I could hear voices near me. Faint yet familiar voices, but I couldn’t really make out what they were saying. My mind felt heavy, and everything in me kept telling me to relax and just rest.
Relax, Six. Wait, relax, why? Where am I? Why do I need to relax?
“She needs to know about the baby,” I heard one of them say, and my heart started to race.
There was a ringing in my ears, no wait, a loud beeping sound. That’s when it all started coming back. The explosion, my baby. Shit, what did I need to know about my baby? Please no, not again.
I knew I was crying, and I was willing my body to move, but it wouldn’t. I couldn’t fucking move.
“Hey, somethings wrong. Go get Mero. She’s waking up.”
That was Mauri. I recognized her voice.
What the hell is this beeping sound, and why can’t I move?
“Ms. Tillman, can you hear me, sweetheart? I need you to calm down, okay? Just relax and open your eyes.”
Who the hell is that? I don’t know that voice.
“Six, baby, relax. I’m here. You’re okay. Why the fuck is she shaking like that? Wake her up. What the fuck did you give her?”
That’s Mero. He’s worried but sounds angry too.
“Sir, she has to do that on her own. Just step back and—”
“No, you step the fuck back if you’re not going to do shit.”
“Mero, chill, cuz. She’s trying to do her job. Let her do her job.”
That was Khaleel. Why are they all here? Am I dying? My baby, did something happen to my baby? Is that why they’re all here?
“Is the baby okay?”
I felt my mouth moving but couldn’t hear my voice. I kept trying to open my eyes, but they felt so heavy.
“Six, open your eyes for me, sweetheart.” I didn’t know that voice. “Can you do that for me? There are a lot of people here who need you to open your eyes.”
Shit, I’m trying.
“Is my baby okay?” I asked again.
“The baby is fine. Look at me, Six, the baby is fine.” Mero’s voice was close this time.
I managed to get my eyes open, and the first face I saw was his. Mero’s handsome face looked stressed, angry, and unsettled.
When he forced a smile and then leaned down and pressed a kiss to my forehead, I lost it. Did he lie just to make me wake up? Did I lose my baby? Why was he so stressed, so angry?
“I need to see it. Let me see my baby.” My voice was low and shaky, but this time I knew the words came out.
“The baby is fine, Six. Relax.”
“No.” That time my voice raised and steady. “Let me see it. I need to see it.”
“EVERYBODY OUT!” Mero yelled.
“No, fuck you. That’s my cousin, and—”
“Mauri, let’s go. Give them a minute.”
My eyes darted over to where they were, and I saw Mauri glaring at Khaleel. She finally broke, looked at me, and then nodded at Khaleel. They left, but the nurse stayed, and so did Mero.
The entire time, the nurse was asking me questions, but it all felt like a blur. I just nodded to agree, and every time I looked at him with the stressed, angry look on his face that wouldn’t go away, I began to panic. The machines that I was connected to started going off again.
“Aye, she wants to see the baby. Let her see it,” Mero barked at the nurse.
He pointed to the ultrasound machine that was sitting in the corner, and the nurse nodded but kept doing whatever she was doing.
“One minute, and I’ll—”
“NOW! Or I’ll find a way to show her the baby myself. You don’t want me fucking up your equipment in here, but I’ll damn sure do it. She wants to see the baby. NOW! You want her to relax, then let her see the baby.”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Her calmness had to come from dealing with situations like this on a regular basis. She then smiled at me before patting my shoulder just as she left the side of my bed.
A few minutes later, my eyes were glued to the tiny screen, and everything in me felt at peace. I could see my baby, and I could hear it’s heartbeat. My baby is alive.
“See, everything’s good.” Mero kissed my forehead again, and when I looked up at him, he was watching the screen. “That’s our baby?” It came out in a whisper.
“That’s right. That little one in there is strong and doing well. Listen to that heartbeat.” The nurse smiled at me, and I nodded. “Now, I need to make sure Mom is doing well also, okay? Can I finish my exam on Mom?”
Her eyes started on me and then moved to Mero.
“Do what you need to do,” he said this time in a calmer tone. He was still unsettled but more relaxed than he had been before.
Mero eventually stepped back to give her space, but he watched her like a hawk. She explained that I had minor injuries and that I had been there since last night. Because of the potential trauma, they gave me a heavy sedative to allow me to sleep, but I was alert and breathing on my own, so I didn’t require a breathing tube.
I would be released later that day if all my vitals remained steady for the next few hours. My baby was unharmed and doing well.
The nurse then had a brief conversation with Mero before she left the room.
He waited until she was gone and then made his way back over to me. For a minute, he didn’t say anything. Mero just stood there watching me and looking like he was angry at the world. After what felt like forever, his hand moved down his face, and then he pulled the chair that was beside my bed closer to it and filled it with his body.
After taking my hand, he lifted it and kissed my wrist.
“Mero, don’t do that. I’m fine, and the baby is fine.”
He clenched his jaw, and it took him a minute to respond. “Yeah, but—”
“No buts. I’m not blaming you, and you’re not going to blame yourself.”
