Love Belvin and Christina C. Jones linked up to bring you Connecticut Kings‘ ineligible receivers!
The league didn’t believe in me. I was the last pick of the first round.
The Kings didn’t believe in me. They low-balled my contract and mandated therapy to begin immediately
My coach didn’t believe in me. But I get it; she’s a female.
The General don’t halfway believe. He keeps threatening violence if I blow this opportunity.
This chick I bagged at the first team event… Well, let’s say she’s listening.
I’m a black, educated, and self-made man. I have no kids, and was rich and established before draft night. The odds are stacked against me, but I’ll show them all. They’ll understand my name before it’s all said and done.
I was born a king, and now I am a King.
Love’s Ineligible Receiver Excerpt
~~~unedited, copyrighted version, subjected to change prior to publication~~~
Clutching the Gatorade squeeze bottle as I trekked behind my teammates, I gulped hard and fast. We were headed for the tunnel leading off the practice field. The more I chugged my chest cooled from the chilled liquid and my arms, thighs, and feet throbbed from the work I’d just put them through on the field. I could hear Jameson a few feet ahead, leading the group off the field, talking his usual shit.
“Yo, my first daughter was born in that house. My wife is crying her eyes out. But what the fuck am I supposed to do? I need to dump it!”
Because you going broke, buying stupid shit with ya money while your injuries are piling up every damn season! Fuck outta here!
But of course, those thoughts stayed in my head. I never paid dude no mind with his corny ass. My mind was on calling Dinky back about the water bottle plug for the lunch program back at home. That and rescheduling with that fucking therapist for this week.
“Not you, Rut!” A familiar bark ripped across the field from the speakers.
Slowly, I dropped the bottle from my sweaty face and turned toward the green. Underwood, the Offensive Coordinator, held the bullhorn inches from his mouth. His eyes were hidden under the tent of his baseball cap, but I could sketch the image of his scowl, knowing it by heart after all the times I’d seen it since getting drafted. A few snickers could be heard as the team passed me on their way to the locker room.
“You got an extra hour on the field. Run your ass now!”
What? We just finished a grueling plyometrics drill. Hours of it! More giggling could be heard behind me as bodies practically slogged off the field. Jordan “The Flash’s” sleek ass smile drew closer to me. My upturned palm automatically rose into the air, silently questioning.
“The fuck is this? High school?” I grumbled as he neared. “Grant and Stroy came late,” I began as he slapped my shoulders heavily with that same smirk. “I get why they have to stay after. But I was here early. Fuck I do?”
Smoothly, and on the low, Jordan tossed his chin, telling me to meet him off to the side of the line filing into the tunnel.
Once out of the way, I turned to him, curious as hell. But before uttering a word, Jordan spit a laugh from his belly.
“Yo, Underwood is old school as hell!” He laughed. I lifted one brow to hurry this shit along. Jordan caught on and tried to calm himself. “They all tight, man: Underwood, Henderson, Craig, Eli—Wright.”
Henderson and Craig were two of the wide receiver trainers, but—
“What this gotta do with them?”
Jordan shook his head. “You had a plus one when you left Eli’s shindig the other night.” I cocked my head to the side. “You fucked the wrong one.”
“So?” My hand flew in the air. “I fucked a jawn! It’s what the fuck I do. What that
got to do with me having to stay late to run more drills?”
Mentioning her reminded me of the note she left. Fats showed it to me, confused by it. But when I read what it said, “Sorry. Thanks.” I knew exactly who had written it.
Jordan’s face sobered. “Your plus one is linked to the old-school crew.”
“Who the fuck is Wright?”
“Jimmy ‘Boulder’ Wright.” His forehead lifted for recognition from me. Nothing. “Class of ’93, franchise wide receiver.” He nodded as my face fell when I finally recalled the name. I hadn’t heard about Jimmy Wright in years. Before Jordan and Trent’s days as franchise Kings, it was Tariq Evans and friends’ time. They got the ring and made the Kings loads of cash. And before Evan’s class was Wright’s. He brought the Kings more than one Super Bowl win in the late eighties/early nineties. I knew Eli, Underwood, Craig, Henderson, and Wright were old as fuck, but didn’t know they rolled together. Besides, I hadn’t heard Wright’s name in years. My pops used to go hard for him back in his day. “That plus one you retreated with the other night…” His chin dipped.
“…is Wright’s daughter?”
He snorted, face toward the ground. “Go lateral.”
“I fucked a bitch who cheated on her man?” I yelled, mad as hell over the bullshit. That wasn’t my fault. Here we go… I came up here for everybody to doubt me. I was doing the damn required therapy, making sure I haven’t given the trainers and coach too much flack, stayed low so I didn’t hear Divine’s shit, and now because I bumped dicks with a damn old fuck I’m the problem? I felt my jaw tighten. “That’s the big fuckin’ deal, bruh? So I smashed her. You know how many bitches I run through?”
Jordan’s eyes rolled over my shoulder to something behind me, his jaw dropping and face going lax. I turned to see what caught his attention and my damn eyes rolled away as soon as they hit their target.
Fucking. Eli. Richardson.
I let out an aggravated breath. The last person I wanted to see was my boss when I was copping to banging out his homie’s piece of ass. Eli stood with three other stiffs in tailored suits; one a female. They all looked horrified, as though I pulled out my gat and asked for the goods.
He cleared his throat and motioned for the small group to continue down the tunnel. A part of me—a real tiny part—wondered who his company was, hoping it was no one he was trying to impress. He was Eli Richardson, after all. The only black owner in the league. Who did he have to impress?
Low key snickering had me turning back to Jordan. Half his face was covered by his hand and he coughed into it, clearing his throat.
