Thank you to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has continued to order and hold onto the book in draft form while waiting SO PATIENTLY for the final copy to arrive to your kindle!
I just want to make sure that you know that once you've received the legitimate FINAL COPY, it will state so at the top of the page.
T&C is still "In Review" status in my account but hopefully it will finally be published today. I know that some of you have been waiting since *July* for this release and I hope to **** it is worth your while once you finally get through the pages.
I can't stress my apology enough.
In the meantime, here is the official Part One of Book 4 in the Miss Independent series, Truth & Consequences.
It was a mess to be had by everyone involved.
Barely a few hours had passed since the Hampton’s fiasco, which meant that no one had any real time to fully recover from what had taken place at Nathan’s ‘Dinner from Hell’ the night before. It also meant that Vanessa and Maurice had yet to discuss the impending problems that were sure to arise in their growing relationship, due to each of them keeping the other in the dark about things they knew could ruin everything they had fought so hard to build.
Since returning to the city and their Upper West Side townhouse, they had spent most of the afternoon in bed, making love and discussing everything except for what they knew they should – her past relationship with her former college professor, Adrian Samuels, which resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage; his confession to a tabloid reporter regarding Nathan and Sheila’s high school affair, which led to Vanessa’s private life turning inside out and becoming public fodder.
As much as they both tried to use all of the resources within their possession to not only avoid the problems they were bound to face, but forget them altogether, those resources couldn’t stop the truth from creeping inside every free space that had opened up within their minds anytime even a flicker of silence passed between them.
Whatever parts had not been previously occupied by food or sex or blithe discussions about what to do with Nikki’s room if she never chose to come home again, began to fill up with thoughts of wonder, of how those same truths would sound if revealed to the other as friends with benefits and nothing more, instead of two people who had fallen so deeply in love with one another within just the last few months that they were no longer sure how or if they could now physically breathe without the other, let alone live.
Maurice lay with his arm over Vanessa, covering her breasts and closing his eyes. He inhaled the strawberry scent of her freshly washed hair and bent his face down to kiss and lick her shoulder. There were parts of her skin still wet from the shower they had taken together just a few hours before and he smiled in remembering how she felt against his hands beneath the water.
Vanessa turned to look him in those root beer colored eyes and parted her lips to speak; she wanted to tell him everything she thought she couldn’t, everything she thought he wouldn’t want to hear.
But before a single word could escape from between those perfect lips, the doorbell rang downstairs.
Maurice removed his arm from her chest and turned over on his back, grunting and moaning as he wiped his hand down his face and stared up at the ceiling.
Vanessa laughed and rolled herself on top of him, kissing his forehead down to his soft pink lips.
“Maybe if we pretend they don’t exist,” she said between his lips, “they’ll just go the hell away.”
Maurice slid his hands up her back as she slid hers around his neck, pulling him closer, holding him tighter, shoving herself further and further and deeper into him.
They tried as best as they could to keep their thoughts on each other – what they felt, what they wanted, what they needed and craved – and tune out the noise of the doorbell, and the sound of the banging fist that came along with it, but it was no use. Whoever the hell was on the other side of that door downstairs was not leaving until they were seen and heard, and they both knew it.
After reluctantly pulling away and slapping his head back down to the pillow, Maurice stared up Vanessa, who still tried like hell to keep him close.
“Maybe it’s your mother?” he told her.
Her shoulders shrank and she shook her head. “No.” She rolled back onto her side of the bed and angrily turned her eyes up toward the ceiling fan above their heads. “I think after this weekend, she’s going to need some well needed distance from me. I don’t even think she’ll want to be bothered with me at work. That said, I can’t say that I blame her too much for any of it, considering.”
Maurice turned to her with a puzzling glance.
Moments later, his cell phone began to ring.
Vanessa couldn’t help but laugh. “Even back in the city, we can’t have peace. Like I said before, maybe next summer we should go to a deserted island. Or at least some place that won’t include anyone we know personally. Or hell, anyone we know period.” She immediately slid out of bed and casually grabbed her robe from the back of a chair in the corner of the room.
As Maurice sat up and snatched his cell from the nightstand, he looked down at the number and his brows puckered. Not in confusion, but aggravation.
Vanessa lifted her hair from beneath the collar of her robe and looked over at him, noticing the hardened expression on his face. “Who is that?” she asked.
“It’s uh…” He shook his head a few times and then clicked the red button, hanging up. “It’s a wrong number.”
“That’s a pretty intense look for a wrong number, Mo.” She smiled.
He looked up at her and forced a sexy smile to evade her suspicions. “Well I’m a pretty intense kinda guy, V.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed aloud. “Shut up. I’m going to see who’s at the door. Are you coming?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be down there with you in a second. Just let me get changed into some clothes first.”
