Authors: Carl Weber
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To my daughter Jasmine, who will be leaving for college this month.
I am very proud of you. You have grown into quite the young lady.
Always remember: Make good choices.
Once again, I want to thank my fans for being supportive over the years and having my back. You've been an incredible support system. I pray that each and every one of you has the opportunity to live your dream as I have.
I was on my knees, out of breath, drenched in perspiration. My heart felt like it might burst out of my chest. I can't ever remember being that nervous, and to be quite frank, I was scared out of my wits. It felt like I was in the middle of someone else's horrible nightmare that had somehow become my own, which in some strange way was true. Only there was no waking up from this one. This was reality.
“Help me,” he murmured, his voice barely audible. “Please help me.”
I lifted my head, scanning the room nervously despite the fact that I already knew it was empty. I looked down at his face, sadly taking in the reality of the situation. He was dying. There was no doubt about that. You can always see when death is coming in the eyes. They are a mirror to the soul, and, well, the reflection was grim.
What the hell have I gotten myself into?
“Help me,” he murmured again. This time he took hold of my wrist with his trembling hand. Impulsively, I pulled my arm back to avoid his tightening grip; this consequently slid the nine-inch blade out of his chest. I watched as blood filled the hole the knife had come out of, and within seconds his hold on my wrist became limp.
“Dear God, what have I done?” I thought out loud.
“It looks like you just murdered a man,” a voice called out from behind me.
I jumped, startled that I was no longer alone. I turned toward the sound and found two uniformed police officers standing behind me with their guns drawn.
I raised both hands. “This is not what it looks like, officer,” I started, unable to keep the pleading tone out of my voice. I was begging them to believe me.
“Really,” one of the cops said. “Because it looks like he's dead and you're holding a bloody knife in your hand.”
I glanced at the knife, shaking my head. “This really isn't whatâ”
“Drop the fucking knife! We can see what it is!” his partner shouted, and I froze.
I was in the process of doing as I was told when a tall white man in a cheap suit walked into the room with a black woman. I recognized her right away. Her name was Keisha Anderson, and she was a New York City police detective. From the way her jaw dropped, I was sure she recognized me too.
“Oh my God!” she muttered.
“Do you know this guy, Anderson?” the plainclothes cop asked.
“Yes, I know him. Every black person in Queens knows him. He's Bishop TK Wilson. He's the pastor of my church!”
One month earlier
I'd been staking out the lobby of one of the finest hotels in New York City for almost an hour, and I was pissed. After following new gospel sensation Aaron Mackie and his entourage from Peter Luger's steak house, I'd lost their trail shortly after the limo pulled in front of the hotel. The damn traffic in New York City was so bad that it had taken me almost fifteen minutes to find a parking spot, and by the time I reached the lobby, they were nowhere to be found. I checked out the hotel's restaurant, bar, and private conference rooms, all to no avail. I even used the house phone and pretended I was Aaron's mother trying to get in touch with him, but there was no room registered in his name, so I was stuck. I did, however, know they were still in the building somewhere, thanks to the fifty-dollar bill I'd slipped the bellman, so I stayed put.
I finally caught a break when four very out-of-place black women, each wearing six-inch heels and clothes that screamed “I'm a stripper!” entered the lobby, followed by two gorilla-size brothers who were obviously either bodyguards or pimps. They stood out from the clientele of the hotel about as much as Ray J would at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's wedding. The four misfits didn't ask any questions or stop at the front desk to register, like most people I'd seen enter the hotel. Nope, they headed straight for the elevator. It didn't take much effort to figure out where they were going.
The thought entered my mind to follow them onto the elevator, but I decided that wasn't necessary. The beauty of this hotel was that the elevators were made of glass, and I was able to watch them travel up and step off on the tenth floor. With that information, I headed straight for my car to retrieve my bag then went back to the elevator. I'd had the bag packed just for this occasion. Ever since I read the announcement in
magazine's online edition last week, I knew that this opportunity to be near Aaron would present itself.
As I exited the elevator, I spotted one of the two gorillas who'd been following the girls. He was standing guard outside a row of rooms I assumed were suites. I made sure to flash my best smile as I approached him, knowing that the yellow dress I was wearing displayed all of my assets at their best in a classy way, unlike the strippers he'd been following. Not many men could resist what I had to offer.
“Excuse me. Is Aaron Mackie in there?” I pointed at the door behind him.
“Private party,” he barked at me, answering my question without answering my question.
“Yes, I know. I'm here to work,” I assured him in my most flirtatious manner. “This is Aaron Mackie's bachelor party, isn't it?”