“Not a good look at all,” I muttered, mad as hell. “I know.”
I didn’t need a warning. Each day since I signed my shitty deal, it was understood Eli didn’t fuck with me. He wasn’t the type to have personal relationships with many of the players. But everybody knew he rocked hard with Trent Bailey and Jordan Johnson—before Jordan got with his daughter, Cole. That nipped at my ego, too. He and Divine were boys. Divine was my people and that still didn’t get me face time with Eli. It was another reminder that I wasn’t exactly welcomed here.
“Glad you do.” Jordan’s face straightened. “Look, playa, you gotta hit that field before Underwood blasts ya ass for real. But I’ll tell you this: you leaving with that chick the other night ain’t under the big homie’s radar.”
“Because his boy’s fuckin’ her?” I asked, mad about that recent discovery all over again. “Okay. I won’t touch his groupie again. Shit.” I snorted. “I ‘on’t even know her name!” My head was still fucked up over her leaving a note.
Jordan shook his head. “She ain’t his groupie. Try again.”
My eyes blew up. “His main bitch?”
Shaking his head even more, Jordan’s humor began to feel like pity. “Stop calling that girl a bitch. Get that outta ya system. I don’t know the details of their relationship, but I do know they’re legit. So legit, she works in the front office. She keeps on the low…don’t bother nobody.” He began to walk off, amusement playing on his face again. “Matter of fact, she may be known now because she left the party with the asshole new draftee. This may be something you wanna consult Divine on, lil homie. That’s all I got for you.” Jordan took off for the locker room and I could swear to hearing him laugh even more.
Oh. So now I’m that asshole…
“Rut, get yo ass out here, boy!” I heard from the bullhorn.
“Fuck!” I turned for the field wondering how in the hell did I get myself into this shit.
I started my jog for the center of the green, grunting underneath my breath. One of many rules I lived by was no pussy was worth trouble. There was too much out here for a man like me.
Don’t matter that hers was delivered in the most unexpected way to date…
Good decisions don’t always leave you unscathed.
Sometimes, the best choice might be the one that leaves you vulnerable. The one that forces you to face a not-so-distant past that hurts, or go through with something you never thought would come to fruition. The one that makes taking a risk your only viable option.
Wilhelmina “Wil” Cunningham is no stranger to pressure. The child of an Olympian and a title-winning boxer, and a former Olympian herself, Wil has gained an “America’s sweetheart” sort of reputation – a high pedestal to fall from when her world gets rocked by betrayal and deceit, from more than one direction.
Not that long ago, Ramsey Bishop dominated the field, as one of the best running backs the league had ever seen. Personal tragedy drew him away, but he made a promise he can’t take back, and no one will let him forget. Keeping that promise though… much easier said than done.
But Wil believes he can. And Ramsey believes Wil can and will bounce back from the misfortunes that have the potential to destroy her if she lets them. Their supportive, motivational back and forth is just one element of what has grown into a friendship neither of them would choose to do without. But could it be… more?
With their recent pasts littered with baggage and sorrow, and both of them facing uncertain futures, Wil and Ramsey have enough stress on their hands, but they’ll have to make a choice – continue their friendship as it was before, or risk it all for the possibility of something amazing?
After losing an improbable opportunity at the Super Bowl, Trent Bailey still has something to prove. He’s come out, not only as America’s favorite redemption story, but also a married man; a marriage not yet known to the public. He’s trusting more, finding his home more comfortable and befitting a Connecticut King.
Jade’s a new woman now. Her insecurities are under control at Trent’s side. No more violent fits around Trent’s female admirers, she’s understanding the fanfare attached to her husband’s returning celebrity. She’s found her place in the big world, and is content figuring out the rest.
The Baileys survived the red zone, that place where failure is unlikely, but still possible. But with old cast members resurfacing, can their secure love prove successful in this new position on the field?
“We’re in the end zone, and I’m dragging everything I got to score.” ~TB
Let’s see if after the review, the ruling on the field still stands.
Tell the world: Who is Trent Bailey?
End Zone Love Excerpt
~~~unedited, copyrighted version, subjected to change prior to publication~~~
Have Sambi take a look at the gutter leak off the back of the kitchen…
Call April to invite her up…
File our marriage license…
Remind Shawnie to bring my A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find O.P.I. polish back today…
Pick up Trent’s shirt from the cleaners for tomorrow…
He turned onto his stomach and now faced me. His thick arm pushed under the pillow where his head lay, and his lips parted. Trent took up most of the California King-sized bed, barring a corner, but I didn’t care. He was here, home with me.
And he’s entirely beautiful…
Sometimes when I prayed, I asked God what did I do to deserve this. Him. He was larger than life—in person and in reputation. Since he’d been reinstated, I read countless articles about Trent Bailey, the quarterback for the Connecticut Kings. I learned about his groundbreaking scores and business deals, wild and festive parties, well-profiled relationships—except for the one with Brielle that was sold as a friendship to the public—with gorgeous women who were famous in their own right, and his arrest, conviction, and sentencing. Trent was barely twenty-seven and had lived more of a life than many men twice his age. And somehow the silly man still had the desire to choose an embattled woman with loads of baggage like me to be his wife.
As though he heard my self-loathing, his lashes fluttered open. My eyes and mouth spread as wide as my heart in experiencing the purity in his first sight of the day. Me.
“What time is it?” he muttered.
“Just before six.”
“You gone try to wipe me out before my work out?”
My face expanded even further and I scooted down the mattress to kiss his puffy lips. The idea of sex this morning was tempting.
“No. I wanted to get to you before KyKy does.”
Trent stirred, moving to sit up, and rubbed his deliciously tight face with those big hands.
