Authors: Adrianne Byrd
hat in the hell was I thinking?” Gisella asked herself for the umpteenth time. She stumbled into her sister's apartment with her arms weighed down with groceries. “There's no way I can go out with him. I'm supposed to stay away from his kind,” she argued. “He's a womanizer. A dog.”
In the kitchen, she plopped everything onto the counter and nearly slumped to the floor herself. “And on the other hand, the man sure can kiss.” She sighed.
Sasha meowed and danced around Gisella's feet. “Don't worry. I haven't forgotten about you,” she said, gathering up her energy and retrieving a can of cat food from the cabinet.
After setting down Sasha's food and water, Gisella headed toward the shower, debating whether she needed to make it a hot one or a cold one since her mind and body kept responding to the memory of Charlie's kisses.
She settled on hot. When she closed her eyes to enjoy the pulsing water against her skin, Charlie floated around in her head with his soft lips and talented tongue. It was as if he had made love to her mouth. That was the only way to describe it.
Where was her shame, standing in the middle of her shop,
in front of Robert,
and allowing Charlie to hold and seduce her like that? And why was it that she craved for him to do it again?
She sighed, remembering how each time his tongue dipped and caressed her own, her heart had skipped a beat, but that was nothing compared to how her body tingled whenever the tips of her breasts pressed against his chest.
“I don't know why you're fighting it,
” Fantasy Charlie whispered in her ear. “
You know you want me.
That was an understatement.
Before her imagination got carried away, Gisella shut off the water and climbed out of the shower. She dried off and rushed through her regime of oils and lotions as an attempt to keep Fantasy Charlie at bay. To be more contrary, she dressed in her old two-piece cotton pajamas instead of anything lacy or satiny.
I still think you look sexy,
” Fantasy Charlie said, stretching across the bed.
“Oh, go away,” she said. She climbed into bed and gave him her back.
Fantasy Charlie chuckled.
Maybe she should cancel the date. What was the point in going out with him? She still didn't know the story between him and her sister. The last thing she wanted was Anna's leftovers.
Plus, would she be able to handle herself and keep her knees locked against a man so charming and charismatic?
You're kidding, right?
” Fantasy Charlie rolled over and laid his head against her arm. He smiled. “
We both know how tomorrow night is going to end.
Her heart raced at the thought of their different shades of brown skin rubbing against each other.
Fantasy Charlie winked.
“You shouldn't have agreed to that date,” the angel on her shoulder scolded.
Hey, I'm a changed man,
” Fantasy Charlie protested.
Gisella glanced up into his dancing hazel eyes while doubt crept around in her mind.
The devil on her left shoulder laughed. “I say we jump his bones the minute he shows up at the door.”
I second that motion,
” Fantasy Charlie said.
“You stay out of this,” Gisella snapped.
He held up his hands in surrender. “
All right. But maybe you should answer the phone.
She frowned at him and in the next second, the phone rang. Gisella whipped her head toward the nightstand and then back toward Fantasy Charlie.
He was gone.
Hesitantly, she answered. “Hello.”
“I'm dreaming about tomorrow night,” the
Charlie informed her in a deep, sexy baritone. “What about you?”
Gisella hedged on how to answer.
“Yeah, I'm here,” she said.
“You're not thinking about canceling, are you?” he asked with a note of trepidation.
She shrugged. “What if I said yes?”
“I'd remind you that we made a deal. One date in exchange for my silence. Remember?”
“I'd hate to have to drive over to the Ritz Carlton and knock on Robert's room to have a man-to-man talk.”
Gisella frowned. “You know where he's staying?”
“Let's just say that I like to take out insurance when brokering important deals.” He chuckled.
“And don't bother trying to make me feel guilty about blackmailing you,” he added. “I've already prayed for forgiveness.”
Finally laughing at the situation and his tactics, Gisella gave up. “All right. You win.”
“Touchdown. Picture me dancing in the end zone.”
His laugh was infectious. Gisella smiled, turned off the light on the nightstand and burrowed beneath the sheets. “How did you get this number?”
“The Internet, remember.”
“You're a regular detective.”
“I view it as going after something I want.”
“Do you always get what you want?”
After a long silence, he answered, “Not always. No.”
There was unmistakable note of sadness in his voice. Gisella wondered at its source, but hesitated in asking.
“Anyway,” Charlie said, snapping out of his melancholy. “I called because I wanted to tell you to dress sexy-casual tomorrow night. The more leg the better, but if you want to tease me with some cleavage action, too, I won't complain.”
She laughed at his audacity. “Thanks for the information.”
“Don't mention it. Can you dance?”
“I can hold my ownâ¦as long as my partner isn't a stripper pole. I'll leave that fine art to some of the other women you date.”
“Ooh. Frenchie has claws. No wonder you and Killer get along so well.”
She giggled. “Sasha is not a killer.”
“Yeah, right. That orange puffball is lucky there's no such thing as a kitty jail, or I would have had her butt hauled downtown.”
Gisella warmed at the sound of his laughter and realized that it was something that she could easily get used to hearing.
