Authors: Renee Flagler
By Renee Daniel Flagler
Houston, Texas * Washington, D.C.
Â© 2014 by Renee Daniel Flagler
Brown Girls Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 9781625175052 (Digital)
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means including electronic, mechanical or photocopying or stored in a retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages to be included in a review.
First Brown Girls Publishing LLC trade printing
Manufactured and Printed in the United States of America
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It is reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped” book.
I don't even like those women that much,
Pearson Day thought, taking another gulp of Merlot. Wincing, she put her wine glass down on the dressing table with a little too much force. The dark red liquid swirled over the top. While checking the bottom of the glass to make sure it didn't break, Pearson caught the smirk on her husband Niles' face through the reflection in the mirror. She snarled back. He shook his head and walked out of the bedroom.
She picked up her compact and dabbed concealer under her eyes. “You should be happy I'm still going tonight,” she yelled after him.
“That's not the problem,” Niles yelled back from the master bath.
“That's not the problem,” Pearson scrunched her face and mocked.
“I heard that!”
Pearson snickered. The wine she'd been drinking while preparing for the evening started to warm her on the inside. She was finally feeling goodâalmost good enough to be bothered with âthe ladies' for the next few hours. Vonita wasn't so bad. In fact, she was quite grounded. Pearson liked her most. Ryan seemed to be in need of a nice, strong spine, but it was Nadalia's mouth and attitude that raked Pearson's nerves. Those women were a cast of characters and Niles wanted her to befriend them, ordering her to âbe nice' around them just because they were attached to his friends.
If it hadn't happened in all these years, why would it happen now?
Pearson had no problem with the guys and waved her thoughts of the women away. Truthfully, she knew she wasn't the easiest to get along with because she never had many friends. These women were the closest things to friends she'd had in a long time.
“Babe, you need to hurry up and get dressed. We're going to be late.”
Pearson looked up at Niles' frustrated expression. He stared back at her through the mirror, pleading with his eyes.
He had been ready to go for a whileââall decked out in a peach shirt, a brown velour sports jacket, and matching brown shoes. His naturally wavy crop was cut close to his head and a freshly-trimmed goatee framed his perfect lips. She was still sporting a brown lace bra and matching panties as she sat at her vanity applying make-up.
Pearson looked into his hazel eyes that matched his amber complexion and licked her lips. In response to her seductive gesture, Niles cast his eyes toward the ceiling and waved her off.
“Come on, woman. We have to go.” He chuckled. “You're going to mess around and cause us to miss the whole evening with smiles like that.”
Niles walked up behind her, connecting with Pearson's eyes in the vanity mirror. For a moment, he held her gaze and watched her pink lips. Pearson admired what she saw as her gaze swept over him from head to...waist.
“You're wearing jeans?” She raised her brow.
“It's casual night at the Beck even though a sports jacket is still required.”
Pearson looked him up and down one last time, winked, and picked up her wine glass. Before she could get it to her lips, Niles pried it from her hand. A little spilled into her lap. She cut her eyes at him and Niles challenged her with his own look of defiance.
“You've had enough and we haven't even left the house. Can you please finish getting dressed?”
Pearson rolled her eyes, but she wasn't really upset. They had their issues, but after ten years of marriage, she was still giddy over him at times. He was the only human being for whom she'd curtail her razor-sharp tongue.
Pearson applied one last coat of gloss and lifted herself from the chair, holding onto the sides. “Oops!” she said and snickered at the fact that she nearly lost her footing. When she was steady, she turned to Niles. “I'm only doing this for you. I would never choose these women as friends.”
Pearson put her hands up, stopping him mid-sentence. “And don't tell me to be nice.”
She slipped on her strapless maxi dress with the airy layers of soft flowing chiffon, took one last look in the mirror, grabbed her evening purse, and headed downstairs.
Niles jogged down the steps and through the house at a brisk pace. Stopping at the front door, he turned to watch Pearson trailing behind. She could see the question he was itching to ask behind his eyes.
Pearson cast her eyes upward and sucked her teeth. “What?”