“Yeah, but you're not one of my girls.” He slid his eyes over my body, unable to hide a hint of interest. “You're not even a stripper. What are you, a groupie? I heard these gospel cats had groupies. Church girls gone wild.” He laughed.
“No, I'm not a groupie. I'm a fan,” I purred, trying to avoid eye contact. “But today I'd like to be a stripper, if that's what it takes to get in that room with Mr. Mackie. I even have the outfit.” I tapped my bag.
“Sorry. We're already full.” He looked away, dismissing me.
“Are you sure? Because I'm willing to make it worth your while.”
He turned his gaze to my lower half, suddenly interested again. “Oh yeah? And how is that?” He reached an arm around my waist, and I allowed his beefy hand to palm my ass.
“You let me work this party, and I give you this.” I reached in my bag and pulled out two one-âh
d dollar bills. I'd much rather Benjamin go down his pants than me have to let this gorilla in mine. But don't get it twisted: I was prepared to do whatever I needed to do in order to be on the other side of that door.
He smiled at the money. “You know, me and my boy, we got a reputation to uphold. We're known for having some of the best talent in NYC. Do you have any idea what a stripper does at one of these parties?”
I swallowed hard, reluctantly placing my hand between his legs. I massaged his manhood and asked, “Would you like me to show you?”
He shook his head, releasing my ass from his grip. This caused me concern, until I noticed he was staring at the money. Even the straightest man will sometimes choose a dude over pussyâas long as that dude is big-face Benji. “No, I think you get the idea. But you better add three more hundreds to that if you think you're getting into this party. And I don't want any funny business, or I will throw your ass off the balcony myself. You get that?”
I didn't reply. I just reached in my bag and pulled out three more hundred dollar bills, thanking the Lord as I did it that his nasty ass hadn't said yes to my erotic suggestion. He took the bills then opened the door.
“You can change in here. The party's in the adjoining suite. And like I said before, I don't want any funny business.”
Three strippers were in the room, getting dressed for the party. I could feel the tension the second I walked in. For the first time since I arrived in New York on this crusade to meet Aaron Mackie, I was nervous.
“Damn, how many girls they got coming up in here tonight?” a tall, very pretty, dark-skinned sister with a blond wig and thigh-high boots whined.
“I'm the last one,” I assured her.
“Good, 'cause we barely about to make any money in here in the first place,” a short, half-black, half-Asian spinner snapped. “And I ain't here for my health.”
“Why aren't we going to make any money?” I asked, curious about the profession I was pretending to be a part of.
“I can answer that in one word,” the dark-skinned sister replied.
All three of them said in unison, “Niggas!”
“Niggas,” I repeated.
“That's right,” the half-Asian girl replied. “Cheap-ass niggas. When I first heard this bachelor party was here, I thought I was gonna get paid, but as soon as I found out the party was for a brother, I knew it was gonna be a whole lot of work for a little bit of money.”
“I don't understand. Those men in there are rich, aren't they? This place has to be five, six hundred a night.”
She laughed at me. “You ain't been in this business long, have you?”
“No, I haven't,” I replied, thinking
Am I that obvious?
“I didn't think so, otherwise you would have known that these cheap-ass black motherfuckers never tip that good at bachelor parties. That's why I like doing the white parties. Brothers think that your shit is supposed to be free. They don't like to pay for pussy, especially not from black women. But don't take my word for it. You'll see.”
“Wow.” I commiserated with them as I opened the bag and pulled out my costume. “Well, I don't care how much money they pay me as long as I get to fuck the groom. That's all I care about.”
“What makes you think I'm willing to let you do that?” A high yellow girl with green eyes and a big booty sucked her teeth. “Giving the groom his last piece of ass is the only thing these cheap-ass fools are willing to pony up for.”
“Because I'm willing to give you two hundred dollars as insurance that I get what I want,” I offered.
“That's two hundred dollars each, right?” the half-Asian chick asked.
“Yes, two hundred each.” I looked around to see if there were any more objections.
“Hell, I'm willing to do it as long as I get my money up front.” Miss High Yellow laughed as they all high-fived her.
“We cool?” Every girl nodded, just like I thought they would. They had no idea, but if she had asked for four hundred dollars each I would have given it to them.
Five minutes later, I was dressed in a black lace bustier, matching garter, thong, and six-inch heels. I put on my last accessory and stood up to survey my outfit.
“Whoa, what the hell is that, a mask?” one of them blurted out.
“Mm-hmm. It's all part of my act. Men love mystery, and this is mysterious. The groom gets to be the only one to see all of me, if you get what I'm saying.”
“Damn, that shit is tight.” Blondie laughed as she headed for the door. “I might have to get me a mask.”
The moment we stepped into the room, hands were grabbing for us. One guy attached himself to me and tried to pull me down onto his lap. His paws were all over my ass. I felt like turning around and slapping the shit outta him.
