I am SOOOOOO excited to finally be able to share a little snippet of what I’ve been working on!
The Games We Play will be my first release of 2018, and these characters have me starting the year off with a lot of… well, you’ll see 😉
Release Date TBA
(Note: Sample is copyrighted, unedited, and subject to change because… stuff happens 🙂 )
“My tardy children. Glad you two finally showed up… notably empty-handed.”
Eric was the first to pull our mother into a hug as he reasoned, “Come on, ma. We knew you had the liquor stash on lock.”
“But that still doesn’t mean you should show up with nothing. Haven’t I taught you any party etiquette?” she asked, pulling away before offering me equal love.
While I may not have been her mini-me like Eric was, I still knew to answer, “Yeah. Balance your alcohol intake with water. Don’t drink anything you didn’t see the bartender make with your own two eyes. Always ask for a double instead of ordering two drinks cause then you’ll get the liquor you want without all the juice…”
Her smirk was proud as she cheered, “That’s my baby. And you look cute. Let me have this dress when you’re done with it.”
“I’m pretty sure I took it from your closet,” I replied, taking a glance down to double-check.
Yep. Definitely hers.
I wasn’t sure if it was good for her or bad for me that we could – and did – share clothes. But she didn’t seem pulled either way when she squealed, “Well no wonder!” Before leading us deeper into the house that was already full of people, surely ready to start down the line of annoying introductions as if we didn’t already know everyone here. But to my surprise, she didn’t get too far without telling her son, “One of your little friends is here. Ellen’s boy.”
Eric’s face scrunched. “Ellen’s boy? Chance? My ni… brother Chance is here? Where he at?” he asked, looking around the crowd pouring out of the kitchen into the living room.
She tossed her free hand towards the hall when she answered, “I think he’s downstairs playing pool with some of the other guys. Go get yourself acquainted because one of them might be your stepdaddy after tonight. Hell, it might be your little friend. He’s grown up real nice.”
Now it was my face scrunching. “Ew, mama.”
My disgust didn’t last long though once Chance emerged from the basement looking even better than I remembered. He had always been crush-worthy; the apple of all my homegirls’ eyes back when we were freshmen and they were seniors, with all the attributes that made up a fine upperclassman in our shallow minds. Toffee skin, good hair, full lips, a car of his own – albeit, raggedy at the time – instead of his mama’s, played sports, not a complete idiot even though he hung out with my dumb ass brother.
He was “that dude” back then. And now, what were once boyish features had sharpened into those of a grown ass man, with the facial hair and chiseled jawline to show for it. In the words of my mother, he had definitely grown up real nice.
Unfortunately, my lusting couldn’t last forever once Eric shouted, “Yo! Why you ain’t tell me you were coming in town?! Ol’ handsome ass, Odell Beckham lookin’ ass nigga.”
While Chance laughed – damn, when’d his laugh get so sexy – my mother put her hand on her hip to scold, “Eric, I will embarrass you in front of all these people. You better watch your mouth.”
“My bad, mama. I just wasn’t expecting to see my boy. It’s been way too long,” he gushed as he pulled his friend into another shoulder hug as if he hadn’t just given him one, making my mom smile before she was yanked away by one of our “aunties”.
Chance was a good sport about the extra attention, embracing one of his best friends even when he teased, “Foo, you’re actin’ like we don’t talk almost every day.”
“Group chat ain’t the same as dappin’ you up in real life though,” Eric reasoned as Chance finally looked past him towards me and whispered, “Damn.”
“Yeah, you aren’t the only one who’s grown up real nice,” I thought to myself as I said, “Hey Chance.”
He extended his arms for a hug that I greedily stepped into, immediately noticing that even his signature scent had been replaced; no longer the cheap body spray all the boys had relied on to cover up their funk back in the day, but a manly, woodsy cologne that had me sinking deeper into his arms on the exhale.
“My girl Paris. What’s up, little one?” he asked teasingly, making me roll my eyes as I – regretfully – stepped away.
“You know my name is Londyn and that corny ass joke hasn’t gotten any funnier over the past decade. Feel free to let it go,” I replied, crossing my arms over my chest since mom’s dress did nothing to hide how hard my nipples had gotten from just the smell of him; not to mention how strong his arms felt wrapped around me and the sexy smirk he had on his face as he unashamedly gave me a onceover.
Ol’ Chance was definitely checkin’ for your girl. But in true big brother fashion, Eric had to be a hater, interrupting our moment to ask, “So how long you been in town? And who all found out before I did so I know how mad to be?”
Chance laughed that sexy, full laugh again. “Damn, man. You’re acting like you’re my girl or somethin’. I just got here earlier this evening. Settled in at my hotel, got over to Moms, and then she dragged me straight here.”
Eric seemed satisfied with that explanation, nodding as he replied, “Yeah aight. As long as I’m not the last one to find out.” Before continuing on to ask, “So how long you here for? Just for the weekend?”
