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Authors: Maryann Reid

This Life: A Novel

BOOK: This Life: A Novel
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This
Life: A Novel

By
Maryann Reid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Alphanista® Book

 

 

 

 

Also
by Maryann Reid

 

Sex
and the Single Sister

Use
Me or Lose Me

Marry
Your Baby Daddy

Mrs.
Big

Every
Man For Herself

 

 

 

This
is a work of fiction.  All of the characters, organizations, and events
portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are
used factiously,
and
any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is
entirely coincidental.

 

 

This
Life.
  Copyright
© 2014 by Maryann Reid. All Rights Reserved. 
No part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including
photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the
prior written permission of the author.

 

Published by
Alphanista® Books LLC

 

Printed in the
United States of America

 

First Edition:
January 2014

 

 

 

 

 

For anyone, who
has ever wanted to disappear….

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

It’s been almost 7 years
since I’ve written one of these.  This book denotes my journey back into
writing, and it goes without saying that there are many to thank, and they know
who they are.  My deepest love and gratitude goes to my mother, Veronica Reid,
who told me to take this book off my computer and finish it.  It had been just
a file a year ago from when I first started it in 2007.  I am glad I listened. 
Thank you for your support and always believing. 

 

More gratitude goes to
everyone who played a part in reminding me of what I love to do most, and never
letting me forget. Part of this book was written in
Abu Dhabi
, UAE, and I am grateful
for the time to reflect and write as a new story unfolds. 

 

 

 

 

THIS
LIFE

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

February 6

Miami
,
Florida

 

Faint whimpers came
from the hall closet as Blake stepped out of the bathroom. Nausea churned her
gut, and she stood paralyzed by memories of times when she’d made those same
sounds. Times when the man she’d loved and trusted enough to marry slapped her
to the floor and then…

Please…let it be
rats. Or a problem with the plumbing. Anything else…just not that.

She knocked on the
closet door. “Is someone in there?”

No answer, although the
groans stopped.

Her heart thundered and
her hand trembled, but Blake forced herself to grip and turn the knob. Two
wide-eyed faces turned toward her as she swung the door wide open.

Sherry Greene, Blake’s
publicist, had her legs wrapped around the naked hips of NBA star Derrick Fox.
Both were panting and covered with sweat.

The three stared at
each other for seconds that felt like years to Blake. She felt dizzy for a
moment, but then outrage surged through her veins.

“Pull your pants up and
get out, Derrick. There isn’t an apartment here with your name on it. And,
Sherry?” Blake fixed her eyes on Sherry’s and lingered there, letting the woman
know that Blake had made a decision and nothing could change her mind. “You can
get out, too. You’re fired.”

She tapped speed-dial
code “2” on her cell. After barely half a ring her call was answered: “Hi, Ms.
Bertrand. What can I do for you?”

“Edith, I’ve just fired
Sherry Greene and told Derrick Fox he’s not welcome anymore. Please have
security escort them to their cars.”

“Right away, Ms.
Bertrand.” Edith, Blake’s right-hand woman, ended the call. Blake knew she’d
immediately make another to the security team.

“I thought you was a
businesswoman,” Derrick complained, zipping his fly as he approached Blake. “For
three million and up for a pad, what’s it to you if I do the nasty in a hall
closet?”

“I don’t want tenants
who aren’t smart enough to know what their bedroom is for.” Blake raised her
eyes to Derrick’s as the power forward for the Chicago Bulls loomed over her.
She didn’t back down.

“Bitch.” Derrick
strutted to the door leading out to the courtyard and opened it, shouting over the
noise of the party outside, “Yo, Kay-Kay! Say good night, baby, we’re outta
here.”

Through the open door
Blake spied Kayla Knight, popular new actress and Derrick Fox’s girlfriend of
two months, throwing a puzzled glance at her date and making her way through
the party crowd to join him. Four security personnel gathered at the door,
waiting to see the personas non grata to their cars in the adjacent parking
deck.

“Blake, please,” Sherry
said behind her. “He’s so…” As Blake turned to face her, Sherry threw her hands
up in a gesture of helplessness. “I just got carried away. I’m sorry. It will
never happen again.”

“I know it won’t.”
Blake nodded to two of the security guys, who moved to stand one on each side
of Sherry. “Thank you, gentlemen.” She watched them beckon Sherry to come with
them, and Blake turned away as she heard Sherry let out a muffled sob.