I didn’t know what happened, and right now, I didn’t really care. I was sure there would be plenty of time to worry about that. Right now, I was just grateful that I was alive.
“Hey?” Mero looked up at me, and I smiled. “So, did you save my burger for me or did you eat it? I’m kinda hungry.”
It took him a minute to respond, but he finally smiled. “Are you really asking me about that damn burger right now?” He laughed a little, and I nodded.
Shaking his head, he chuckled. “Your greedy ass.”
“Okay, I waited long enough,” Mauri said as she walked in.
She came right to me and leaned over the bed and hugged me before she placed her hand on my stomach. When she was upright again, she mushed the side of my head.
“You scared the shit outta me, and why the hell didn’t you tell me about the baby? I should have been the first call you made.” She frowned at me, and Mero narrowed his eyes at her.
“Watch your fucking hands, Mauri.”
“Don’t come for me, Mero. She was mine before she was yours.” They had a stare down before he shook his head and stood.
“We aren’t talking about before. We’re talking about now. That’s me, both of them, so watch your fucking hands.”
She shot him a bird, and he playfully shoved her in the arm.
“Well, that’s me, so you watch your fucking hands, cuz,” Leel said before he walked over and kissed Mauri on the lips.
He then leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. “I’m glad you’re good now. They were about to sedate his crazy ass if you didn’t wake up soon. He’s been giving them hell up in here.”
Mero chuckled, and I smiled as our eyes meet.
“Aye, I’m about to step out to holla at Leel for a minute. You good?”
“Yeah, nigga, she’s good.” Mauri waved him off, and he shook his head but waited for my response.
“I’m fine,” I assured him, and he and Leel left the room.
“Are you trying to kill me?” Mauri fussed as she sat on the side of my bed and nudged me over enough to lay down beside me.
She placed her head on my shoulder, and I flinched some from the weight of her body and from mine moving. It made me painfully aware of how sore I was.
“Shit, my bad. Did I hurt you?”
“No, I’m just a little sore.”
“I was so worried about you. When Mero ended that call with Leel, he lost it. Leel kept calling and couldn’t get Mero, and I kept calling and couldn’t get you. We took Kacen back to his mom, and Leel was freaking out until Mero called him from your phone and told us to come to the hospital.” She lifted her head and frowned at me. “Don’t ever do that shit again, Six. I mean it,” she fussed.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, so, as much as I love being in buildings that explode, I’ll pass on it next time so that I won’t have you worried.”
She lifted her head again and shot me a mean ass look before we both laughed. “You’re all I have, Six. I was scared out of my mind.”
“I know, but I’m fine.” My hands moved to my stomach, and she looked up at me.
“I can’t believe your hoe ass is pregnant, and to make matters worse, you didn’t even tell me.” She pouted.
“I just found out. I was going to tell you.”
“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes and then covered my hands with hers.
“Are you happy?”
“Yeah, but I don’t want Mero to feel trapped.”
“Fuck feeling trapped, Six. It takes two. You didn’t do it on your own. Besides, he’s already in daddy mode. He’s been cussing people out seven ways to Sunday about you and that baby since we got here. I’m pretty sure they threw his ass out a few times during the process, but he refused to leave and dared them to try and make him. Trapped or not, he’s down for you and this baby.”
I couldn’t help but smile at that. “I didn’t trap him, though, so don’t say that.”
“Hoe, please. I know that. He probably trapped your ass. You know that crazy gene runs in their family. Got me doubling up on condoms and birth control from here on out with Leel’s stupid ass. I’m not trying to play with him like that.”
I burst out laughing, and she looked at me dead serious. “I’m so not playing. You know Khaleel is not wrapped too tight.”
“Where’s Micah by the way?”
Again, her eyes rolled, but harder this time. “With his dad. Between him and Leel, I’m going to lose my mind.”
“Trouble in paradise?”
“Tez keeps doing dumb shit, and Leel is not trying to hear it. They got into it because Micah was at his mom’s house, and instead of Tez spending time with him, he showed up at Xposed.”
“So what? He shouldn’t have been there, Mauri. I get that you want to give him the chance to do the right thing, but you need to start figuring out what your next move is going to be.”
“I know that, and I’m not saying that I’m going to allow him to half ass with Micah, but I am going to let him at least try to be a father. If he doesn’t get his shit together, then I’ll figure something out.” She was conflicted, and I understood that.
“You won’t have to figure anything out, boo.”
“Because Leel will do it for you.” I grinned at her, and she sucked her teeth, mumbling something under her breath.
“You know some shit is about to go down because of this, right?” She got serious again. “I didn’t catch much because they were tight-lipped around me, but the way Mero and Leel were barking out orders on the phone about finding out who’s behind this had me wanting to pray for whoever was. Shit is crazy, Six.”
“Yeah, it really doesn’t make sense. It was Lee’s store.”
“True, but you already know how things like that work. Touch the ones they love the most.”
“Aye, we’re about to roll out. We need to go get Micah.” Leel ended our conversation when he entered the room with Mero right behind him. Mauri sat up and kissed my cheek. “I’ll come see you tonight. They’re releasing you later, right?”
