Cast of Characters
was once a straight-A student with dreams of getting the hell out of Memphis, but she took a detour on her dreams when she fell in love with Raymond “Profit” Lewis, the younger brother of Fat Ace. The war between the Vice Lords and her sister's set, the Gangster Disciples, puts her between a rock and a hard place. When she failed to take her sister's warning to heart, she was unprepared for the consequences.
is Queen G for the Memphis Gangster Disciples. Not only does she love her man, Python, but she loves the power her position affords her and there is nothing that she won't do to ensure that she never loses any of itâthat includes doing whatever it takes to keep her younger sister in line and handling the many chicken heads pecking at her heels.
Willow “Lucifer” Washington
is Fat Ace's right hand and as deadly as they come. A true ride-or-die chick to her core.The latest explosion between the sets will have her true feelings bubbling to the top, and when she's forced to step up to lead, she proves that you don't need a set of balls to wash the streets with blood.
Qiana “Scar” Barrett
is a Vice Lord Flower and the younger sister of Vice Lord soldier Tombstone. She's long been in love with Profit and will do anything to see Ta'Shara removed from his arm. She's also crossed enemy lines to forge a deal with Queen G LeShelle to erase Python's baby mama,Yolanda.
Maybelline “Momma Peaches” Carver,
Python's beloved aunt, believes and acts as if she's still wildin' out in her twenties. With an arrest record a mile long, Peaches is right in the thick of things and when old family secrets start coming home to roost, her partying days may be well behind her.
is Momma Peaches's baby sister and mother to rival gang leaders Python and Fat Ace. She has escaped the mental hospital to settle old debts. She is tortured by regrets and loss, and her demons may lead her tragic life to a tragic end.
is the ex-wifey of Gangster Disciple Python, who was thrown off her throne and nearly beaten to death after getting caught creeping. Now married to Grape Street Crip leader Lynch, Shariffa not only wants payback, she wants her new crew to take over the entire street game.
Ja'nay “Trigger” Clark,
Shariffa's right-hand chick, proves that there's nothing she won't do for her girl. But one hit in Vice Lords' territory lands her in Lucifer's crosshairsâthe last place anyone wants to be.
Detective Melanie Johnson
is the daughter of the most decorated and crooked cop on the Memphis Police Department payroll. Unfortunately, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. She has her own skeletons in the closet, but none bigger than being the lover of both leaders of the dueling gangs, Python and Fat Ace.
Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Terry
is an ex-drug mule turned stripper turned Python's latest baby momma. Convinced that she's the smartest chick on the block, her ambition has led her to cross paths with Python's real wifey, LeShelle. Her recklessness has already cost her her best friend, Baby Thug, but this time, she stands to lose a whole lot more than she bargained for.
Ta'Shara Murphy's best friend and once the lone voice of reason, now finds herself tripping over the same pitfalls that snared her friend. Of all things, she finds herself a pawn between the two biggest bitches in the game . . . with just a hope and a prayer of getting out alive.
The light. Where is the light in Mason's eyes? The world tilts off its axis as my brain forces my heart to accept the unbelievable.
The leader of the Memphis Vice Lords . . . my lover, my best friend . . . my lifeâdead. Flipped upside down in a black Escalade on the side of the highway, I'm twisted in an awkward position. It feels like every damn bone in my body is broken. Still I scream until my voice fails and my lungs beg for oxygen.
Since we were kids, I've been Mason's ride-or-die chickânot because of the shared allegiance with the Vice Lord family, but because I loved the air he breathed and the ground he walked on.
Until recently, he didn't know about the torch I carried for him. To him, I was his right-hand bitch, blasting and carving niggas up who dared to cross the Vice Lord family. I never realized that my brother Bishop had cock-blocked my ass and made it clear with his best friend that I was off-limits. All that shit changed when that crooked-ass cop Melanie Johnson got murked and all her secrets fell out of the closet. The bitch had some kind of hold on himâand apparently Mason's life-long sworn enemy, Python, too. She had even convinced Mason that she was carrying his child.
I knew the bitch was no good and was more than thrilled when Mason realized where his heart truly belongedâwith me.
A couple of hours ago we made love for the first time. Hell, there's still a sweet soreness throbbing between my legs that if I close my eyes I can still feel him.
Rare tears fuck up my vision and splash over my lashes as I try to accept the unacceptable.
This shit wasn't supposed to go down like this. We had planned everything. Everything.
Hit the Pink Monkey, blow that shit up.