“Oh, yeah. It’s Saturday. What y’all got on tap?”
“Lashawn and Devin are coming over today.” I bit the inside of my mouth knowing I didn’t have much time to say what I needed to say.
Trent was like a machine in the morning when it came to his workout regimen.
“Word. Ky feeling up to that?”
My eyes circled the dim suite. “He should.”
Stretching on a yawn, he mumbled, “That’s what’s up.”
“I have to transfer money from the stash account today.”
The stash account was the biggest of Trent’s I had access to. It was the one we shouldn’t touch but for an emergency. But he would grant me permission to transfer money if I ran out for the house. And running out would be me going over the budget we agreed to. Trent was somewhat of a miser when it came to his money. He was wealthy by my parents’ standards even before he returned to the National Football League. But in his mind, he was two days from destitution. I could now see how he preserved; he hardly spent a dime.
“For what?” he asked, unalarmed.
“I’ve had Sambi replacing all the exterior lights on the property. I bought all new eco-friendly fixtures and bulbs. They weren’t the most expensive, but cost a shiny penny.” My voice turned defensive. “And considering the old models you had out there, and how half were malfunctioning anyway, I figure it’d save money in the future. Plus, I had to take Ky to get new clothes this week. If not, I would’ve paid for it with my money.”
“No biggie, little one.” He stretched again, this time extended his torso over his legs to touch his toes. Damn… Trent was more flexible than me. “Take what you need. I don’t know why you trippin’ anyway. Tim from Ches’ office ain’t call you?”
“No. For what?”
Trent turned to me and waggled his brows. “You gotta raise, shawtie.”
Like Trent had been doing his entire career, I was a line item in his financial portfolio. I had a set salary as he did, only mine was more than his; something I never understood. We were paid out monthly and were expected to stay within the parameters of that allotment for his budget to perform as planned. The majority of Trent’s multi-million-dollar earnings went to investments and retirement savings.
“Yup.” He exhaled. “I think you went from eighty to a hun‘ed.”
I gasped. “One hundred thousand a year?” He nodded, laying against the headboard. I knew he’d signed a couple of endorsement deals and even bigger ones were on the way, but I didn’t realize it happened so quickly. “And you?”
His lips turned up, unimpressed. “I told him to add ten to my fifty. I ‘on’t need much.”
“Only sixty a year, but give me one hundred? Trent, that doesn’t make an ounce of sense.”
“Keep it real: I don’t even need that. You buy food, pay the utilities—even cop my drawers, socks, and undershirts. Other than when I eat out or get parts for my Chevy, I don’t need much. Shoot. Even the Kings pick up my grocery tab at the condo up in Connecticut.” He shrugged. “You being good is me being good. Ky good, too, right?” His head angled slightly toward me with a curious brow.
I took a deep breath.
Trent turned completely to face me. “Word? When?”
Another hearty breath. “I don’t know.” My face fell to my lap. “I’m assuming two days ago.”
“That’s what’s up. Why you ain’t tell me?”
“He called the night you ran down to Camden. And I missed you yesterday, leaving out so early.”
“We kicked it last night,” he chastised gently.
I licked my lips. “I brought up my mom and crashed emotionally. Plus, it was too much to dump on you.”
“You look stressed about it. It’s good he’s home. He gotta lil’ solider to raise.”
My eyes shot up loaded and locked. “I can do it.”
Trent’s brows met as he studied me. He shook his head. “Not by yourself, you can’t. You need that dude for Ky.”
“I need you.” My eyes didn’t falter, but my voice did.
“I’m here to be whatever you two need—everything you guys need. But my place is behind Ryshon…unless he ain’t steppin’ up, J.”
I swallowed hard, my brain snapping into place. That was out of line. I shouldn’t have put that on Trent.
“I’m sorry. I—I didn’t mean to imply…”
He reached for my face, his big palm almost matching it in size. “Hey, my vows are to you and Ky. Ain’t no half stepping over here. I’m just not tryna step on dude’s toes. That ain’t code. Why you stressed? Did he say something to you?”
I shook my head in his hand, face wrinkled. “It’s just our dynamic. It’s who Ryshon and Jade are. We don’t know how to co-parent while apart. He’s been locked up so many times.” I swallowed again, my eyes slowly ascending. “And now I belong to another man: heart, soul, and body.”
I wanted him to get it, but knew I wasn’t articulating myself fully. It was because I didn’t know what to say. I just knew what I felt and that was I’d wished Ryshon would disappear. I’d been transitioning into someone eons away from the woman Ryshon knew. I was filling in those empty spaces deep inside at Trent’s side. Something deep was awakening. Every day my self-confidence increased and so had my identity. Ryshon wouldn’t get or appreciate that.
And Trent doesn’t understand…
“He just got out the pen, J. It’s gonna take him a minute to adjust. He may be trippin’ a little, may be a lil brolic with a chip on his shoulder, but that’s normal. Give him grace. We all go through that when fresh out.”
He nodded. “I tripped a little. Flexed unnecessarily on my people. But I got over it once I realized I didn’t have to be tough on the outside.”
“Who were you flexing at?”
His hand withdrew. “A few heads.” His eyes circled as he thought. “I almost choked the hell outta Alton.”
I sputtered a laugh, not able to believe what he’d just said. “Alton Alston?”
He nodded, one side of his mouth curved into a grin. “You know dude play way too much. He had jokes about me being fresh out and kept shootin’ them all night. After a while, I had him pinned against a wall. StentRo, JJ, and Tynisha had to pull me off him.”
A giggle slipped and I covered my mouth. “Sorry. It’s just that you’re so patient with him.”
“Because he got a good heart, just a confused head.”