“It's late,” he said. “I better let you get some sleep.”
She didn't want to hang up, but wouldn't allow herself to admit it.
“Sweet dreams, Gisella.”
Charlie disconnected the call and then smiled up at the ceiling in his darkened bedroom. With everything that was going on in his life, he couldn't believe that he'd found something so precious. He couldn't believe how much he was looking forward to his date with Gisella. He already missed holding and kissing her.
I've picked a hell of time to fall in love.
He flinched and his smile evaporated. Why on earth had he used the L-word? Surely, he wasn't
. He hardly knew the woman.
Sure she was beautiful and charming. And maybe there was something about the way she looked at him that in one minute he felt like an awkward teenager and in the next he felt dominant and masculine.
Charlie rolled onto his side and stared at the wall.
Maybe there was something about the way their bodies snapped together like pieces of a puzzle when he kissed her. It was as if they were a natural extension of each other. And whenever their mouths melded together, it was explosive.
No. He couldn't wait for tomorrow night.
“Remember, you promised to be on your best behavior,”
Fantasy Gisella said, suddenly appearing next to him.
“Trust me. I'm going to be the
The next day crawled at a snail's pace. Every five minutes, Charlie's gaze found its way to a watch or a clock. Once, he tried to tell the time by the angle of the sun. During meetings and conference calls, his mind kept drifting to the night's possibilities.
Charlie attempted a few more black book calls, but majority of the B's and C's had either changed or disconnected their numbers.
Taariq dropped by and invited him to the Jocks and Jill's Sports Bar for lunch. He agreed but hardly paid attention to the food or the conversation.
“Are you all right, man?” Taariq asked. “I feel like I'm boring you or something.”
Charlie blinked out of his trance and shook his head. “Sorry, bro. What were you saying?”
Taariq eyeballed him and then lowered his forkâan event that never happened when red meat was in the vicinity. “What's up with you? Me and the fellahs have been noticing you haven't exactly been acting like yourself.”
“I don't know what you mean,” Charlie lied.
“C'mon, man. What do I look like to you?”
Charlie almost laughed, especially since he was trying not to stare at the large bald spot Bobby had shaved on the side of his head.
“We're boys, remember?” Taariq said. “We've known each other for sixteen years. I know when something's up with you, man. Why don't you just spit it out?”
Guilt erupted in Charlie like a geyser. Here he was calling old flames and readily confessing the doctor's prognosis and he'd yet to tell the truth to the closest people around him. Mainly because once they knew, his life would irreversibly change. He wasn't ready for that right now.
“Nah, man. Everything's fine,” he insisted, this time with his best poker face.
Their eyes locked for a long time before Taariq gave him a slow nod, but his eyes called him a liar.
Gisella tried on every dress in her closetâtwiceâand still didn't like any of them. Breaking sister rule number one, she went into Anna's room to raid her closet. It didn't help since 1. they had different body types, and 2. Anna's evening clothes were purchased back in the 1990s.
Sasha apparently found the whole thing amusing and followed Gisella from room to room.
In the end, Gisella decided on a short pale peach number that fell mid-thigh with a bubble hem. She felt self-conscious about her arms in the spaghetti straps, but confident that Charlie would be more than pleased about the amount of cleavage the dress displayed.
She accessed the various angles in the mirror about a hundred times and was just about to convince herself to change yet again, when the doorbell rang.
“He's early,” she gasped. She turned toward Sasha curled up at the foot of the bed. “How do I look?”
Sasha cocked her head and then quickly dismissed Gisella to focus back on her own grooming needs.
“Thanks a lot.” She took a final glance into the mirror and then rushed to answer the door. However, when she opened it her heart dropped.
“Nicoleâ¦Emmadonnaâ¦Jadeâ¦what are you girls doing here?”
The members of the Lonely Hearts Club shared their own astounded looks as their gazes raked over her.
Nicole jutted out a hip and crossed her arms. “We came to take you out,” she said. “We figured with Anna still out of town that you'd want some company. Looks like we were wrong.”
Without waiting for an invitation, Nicole waltzed into the apartment. Her two cohorts followed.
Jade shook her head. “Here we are planning a girls night out, and you're creeping out the back door. Who's the hot date?”
Gisella's eyes bulged. No way was she telling this group she had a date with a man they considered to be the undisputed enemy to womankind. “Um, no one,” she said, finding her tongue. The lie would have been more convincing if she wasn't standing in front of them in a three-hundred-dollar dress. “I have a business engagement.”
engagement,” Nicole echoed. “What, did I just fall off the turnip truck this morning?”
Deciding to come clean, Gisella tossed up her hands. “All right. I have a date, and he's going to be here any moment.”
Emmadonna chuckled. “Is that French for âget lost'?”
“Must be.” Jade laughed.
Gisella felt desperate. “Ladies, please. Thank you so much for thinking about me. Maybe we can do it another time.”
The women stared.
“Promise?” Gisella added.
“All right.” Jade said and straightened her shoulders. “We'll leaveâ¦but let me use your bathroom first.” She turned and marched toward the hallway.
“I'm after you,” Emmadonna chimed.