“Yeah, but you can see her tomorrow. I got her tonight,” Mero said with finality.
“Well damn. Okay then. We’re doing it like that. Just run shit then, Mero.”
He chuckled and nodded.
“Take it easy, Six. I know cuz got you, so you’re good.” He stepped around Mauri, who was now standing, and then leaned down to deliver a light hug which ended with a kiss on my forehead.
“I’m in good hands.” I glanced at Mero and then back at Leel, who nodded to agree.
“Yo, we’re out, cuz. Hit me later, and we’ll talk.” Mero walked them both to the door, dapped Leel, and then hugged Mauri.
He then came back to me and took Mauri’s spot. His long body struggled to fit in the bed with me, but he made it work. After he had me in his arms, I completely relaxed.
“Tell me what you need?”
“I don’t need anything but this.”
It was the truth. I knew that things were about to change, and no matter what had just happened in the past twenty-four hours, none of that mattered right now. All I cared about was, me, Mero and this baby. Everything else could wait.
I muted the TV but kept my eyes on it when I answered the call that was coming through. Lee’s store was taped off as the coroner flashed across the screen removing a body, which was in a black bag on a gurney.
“Fuck,” I mumbled before I spoke to Trader. “What did you find out about my phone?”
I watched my TV, pissed that I didn’t have time to clean up the scene. My only concern at the time was getting Six out of there. I had never been so sloppy about my shit, but at the time, I couldn’t worry about that. I wasn’t about to let Six lose another baby. If the explosion didn’t kill her, that would have. I wouldn’t be able to deal with that or with the idea me losing another kid either.
“The cops have it. I got notification of them trying to pull information from it. Most they can do is get it open, and the only thing they’ll find is that it belongs to you. There’s no way I could do anything about that, but it’s clean. They won’t find shit on it. I made sure of that,” Trader explained, which allowed me to relax a little.
It was my personal phone, so there wasn’t much that they could find anyway. I still didn’t want them all in my shit like that, which was why Leel and I always had Trader place an app on our phones that allowed him access to remotely wipe them clean at any time, just in case something like this ever happened.
“Aight, ’preciate it, and you’re sure it’s clean?”
“Come on, Mero, you know I’m always on my shit. It’s clean, boss.”
I knew it was true, but I still had to question that.
“Aight ’preciate it. I have a few other things I need you to work on for me. I’ll be in touch.”
“Just let me know. You know I got you.”
I dropped my phone in my lap and dragged my hand down my face. I was frustrated and exhausted. I hadn’t slept in the past twenty-four hours, and I needed rest, but right now my mind was moving a mile a minute.
Even if they couldn’t find anything on my phone, they would know it belonged to me. I would definitely receive a visit from a detective sooner rather than later. Clean or not, my phone was found outside my sister’s shop, where a bomb was set, and a body was found. A body that I was positive had been affected by the blast but was cold because of the bullet that I put in it. They wouldn’t know that I was the one how pulled the trigger. I was certain that there wouldn’t be anything that connected me to the situation other than I purchased the building where it happened, and the shop was in Lee’s name, but the cops would see that as a prime opportunity to step to me.
They were well aware of who I was, but Leel and I were smart, so we never gave them anything that they could use to prove who what we were into. This was the first fuck up ever, but I was confident that I could find a way around it. For now, I was going to wait until the cops made their first move.
After ashing the blunt that I had been nursing, I released an exaggerated breath before I got up to go check on Six. We had been back at my place for a few hours now. The first thing that happened when we walked in was we both stripped down to nothing, showered, and I helped Six get situated in my bed.
Once I felt like she was good, I sent some of my people to one of her favorites spots to get food. After she ate and took whatever they gave her when she left the hospital, she was out. I had to make her take it because she had refused to, worrying that it would affect the baby. The idea made me smile because she was protective of our kid already, but she was in pain and needed rest, so I was glad she took it. Her body was bruised and sore, and I knew she wouldn’t sleep well without it.
Six fought me on it for a while. She eventually gave in but only took one of the two pills they suggested. I was cool with that. Something was better than nothing, and in no time at all, it put her out, which was all I wanted in the first place.
Lee and Joey came by, but I didn’t let them bother Six. I knew they were just concerned about everything that went down, but she didn’t need Lee hovering. After I calmed Lee down about her store and assured her that we would figure out who was responsible, I made it clear to Joey that he needed to keep Lee close for now. The two of them left a few minutes later.
My mom called going on and on about the baby, and the only way to get her off the phone was for me to promise that we would come see her soon. For now, I needed Six to just rest. She didn’t like it, but she agreed. After checking in with Leel to make sure he was good, I was done caring about anybody other than me and Six for the moment.
When I entered my bedroom, I leaned over and kissed her cheek before I just stood there watching her sleep. She looked to be at peace, balled up on my side with one arm tucked under her pillow and the other on her stomach. My comforter was up over her shoulders, so I couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there. Since we left the hospital, she had kept her hands on her stomach like she was constantly checking to make sure the baby was still here.
For some reason, that had me smiling inside. If I wasn’t sure before, I was damn sure positive about it now. I wanted Six, and this baby.