Niles took a deep breath. “Can you please take it easy tonight?” he asked, referring to her drinking.
“Sure, Niles,” Pearson replied and waved him off once again.
Pearson reached for the doorknob and heard him sigh behind her. She knew he was annoyed and hoped he'd get over it during the ride.
Fully dressed and ready to go, Ryan Lee paced the length of her spacious foyer while waiting for her husband Anderson to come home. She hoped she had successfully applied enough make-up to hide the evidence that she had been crying. The heartbreak she felt the night before had numbed. The more she became familiar with these emotions, the less time she spent wallowing in them. When she woke, she'd been done with the crying. However, the underlying rage never left; it only revealed itself passively.
Anderson left the previous afternoon with nothing more than a simple, “I'll be right back. I need to run by Niles' house real quick.” Ryan hadn't seen him since. All of her calls and texts went unanswered.
She knew he would return home soon because they had a dinner party to attend. It was Sage's birthday, and Anderson wouldn't miss dinner with the foursome at their favorite place. Ryan often felt like Sage, Niles, and Mike were more of a priority to Anderson than she was.
When she heard the tires of Anderson's Jaguar crackle against the gravel, moths took flight in her stomach. A fresh wave of anger enveloped her. She stopped pacing, stood rigidly still, and tried to tame her breathing.
As she continued rubbing her clammy palms together, Ryan flinched at the sound of the car door slamming. She envisioned each footstep, wondering what she would face when he walked through the door. She jumped again when she heard his keys in the lock. Shaking her hands, she tried to keep her trembling from making its way through her entire body. Her heart pounded as the locks tumbled, clicked and the doorknob turned. She convinced herself that she deserved an explanation and promised herself that she would stand her ground all the way through this time, no matter what he said.
Anderson pushed the door open and stepped in. They were face-to-face, Ryan's chest heaving. Anderson's expression showed no guilt. Ryan swallowed hard. So many words crowded her brain, pushing themselves to the tip of her tongue only to be held there. She didn't know what to say first.
“What's up, babe? You dressed already?” Anderson placed his hand on the small of her back and pecked her on the cheek.
Ryan's breathing increased.
How dare you walk up in here as if nothing happened? Where have you been since yesterday afternoon? Nothing is open all night but hotels, bars, and legs. So whose legs were you between?
“What happened to you?” she asked through tight teeth.
“I had some business to take care of,” Anderson responded indifferently, then walked to the kitchen at the back of the house. He grabbed an apple off the table and walked back into the foyer, crunching obnoxiously. “What time is it? I don't want to be late.”
Ryan stood straight, taller even, holding her breath for a moment. “Anderson!”
He turned and looked at her in a way that questioned what was wrong.
“Where. Were. You?”
“I told you I had to go by Niles,” he said as if her question was ridiculous.
“You weren't there all night, Anderson. Who were you with?”
“Let's not do this now. I need to take a shower and get dressed so we can get to Sage's birthday dinner, remember?”
Niles stopped chewing and held his apple in midair. He looked at Ryan as if she were crazy, then took slow steps in her direction. Ryan stepped back as he approached.
“You won't do this to me again. I'm your wife!” Her body defied her desire to stand firm and she trembled as she spoke. She felt her pale skin burn red hot. “You left here more than twenty-four hours ago. I called you...texted you. I deserve an explanation.”
Anderson took another bite of his apple. Ryan imagined him choking on it. He stood silent, gnawing as if that apple was the best thing he'd ever tasted. As if Ryan wasn't standing in front of him. She felt like she would explode into a million pieces and wished she could do just that so the heat of her rage would set him on fire.
“Ryanâ¦” He paused to take another bite. Juice from the apple shot from the sides of his mouth. He wiped it with the back of his hand. “We can talk about it after dinner. I don't feel like talking about this right now.”
“Well, I do!”
Anderson narrowed his eyes.
She wanted to smack him, kick him, something.
“Ryan, I had things to take care of.”
“All night?” She folded her arms, but looked away. “I won't put up with this much longer.”