#

Back in the bathroom,
eyes closed, Blake took a few deep breaths. She opened her eyes and inspected
her reflection in the mirror, anxious that the ordeal of chilling memories and
the confrontation with Sherry and Derrick might show in her face or posture.

A sigh of relief
escaped her lips when she couldn’t find any telltale symptoms of the
unpleasantness. If she’d gone pale while frightened or red while angry, her
bronze skin was back to its usual color. She still carried herself upright and
composed, just as she’d done in her modeling days. Her dark eyes looked alert
but untroubled. She decided her lipstick could use a touch-up, and gave herself
a fresh coat of burgundy before rejoining the party.

Security, Sherry,
Derrick, and his date were all gone. Yet as she crossed the empty hallway to
the courtyard door, Blake felt as if someone was watching her. She paused at
the door and glanced at the security cameras, though she knew they weren’t
scheduled to be switched on until Monday, when tenants would be allowed to
begin moving into the luxury apartments.

“Keep it together,
sister,” she muttered. She flung the courtyard door open and stepped back out into
the crisp night. True cold was a rarity in
Miami
, its subtropical latitude and proximity to
the
Atlantic
keeping the winters
mild. It was cooler than normal tonight, but that only meant the temperature
was in the sixties. Some of the men wore long sleeves and some of the women
were in jackets or formal wraps. None appeared uncomfortable.

Blake moved to the
short table where one of two co-caterers was operating an outdoor bar. Edith
stood nearby at the long table spread with appetizers, chatting with the maître
d’. Their gazes met, and Edith gave Blake a decisive nod: troublesome persons
removed, no drama in the process.

Hiring Edith Wright
is still the smartest business decision I’ve ever made.
Blake smiled and
waved at her personal assistant, who’d been with her since her time in the
world of fashion modeling.

With the Chinese New
Year only two weeks away, Blake had chosen that as her decorations theme for
the grand pre-opening of The Blake Tower. It lent an exotic ambience to the
occasion in Latino Miami.

Paper lanterns hanging
from the branches of landscaped trees shed a soft glow throughout the
courtyard. Appetizers consisted mainly of Chinese recipes, but also on offer
were lamb and lobster skewers, foie gras, and caviar. Chunlian—long, narrow strips
of red paper painted with gold Chinese characters—were draped from every
balcony and convenient branch. In Chinese culture, red symbolized prosperity
and gold symbolized wealth—appropriate, Blake thought, for the opening of an
apartment building catering exclusively to the rich and famous.

All around the
courtyard the fortunates invited to the party circulated, nibbling hors d’oeuvres
and sipping the alcoholic beverages of their choice. Owners of businesses that
would occupy the ground floor sat at small tables, explaining to tenants the
services they’d offer them. Along with a few other carefully selected vendors, there
would be a gourmet grocery store, a high-end fashion boutique with in-house
tailoring, a gym and spa, and a jeweler. Tenants could accommodate a number of
their most common needs without ever leaving the apartment building.

“Where have you been?”
asked Margot, Blake’s best friend, dressed in a black, off-the-shoulder
knee-length dress.

“You don’t want to
know,” Blake said with sarcasm. “I’m not letting anything get in the way of
tonight.” Blake smiled across the room.

“Well, you go and do
that. I just love seeing you in action. I can catch up on the juicy details
later.” With that, Margot glided to the bar.

“Good evening, Ms. Yee.
You’ve done superb work tonight,” Blake said to the owner of the Chinese
restaurant co-catering the party.

“It’s an honor to be
chosen to serve the admirable Blake Bertrand.” Ms. Yee bowed low to Blake, who
bowed her head in return.

She next complimented the
gourmet caterer on their traditional fare and bar, and then began making the
rounds to her guests. Barbara Santers, now retired and rumored to be in the
market for a mostly self-contained new primary residence in
Miami
, was a lifelong idol of
Blake’s. Her stomach fluttered with nerves as the dignified lady approached her
with a broad smile. Local news photographers clustered around to capture the
moment, as Blake’s respect for Barbara was public knowledge.

“Ms. Bertrand! At last
we meet.” Barbara Santers opened her arms to offer a hug.