“You’re worried about me, but I’m worried about you. You have to be exhausted, Mero. Come lay down with me,” she mumbled, but her eyes were still closed.
“How did you know I was in here?” I chuckled, and she pushed out a slow breath.
“I can smell you, and I can feel you near me.”
“You trying to tell me something, Six? I took a shower with you when we got here.”
She lifted her head a little and smiled. “No, asshole. Your cologne. I can smell it. It’s subtle but still there. Come lay down with me.”
“Nah, I need to—”
“Mero, lay down,” she demanded.
I stepped out of my slides, lifted the covers, and climbed on the bed. Her back was to me, so I moved as close as I could and wrapped my arms around her. Sure enough, her hand rested on her stomach just like I thought. I covered it with mine and then kissed the back of her head.
“Your hair smells like coconut,” I said as I let my thumb glide across her hand while I buried my face in her hair.
“That’s what I used. My shampoo.”
“I like it.”
“Good, because it’s my favorite. Now go to sleep.”
“I’m taking care of you, not the other way around, Six.”
“Mmmhmm,” she moaned just above a whisper.
The comfort of my bed, my body wrapped around Six, the weed in my system, and my lack of sleep all combined to create a sedative for me. I felt myself drifting and didn’t have the energy or the will to fight it. I was drifting and fast. Just a few hours was all I needed, and then I would be good.
“He’s still asleep,” I heard Six tell someone, which caused me to lift my arms from my face and then open my eyes.
“I’m up, who’s that?” My voice was hoarse and scratchy from the fact that I had just woken up.
“Leel. Here.” She handed me her phone, and I held it to my ear with one hand and covered my face again with my other arm.
“Yo, what up?”
“Not you, nigga. I can’t tell which one of yall is pregnant.”
I chuckled and peeked at Six from under my arm. She was sitting next to me Indian style with a bowl of fruit in her lap that I knew we didn’t have when I went to sleep. There was never really any food in this place other than the snacks she kept on hand and food that we ordered.
“Fuck you, Leel. I was tired.”
“Well, nap time is over. Get your ass up. We have business to handle.”
“Aight, I’ll be moving in a minute. I’ll hit you when I’m on my way.”
“Aight, bet. She good, though?”
Again, I glanced at Six, who had her eyes glued to the TV, so she didn’t see me looking at her. Yeah, give me about an hour.”
“Cool. I’m about to take care of a few things. I’ll meet you at Soulful,” he rushed out and then ended the call.
I tossed the phone on the bed and then pushed both arms above my head to stretch. I was feeling the effects of the last twenty-four hours and really just wanted to stay in bed.
“Why you let me sleep like that?” I lifted up enough to snatch a piece of pineapple from the bowl she had. Of course, she cut her eyes at me.
“Because you needed it. I tried to wake you up to see if you wanted anything, but you wouldn’t budge.”
“Damn, I was out like that?”
“Yep.” I went to reach into her bowl again, and she blocked it with her hand.
“Word, we doing it like that?”
“Yes, I’m hungry.”
“Man, let me get one piece.” I reached again, and she groaned but moved her hand.
I lifted another piece of pineapple and shoved it in my mouth before I completely sat up.
“Greedy ass.” I groaned and then leaned her way enough to peck her cheek before I climbed off the bed to head to the bathroom.
I took a leak, washed my hands, and then turned on the shower before I grabbed my toothbrush. Once I was done, I joined Six in the room again on my way to my dresser to get boxers.
“You feel okay, how long you been up?”
“Yeah, I don’t know, a few hours. Your mom called, and then Lee called right after her.”
I clenched my jaw and then relaxed it. “I told them to leave you alone.”
She glanced at me with a soft smile. “It’s fine. They were worried.”
“Doesn’t matter, I still told them to leave you alone.” I pecked her check again before I dipped into the closet to find something to wear while making a mental note to get with my mom and Lee.
After I was dressed, I sat down on the bed with Six to run a few things by her before it was time for me to head out.
“You sure you feel okay?”
“Yes, Mero, I’m fine. Please stop asking me that,” she fussed.
Six wasn’t the type to want extra attention. I knew that after only being around her a few times. She was independent as hell, which made sense because she and her parents were cool but not super close. She more or less took care of herself.
Either way, I didn’t really care about her not wanting me hovering. It was a done deal. It was my job to make sure she was good, so she would have to get used to it.
“You know, telling me that doesn’t really mean shit.” I looked her right in the eyes, and she rolled hers.
“You’re annoying.” She shook her head.
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” I warned. “But listen, hang out here for a while. I need to go check Leel out about a few things.”
“What’s a while, Mero?”
“Until I get back, then we can talk about how things are going to go until we figure this shit out.”
She bit down on her lip for a minute while she stared at me.
“I don’t want to be held hostage. I can’t live like that.”
“I know, and you won’t. But, for now, I need to know you’re good so that I can focus. Just give me a day or two to check things out. I promise you’ll be able to move around after that. Besides, they told you not to do too much for the next couple days anyway.”