As she bounced out of the room and headed downstairs, Maurice ripped the blankets from his body and turned to the side of the bed. Dropping his feet to the floor, he reached over for his phone again, scrolled to the missed calls list and stared down at that number. His eyes were hard yet focused, his lips tight over his teeth. His head was filled with clouds of resentment and his heart was pounding so hard and fast as if he had been put beneath a spotlight, ass out in the middle of Times Square. During Christmas.
“Shit.” He clutched the phone tight in his hand with the urge to chuck it across the room and break it into tiny little pieces.
By no means was it a number he didn’t recognize. In fact, it was one he had fought long and hard to forget even knowing, just like the person it belonged to. Both needed to remain a distant memory.
When Vanessa reached the bottom of the stairs, all she hoped was that the person waiting for her on the other side wasn’t in fact her mother coming to berate her for the horrifying weekend.
Or worse, the Devil himself in the form of ex-boyfriend and current tormentor, Nathaniel Taylor.
“Who is it?” she asked once she reached the door.
“It’s me, V. Sheila.”
Sheila Harris. Ex-best friend and current pain in the ass.
Vanessa smacked her hand across her face and turned her head up toward the light. This was one person she ironically hadn’t been expecting.
“I can already hear you bitching from the other side, V,” she said.
Vanessa waited a few seconds and crossed her arms over her chest. The last thing she needed to deal with so soon after being back from the vacation from hell was this bitch.
Shelia leaned her head and pressed her eat against the door. She couldn’t exactly see Vanessa standing there, but knew she had yet to move from place. “I wouldn’t be here if this weren’t important, V!”
Vanessa slammed her hand down on the knob and yanked the door back. “You would be here any damn way despite me telling you to back off, again,” she snapped. “Important or not, so please. Now what the hell do you want?”
Sheila stepped up and took a deep breath while staring into the glacial eyes of her former best friend. “We need to talk,” she said. “I think there might be a problem with me keeping quiet about you and Adrian.”
Vanessa instantly clinched her teeth and started balling her fists as they rested alongside her thighs. She hadn’t even realized what she was doing, but Sheila sure as hell noticed the sudden change, as Vanessa seemed to go from mildly irritated to downright pissed the hell off in just a matter of two point five seconds.
She gulped while staring down at Vanessa’s hands and moved to the side, attempting to inch her way inside the house without being too obvious about it.
“What the hell do you mean that there might be a problem about you keeping quiet?” asked Vanessa. “And keep your voice down about it. Mo is still upstairs and still knows nothing.”
“Okay. But can I just…?”
She tried inching further inside, but Vanessa raised her hand and shoved her back as hard as she could. Had Sheila not grabbed on tight to the frame of the door, she would’ve tumbled back down the stairs in those six inch black leather Jimmy Choo pumps and most likely into the street. It was around that time Vanessa regretted not lining her frame with Vasoline and her doorstep with butter.
“What the hell is that, V?”
“It’s me not letting you anywhere in here until you tell me what the hell is going on, Sheila.”
“Okay.” She shut her eyes and breathed in deep, slowly letting out the air before turning to Vanessa and slightly tilting her head. “I may have accidentally let the truth about your relationship with Adrian slip to Nathan.”
Vanessa grabbed onto the frame and angrily shifted back and forth where she stood. Turning her head just slightly, she sucked in air and glared at her rival. “Exactly what truth are we talking about here?” she asked.
“The truth about…” She held her breath for a few seconds before blurting it out. “The truth about the baby.”
Her eyes closed and she cringed. “Fuck!” she said between her teeth. She reached out her hand and grabbed Sheila by the shoulder. “Getcho ass in here!” She threw her into the foyer and slammed the door. Sheila nearly lost her balance again, but grabbed onto the railing of the stairs to keep herself from falling over.
As she stood and adjusted her dress, she turned to Vanessa and snarled. “I’d appreciate it if you would stop throwing me around like that.”
“And I’d appreciate the HELL out of it if you could actually learn how to keep yo’ big ass, muthafuckin’ mouth shut – for ONCE! I guess we all can’t get what we want, huh?”
“Who is that at the door?” Maurice hollered as he started making his way downstairs. “Is that Sheila?”
Vanessa tried straightening herself as best as she could and grabbed onto both sides of her robe.
Sheila spun her fingers around the curls of her hair, worried Maurice might have heard something that he shouldn’t, and smiled as he reached the bottom step and looked over at her.
“Thought I heard your voice from up there,” he said as he clasped the last button on his crisp white shirt. “It’s been hard to miss in any place that can give off an echo since we were kids.”
“That’s funny,” she replied. “You should take that on the road to Mars.”
“Only if I get to stop by Venus first.” A curious Maurice looked between the two women before directing all attention to Vanessa. “What’s, going on?”