“Which head? The one he rams into models like that Jessica Black while she’s with Young Lord? Or the one he never uses when talking so reckless, so much?”
Trent rolled his eyes adorably. “If you think Young had that broad in the ‘exclusive lane,’ you’re just as delusional as Alton.” He waved the topic off with his hand in the air. “For real, J. Don’t sweat the small stuff with dude, Ryshon. If my peoples would’ve held me to my ego when I first landed, I wouldn’t have them around now. He’s got a lot of obstacles ahead of him. Just excuse the B.S.”
“Even if it’s a threat to us?”
Trent’s face darkened, first defensively then in confusion. “Like… You two hooking up again?”
My expression dropped. “I haven’t been attracted to him in years. And you’re the delusional one if you think I could ever want a guy like Ryshon after having a man like you.”
He didn’t move to respond, seemingly measuring every word I ever spoke to him in the past seventeen months since we met in the span of seconds.
“Then ain’t shit that dude can do to come between us, Jade,” he gritted out.
There was a dark promise in his eyes. A warning.
My eyes fell to my lap again. I had him cursing before his morning prayer run. There was another pregnant pause before Trent turned to leave the bed.
“I uploaded Pastor Carmichael’s Men’s Empowerment Conference sermons on your phone earlier. You know…” My eyes faltered again. “To catch up for the conclusion tomorrow.”
Trent peered back at me, thick and bushy brows hiked. “Good lookin’.”
Then he took off for the bathroom. The deep grooves in his wide back in motion as he advanced.
That one thing…
What’s been ordained…
The give and take…
This series follows couples on their journey of love, trust, and commitment. Enjoy the tales of the game’s most talented players as they get more than they bargain for on the field of love!
Can you tell the difference between a distraction and a blessing? It should be simple, but sometimes what we think is a distraction can actually be a turning of the tide required to bring life full circle, to a place of blessing.
Meet Trent Bailey, who is fighting for the right to continue his stellar professional football career after enduring striking legal woes in the recent past. Trent cannot and will not blow his second chance for anyone; after all, this is the blessing he’s been praying for. After receiving confirmation that staying focused is all he needs, it’s what he aims to do. No distractions. That’s until he bumps into two unexpected overnight guests.
Jade Matthews is doing everything she can for herself and her young son, Kyree. After journeying through her own bumps in the road, she’s finally getting it together. She’s doing what she has to do to make sure her family of two stays afloat. Life’s setbacks won’t stop Jade from providing for her little one, even though she fumbles each pass thrown at her.
What starts out as a temporary favor turns into rapid passion. There’s one agenda here, but getting to the same meeting point has never been more difficult. Fighting their way through trust and self-esteem issues, the two must meet in the right zone; the red zone, where you may think you’re safe, but life has a way of intercepting blessings and…turning the tide.
Meet Trent and Jade in Love In the Red Zone
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First impressions don’t have to be everything.
But second, third, fourth impressions create a reputation, and those are hard to break. In the public eye, where everybody is tuned in to your every move, and behind the scenes, where certain people are privy to the real you… or at least what they perceive you to be.
Jordan Johnson is a man under pressure – from his teammates, fans, family, and the one person who wants to see him succeed as badly as he wants it for himself. He’ll do whatever he has to in order to not let anyone down… and maybe find an unanticipated connection along the way.
Nicole Richardson is a woman with a purpose – prove herself worthy of her place in a male-dominated field. Fiercely competitive, wielder of tough love and motivation, and terrible at dealing with things outside of her control. Between making sure the players are thriving, and coping with a changing family dynamic, a relationship isn’t even on her radar.
Denying their chemistry would be a waste of words, but giving in isn’t an option.
A season on the line.
Reputations at stake.
The threat of seeing their personal lives played out on the evening highlights.
With all of that swirling around them, Jordan and Nicole have to decide if it’s worth the effort to make the play… or take a knee.
Available now! Click here to download your copy!
Immerse yourself in the world of two of Connecticut Kings’ finest. Find out how the quarterback and wide-receiver are ineligible receivers of love!
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Connecticut Kings Excerpt #1
~~~unedited, copyrighted version, subjected to change prior to publication~~~
We arrived early, and thankfully, Trent offered to get a few practices in with me before his friends showed and I embarrassed myself. The place was the fanciest bowling alley I’d ever seen. It had chrome fixtures with dark wood flooring and paneling, neon colors lighting the place, and palatial white leather sofas. Our section was over to the end, next to the wall, and already loaded with bottles of wine, champagne, water, and food. Anxiety crept up my spine and tied itself around my neck. I chewed my lip as I watched Trent unpack his bag down in the lounge area where the game would be.
“C’mere. I need to see which ball is easier for you to work with.”
He was already out of his goose and on to business. I slowly peeled down the zipper of my coat and laid it on an available chair. As soon as I did, there was an older blonde haired woman there.
“Sorry about the delay, ma’am. Here are your shoes. Mr. Bailey said you’re a size seven?” she asked with professional courtesy.
I nodded. “Ye-yes. Thanks.” I took the bowling shoes that looked to be brand new from her.
“And I’ll take your coats. Is that okay?”
“Jade!” Trent called again. Then he glanced up to find me with the woman. “Oh. A’ight.” He turned for the score kiosk.
“Yes,” I answered the woman and sat down to change my shoes.
When I met him down on the floor, Trent had already changed into his shoes.
“Try this one.” He handed me a lime green ball that almost slipped from my grip the moment he let go of it. “Whoa! That won’t do. Try this one.” He handed me an ivory ball that was much more agreeable with my strength. “Okay. Good. Now, in bowling, one of the most important techniques is in your wrist, biceps, and hip alignment. They all need to be in great coordination and alignment to navigate the ball after it leaves your grip. Now, I don’t know about the rest, but your wrist and bicep coordination game is tight.”
