows rose a moment. He let out a small sigh and then glanced at his watch. His date had fifteen minutes. “No. I’ll wait until she arrives to be seated. I’ll be in Mr. Sexton’s office. If she arrives before I return, escort her to the table and make sure she’s taken care of.”

“Yes, sir,” Kim responded.

“Thank you, Kim.” Victor turned and continued toward the office.

Victor went inside the office, making himself at home. He settled behind the large oak desk. Their parents would be pleased at how successful his younger brother, 35-year- old Gerald Sexton, had made Cadence.

Gerald never served in the armed forces, preferring to pursue a college education, graduating from Howard University with a major in Business Management and a minor in Music.

Upon Gerald’s graduation their father, William Sexton, offered him co-ownership of Cadence. When William passed away four years ago, Gerald became a full owner. William Sexton, a retired Army First Sergeant, had opened Cadence two years after leaving the service. It had been a dream of both parents to open a supper club. The club opened, but their mother died of breast cancer a year later. Under the leadership of William, Cadence became very prominent in the area. Many top performers had graced its stage: Sade, Brian McKnight, Will Downing, and Branford Marsalis, to name a few. Not to mention a cuisine to die for. Since their father’s death, Gerald had managed to run Cadence with the same grace and style.

Victor looked at the family photos in elaborate frames arranged on the desk. Photos of their sister, Tonya; her husband, Stephen; and their two children, Roderick who was five and Kiara, three; Gerald dressed in cap and gown; and Victor in his military uniform. A photo of their parents, William and Elizabeth Sexton, had been blown up and hung on the wall along with Gerald’s diploma from Howard University. African- American paintings of Alice Kent Stoddard’s Young Man in the Blue Suit and Bus Stop Hyacinth Manning  added to the ambience.

Victor stared at his photo, sitting alone. He was thirty-three then and ready to start his own family. He wanted a wife. Thought he had found her once. What if his blind date...No way. He didn’t even want to think about his date being the future Mrs. Victor Sexton. Gerald’s appearance interrupted his thoughts.

“You plan to hide in here all night?” Gerald asked, smiling from ear-to-ear. “Tonya told me about your date tonight.” He walked over to the wall safe, putting in cash and receipts.

Victor nodded. “I’m meeting her tonight at eight.”

“Great. I’m dying to see what she looks like,” Gerald said, trying to smother a laugh.

“Me and you both.”

“What made you decide to go out on a blind date? It’s not like you’re obligated to the senator’s wife.”

“I don’t know. One moment Rosetta was talking about how beautiful her niece is, how talented she is, how we would make an attractive couple, and the next thing I know, I was agreeing to meet her.”

Gerald laughed. “Wait a minute. I gave the same description for the eligible ladies I tried to hook you up with and you weren’t interested.”

Victor joined in his brother’s laughter. “I’ve seen some of those women you tried to set me up with. No thank you.”

“What are you saying?” Gerald took a seat in the chair across from the desk. “I have ugly lady friends? Besides, you don’t know what your date looks like.”

Victor became quiet. Gerald was right. Ever since his breakup with Felicia, Gerald and Tonya had been trying to fix him up with every single woman they knew. They didn’t have to worry, Washington, DC, unlike the military community, had more women then men. Victor could have had a date with a different woman every night if he wanted. He didn’t have to be ambushed into one.

“Eight o’clock, huh.” Gerald glanced at his watch. “You still have a few minutes.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“Don’t look at it like that. She may turn out to be the woman of your dreams.”

Victor sat up straight in his chair and chuckled. “Yeah, right.”




*****
At 7:45, Dominique pulled her Altima in front of the club. She glanced out the window and saw a well-dressed couple get out of a Lexus, heading for the entrance to Cadence Supper Club.

Dominique self-consciously ran her hand over her skirt and hoped the outfit wasn’t too revealing. Too late, she could do nothing about it. I can’t believe I’m going through with this, she thought.

“Look at the people,” Robbin said enthusiastically. “I wonder who’s here. I hope we see someone famous.”

A valet stood waiting for the keys. A moment later the young man sped away.

 “This is it,” Robbin announced. “Last chance to change your mind.”

 Dominique forced a tight smile. “Let’s go inside.”

They stepped inside a set of massive mahogany doors affixed with brass fixtures and found themselves engrossed in a beautiful spacious foyer, with soft beige furniture. Dominique’s coworkers had been right. She didn’t know if she was taken aback with the clientele or the scenery.

“Good evening and welcome to Cadence.” A woman greeted them with a friendly smile. “My name is Kim.”

“Good evening,” Dominique spoke. “I believe you have a reservation for me for eight o’clock. It should be under Rosetta Upton.”

“Yes, we have your table ready for you.” Kim threw Robbin a curious look. Following Kim’s gaze, Dominique offered an explanation. “This is my friend Robbin Greene. She’s going to join me for a quick drink. I hope it’s okay.”

“It’s fine.” Kim beckoned for a waitress who came and escorted them to a table where they had an unobstructed view of the stage.

“I’m Mya, and I’ll be your waitress for this evening. The colonel will be right with you. He has instructed us to take care of you until he arrives. While you wait, can I offer you a drink on the house?” Mya handed them each a menu.