“No, no, no!” I scolded, pushing him back.
“What do you mean, no? I'm a paying customer!” This fool had the nerve to be waving a dollar at me like it was a hundred dollar bill. Now I was starting to see what the other girls were talking about, because this dude with his dollar wasn't giving up easily. His hands were still moving a hundred miles an hour.
I responded in a voice loud enough for everybody in the room to hear. “Not to me you're not! I'm here for one person and one person onlyâthe groom-to-be.” I served them all notice in my most authoritative tone. “If you're not him, step aside, because when I'm finished with him, he's going to think twice about getting married tomorrow. Now, where is he?” I was doing my BeyoncÃ© stallion walk through that piece like I was about to perform at the Super Bowl.
I heard a lot of “Oh, shit!” and “Day-um!” as the men moved aside, parting into a path for me to follow. There at the end of it, sitting in a chair and holding a beer, was Aaron Mackie. He was even better-looking up close and personal than viewing him from afar in my car. I was glad I was wearing a mask, because I was sure my face would have given away my emotions.
“You looking for me?” he flirted, taking a sip of his beer before tossing the empty can to the side for effect, like we were in some movie. That set his friends off into a testosterone-filled frenzy, and the room filled with shouts of encouragement to spur the two of us on.
I held my breath for a second, during which I actually thought about what the hell I was doing and whether it was worth it. I'd come a long way to have sex with Aaron Mackie and done a lot of things a girl like me shouldn't, but was this how I really wanted to do it? I took one more look at him and came to my conclusion: Of course it was worth it! I'd been waiting for this day ever since that Sunday morning two years ago, when I turned on my TV and saw him being introduced as the director of the First Jamaica Ministries choir. From that moment on, I'd followed his career on Google alerts to make sure I saw any and everything that was posted about him. I didn't even want to think about how much money I'd spent following him around the country to gospel festivals and shows. I wouldn't regret one dime of it if this night went as planned.
I sashayed over to him. “Yeah, I'm looking for you. Me and you got a date in that bedroom over there.” I nodded toward the door like I owned the place. “That is, if you think you can handle this.” I rubbed my hands over my breasts and thighs, trying to imitate BeyoncÃ© when she did that stripper imitation on the Grammys. This sent his friends into a frenzy again.
“I guess we'll just have to see,” he replied, full of self-assured swagger.
“I guess we will.” I took hold of his loosened tie, tugging it until he stood up. Using it like a chain on a dog, I led him into the empty room, where he sat on the bed.
I began to perform the kind of striptease that could make a priest have to take confession. My hips were moving from side to side as I released my breasts from the top of my bustier. I leaned over and shoved them in his face, ready for him to succumb to my seduction. Then I turned around, lowering my ass onto his lap and grinding around like I was about to orgasm any minute.
I imagined he was into it, until he said, “Stop,” and gave me a slight shove. Undeterred, I kept trying to back it on up. “Hey, I said stop!” he protested, pushing me off of him a little harder this time.
I turned around to face him, unable to believe he was resisting this. “Um, did you say stop?”
“Yeah, I did. I can't do this.” He straightened up his shirt and tie, looking every bit as serious as he sounded. “I have an amazing woman that I'm about to marry tomorrow. No disrespect, but I'm not going to cheapen it by being with you.”
My jaw just about dropped to the floor. “Are you for real?” I threw the whole BeyoncÃ© demeanor out the window and replaced it with some ol' hands-on-hips Nicki Minaj shit.
“Yes, I'm very much for real.” He stood up.
“Look, did I do something wrong? Whatever it is, I won't do it again. I promise.” He shook his head, but I didn't believe him. I had to have done something wrong. No way was a man going to just say no to a body like mine. “What about your friends? They paid forâ”
“What about them? If they don't understand that I'm getting married and don't want to sleep with a prostitute, then they don't really know me and they're not my friends.” He walked out the door, leaving me half-naked and very confused.
“Fuck.” I stood there for about five seconds, stunned and on the verge of tears. Somehow, I had just blown the opportunity of a lifetime. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror above the dresser. Dammit, I looked good. How the hell could he have turned this down? Maybe it was the mask, I thought.
Part of me wanted to just give up and go back home to Virginia, but I couldn't. I'd come too far and wasted way too much money not to see this thing through. I would just have to be more creative if I was going to end up with what I wanted.
There was a knock on the door, and then a tall, well-built, brown-skinned brother walked in the room. “Uh, what the hell just happened?” he asked.
“I don't know. I guess he doesn't like women,” I snapped in frustration.
He laughed, eyeing me from head to toe. “Maybe not, but his best man sure does.”