“I know, but I have jobs set up, and I have to get a new camera and MacBook. Shit, I hope I uploaded all the pictures from my camera, or else I lost all of them.” She looked frustrated, and that pissed me off.
“I got you. Let me worry about that. Just stay here, aight.”
“You don’t have to replace my things. I can—”
“Six, stop worrying about irrelevant shit. Just relax and feed my baby. I’ll be back in a few hours, and if it’s longer than that, I’ll call and let you know.”
“Feed your baby?” She cut her eyes at me, and I laughed.
“Yeah, my baby. I see you’re already buddy buddy with the concierge, so I know you’ll be straight.”
“Whatever. You need to buy groceries.” She cut her eyes at me.
“I can do that as long as you’re gonna cook. I don’t know shit about that kitchen, and I’m not trying to learn.”
“That sounds chauvinistic as hell.”
I laughed at the look she gave me. “Nah, it’s not that. I’m not on anything crazy like that. I just have no desire to cook. If you don’t either, I’ll hire someone because we have to eat.”
“You have to eat. This is your place, not mine,” she countered.
“We. I said what I meant, but we’ll discuss that later. Hit me if you need anything. I have to run.”
“I’m not leaving Mauri by herself.”
“I said we’ll discuss it later.” I leaned in and pressed my lips to hers before she could debate me again, and then I grabbed my phone and keys from the dresser before heading to the door.
“You can discuss what you want. I said what I meant,” she yelled behind me.
I just chuckled and kept going. “You really don’t know me very well,” I said to myself as I made my way through my place and to the front door.
As soon as I locked up and reached the elevator, the doors opened, and I was face to face with a detective. Here we go with this bullshit. I had no doubt that one would show up, I just didn’t think it would be this fast.
“Mr. Perez, I was just coming to see you. Do you have a minute?”
“Nah, I don’t.”
I stepped into the elevator prepared to ignore him until we reached the lobby.
“Just humor me then.” He grinned then reached into his blazer pocket and removed a clear evidence bag. “This look familiar?”
“Other than it being a phone? Nah, it doesn’t.”
“It’s not just a phone. It’s your phone. That much we could figure out and trace, but you know what I find strange?” He looked at me and waited. When I didn’t respond, he kept going. “There was nothing on it. Oddly enough, it was wiped clean. Not one number, text, or call was saved on it, but we did trace it to you as the owner, so I guess that’s a start. Any guesses on where we found it?”
“No, because I don’t really give a fuck,” I said, looking him right in the eyes.
He was older, maybe mid-fifties, and had a bald spot with eager, sneaky looking eyes. He was about my height, but his physique didn’t match mine. I was in shape because I made it my business to be. He was about sixty pounds heavier, most of which was around his midsection. All this muthafucker did was sit on his ass and consume calories when he wasn’t harassing people, like he was doing me right now.
“Well, I’ll tell you just for the hell of it. My guys found it outside of Unique. You know, your sister’s place?”
“Yeah, I know what the fuck it is, and I hope y’all figure out who set that bomb in there. Seems to me like that should be your focus, yet here you are in my face fucking up my peaceful state of mind.”
“It’s on the list, but it’s not a priority. Our priority is the body that we found. I bet you don’t know anything about that either, right? The victim had one shot to the head. A perfect shot too. Any ideas on how that happened? That seems like something you would be knowledgeable in.”
The elevator doors opened, and I stepped off with him behind me.
“Morning, Mr. Perez.”
I glanced at Jose and nodded. “Morning.”
“No, I don’t, and it’s not my job to figure that shit out. My job is to run my real estate company and my club. My club, which was recently shot up, and your fuck ass people can’t seem to figure out who did that shit. I suggest you do a better job with this, or I’ll be making some trips downtown. My tax money pays your salary, and if you aren’t doing your job, then what the fuck am I paying for?”
I grinned at him, and his face grew tense and turned a few shades of red.
“My job is to keep dealers like you from feeling like they run this city. You don’t. I know you had something to do with that body, and I’ll prove it—”
“Dealers?” I questioned with raised brows.
“Yes, dealers. We know all about you and your cousin’s business deals, and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with a club or real estate company. You just gave us what we need to do something about it. It’s only a matter of time.”
I rubbed my chin and then peered at him again. “I run a club, so does my cousin. We also own a real estate agency. I’m not sure who you have us confused with, but it’s not smart to be throwing around accusations like that. It’s actually kinda dangerous. Have a good day, officer…” I paused and waited.
“My bad,” I delivered a smug grin. “Detective. You’re all the same to me. A waste of my fucking tax money. Have a good day,” I tossed at him again and then walked off.
“Don’t get too comfortable, Perez. I know that this was you, and I’m going to prove it,” he yelled from behind me.
I didn’t even bother looking back. I wasn’t worried about him, but I was concerned with finding out who I bodied at my sister’s store and who he worked for. That was my priority right now, and my only priority. Mitchell could kiss my ass. He had better keep his ass away from me, or he would come up missing too. That was my word.
“Aye, call that nigga and tell him to hurry the fuck up. You know what, fuck it. I’ll call him.”
I pulled out my phone, and Mauri snatched it from me. “Leel, no, he’s only like ten minutes late. Just relax.”