Dominique arched an eyebrow and looked at Robbin. She was impressed. She wondered what clout her blind date had for her to get preferential treatment. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.” She ordered a cosmopolitan. Robbin ordered an apple martini.

“I’ll be back with your drinks.”

The sultry lyrics of Anita Baker’s “Rapture" filtered through Cadence’s built-in speakers.

“This is nice,” Robbin said, moving her body to the music. “No matter what he looks like, the man has good taste. The evening is starting out fine.”

“You just remember you agreed to stay with me until he checks out.”

“I know. I know. I promise I won’t leave until we check out Mr. Special Operations.”

At Dominique’s uneasy expression, Robbin said, “You don’t have to go through with the date. We can get up and walk out. All you have to do is say the word.”

“I’ve told you, I’m staying.”

“Good.”

Dominique shot her a look.

Robbin shrugged. “What did I say?”

The waitress placed their drinks on the table.

“I heard they have live bands here on the weekends,” Robbin offered. It was obvious she was attempting to lighten the mood. “Maybe I can talk Thomas into bringing me back to check it out.” She took a sip of her drink and popped her fingers to the beat of “Can’t Stop,” by After 7.

Dominique continued scanning the interior of the club. The golden recessed lights glistened against gold-toned fixtures, floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows, and green leafy plants near a man-made waterfall. There were large pillars erect like military soldiers standing at attention. Customers seemed to be enjoying themselves, laughing, talking, or sitting at tables with dim shaded lamps. She couldn’t help but wonder if her date was watching her at that very moment.

*****
“Colonel, your guest is here,” Kim offered, poking her head in the office. She grinned like a Cheshire cat.

Victor and Gerald traded curious glances.

Kim sauntered farther into the office. “She brought a friend with her,” she offered.

 Gerald chuckled.

She was cautious, Victor thought. Nothing wrong with that.

“What does she look like?” Gerald questioned before Victor had time to cross examine Kim. With his connections Victor could have downloaded a picture of her from the military locator if he had gotten her name.

“Come see for yourself.” Kim still had the smile pasted on her face. It made Victor a little nervous. He couldn’t determine whether he would be pleased or disappointed.

Victor stepped out into the club. He zeroed in on the table. His gaze fixed on two women engrossed in conversation, heads bobbing up and down in synchronized motion. Then he sharpened his gaze, recognizing the familiar face.

It can’t be. What were the odds of Dominique Frazier being his blind date? He looked around, glancing at Kim to make sure she’d given him the proper table. She was seating a couple. He gestured with his finger in the direction of the table. Kim nodded at him and grinned.

He allowed himself to think about how long it had been since he’d seen Dominique. It was three years ago when they met in Frankfurt, Germany. Victor was on temporary duty, teaching a class on terrorism, and Dominique was assigned to a nearby hospital unit.

Victor remembered an intense curriculum during the day and the passionate nights they shared. He felt his body tremor when he remembered how Dominique felt hot, naked, and needy underneath him. Most of all, he remembered lovemaking that left them both fulfilled.

“Are you satisfied?” Gerald asked, walking up behind Victor.

Victor glanced over at Gerald and saw Gerald looking at him curiously. “Very.” Victor glanced back in the direction of the two women and saw Mya removing empty glasses from their table. Victor took a deep breath to control the soft groan threatening to escape him.

Gerald followed the direction of Victor’s gaze. “Wow!” His eyes widened. “I should have the senator’s wife set me up on a date. Which one is yours? Don’t tell me, I guess it’s the one with the nice assets.”

Victor shot a look at Gerald. He’d forgotten how crude his brother could be sometimes. Gerald shrugged. “What did I say? You like women who are heavy on top.”

A smile ruffled Victor’s mouth. “True. It’s just that I know one of the women.”

“What?” Gerald glanced back in the direction of Dominique and Robbin.

Victor tugged on the end of his jacket sleeve. He’d never discussed the two weeks he’d spent with Dominique. What they had shared was private and personal. He had been engaged to Felicia, but Dominique was never too far from his mind.

“I met her while teaching a class in Germany,” Victor said proudly, hoping that would quiet Gerald, letting him know he wasn’t the only male Sexton with game.

“You mean that beautiful woman is in the military?”

“Last time we met,” Victor answered.

“What about the other lady?”

 “We’ve never met.”

“Why don’t we go over and say hello?”

Victor noticed the challenge in Gerald’s eyes. Victor returned his look with one of his own. “Give me a second.”

The smile at the corner of Gerald’s lips widened. “Don’t tell me the big, bad army man is scared.”

“I’m not afraid of anyone, and to prove it I’m going to march over there and say hello.” Victor strolled with purpose toward the table.

As he headed toward them direction, again he thought about what he and Dominique shared. It was a period in his life he’d never forgotten. How could he? Their time spent together was passionate, sensuous, and mind-blowing. As he neared the table, he hoped Dominique was willing to pick up where they left off.



-End of Excerpt-  

Copyright(c)2015 Sammie Ward


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Copyright(c) 2015 Sammie Ward