Hit Goodson Construction, mow down every Gangster Disciple in sight.
The hitch: Python's ass was nowhere to be found.
Bishop fucked up. He was the one who'd been in charge of tagging that nigga. Instead of hitting the chief, we got his second-in-command, McGriff. Turned out his ass was cutting his own deal with their supplier behind Python's back, tryna come up. We did that muthafucka a favor takin' them out.
That shit didn't sit well with Mason.
Hyped on a murderous high, we made up a new plan on the fly and drove our murder train toward the heart of the Gangster Disciples: Shotgun Row.
The shit was bold. Any other time, we would've known it was a suicide mission. We were picked off a few miles out. Bullets flew like we were in the Middle East. By chance we spotted Python. We chased that ass going the wrong way on the highway. We were gaining ground until a near head-on collision with an eighteen-wheeler spun and then flipped us off the road.
“Muthafucka, answer me! What the fuck is your real name?” Python, the chief nigga of the Gangster Disciples, roars at Mason. They are inches outside the flipped vehicle where the nigga was just wailing his meaty fist against Mason's jaw. Both gangsta chiefs are physically intimidating men. Their major differences are that Python is covered in tats and has a surgically altered tongue so that it resembled one of a snake. Mason, a little bulkier, a little darker, shiny on top with a goatee and one fucked up eye that he lost in a gun battle years ago. Despite these differences, I'm suddenly hit with the realization that at this angle these two look eerily similar.
“ANSWER ME,” Python roars.
“G-get away from him,” I spit, ignoring the taste of my own blood. However, the pain ricocheting throughout my body intensifies to the point that I know I'm on the verge of blacking out. I don't care. I need to protect my man at all cost.
Then this nigga does something that surprises the shit out of me.The muthafucka starts crying. I ain't talking about a few bullshit sniffles either. It's a gut-wrenching roar of a wounded lion.
The heavens crack with thunder and lightning flashes across the sky. A second later, rain falls in torrential sheets as Python tucks his head into the crook of Mason's neck and weeps.
“I didn't know,” he croaks. “I didn't know.”
I'm numb all over except where my heart feels like it's being chiseled out of my chest. I don't understand what the fuck I'm looking at and I ain't too sure that I'm not imagining this shit. Tears? From this big, overgrown nigga who thinks his ass is a snake?
Nobody is going to believe this shit, especially since the war between the Vice Lords and the Gangster Disciples has been raging decades before any of us burst onto the scene. But no two gang leaders have ever beefed harder than Mason and Python. It's like the world demands that there can only be one.
“Forgive me,” Python sobs. “Please forgive me.”
This nigga has lost it.
I redouble my efforts and after a hell of a lot of huffing and puffing, I'm able to move my arm about an inch. It's not much, but my fingertips brush the barrel of Mason's TEC-9.
I can do it. I can do it.
I don't know why this muthafucka is crying and I really don't give a shit. I'm more interested in street justice. An eye for an eye. A life for a life.
I take pride in being the baddest bitch breathing so it's killing me that the pain seizing me right now is getting the best of me. Darkness encroaches my peripheral and a new desperation takes hold of me.
I can't black out now. I can't.
I know at my core that I'll never be able to forgive myself if I don't take this human reptile out.
Chugging in a deep breath, my nose burns from the stench of gasoline.
Is this muthafucka about to blow up?
It takes everything I have to twist my head around, but everywhere I turn, the smell grows stronger until it feels like my nose hairs are on fire.
If it blows, it blows. The three of us can blaze up and that shit is just fine with me. In fact, I prefer it. I won't have to return to Ruby Cove with my tail tucked between my legs and buzzing whispers about how my gangsta wasn't tight enough to protect our leader. Niggas will look for any excuse to try to knock a bitch off her throne. But if we all go out together, we'll become legends in the streets. I close my eyes and allow death to seduce me.
A sob lodges in my throat, forcing me to choke on the son of a bitch. Hell, I can't tell what hurts more, my broken body or my broken heart.
Regardless, if death is coming, the bitch is slow.
My eyes fly open. I need a spark to set this shit off. My gaze darts around again for somethingâ
that can make a spark.
“I didn't know. I didn't know,” Python sobs again, clinging tighter to Mason.
What the fuck did this nigga not know?
My gaze returns to the two gangstas, but what I see does nothing to clear up my confusion. Either I banged my head too hard or I'm seeing that this nigga really is broken up about taking his long-time enemy out. Soaked to the bone, Python has wrapped Mason in his arms and is rocking back and forthâmuch like I would do, if I could get my ass to move.
