It’s Friday and The Follow drops in exactly TWO WEEKS!Even though you can still PREORDER HERE, below is the one and only full chapter I’ll reveal before the novel’s release. Enjoy!
“Hey there,” Shauna said, caught by surprise as I intended.
“Hey you,” I said, taking her hand and giving it a soft peck.
She nervously pushed a curly tendril behind her ear. “Welcome to your party, King,” she said, trying her best to sound light and casual. “Did you come alone?”
I heard the unspoken question: Did I bring a date? It relieved me that she cared. “Nah, my boy Slim is with me but he’s up front talking to Chase and his husband.”
I edged closer so that I could catch another whiff of the jasmine scent emanating from her tawny skin. “You look beautiful, Shauna.”
“Thank you,” she said within a whisper, turning to Lena in an attempt to escape my gaze. “King, you remember my colleague, Lena Murphy. She handles digital awareness for the actor Lamar St. Jon.”
“I do,” I said, extending my hand to Lena. “Nice to see you again. You look beautiful tonight as well.”
“Thank you, King Smith,” Lena said, unable to hide her giddiness.
I gave a friendly smile. “You can just call me King. So your client is the young brother from the cop show, right? Tall, dark-skinned, smiles a lot? I’ve seen him at a couple of events.”
Lena nodded after I released her hand. “Yeah, Shauna here was helping me handle the Lamar St. Jon Experience but she’s getting moved off of the account to support you. She’s so lucky she won’t have to deal with me and Lamar anymore.”
I locked eyes with Shauna. “Nah, I think I’m the lucky one.”
Shauna smiled back and looked down. Something inside of me loved making her bashful. She was so unlike the women I’d encountered throughout my career. Slim and I called them Pick Mes – girls begging for me to pick them for the night. But not Shauna. She was being her natural self and I never wanted that to change. I never wanted to give her a reason to stop smiling at me and admitting my addiction would do just that. I decided then that I would pass on Brian’s advice that afternoon to be honest with her
Eventually. Just not tonight.
“Come on, ladies,” I said as I leaned over the bar. “I need to catch up.”
They saddled up on either side of me as I heard Lena sniff loudly. “Oh, it smells like you’re caught up enough,” she said with a friendly wink and a laugh.
Shit. I hadn’t realized how much I was reeking of weed smoke from the ride to the lounge. “My bad,” I said, turning to look at Shauna for her reaction. The last thing I wanted to do was turn her off. “Sorry, Miss Shauna.”
Her smile grew wider. “It’s okay. Business hours are over, right?”
I took a chance and leaned into her ear. “Good to know.”
We shared a look that made my body react. I felt myself harden the longer we held each other’s gaze. What was she doing to me?
“King Kong! What’s good?” said a familiar voice. I looked up and laughed upon seeing my boy’s face. Brandon was a freelance writer who moonlighted as a bartender at Barkley’s.
I gave him some dap. “Brandon! I’m good, bruh. How’s tricks?”
Brandon shrugged. “Can’t complain. Shit, not as good as you, though! Whole Manhattan entertainment industry’s out here tonight for you.”
I dropped my head with a bashful smile. “Nah, this ain’t my crowd…” I raised my head and turned to glance at Shauna to my right. “But I’m glad I came out.”
“Me too. Hey, my shift’s over at one,” Brandon said before leaning closer to me. “Wanna hit up Emeralds again? Tonya been in here asking about you.”
The memory of Tonya serving me in the Champagne Room weeks ago rushed through my brain. She was still in my DMs, constantly trying to hook up again. It’s an offer I would have otherwise taken her up on before Shauna. But between Babygirl and therapy, Tonya was no longer an interest. I wasn’t trying to see her tonight – or ever again, if I could help it.
“Nah, not tonight,” I said, straightening my posture at the bar. “Early morning at the studio tomorrow. Gotta lay these tracks.”
“No doubt,” Brandon said. “Matter of fact, I got a gig freelancing at Paste Magazine. Music department. Would love to get an interview from you, if you have the time.”
I nodded. “Consider it done. Hit my management up. You know how to find me.”
We dapped again before Brandon pushed off of the bar. “For sure. What you having tonight, bro?”
“Let me get a Remy on the rocks and a cosmo for each of these ladies.”
Brandon gave a nod before heading to the back shelf. I felt Lena give me an elbow.
“So, King,” she said. “About this new album. Can you tell us anything or is it all top secret? Because, you know, Shauna’s a huge fan of your music.”
We both turned to Shauna, whose mouth was gaped open. “I wouldn’t say ‘huge’, but…”
The way she covered her smile let me know she was embarrassed. Fuck, I loved that shit. I gave her wrist a gentle tug. “Nah, don’t try to clean it up now. You don’t dig my music?”
She looked up and tilted her head. “It’s a little sexual.”
“That it is, although I wouldn’t classify it as a little.”
“Okay. It’s overtly sexual. Risqué, even.”
Lena smacked her lips. “Sheesh, Shauna. You are such a prude. King, you are going to have to offer Shauna a preview of your new album.”
Lena was beginning to remind me of Slim. Who knew a white girl from Boston would be your boy’s wingman?
“I agree,” I said, taking Shauna’s hand again. “I think a private listening party is in order once the tracks are done. What you think, Miss Shauna?”
She raised an eyebrow as her hand fell from mine. “Sure. It’s business, right?”
“Right,” I said, my eyes drifting down the length of her pink dress. Every curve she had hidden under her business suit was on display tonight and I was enjoying the view.
I felt an arm wrap around my shoulders. “Ladies, you need me to call Security on this cat?” Slim said, holding a highball glass of his signature drink of Hennessey on the rocks. I playfully punched him in the shoulder as Brandon arrived with our drinks. I handed the ladies their cocktails. “Lena Murphy, Shauna McIntyre, meet my road manager Slim Richmond. Slim, meet two of the ladies of Charisma.”
Slim clinked his glass against Lena’s as a greeting but stopped short on Shauna. “Damn,” he said as he surveyed Shauna’s curves. I felt myself getting a little jealous as he eased up to her. “So you’re the woman that got my boy all discombobulated and shit?”
I placed a hand on Slim’s chest. “Chill, bruh. You’re embarrassing me.”
Shauna shook her head. “I’m not embarrassed. I’m flattered.” She turned her attention back to Slim. “But if I feel anything in return for Mr. Smith, it won’t be any of your business, Mr. Richmond.”
Lena and I exploded into laughter and Slim was next to follow. “Oh damn! Dip got a little thug in her? I love it!” He spread his arms with a smile. “Excuse my behavior, Ms. McIntyre. Can I get some love?”
The two hugged and I gave Slim another light punch when he held on a beat too long. “Let’s toast,” Slim said, raising his glass in the air. “To King Smith, who’s about to set it off with this new album.”
“Cheers!” Lena yelled as we clinked glasses.
Shauna turned to me. “To you, King Smith.”
“To us. Strictly business, right?”
She touched her glass against mine. “Right.”