I sucked in air. “No you didn’t!”
I slapped his arm. Trent let out a laugh that exposed all his teeth. He was really in a good mood. It warmed me at recognition. This was our second date in about a week. The first one didn’t go so well with two college girls staring at him the whole time we were in line for popcorn. It pissed me off when they headed to the same theater as us, but I let it all go in the name of behaving on my first ‘date.’ However, when it ended and I stopped at the bathroom before leaving and came out to them in his face, I lost it and went off on those thirsty broads. It was so bad, Trent had to physically carry me away. Needless to say, I didn’t score that night. I was also convinced I wouldn’t be getting in his pants any time soon.
“C’mon, man!” he laughed. “You have to relax. We’re out on a date. Isn’t that what we agreed to? Something normal. For us to act our age?”
“Yeah, but this ain’t no ordinary date.” I heard the intimidation in my chords. “This is with famous people. Celebrities!”
He straightened and stepped closer. “Yeah, well, let me tell you a secret about celebrities: they don’t like to be treated as such on their private time. Don’t trip. I can tell you now, StentRo has low key public paranoia off the courts. And his lady is the most down to earth woman you’ll ever meet in this game.” He lifted the ball in my grip, going back to the task at hand.
“And? They aren’t the only two coming.”
I was probably most nervous about meeting Tynisha Lang. It took days for me to select the right look for tonight. Although I thought jeans were the go-to gear for bowling, I couldn’t decide which would be best: fitted or boyfriend. That was a call Tynisha could write a book on. I didn’t know much about her husband.
And oh, my god! Would her camera crew be here?
Trent scratched his head, staring at the scoreboard. “Who, Alton Alston? He’s an ass. You ain’t gotta worry about him.”
My eyes went wide, and I stood stock still. Trent turned toward me after some time.
“Are you going to throw that thing anytime—Wait!” His face wrinkled. “You talking about Ty? Please tell me you’re not worried about her.”
Under normal circumstances I would be ashamed to admit feeling insecure about another woman to anyone, much less a man. But in this instance, this was no ordinary woman. She was a millionaire fashionista. A noted snob, at that. Of course my regular ass was intimidated.
“Oh,” he snorted, some sort of realization hitting him. “Is this why you made a big deal about what you’d wear? You’re fine. These are just people…like you and me. I swear, if you’d just relax and be the beauty on my arm, all will be well. You’ll like them and they’ll enjoy you. But first we need to get your hip game in alignment with your wrist and bicep. Okay?”
The innocent look on his face while he pseudo flirted was the most adorable thing in the world. I held my belly with my left hand and tumbled over in laughter. I couldn’t believe his brazenness tonight.
“You know what!” I screamed. “If this is how you get down in front of your friends, I’m gonna need a drink to keep up with you.”
As I tried to straighten, I caught the gorgeous and carefree smile that crested his face. Trent was damn it beautiful. My attraction to him had to be unnatural; it was dizzying and hard to ignore that when he unleashed smiles like that without warning. Needing to leave that head space, I walked up to the floor and bowled the ball. It was a gutter.
“Let’s try again,” Trent coached behind me. “Remember, bicep: you have to put some muscle in your toss. Wrist: you have to flick it with power. And hips: you have to center yourself to push your strength off of. You can do it. Let me show you.”
The ball shot from the dispenser, and I eased up to the alley next to him. Trent stood over me, flooding my nostrils with his infuriatingly delicious scent. He positioned my body and rolled my arm to align with the lane.
“Like that. Okay?”
I nodded my head and went for it. I didn’t get a strike, but did take out almost half the pins.
“See, you can do it. Let’s get a few more in.”
I took his advice and continued practicing. With every other attempt, it seemed I got better at it. I didn’t have enough to beat anyone, but it certainly boosted my confidence to play with others. At some point, Trent left my side for drinks. Well into my second cocktail, a name he wouldn’t share with me for some reason, I loosened up. Trent never asked for a turn. He closely watched and coached me to correct my mediocre game.
“Double A’s in the muthafuckin’ building!” someone shouted from behind me.
It was her and her husband, the basketball player. I watched as Trent’s long legs hovered over the guy, and broad shoulders curled over the shorter frame in front of him. Tynisha tapped away on her phone, never looking up. And I’ll be damned if she didn’t wear black leather pants with thigh high leather boots, making it impossible to see where one stopped and the other began. She topped it with a black turtle neck, faux fur vest, and wide brim brown hat. Dang. My eyes fell to my distressed boyfriend jeans and I sulked.
“She here, huhn?” the short guy asked as he rounded Trent, who made his way to a lagging Tynisha.
My heart beat hard, ready to fall into my stomach. Alton approached me as his eyes swept my entire body from head to toe. My eyes squinted. He had the nerve to lick his lips and grab his crotch. He flicked a quick eye over his shoulder en route to me.
“So, you Jada, huhn?”
“Jade,” I corrected before taking his hand, giving it a firm shake: I wanted no misunderstandings.
“Yeah, you tiny like her, too. My man treatin’ you right, Jada?” he repeated the wrong name, eyes still roving over me appreciatively.
Don’t be a creep. I don’t need the trouble tonight.
“The hell you mean, am I treating her right?” Trent boomed into the conversation, blasting a bright smile. “The fuck my name is?” He took me at the waist.
“Uhn-huhn… Pretty eyes.” Alton continued with the eye-hustling. “You let me know if this dude gets outta pocket. We SoJo brothers. He may reign from Camden, but I got the ‘Bridge on my back, and we eat niggas alive.” He puffed out his lips. “And beautiful women, too.”