I looked at her like she had lost her damn mind before I took my phone back. “I don’t care if he is ten seconds late. He’s fucking late. I need Micah here before I head out so I can make sure he’s good.”
Mauri rolled her damn eyes like she was annoyed with me and then grinned. “I love that you care about Micah, but you have to stop doing this. You’re making it worse,” she complained as she pushed her little ass body against mine and then circled my waist with her arms.
“I’m not making it worse, that nigga is, and… move.” I pushed her off me and to the side so that I could head to the door when I heard a knock.
“No, let me get it.” Mauri tried to move around me, but I held my arm out to block her and got to the door before she could.
When I pulled the door open, Micah damn near jumped out his father’s arms to get to me me. I grabbed him and looked him over, holding him up before I grilled Cortez.
“Your ass can’t tell time?” I barked at him, and he gritted his teeth like he wanted to say some slick shit.
“Come here, baby.” Mauri reached for Micah, but I held him a minute longer to check him out before I handed him over.
“Why is he still in his clothes from yesterday?” I glared at Cortez and then looked at Mauri. “See, I told you we should have picked him up last night.”
“He’s good. He fell asleep, so my moms was like don’t bother him. Then Mauri called early as hell telling me to bring him home.”
“Who the fuck you raising your voice at?” I stepped to him, and he backed up. “And you didn’t have to wake him to change his clothes. He sleeps heavy as hell. You would know that if you actually tried to be a father.”
“Yo, I’m out. Hit me when I can see him again.” Cortez glared at me and then looked past me at Mauri.
I just shoved his ass back out the door and slammed it in his face. “Punk ass muthafucker.”
Mauri frowned at me. “You really have to find some chill with him.”
“Man, fuck him. Got my little G in his same damn clothes like that shit is cool. I see he washed his ass and changed his own damn clothes.”
“It’s not cool, and I think that we can just switch things up and do supervised visits maybe here or we can go out somewhere. I don’t know, but if we do that, you can’t keep acting like this, or it won’t work.”
I looked at her mad as hell before I smiled. “So, you’re telling me I have to behave? I can do that as long as he doesn’t give me a reason to fuck him up.”
“Leel, seriously. You hate everything about him. How is he not supposed to give you a reason to fuck him up.”
“Long as I see him doing right by Micah, I’m good, but this shit isn’t gonna fly. Get him cleaned up, and I’ll hit you later. I have to go meet Mero.”
I kissed Mauri on the cheek before running my hand over Micah’s head and then leaving. I waited by the door until I heard the locks turn, and then made my way to the parking lot. Cortez was still there and by his car on the phone, so I decided to give him one last warning.
When I got to him, I snatched his phone from his hand, ended his call, and then pressed it to his chest.
“You love your son?” I asked with my arms folded.
“Yeah, I love my son.”
“Well, I do too, and I’m pretty sure I love him more than you do. His care isn’t provisional. You can’t just pick him up and put him down when you feel like it.”
“It’s not like that. I can’t help that I had to do a bid. I’m trying to figure this thing out,” he defended.
I let out a cocky laugh. “Did you wash your ass today?”
“Yeah, what the fuck?”
“So, you didn’t think your son deserved that same amount of respect?”
“It’s not like that. My moms—”
“Fuck your moms. What grown ass man answers about the care of his own son by starting a sentence with my moms. Micah isn’t her son. He’s yours. Be a father to your got damn son and not on no half ass shit. Spend time with him. Get to know him, or you won’t have that option. Let me make this clear, whether you step up or not, Micah is gonna be good because I got him. Now if you choose to do right, I won’t get in your way, but you’re on thin ice, my nigga. Thin fucking ice. Get your shit together,” I warned and then walked off.
Like I expected, he didn’t say shit. He just got in his car and pulled off. This dude was really trying my patience. Really fucking trying it.
As soon as I got in my car, Breven was on my line. She had been cool with the Mauri thing, but I swear the second she popped my son out, her entire mindset changed about my finances. Her ass swore Kacen gave her unlimited access to the bank of Khaleel. I was over her ass with that shit already.
“Aye, what’s up?”
“This little ass apartment is what’s up. Did you check into getting me a place yet? You know my mom will be with me for a while, and I need the space.”
Here we fucking go. See what I mean?
“Breven, you have a two bedroom, and your place isn’t small. I’m looking, but some shit came up, and I need a minute.”
“My place is small, Leel. Kacen needs his own room, and I need a room for my mom. You’re living good, so why can’t your son be living good?”
“See, you doing too fucking much. Kacen doesn’t give a shit about anything but a bottle and a nap right now. I said I’m fucking looking. Stop stressing me, yo.”
“I bet your new bitch is—”
“Aye, dead that shit right there before you even begin. Her name is Mauri, and this isn’t about her. Kacen is my priority, and you know that, but he doesn’t need shit right now. You really want to play those type of games with me? I promise I’ll fucking win. I said I’m looking, and I’ll figure something out. Just worry about making sure he’s good and stop bugging me about shit that’s not a priority.”
“Oh, so your son is not a priority?”