Blake gladly accepted,
but couldn’t help thinking,
Thank God she’d rather hug than shake hands.
“Please, call me Blake. I’m just so glad you accepted my invitation. I’ve
wanted to meet you ever since I was a little girl.”
And now that it’s
happening, I can hardly believe it. Oh, I hope I don’t say something stupid, or
trip over my own feet…

“I’m just sorry
circumstances didn’t allow us to meet while I still worked in television. You
are a brilliant woman, Blake, and you would have made one hell of an interview
subject. As it is, I have more than a dozen former colleagues who begged me to
ask you to do interviews with them. I’m just not so sure I want them to have
what I couldn’t.” Ms. Santers winked at Blake over her champagne glass as she
sipped, and they both laughed.

“Well, I always dreamed
of telling my life story to you. I’m not sure I could settle for anyone else.”
Blake swirled her Grand Marnier Sidecar before taking a sip of it. “But if you
decide you want to do a favor for a friend still in the journalism biz, let me
know and maybe I’ll do it just for you.”

“Screw that, maybe I’ll
make a one-time comeback just to interview you myself!
A Talk With Two B’s
,
they could call that show.” Again they laughed, and clinked glasses to toast
each other. Then Santers added, “First and foremost, however, I need to go see
your leasing agent. I love
Miami
, and I think one of your penthouse apartments is exactly
what I’ve been looking for. Talk to you some more later?”

“Anytime!” Blake
returned Barbara’s small, casual wave, and her idol strolled to the leasing
agent’s table to sign a rental agreement.

“I see dreams do come
true,” a welcoming familiar masculine voice said behind Blake.

“Uncle Thorne!” Blake
whirled and threw her arms around Thorne Howes, former Santana guitarist and
one of her late father’s dearest friends. Thorne had a massive soft spot in his
heart for women. After Blake’s father died, Thorne visited Blake and her mother,
Jacinta, as often as he possibly could. Through the years he’d never missed a
birthday or holiday, always phoning and sending a gift if he couldn’t be there
in person. By his side stood his wife, actress and model Michaele Jarvis, who
grinned and pulled Blake into a hug of their own.

“You act surprised to
see me.”

“I am! I thought you’d
be busy recording a new album.”

“We’re on hiatus for
the weekend. As soon as I got your invitation, I told them there’s no way I’ll
miss my niece’s declaration of independence from her thug of a husband.”

In unison the three of
them turned to gaze at The Blake Tower, her first solo real estate development
in the ten years since she’d married Lang against the advice of her mother and
Uncle Thorne. Twenty floors of waterfront elegance, it was also her first project
catering solely to the wealthy. Blake Bertrand was a newly free woman with a
number of cherished plans, for which she’d need an abundance of money. She knew
exactly who to get it from: the super-rich. And, having moved in their circles
all her adult life, she knew precisely what they craved in exchange for their
plentiful dollars.

“I’d say we should rent
an apartment here so we’d have a second home close to Blake and Jacinta,”
murmured Michaele, “but I don’t think we could afford it, Thorne.”

“Don’t be silly. If you
two want an apartment in The Blake Tower, it’s yours.” Blake smiled at
Michaele, who smiled back before looking at the apartment building again.

“It’s magnificent,
Blake. Your best work yet,” Michaele said.

“Sure is,” Uncle Thorne
chimed in, his eyes shining. “Your dad would be so proud of you, if he was
here.”

They made the rounds
together, greeting VIPs from not only
Miami
but across the
United States
. Manley and Melinda Yates suggested Blake could do some real
estate developments in
Seattle
that could rival
New York
,
London
,
Paris
, and
Tokyo
in global appeal, and Blake promised to give the idea some
thought.
Someday, maybe,
she added in her thoughts.
I have other
plans in mind for the next few years.
Oprah Winfrey seized the opportunity
to repeat her frequent request that Blake appear on one of her television
programs, and perhaps collaborate with her in some charity projects. Blake
apologized for having a crammed schedule and promised they’d talk sometime. She
renewed old contacts and made new ones, and felt her soon-to-be ex-husband’s
absence from her side as nothing less than a godsend.

At almost
midnight
, Blake took the podium
set up near the double-door entrance flanked by Ionic columns and colossal
statues of ravens, Blake’s trademark. Edith rang a bell to attract everyone’s
attention. When silence reigned in the courtyard, Blake spoke into the
microphone:

“Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you all for coming. The
Blake
Tower
opens for move-in on Monday. But if you can’t wait until
then, I’ve got a leasing agent here to handle preliminary paperwork. Zach, give
us a wave so everyone will know where to find you.” She paused while her senior
leasing agent swung a paper lantern over his head, earning a ripple of
appreciative chuckles from the party guests.

BOOK: This Life: A Novel
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