“Nothing,” she reassured him as he stepped in front of her. “She’s just here to apologize for Nathan’s behavior last night.” She peeked around Maurice’s arm and lifted her brows. “Isn’t that very nice of her?”
Taking a hint and silently agreeing to go along despite Vanessa’s snide tone regarding her presence, Sheila smiled up at Maurice, who turned back to her, and nodded. “I know how it might seem with me coming here so soon after leaving there, but I really did feel like shit knowing that you both had to witness that,” she said. “I had no part in any of what happened. In fact, I don’t know what V’s old professor had to do with being out there this weekend in the first place. But Nathan’s always been a wild card.”
“Oh, he’s always been a hell of a lot more than that,” said Vanessa. And then she glanced at Maurice’s wardrobe and realized that he was dressed to go out, in slacks and a button down, as opposed to lounging around the house for the remainder of the afternoon. She tugged on the collar of his shirt as he dipped his arms around her waist and clasped his fingers. “And where are you off to?” she asked.
“Um.” He quickly looked down at himself. “The Tea Leaf Café.”
“In the Bronx? What are you doing going all the way out there?”
“My boss,” he told her, thinking quick on his feet. “That’s who was calling me earlier, from his wife’s cell phone. He wants to have a meeting with me about some upcoming ads.”
“It can’t wait until tomorrow when you’re actually at work?”
“He said we need to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. And I’ll be too swamped tomorrow to try and fit in what he needs to tell me.”
“Alright. Well, do you know when you’ll be back?”
“No, but…” He bent down to kiss her, softly, slowly and slipped his tongue between her lips. Yanking her close to feel his growing erection and dropping his hands down well below her waist, he briefly forgot that they were no longer alone.
“Mm.” Vanessa moaned into his mouth as his tongue fluttered against hers, and dug her nails deep into the back of his neck. Their mouths opened and closed in unison as the heat from their bodies swirled around them like a blazing fire.
Sheila was both repulsed and exceedingly envious by their overt display of love and affection, and cleared her throat.
Maurice and Vanessa smiled when they finally managed to pull away from each other.
She tugged on his shirt and whispered as she stared up into his eyes. “Come back to me soon.”
“Always.” He was quick to answer and kept his eyes on Vanessa while nodding back at Sheila before heading out the front door.
As soon as it was shut, Vanessa pressed her fingers against her mouth as it burned with the taste of his lips, and turned back to Sheila.
Feeling somewhat disoriented, she dropped her hand while trying to remember what to say.
“Do you know where the hell Nathan is right this moment?”
Sheila looked behind her and pointed at the door. “You don’t want to discuss what just happened between you and Mo?”
“With you? Hale no. Now where the hell is Nathan?”
Sheila stalled for a moment before backing away and strolling into the living room. She dropped her purse on the couch and ran her fingers along the wall and bookcase, all while trying as hard as she could to avoid answering the question brought forth.
She moved over to the curtains, feigning admiration and looked out into the backyard.
Vanessa came up behind her and hollered out. “SHEILA!”
Startled, she jumped and nearly fell back into the window.
Vanessa moved in closer. “Where. Is. Nathan?”
“I don’t know,” she blurted out.
“I don’t know where he is. After I told him that you were pregnant with Adrian’s child, he bolted from the hotel and I haven’t seen or heard from him since. I’ve tried calling and texting – I even sent him an email on the way over here and nothing.”
Vanessa’s chest tightened. She felt light headed and dizzy.
She needed water.
She needed booze.
She needed a bottle to smash over Sheila’s head or larger hands to choke every breath of life straight from her lungs.
Closing her eyes, she tried to refocus before becoming too irrational and carrying out one or both of the above acts.
“When exactly did you tell him about me being pregnant?” she asked.
“Not long after we got back to the hotel. As soon as I got in the room, I started getting some strange text messages from Joan. They didn’t make any sense, but when I finally got it out of her, she said that Nathan started texting her pretending to be me, which is how he found out about you and Adrian. She’s the one who blabbed to him about it before we left the city. I confronted him about everything he had done and the more he talked, the more I got angry. I got really, really angry V, and started running off at the mouth--”
“Like you do so very fucking well. I’m surprised your lips can even keep up at this point.”
Sheila glared. “The thing about the baby with Adrian just sort of slipped out in the middle of all of that.”
“Oh nothing ever just slips out with you!” She shook her hands up and down and started pacing the room. “It was bullshit when we were kids and it’s bullshit now – even more so! I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking even telling you this shit to begin with. I’M the real idiot in all of this. I knew I couldn’t trust you, but damn.”
Sheila took a step back, noticing the ache in her face, and grimaced. “V, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, save it!”