“Man, you’re gonna make me cuss your ass out. I just said he is.”
“Then find us a bigger place, Leel, and soon,” she yelled and then hung up on me.
Breven might not be giving me grief about Mauri or even about getting the dick anymore, but this money thing was much worse. I didn’t mind taking care of my son, and by default, that meant her too. But she wasn’t about to tell me what the fuck I was gonna do, nor was she going to be in my pockets just because she felt like she could. I had to get a handle on that, but right now, I needed to go meet up with Mero. My headache with Breven would have to wait.
“What up, Lys?”
She was the first face I saw when I entered Soulful. It was early as hell, but she was there, which meant that she was either doing paperwork or had a delivery.
“I have a bone to pick with you.” She placed one hand on her hip and then pointed her long ass finger at me.
“Bone? What you know about bones, Lyss?” Mero teased as he rounded the corner.
I burst out laughing as she cut her eyes at him and shot him a bird.
“I know I’m staying as far away from them as possible since fucking with bones tend to leave you pregnant and attached to ignorant ass men like you.”
“Damn, Lyss, that’s fucked up. You just gonna play me like that? Since when did I end up in the same category as him. Leel maybe, but me? I thought I was your boy.”
“You were until you started acting like him with those slick ass comments.” She grinned at Mero and then looked at me. “So, I don’t get to meet your son, Leel? How are we family, but I haven’t seen him yet? It’s bad enough he popped up out of nowhere, but can I at least hold him once?”
“Aww damn, I got you. You know it wasn’t intentional. I’ll bring him by here.”
“Soon, Leel. I still can’t believe your retarded ass is someone’s father, and now Mero’s about to be one too. Y’all need all the prayers that you can get.” She rolled her eyes. “But I’m happy for you. Maybe these babies will calm you two down.”
“Nah, ain’t shit changing,” I said and chuckled. “Well, at least not for me.”
“Lord, let me go pray,” she mumbled and then walked off, but she stopped and peered at both of us. “Oh, and can we please get through this week without anyone shooting up my club or blowing it up?”
“Your club?” Mero said with raised brows.
“Yes, my club. It’s just as much mine as it is yours. Fix whatever you two have going on out there before it shows up here. I don’t have time for that shit,” she warned and then gave Mero and me both a death stare before she left us.
“Aight Lyss, I got you,” Mero yelled behind her and then laughed.
“Bruh, she really thinks she runs shit.”
“She does. Now try to tell her she doesn’t, and that’s your ass.”
“Nah, I’m good on that. Lyssa scares me.”
“Yo, you’re dumb, and why you always fucking with her then?” Mero said, leading the way to his office.
“She started with me this time. I was chill. In fact, you were the one who started that with her this time with than bone comment.”
He pushed through his door and chuckled. I entered behind him and shut the door.
“She walked into that shit. That’s on her.”
We both took a seat, me in front of his desk, and Mero behind it before he began.
“A detective came to see me today.”
“Nah, my place. I met him on the elevator. His name was Mitchell.”
“What he say?”
“Nothing important. He had my phone, but Trader had already cleaned it. He threw some shit at me about Lee’s store and the body they found. They don’t have shit. They’re just fishing right now.”
“Yeah, I figured. You got rid of the gun already?”
“Yeah, Toley picked it up from the hospital and had it melted. This Mitchell guy is going to be a fucking pest. He threw it out there about us being dealers—”
“Dealers?” I laughed at that.
It was much bigger than that, so him calling us dealers was like an insult.”
“Shit pissed me off too,” Mero said and then nodded, likely thinking what I was thinking. “But, I let it go. No need to check him about shit he don’t need to know anyway.”
“I’m sure they think they have it all figured out.”
“Oh, no doubt, which is why we need to get on this shit. It’s really fucking with me. First her party, then her truck, and now her store. This shit doesn’t add up. Maybe it is about Joey.”
“You talked to him?”
“Yeah, but he can’t piece it together either. The only thing that he can think of is Racks.”
“Racks? The fuck would he be sticking his chest out for? They didn’t have beef, did they?”
“No, but this move puts Joey above him as far as the streets are concerned. It basically makes Joey more important and way more respected. Maybe he’s not feeling it.”
“We watching him?”
“For now, yeah. I’m letting Joey take the lead, but we need to make sure Six and Mauri are straight too. He has eyes on Lee, but we’ll put a team on her too.”
“Done. How the hell we get this close to the finish line and shit goes left?”
“Same thing I’m wondering, but we’ll handle it. There’s no way we’re going down. We’ve worked too hard to get to the top,” Mero said with confidence, and I agreed.
“So, what about you and Six? Y’all officially a thing?”
He ran his hand over his head and smiled hard as hell.
“Your happy ass. That’s my answer right there.”
“Fuck you, Leel, but yeah, we are, or at least I want to be. I think she’s down with it too. I just have to be sure.”
“Santana sign yet?”
“Nah, her dumb ass is holding out like it’s gonna change things. She actually showed up at my place and embarrassed herself. Jose caught her trying to hop her ass on the elevator to go up like she still lived there. She had words with Six and everything. Shit is crazy, man.”