“Ahhh…,” Trent cried. “C’mon with the bullshit. Ty is in the building. You don’t wanna find yourself in jail behind your antics tonight, bruh.”
Alton’s eyes whipped from my body up to Trent’s face. “Bruh? There you go with that North Jersey shit. You may live across the street from a Brick City nigga, but you down with the Philly tri-state, bro.”
“Speaking of him,” Trent noted and flipped his chin back toward the bar.
I followed his line of sight and saw a tall figure coming in: impossibly taller than Trent. He strolled in with his arm on an average height woman, who seemed to have a nice balance with his weight on her. They ‘fit.’
Dag, Stenton Rogers is tall!
“Alton!” Tynisha yelled from the sofa, unzipping her boots. “Come help me take these things off!”
“The fuck she wear heels to the damn bowling alley for?!” Alton hissed underneath his breath, but it was loud enough for us to hear. He shifted toward her, but whispered to Trent. “You know what this shit is all about, right? How the shit is gonna go down?” He gestured to me with his eyes before walking off.
“He doesn’t look that tall on TV,” I whispered.
“Dude is almost seven feet,” Trent replied, his eyes on the incoming party, too.
The woman on his arm was pretty. Pretty in the sense of a natural beauty with a friendly spark in her eyes. She had thick hair that was pushed from her face, falling past her shoulders. It was undoubtedly all hers. She wore next to no makeup, an ivory knitted turtleneck sweater, blue fitted jeans, and cognac knee boots with block heels. She smiled kindly as they approached us.
“Peace and blessings,” Stenton greeted, removing his limb from the woman’s shoulders. “What’s good, bruh.”
“Peace and blessings,” Trent returned as they embraced.
“Don’t start that church brotherhood shit!” Alton shouted from feet away.
No one seemed to be moved by that comment. Was I the only one sensitive to this guy’s antics?
“You ready for this whoopin’ I’m about to put on you?” Trent asked.
“Ready to send you home embarrassed in front of the lady.” He extended his hand to me. “Stenton.”
I accepted it. “Jade. Nice to meet you, StentRo.”
His lady sputtered a laugh, her neck extended to face him. “I like her already.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Stenton smirked as he shook his head. “TB, check that, man. I may need to find a private corner somewhere to toss this one over my knee.” He gestured to the woman. They all laughed at that. I couldn’t stop my thoughts of that threat to concentrate. “Anyway, Jade, this naughty girl is my wife, Zoey.”
“Hi, Zoey. Nice to meet you, too.”
“Hey, Jade.” She shook my hand. “It’s great to see Trent off the block and outside of church.”
“Dang, Zo. Church is the best place to be,” Stenton playfully argued as he hugged her.
“I don’t even think Ezra would agree with that in technical terms,” Zoey returned.
“Your nasty ass, Niña!” Stenton busted out laughing. Trent followed.
“Well,” Zoey replied casually with hiked brows.
“Yo, man. Y’all over there huddled on y’all kumbaya shit. We ain’t come here for communion. I came to beat some ass. Let’s get this started, yo!” Alton yelled over.
“C’mon,” Trent advised. “I already got the game set up.”
On our way over, Zoey tapped me from under her husband’s arm. “It’s good to see another woman so tiny under her man’s arm. This guy looks like he could crush me.”
“I do crush you,” Stenton murmured over her head with slanted eyes.
Zoey shook her head at that.
“If you haven’t noticed, everybody looks to be able to crush me,” I joked in response.
“Not Alton,” Trent spoke loud.
“Not Alton, what the fuck?” Alton asked sincerely, going for a bowling ball.
This time, the four of us laughed at the private joke. For once, someone found this guy to be a natural comedian. We took our seats around the kiosk where Alton and Tynisha went first and Trent and I went last. The guys had constant banter playing while we drank and nibbled on finger foods. There was continuous laughter and joke throwing. I learned Stenton was just okay at bowling; Zoey was a bit better. Tynisha wasn’t so bad herself, and Alton was a constant scorer. However, Trent was leading on the scoreboard with most of his attempts ending in strikes.
We were on our third game when I realized Tynisha had been speaking to everyone but me. She barely spoke to Trent. It made me wonder what was her problem. She would joke with Zoey a lot. I could tell they were friends. But when Zoey would talk with me, Tynisha had nothing to offer. Trent had just sat back down from getting us another round of drinks. I noticed he was liberal with his intake, something unusual for him. I’d never seen him kick his feet up with other people, and throw back a few. It was good to witness.
“You okay?” he asked, using his body to shield my view from everyone else.
“Yeah. Everybody’s cool except for Tynisha,” I whispered. “She seems to be throwing you shade, too.”
Trent rolled his eyes. “Don’t sweat that. Ty always tight about one thing or another. This is what we do. As long as she doesn’t antagonize you, I’m good. Here.” He handed me another tumbler. “This is your last one for the night. I don’t want to be an irresponsible date.”
“Trent, you don’t always have to be the responsible party, you know. I’m someone’s mother, and sometimes even I get tired of always overseeing. I can take the shift sometimes.” God knows I would feel less rejection from you if you shared the role.
“Just enjoy yourself, shawtie.” He winked.
“What y’all love birds over there talking about? Who gonna do the next load of laundry?” Alton asked. “‘Memba we used to get excited over petty shit like that when we was new to living with our ladies, StentRo?”
Stenton scratched his eyebrow, eyes lined with humor. “Nah, bruh. Never negotiated that.”
“Please. Me either.” Tynisha snorted. “That may be true for one person here, but I see money everywhere else.” Was that jab meant for me? “I remember I had to beg Zoey to get a damn maid. You can tell when people new money. They don’t know how to use it.”
