Authors: Gwyneth Bolton
Feeling her petite curvy body in his arms pushed all thoughts of suds and age differences to the side.
Thoughts of how right she felt underneath him when they were making out on the bed of leaves, how he’d come so close to making love to her and how her mouth tasted like the sweetest candy he had ever savored pushed past any common sense he had. The only thing he could think of was to finish what they had started earlier.
He allowed his lips to plunder and peruse. She opened to him automatically and her tongue met his with matching passion and desire. As he suckled on her soft lips, he couldn’t help but roam her body. Her delicate curves had his mind spinning. Before he knew it, he had picked her up and carried her into the nearest bedroom. As he fell back on the bed, he pulled her on top of him and continued to caress her lips with his own.
He would never get tired of kissing her. Her groans hinted that she might feel a fraction of the same thing he was feeling….
He wanted her. He had to have her.
If Only You Knew
Protect and Serve
Make It Hot
The Law of Desire
became an avid romance fan after sneak-reading her mother’s romance novels. In the nineties, she was introduced to African-American romance novels and her life hasn’t been the same since. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in creative writing and a Ph.D. in English. She teaches writing and women’s studies at the college level. When she is not writing African-American romance novels, she is curled up with a cup of herbal tea, a warm quilt and a good book. She currently lives in Syracuse, New York, with her husband, Cedric. Readers can contact her via e-mail at [email protected] or visit her Web site at www.gwynethbolton.com.
To my sands…
Kimmie, Shakira, Antoinette, Edith,
Audrey, Monica, Sherita and Karen.
I will always cherish our sisterhood
and the bond we share.
Yours in Delta…
The woman Lawrence Hightower finds himself extremely attracted to could be a criminal, and he makes it his business to find out the real deal, by any means necessary. He is a by-the-book, highly decorated police detective. The last thing he needs is an attraction to a little thug of a girl with more attitude than should be legal!
Minerva Jones needs to keep a low profile until she is sure the person who killed her brother doesn’t come for her next. Having a cop check her out, even in a hey-baby-you’re-
kind of way, is not something she needs. But things happen…and sometimes what you think you
need is exactly the thing that will set you free. Lawrence is a good guy with a bit of an edge or a bad boy who’s well-meaning and good-natured, depending on what day you catch him. Minerva is an innocent pretending to be a ride-or-die chick. They are so
for one another it feels
Neither of them are what they seem. No wonder they set off each other’s radars from the moment they meet! Their journey to love is full of passion, drama, a little intrigue and undeniable heat.
I’m so glad you’ve decided to take the ride with Lawrence and Minerva. Please be on the lookout for the final installment of the Hightower series,
Patrick Hightower has been dodging love long enough, and something tells me he will go down fast and hard.
is slated for release in October 2009.
First I want to thank God for the many blessings in my life, especially the blessing to share my stories. I’d like to thank my family: my mother, Donna, my sisters Jennifer, Cassandra, Michelle and Tashina, my nieces Ashlee and Zaria and my husband, Cedric. And I’d like to thank all the readers who have taken the time to write me and let me know what they thought of my novels. Your words have meant more than you could ever know.
urprise!” The gleeful voices greeted her as soon as she opened the door.
M. Athena Jones—the “M” stood for Minerva, a name she hadn’t willingly gone by since her mom died—clutched her chest as she entered the two-bedroom apartment she used to share with her brother.
It was still a full two weeks before the summer semester was over but she had turned in her last paper and had officially finished her undergraduate degree. As exciting as it was, she certainly wasn’t expecting a surprise party.
“I had to do something special. And I had to make sure your smart behind wouldn’t figure it out.” Her brother, Calvin, picked her up and spun her around. “Did it work?”
Calvin placed her carefully back on the floor and she gazed up at him. He’d taken after their father in the height department and towered over her petite frame by at least a foot. His caramel complexion and the deep waves of his recently cut Caesar made for a dapper combination. He was wearing his usual khakis and Chucks. His handsome face even gleamed with a rare smile.
“Yes! Oh, my God, Calvin. You didn’t have to do this. I thought we were going to do our usual.” Her eyes welled up as she looked at the streamers and balloons that decorated the apartment.
“Oh, we’re still going to have our usual celebration. You know we have to keep up tradition. But this is special, baby girl. It’s not every day that my little sister gets her degree! I’m proud of you, girl.” Calvin hugged her again.
In two weeks she would walk the stage and receive her bachelor’s degree from California State University-Northridge. At twenty-six years old, she had finally managed to work her way through school and get her degree. Two classes here and one class there…it had added up. She had had to work her way through school because her family didn’t have a lot of money when she’d graduated from high school. So she went right into the workforce, taking jobs that she’d hated, but always keeping her eyes on the prize.
One degree down and one to go.
She hoped to have her master’s of social work degree by the time she was thirty—thirty-five the latest.