“No.” She surrendered pacing and pointed at her. “Fuck you being sorry, okay? FUCK YOU being sorry, because you’ve got no CLUE as to what you’ve done, as per usual. Your mouth is always so damn quick to write checks yo’ ASS CAN’T CASH!”
“It’s not as if he’s going to run around telling people about this, Vanessa!”
“Are you stupid?!” she hollered, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “Are you actually fucking stupid?! If Nathan was spiteful enough to bring Adrian out to the Hamptons just to get under my skin because of Maurice, what the fuck makes you think he’s going to keep quiet about that baby?! He’s probably hauling ass to see him out in Queens as we speak! And you think I can just call out there to ask Adrian anything about this after I told him to stay the fuck away?! He’s gonna start asking questions that I have no WAY of answering yet!”
“You don’t know that Nathan is actually on his way out there to see him--”
“Cut the shit and stop playing stupid with me, Sheila, because you can’t actually be that fuckin’ dumb!” She moved forward and wagged a finger in her face. “If Nathan tells Adrian that I was pregnant with his child, he will be livid about this, enough to tell that asshole Harold, who’ll no doubt reveal it to the NYDN as exclusive inside information the first chance he gets. I’ll be front page fodder yet AGAIN and everything my mother worked her ass off for to keep even the relationship with Adrian out of the papers will go straight down to hell, all thanks to you and that gotdamn big mouth you’ve got!”
Vanessa ran her shaky fingers through her hair down to the tips and shuffled to the other side of the living room in a panic. “FUCK!” she screamed out.
An apologetic Sheila dropped her head and sighed. “What can I do?”
Vanessa whirled around and guffawed. “Are you joking? I think it’s pretty damn clear that you’ve done enough.” She pressed her fingers down hard against her forehead to relieve herself of the pounding feeling inside her head.
Sheila wiggled her foot back and forth and waited. She knew it would be selfish to ask, but couldn’t actually help herself the moment her lips parted and words started spilling out. “Do I still get to write my column for your magazine?”
Vanessa immediately dropped her hand. Squinting, she shoved her face closer to Sheila’s if only to make certain that an actual person lived behind those eyes.
“Are you…?” She started. And then she crazily shook her head and threw her arm toward the foyer. “You know what, just get the hell outta my house!”
“No! You are crazy as hell! My life could be in shambles within a matter of seconds; so could Maurice’s as a matter of fact because he’ll know that I lied to him about this! And all you care about is ya damn self and that stupid ass column that I should have NEVER agreed to let you write in the first damn place.”
Vanessa quickly raised a hand, stopping her. “The only way I would ever allow you to write a single damn word for me is if you knew for certain that your future baby daddy from hell would keep his mouth shut about the one thing that you couldn’t. But you can’t be sure that he won’t muzzle it because you can’t even find his ass. So now I’m telling you that no, you are not going to write for me, ever. Point blank, period. Think about that shit on the way out of my house while I attempt to fix yet ANOTHER mess that you’ve gone out of your way to create for me.”
“You’re so quick to blame me for this, and yes, I shouldn’t have said anything and I’m sorry. But I didn’t make you sleep with Adrian, Vanessa. And I didn’t make you get pregnant with his child! All of those things are on you.”
“Yes they are, you’re right. They were also my gotdamn business before you decided to stick your nose into it by bringing Adrian’s ass back here in the FIRST damn place, all so that I would stay away from the very same dick that you can’t seem to keep your hands around! You wanna play this game with me, because bitch I can go all night.”
Sheila stared at her for a few minutes, eager to go another round but knowing it was pointless and that she would lose.
“Fine.” She grabbed her purse and stuck it beneath her arm. “I’ll go and maybe try to use some of my dad’s resources to help track down Nathan.”
“Yeah, why don’t you go and do that.”
“In the meantime, what do you want to do about Adrian?”
“What are you talking about?” Vanessa snapped.
Sheila glanced around the room, confused. “Don’t you think somebody should probably give him a heads up?”
“Did you not hear one word I just said about that man?! The point is to keep him from learning anything about this. You giving him a heads up is like tipping off the cops to a coke house while also giving them your name, home number, address, email and cell phone! You’re just asking for it all to be thrown out there in the streets and labeled a snitch. Look, just get out so that I figure out how the HELL to clean up this fucking mess before it travels any further than it should.” Grabbing Sheila by the arm and shoving her through the foyer, Vanessa opened the door quick and pushed her outside. “Don’t come back here unless you’ve found him.”
Sheila didn’t even have time to apologize again before the door was slammed in her face.
On the other side, Vanessa found herself terrified. And anxious. And spent. And feeling more stupid and vulnerable than ever before.
She didn’t know how to start, where she should go, who she should talk to about any of this or what they would say if she did.
But she sure as shit knew how it would all end. And it would be far from the pretty that had been her life with Maurice for the last few months.
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