“And how old exactly is your money, Ty?” Zoey asked with a lifted brow. “Because if I’m not mistaken, you just came into some within the past ten years or so. And you never told me your parents had money.”
“You know what I mean,” Tynisha fired back; her wings had been clipped.
“You knew what you meant. Not me, Ty. Be nice. Nobody like snobs.” She issued her friend a cautious glare as Alton laughed.
My eyes shot to Trent, whose wink confirmed Zoey’s jab was for me. She was taking up for me.
“And when did yo’ ass ever offer to do more than sit your lil ass down with your feet up, Al?” Tynisha turned her wrath to her husband. “I wish I ain’t have to pay so much for the help we got!”
Alton’s head snapped back and his face wrinkled. “You paying? What?” He raised his upturned palms in the air. “Like I bring in pennies or some shit. You ain’t the only one the network cutting a check for! I ‘on’t work, Nisha?”
Tynisha was done with the topic. She rolled her eyes under the brim of her hat and went back to her cell phone.
“You’re up, J,” Trent kneed me. “You want me to come with you?”
I shook my head, went up for my turn, and bowled my first strike. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I turned to look for Trent. He was right there, just a few feet away. I ran and jumped on him.
“Congrats, little one.” He spun me in his arms.
“I see you get your practice in, in that installed alley at the crib, Jada!” Alton spoke over the music.
My eyes flew to Trent once on my feet. His regard went elsewhere.
“That shit is lit! I remember when he first got it built. Yo, the wild shit we got into in them days, yo.” I could see Stenton slap his forehead, bracing himself. “Remember when you and Johnson threw that party when everybody had to wear only G-strings? Yo, on the way over I asked StentRo, ‘What type of gay shit is this?’ Bro! When I stepped in that bitch and saw all them damn titties and asses, I was blind to the niggas’ asses. That party was off the damn chain!”
I turned to face Trent. His face was to the ground as he shook his head, denying Alton’s claims. Stenton basically followed suit, hiding his smile. Zoey’s eyes were big as she followed the story.
“When was this party—” Tyisha tried asking.
“That ain’t the point!”—Alton quickly brushed past that setup question—“Yo! Remember the other one they had when TB had it decorated like a strip club with poles and shit? And when he came out dancing, I fell the fuck out! ‘Dem bitches was on line to ride that damn bull! I pulled up a chair right next to his, sat my ass down, and motioned for them to form a line to come get this, man! Then Jordan started shooting crisp dollar bills from that blow machine. Them bitches went cur-aye-zee!” he sang. “That shit didn’t end till the next night. ‘Memba that, StentRo?”
“Again I ask: when the hell was this?” Tynisha demanded.
She and Alton began going back and forth about the subject while Zoey and Stenton snickered on the sideline. I knew they were older than Trent, but in that moment, Alton’s pint size frame appeared as a teen, trying to hang with his big brothers. He couldn’t filter what was appropriate to discuss in front of the ladies. Trent bowled his turn and when he returned to his seat, he placed his head on my neck. As soon as I was comfortable with the idea of him finally being true to form and getting sleepy, Alton called him out.
“Nah! Don’t try that innocent church boy act now, nigga! Yo, Jada, did you know TB a stripper, too?”
I gasped, but found it funny.
“Yo, chill, Al,” Stenton tried. “This is a real date for them.”
Alton laughed. “Fuck that! Did you know his stage name is Shoot ‘Em Up, sweetheart?”
My eyes shot over to Trent, though his head was on my shoulder and I couldn’t see his. All of a sudden he’d convinced me.
“See! See! She ain’t know! C’mon, son-son, you rolling out your talents slowly? That’s one of them traits you should give first. Like: Shit, I can fuck!” Alton slapped his palms together and cracked up.
“You were a stripper?” I spoke low for privacy. Trent shook his head, but didn’t speak. “Wait! Are you being shy?”
“Like hell he is. Trust me, bands’ll make this dude dance. Ask StentRo.”
I glanced over to Stenton. He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to hide his amusement, too. “Shoot ‘Em Up!” he shouted Trent out. “It’s the CMD way!”
I didn’t know what that meant. I’d seen Trent move a little in victory when he’d win a PlayStation game against Kyree. He had some swag with his movements, but so did lots of athletes. A stripper is a different type of dancer.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed about not knowing how to dance,” I whispered.
“Hold up.” Alton jumped to his feet. “You got her staying with you rent free and you ain’t getting the ass, man!” he charged rather than asked.
Trent sat up and raised his index finger. “First, mind your damn business, shorts,” he spoke to Alton. “Second,” He raised his other to me, “Shoot ‘Em Up has absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. My shit correct, little one.”
“Ah, shit!” Alton jumped up and down. He looked frantically across the place. “Where the people? We need the D.J. and a chair.” He scurried off.
“You done got him started,” Stenton warned, laughing.
“Which one?” Zoey echoed the question.
“Both,” he replied.
Alton came back with a chair, placing it just before the runway. The music died around us.
“Ah, man.” Trent exhaled. “This guy’s serious.”
“You should’ve known,” Tynisha grumbled.
Luke’s “I Wanna Rock” began to stream from the speakers.
“Hell no!” Alton yelled into the air. The track dropped. “I said something sexy for a stripper. We don’t want that predictable shit for Shoot ‘Em Up!”
Stenton and Trent laughed senselessly. Stenton’s long frame lay out over his wife. Trent sat up and started unlacing his bowling shoes.
“This dude…,” he mumbled, gaiting over toward his Timbs. “Always starting shit.”