A girl could dream…
Her voice caught as she greeted everyone. She had almost called her brother to let him know that she couldn’t stop by. But if she had stayed in her own small apartment to fill out grad school applications, she would have missed this.
There weren’t that many people there, only a few in fact. But everyone there held special meaning to the two of them. They’d lost their parents when they were young and even before that her older brother was the one who really raised her.
Valerie Monroe, the social worker who worked with them so that she could remain with her brother after their mother died, was there along with Taj and Pam, two of her closest friends from childhood, and a few other folks from the neighborhood.
She couldn’t believe that because of her quest to finish her degree and “make it” she could scarcely remember the last time she’d seen them. She still called Valerie every couple of weeks just to check in. But she had lost contact with Taj and Pam completely. None of her friends from work or school were there. She didn’t have many at either place. With school and work she didn’t have a lot of time for socializing.
Friends from work and school wouldn’t have fit in at the party, anyway. She remembered reading W. E. B. DuBois’s book
The Souls of Black Folk
in one of her Africana studies classes and mused that she needed more than the concept of double consciousness to describe the fractured feeling in her life. More like triple consciousness. Sometimes it felt as if she had one face for her work life as office manager in a predominantly white law firm, one face as a college student, and one for her friends in the neighborhood and her brother. One day she would find a way to make all her worlds fit together.
Normally, she and Calvin celebrated all milestones with a night out for dinner. Her brother would let her pick the restaurant and tell her that she could pick the most expensive place in town. She always picked Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’n Waffles. They ate there when she completed middle school, high school, and when she got her job as an office clerk at Henderson, Moore & Moore, the law firm where she still worked.
The banner on the wall read C
! That was big for her brother. He was the last remaining holdout when it came to her name. She’d pretty much decided after her mother died that she would go by Thena, the shortened version of her middle name. He had pretty much decided that the name their mother named her Minerva, was just fine.
Minerva Athena Jones didn’t know what had possessed her mother to name her after not one but two goddesses of wisdom. She
know that neither name made her the coolest girl in class growing up. The only thing she hated more than people calling her Minerva was when they called her Minnie. It made her skin crawl. So until she could officially change her name she went by M. Athena Jones. Friends called her Thena.
She took off the cream linen jacket that went with the matching pencil skirt she was wearing. Like most of her clothing, she’d gotten the smart and sassy business suit on sale.
She hugged and greeted the rest of the guests and kept looking back to smile at Calvin. Who knew he was so sentimental? She knew he loved her without a doubt. He was just a guy’s guy and didn’t always express his feelings outwardly.
“So what are you going to do now that you’re done with school?” Valerie was leaning against the wall in the kitchen. She and Thena both watched Calvin taking some heat while he took chicken wings out of the oven.
“My baby sis is going to get more education. She’s just like our mother. She’s smart and she’s going to live the life Mama should’ve lived.” Calvin answered Valerie’s question before Thena could.
Thena smiled and let her brother bask in his happiness. He’d practically raised her when their mother died. He had just turned eighteen at the time, and she’d been twelve. Things were hard. But they had made it and they’d been able to stay together until she moved out on her own three years ago. He deserved to be proud. It was because of his tough love and firm hand that she was able to do much of what she had done.
If only their mother could see Thena now. She’d sing for joy.
Their mother had a voice that would have put the Queen of Soul to shame. She had come to California from Alabama with stars in her eyes. All hopes of stardom got put on hold, though, when she’d met and soon married a guitarist and gave birth to a son. Six years later she’d given birth to a baby girl and soon after that her husband’s recreational drug use spiraled out of control, making him take risks not only with his own life but with hers, as well. Neither of them made it.
It was Calvin who’d encouraged Thena to further her education. He kept books around for her to read from the time she first learned how. He made sure she did all her homework over the years.
Sure, Calvin was strict and might have been the reason at least two of Thena’s former boyfriends ended up in the hospital badly beaten, but underneath his brash persona lay the man who stayed up all night with her whenever she’d been sick.
didn’t even begin to describe Calvin, or Thena’s feelings for him.
“I hope to get my MSW eventually and go into social work like you, Val. You’ve inspired me so much.”
“You’ll be a great at it.” Valerie offered with a smile as she helped Calvin place the wings on the plastic serving tray.
When Calvin went to answer the door, Thena and Valerie worked together to ready the rest of the food. They carried the platters out to Calvin’s living room, which was filled with royal-blue crushed velvet furniture.
“Yeah, sorry man. I thought I told you about the party. Must have thought I did when I actually hadn’t.” Calvin walked toward the living room with his best friend David Sims following him.
Thena’d been wondering where David was and just assumed that he was off wheeling and dealing somewhere. He was a serial entrepreneur at Langer and Associates, launching, developing and making small businesses profitable. And he was one of Calvin’s
noncriminal, non-gang-banging friends. David and Calvin had grown up together on the South Central streets, but David had gone the school and college route. She looked up to David almost as much as she looked up to her brother.