My brain flies back to the TEC-9. If I can get one shot off, I can end all this bullshit. I draw in another deep breath to build up my resolve, but the strong scent of gasoline now has waves of bile crashing around in my gut and burning up my esophagus. Choking on my own vomit is not the way I'd pictured exiting the game.
At the last second, I'm able to roll onto my side and hurl. But even that shit feels like I'm hawking up gobs of broken glass. Before long, I'm swimming in acidic bile.
“I'm taking you home,” I catch Python saying through the booming thunder and hammering rain. Next, he awkwardly struggles to pick Mason up.
“Wait. No!” I choke on more bile. “What are you doing?”
He ignores me as he struggles to stand on the wet earth. After splashing around, he hooks his arms underneath Mason's and then locks his fingers across his chest so that he can drag him away from the vehicle. If he succeeds it will fuck up my plan.
Clenching my jaw tight and holding my breath, I force myself to calm down. For my troubles, my stomach revolts and cramps up.
Move your ass! Move your ass!
I thrust my hand up again to reach that damn semiautomatic. Again, my fingertips brush the barrel.
“C'mon, Willow. C'mon.” I twist and squirm while Python succeeds in dragging Mason from view. “NOOOOOOO!” Fat tears roll over my lashes at a clip that blinds my ass. I redouble my efforts, but I . . . just . . . can't reach this muthafucka.
I can't block out the horrific images of what the Gangster Disciples will do to Mason's body once Python gets it back to his home turf. Everything from chopping him up, pissing and shitting on him and even sexually molesting him, crosses my mind. I know how the GDs get down and that's not the way Mason deserves to be taken out.
“Oh God, baby. I'm so sorry.” Something snaps within me and tears that I've been holding back for decades pour out of me. I'm not a crier. I never cry. But this shit has broken me. I can't imagine a world without my nigga. I never thought I had to.
I close my eyes and hear the opening and closing of a car door. Less than ten seconds later, an engine roars to life and tires squeal in a growing pool of wet earth. My sobs grow more pathetic and no mental military barking can get my ass to stop.
I fucked up.
I fucked up.
I fucked up.
That shit repeats in my head for I don't know how long before I hear another vehicle pull off to the side of the road. Even then I don't know or even give a shit who the hell it is. I want to be left alone in my own private hell until I die from my car injuries or from my shattered heart.
“WILLOW,” Bishop yells, cutting through the bullshit cluttering my head. “Willow, are you fucking in there?”
I battle myself on whether to answer.To try and save myself after this colossal fuck-up seems too much like a bitch move.
I squeeze my eyes tight and will my brother to go away.
The desperation in his voice tears at me. The sibling beefs we've had in our lives are so fucking small in the grand scheme of things. If a gun was pressed to my head to name someone who has loved me unconditionally my entire life, the name I'd spit would be: Bishop. I followed him and Mason into this game like an irritating pest and I forged my moniker in the street with the big dawgsânot the Flowers. I didn't want to just lock down a big lieutenant and play wifey. I wanted to be the big lieutenant and tell the world to suck my balls.
I succeeded. My people love me but more importantly they respect my ass. There's never a question of whether I can hold shit down. But after tonight, will that change?
“Death, where are you?” I beg softly. “Take me out of this place.”
“Here she is,” Bishop shouts.
My eyes spring back open and I see Bishop's scared face through the shattered glass of the front window. The second our eyes connect, I see hope ripple across his chiseled face.
“Don't worry,Willow.We're going to get you out of there.”
That's what the fuck I'm afraid of.
“Hold on.” Bishop hops back onto his feet and calls out to the other members of our fam. “Y'all niggas, c'mon over here and help me get her out of here!”
“No.” Weakly, I shake my head. It's all I can do since I lack the strength to beg him to let me die.
As the storm rages on, I pick up the faint sound of wailing police sirens.
“C'mon, nigga. We need to hurry this shit up,” Bishop barks.
“Grab her feet and pull her out this way,” Novell, I think, shouts.
When he grabs the bottom of my foot, I roar, “AAAAAR-RRRRGGGH,” and nearly burst my own damn eardrums.
“NIGGA, STOP!” Bishop snatches Novell back. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Are you blind or some shit? Look at her fuckin' leg. Can't you see that we can't pull her out that way? Look at her leg.”