“Come sit, Jada,” Alton demanded, still using the wrong name, I was sure purposely at this point. Alton Alston didn’t give a shit about anything. “I’mma show you who that church boy really is.” I hopped down the platform steps and sat in the chair. “Aye, TB,” he shouted loud over to Trent, “you gonna thank me later, man!”
It was still quiet when Trent came down and stood a few feet away from me. A trace of hesitation on his face, yet he was going for it. So why was I so nervous? Alton’s little arms reached up and rubbed Trent’s round shoulders, mimicking a trainer. He whispered something to him that Trent fought against laughing.
“Aye, yo, D.J.!” Alton shouted. “Something now!”
Stenton and Zoey laughed mindlessly from their seats. Tynisha sat with her fist propped under her chin, looking bored and annoyed. I was too anxious to be put off.
I heard what resembled underwater sounds, of what I wasn’t sure. Alton was still whispering in Trent’s ear as he watched me. Then the beat dropped. A strange changing of his pupils began taking place: they were darkening. All humor was gone. My heart pounded, I was sure out loud. I’d never heard the song, but I recognized R. Kelly’s vocals. Trent’s lips parted as his eyes bore into me. To be a good sport, I motioned with my index finger for him to come.
Out of nowhere, Trent dropped to the floor and slid fluidly over to me on only one knee. He landed at my lap and stretched my thighs open at the knees. The movement so quick, it scared the living shit out of me.
“That’s right!” I could hear Alton shout. “Magic Mike her lil’ ass, TB!”
Trent rolled his head in between my thighs suggestively, managing not to touch me. He leaned back to sit on his heels and held his palms facing up. That’s when his long and wide tongue flipped out and his neck rolled in a rapid swooping motion, mimicking him eating… Me? He jumped to his feet on beat and with flash quickness. His waist began to roll as he thrust his pelvis in the air. Trent slowly pulled up his thermal shirt from over his head and used it to mimic his penis before tossing it in my face. I snatched it down quickly, realizing he was going for his t-shirt next. That’s when I realized this was a real stripper’s dance. I wanted to see it all.
When that came off, he tossed it to the side and gyrated low to the floor, his abs rolling like a mechanical machine on the way down. He ended up with one hand on the floor and the other on his raised knee cap as he gyrated his pelvis in the air again. Oh! My! God! Trent’s waist seemed to be a totally detached body part, that’s how sinuously it rolled in the air. He leaped to his feet and encouraged the audience to clap at the rhythm of the pre-chorus. Once the beat dropped, he leaped into the air and literally floated onto the back of my chair where he balanced himself on the back handle, swung his crotch in my face, and pumped. I mean, in my face. He was so close I could feel his erection against my nose.
He swung his body in the air until his pelvis was square in my face and rubbed against it as he descended onto my lap. That’s when I got my first lap dance. His pelvis, abs, and chest rolled vertically between my face, breasts, and lap. My temperature spiked, and I could feel the glop of desire as it left my sex. Trent’s face was hard and blank as he rolled back on my lap, using my weave as anchor. He clutched my hair as he grinded backward with his head and back leaning toward the floor, but his hard dick rolled in my face, breasts, and lap. The song went to climax and that’s when everything sped up.
One second I was in my seat, carefully trying to follow his every rapid and high sensual movements. And the next, I was up on my feet, bent over the chair with my hips spread wide as Trent pelted into me. My spine held against the heavy successions, but my eyes collapsed at the implication.
Trent could fuck if his technique was anything like this.
R. Kelly sang, “Murder, murder!” rapidly and rhythmically, and I fought to keep the top of my head from beating into the back of the chair. Trent impaled my ass that strongly and quickly. It was as though he was shooting damn bombs from his cock. My spine shivered. I couldn’t believe I was so wrapped up in eroticism with people watching. I was definitely aware. Nonetheless, my body’s reaction was so unexpected and inclined to meld into Trent’s every maneuver. Each move he made was lewd and so was my body’s reception to it. At one point, my feet were off the floor and my hands gripping the seat of the chair.
He flipped me onto the floor and I landed on my back. My legs were pushed into the air and his body rolled gracefully from my head to pelvis, in between my thighs. I slapped my hands over my eyes when I realized he was mimicking eating and fucking me. Damn, Trent! This went on until the track ended.
Trent helped me to my feet, his eyes examining me from head to toe while his face was contorted, channeling something unknown. Then his regard went up over my head. My hands patted my hair.
The screams and applause from the small group made me want to crawl into a hole. I was publicly aroused and sure everyone in the building knew. It was a man down situation. I wanted him now more than ever. I knew from the moment this was over until we came to some type of agreement, I was in trouble.
New music began streaming out of nowhere. The guys rushed the floor to Trent in boisterous affirmation. He received them somehow as he went about picking up his shirts. I turned, ashamed of my ruffled appearance.
“Holy mother of Joseph!” I heard from behind me. “Are you okay?” Zoey wrapped her arm around me. Her cheeks heated and smile was bright, showing the same excitement as the guys.
I tried to nod.
“Yeah…you gonna need this.” I felt a poke at my shoulder. It was Tynisha handing me a wide-tooth comb before turning right back around and strutting to the sofa. “Alton, bring your ass. I gotta get up early for hair and makeup. We shoot in the morning!”
“She’s going home to let off the steam you and Trent built down here,” Zoey whispered. I couldn’t help a sheepish giggle. “Girl, no need to be prudish, I’m going home to let it rip after that! That was hot! Who knew?”
I sure as hell didn’t, and I live with the man.
“That was insane,” I murmured while trying to comb my hair into a decent style. “That’s all I know!”
Zoey laughed. “Come on. They’re going to kick us out. Our time is up now.”
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