She ran over and gave David a hug.
“Hey, baby girl. Sorry I almost missed the celebration. Calvin neglected to tell me about it. Good thing I was in the neighborhood and decided to stop by.” David hugged her close before letting her go.
“It’s okay. I’m glad you made it and I hope you can stay. I know you’re busy.”
“Never too busy for you—” David started.
“Hey, sis, get in here and blow out the candles on this cake. I got your favorite, with pineapple filling.” Calvin interrupted David by pulling her away and leading her to the cake.
She frowned and shook her head. Her brother could be so controlling at times. She cast an apologetic glance at David and he just shrugged nonchalantly and winked at her.
She figured if David wasn’t irritated with her brother, then she shouldn’t be, either. When two men were friends as long as they’d been friends, they probably had disagreements and bounced back from them more than times she could count. And that sheet cake with the pineapple filling was calling her name.
After everyone left, Calvin gave her a ride back to her apartment. And she was glad to have the one-on-one time with her brother. Seeing everyone meant a lot to her. She had let too many relationships fall to the wayside, and she needed to reconnect. It was a good thing it wasn’t too late to do so. And as soon as she finished her grad school applications she was going to start working on rebuilding her friendships and her relationship with her brother.
Girl from the ’hood makes good.
“Thanks, Calvin. That celebration was so special.”
“You know I had to do something special for this, baby girl. You made it. Mama would be so proud.” He smiled and kept his eyes on the road, as 50 Cent’s “Many Men” started playing. Calvin reached over to turn it up while bouncing his head to the grim lyrics.
“Do you really think Mama would be proud?”
“Hell, yeah…She made me promise her before she passed that I would make sure you got your education and didn’t get caught up with no boys. She wanted to be sure you at least got your high school diploma. Trust me, she’d be proud. You’re all upwardly mobile now! You even dress all fancy.”
“Well…since I’ve clearly exceeded her wishes now…” She flipped from his CD changer to the radio and changed 50 Cent to Maroon Five.
Now that’s more like it! A nice happy tune about love on “Sunday Morning,” not maudlin lyrics about men wishing death on someone…What is it with gang bangers, rappers and death wishes anyway?
“Do you think you can ease up and stop scaring away my boyfriends?”
never touch a black man’s radio.” He turned the CD changer back and restarted the 50 Cent song from the beginning. “And second, boyfriends? You got some boyfriends I haven’t scared away yet? Who are they? What’re their names?”
She punched him on the arm, not enough to hurt him but enough to sting, she hoped. “Come on, Calvin. It’s not funny. I’d like to get married and have kids one day. That won’t happen if you don’t stop blocking!”
She couldn’t help feeling a little irritated. When she was in high school, two of the boys she had started dating ended up getting jumped and beaten severely. Calvin always said he hadn’t had anything to do with it. But after the second one, her conscience wouldn’t allow her to date a guy knowing he might get hurt because of her, not to mention that having a crazy gang-banging brother scared a lot of guys away.
“What do you know about blocking?” Calvin teased as he eased the car onto her block.
“Stop laughing. It’s not funny. I’m twenty-six years old. I think it’s time I started living my life.”
“You need protecting. Look at what happened to Mama.” Calvin’s voice took on that serious, brother-knows-best tone. “This world is rough. You wouldn’t survive without me to protect you. I couldn’t protect Mama because I was just a kid. But I’ll protect you with my life, Minerva. And that’s real talk. Trust me, when the right guy comes around, I’ll know and I’ll let
know. For now, just focus on getting those degrees and making your big brother proud.”
She let out an exasperated breath and rolled her eyes. There was no talking to Calvin and certainly no way to get him to see how stifling he was being. In fact, he saw that as his main purpose in life since their mom had passed away. Sometimes she wished she didn’t have a big brother.
“So I’ll see you in a few days for dinner at our spot, right?” He pulled up to her apartment building.
“Yes, Calvin, I’ll be there.” She got out and walked inside.
Where is he?
She glanced at her watch. It was telling her she might have been stood up. Usually when her brother said he would meet her somewhere, he got there before she did. Of the two of them, she was the chronically late one. And today she was running late from work. That’s why when she got to Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’n Waffles and found that she had beaten him there she should have known something was wrong.
After waiting an hour with no sign of Calvin, she decided he must have made good on his threat to leave the next time she kept him waiting. She finished her meal alone and ordered one special to go before getting on the bus heading toward her brother’s apartment.
Standing and brushing the crumbs off her navy-blue-and-white pin-striped suit with wide leg pants and a double-breasted jacket, she shook her head. Calvin was probably mad at her. But the meal would be her peace offering. Although she didn’t know why he wasn’t used to her perpetual lateness by now. He didn’t have to pick tonight to set an example and leave. It was their official graduation celebration, after all.