For whatever reason, he looked my way when he answered, “I’ll actually be back for a month and some change.” Then he turned back towards Eric to explain, “My company got contracted for an assignment here that I probably could’ve done remotely, but they thought it’d be cool to send me in the flesh so I could spend some time with the fam and all that.”
Even if the conversation wasn’t for me, I nodded as I absorbed the information along with the fact that he’d be around long enough for me to at least make a pass at him without Eric’s watchful eye.
But to my surprise, Eric actually – and probably unintentionally – gave me an opening when he mentioned, “You know LoLo does that same shit you do.” Watching Chance’s eyebrow pique before he added, “Yeah, baby girl is a whiz when it comes to that gaming shit.”
This time, Chance fully turned my way, a hint of amusement on his face as he said, “Should’ve known. Your ass stayed in the computer screen or on a system back in the day.”
“Y’all did too. Making all that noise playing Madden like a check was involved. You would’ve thought one of y’all would be an offensive coordinator in the league or somethin’ by now,” I teased, making Chance chuckle while Eric muttered, “Shit I wish.”
I was just getting settled into the conversation when my mother returned with two glasses of champagne, shoving one in my hand as she whispered, “You looked thirsty.”
My first instinct was to turn her down since it was still way too early in the night to be accepting what I knew would be neverending liquor offerings. But when I looked at her face, I realized she wasn’t talking about an actual dehydration, instead pointing out the fact that I hadn’t taken my eyes off Chance since he came upstairs. The glass of champagne was nothing more than a, “Take your foot off the gas pedal, baby girl. Let him come to you.”
So I took her advice, taking a cute little sip to show her message had been received as I listened to her take over the conversation. “So Chance, Ellen was telling me you’ll be here for quite a while. Don’t let that woman work you to death trying to turn that trap house of hers into a home. If she wants all those handy projects done, she needs to pay somebody instead of being cheap. She knew what she was getting into buying a fixer-upper knowing good and well her prissy behind can barely hold a nail straight.”
While Chance and Eric both bursted with laughter, I replied, “Dang, mama. You ain’t have to go in like that.”
She shrugged, taking a sip from her own glass. “I’m just saying. If she’s gonna have you slaving on your off time, you better keep track of the hours and submit an invoice when you’re done.”
The sincerity in her voice now had me laughing, especially since I was sure she had given the same message to Miss. Ellen verbatim. But I was glad Chance still knew my mother well enough to know this was typical her, only smiling when he defended, “Now you know I owe that woman everything, Miss. Annie. A little handiwork around the house is like paying off the interest on my life loan.”
“Life loan, huh? If that’s the case, how come I haven’t been receiving any payments from the two of you?” she asked, turning her attention to Eric and I with a challenging glare that would’ve easily straightened us right up back when we were younger.
But now, it only made us giggle, Eric wrapping an arm around her shoulder as he reasoned, “We showed up tonight. That’s gotta be worth something, right?”
Instead of agreeing, she smacked a hand across his chest. “Minimum payment, boy. That loan is barely budging,” she replied, finally cracking a smile. But then she peeked over at me, giving me a look that I didn’t quite understand before she continued, “But you can make a real payment by going to get those ice bags out of the garage for me.”
“I’ll help you, bruh,” Chance chimed in, though my mom was quick to stop him in his tracks with a hand against his chest.
“Oh no, baby. You stay here. He’s got it. He owes me,” she insisted with a smirk before flashing another look my way. And once again, I didn’t get it until she dragged Eric into the crowd, leaving Chance and I alone.
I immediately took another sip of my drink, trying to buy myself some time as Chance stood there just… waiting for me to say something. But nothing worth talking about came to mind, other than, “Are you thirsty? I can get you…”
My feet were already turned towards the kitchen when Chance put a hand against my arm to stop me, pairing it with another one of his little chuckles. “Londyn, relax. You’re acting like I’m a stranger or somethin’.”
I turned back his way, quickly sizing him up and coming to the conclusion that, “You kinda are though. I mean, you haven’t been back in so long – I haven’t seen you in so long. You probably got a whole ass wife and kids somewhere now.”
Even if it wasn’t something I had heard through the grapevine, I wanted to clear any possibilities before I got too invested. And I was glad when he only laughed again before he replied, “Come on now, LoLo. Between Miss. Annie and your knucklehead brother, you’d know if I had a family. Shit, if anything, I’m surprised you ain’t doin’ the whole family thing yet.”
My face scrunched when I fired back, “With what money? Kids are expensive. I ain’t got it.”
“LoLo, I’m in the same field as you. Meaning I know no matter what you do, you definitely got it,” he insisted with an enthusiasm that seemed to extend beyond just my salary once paired with the heated stare he was giving me.
But before I could make any real use of it, Eric returned from his journey to announce, “The ice was gone, so I gotta make a store run right quick. Chance, you tryna roll?”
For a moment, it seemed like he was contemplating his answer as if he wasn’t quite ready to dead our conversation. But I assumed I must’ve imagined the whole thing when he finally replied, “Yeah, I’ll ride.” Leaving me to deal with the afterglow of our brief interaction alone.