“She’s crazy, cuz. I always knew it was there, just not on this level. What are you gonna do?”
“I’m trying to be patient, but she’s about to bring that dark side out.”
“Aww hell. She doesn’t want that,” I joked.
“No, she doesn’t.” He looked me dead in my eyes while his were serious as fuck.
“Well, either way, she brought it on herself. It is what it is with that. I have my own shit to worry about.”
“Breven renege on her peace treaty?”
“Nah, on that. She’s good with the idea of me and Mauri for now. Her issue is she’s trying to get in my pockets. And not just get in them bitches, she’s trying to empty them.”
“Damn, she’s running it like that?”
“Hell no. She done lost her mind. I am gonna get her a bigger place. Her spot is cool and all, but I can’t have my son not living like me. I might just find a bigger place for me, Mauri, and Micah and then let Breven and her moms move into mine. With all of us and Kacen, we’ll need the space anyway.”
“Is she gonna be good with that?”
“She doesn’t have a choice, cuz. I’m all for making sure she’s good, but my rules and my way. She isn’t running a got damn thing when it comes to money that I made.”
“Good luck with that. Sounds like you’re gonna need it.”
“I don’t need shit, but she’s going to if she keeps trying me. Breven is going to make me fuck around and be a single parent.”
“Leel, the fuck, cuz? You know you can’t do that, right?”
I waved him off. “I’m not saying imma get rid of her or nothing like that. I’ll just get full custody. She can see him whenever she wants and shit, but he’ll live with me and Mauri.”
I was half joking, but a part of me was dead ass about that. I didn’t do well with people trying to control me. Sans was about to see Mero’s dark side, and Breven was about to see mine if she didn’t get her shit together. I meant that too.
“Yo, if we’re done, then I’m out. I need to go holler at Toley, and then I’m going back to the house. I need to break it to Six that she’s moving in with me. I kinda already told her, and she acted like she had a say in the decision.”
I chuckled at how he just threw that out there. He was about to bully Six into moving in with him and had the nerve to call me crazy.
“So, you’re asking her or telling her?”
He looked at me like I was asking him something crazy.
“I’m not asking her shit, but I’ll let her think she has a choice when she really doesn’t.”
“And you talk shit about me.” I stood and shook my head. “Let me know how that plays out. I’m about to roll up on Breven and snatch her ass up one good time.”
“Don’t put your hands on her, Leel.” Mero glared at me, and I returned the same look.
“I’m not, not like that, but I’m about to check her ass, though.”
“We have enough shit going on as it is. Don’t make it worse.”
“I hear you, but no promises. I’ll make my moves based on how she reacts.” I smirked and nodded.
I was good on Breven as long as she understood her position, and I was about to go make that crystal clear.
“What am I supposed to do now?”
I wanted to cry as I stood in the middle of what was now a burned down pile of concrete, ashes, and scorched bricks that used to be my store. My first baby that I poured all of my time and energy into. It was hard to believe that my vision was gone, burned to the ground.
“You will open somewhere else, bigger and better.” Joey walked up behind me and kissed my neck before he moved one arm across my chest and held me to his.
I wanted to cry. This was my baby. I worked so hard to build this store. I didn’t want to go through the process of starting over, but I didn’t have a choice.
“It’s not that easy. It was a lot of work, and I lost so much. I have to literally start from scratch.”
“I know, baby, and I got you. We’ll get it done. No matter what it takes, we’ll get it done. Stop stressing, aight.”
“It’s hard not to. Look at this place.”
“Lee, it’s a small setback. Trust me, I understand, but I give you my word, it’s temporary, and your comeback is going to be that much better. I need you to believe me on that.”
Joey held me tighter and then kissed my neck. I relaxed a little because I was going to do exactly what he asked me to do; trust and believe him. Inhaling deeply, I released it along with some of my frustration and then pulled away from Joey enough to turn and hug him.
“If you say you got me, then I know you got me.” I pressed my forehead to his chest while taking in the feel of his body holding mine and the amazing scent that emanated from his body.
I felt the muffled laugh vibrate from his chest before I heard it.
“Good, now let’s get out of here. This shit is depressing, and I can’t have it bringing my pretty girl down. I have a surprise for you.”
“I just want to go home.” I pouted, and he narrowed his eyes at me when I looked up to receive them.
“Nah, Lee, we’re not rocking like that. I let you have your moment, now it’s time to man up and keep it pushing.”
“Man up?” I questioned with a smirk and raised brows.
“Yeah, man up. I need a G on my team, Lee. I thought that was you.” A smug grin crossed his face, and I rolled my eyes.
“I’m too pretty to man up, but I can G up for you.”
Joey laughed and nodded. “That’s what the fuck I’m talking about. Let’s get it.”
“So, are you telling me where we’re going?” I asked after Joey lifted the box that held the few salvageable items from my store.
“Nope, but you’ll like it, so just roll with me and don’t be asking me a million and one questions.”
I stopped at his trunk and pushed the button to open it for him.
“I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t ask you a million and one questions.” I stuck my tongue out at him and then got in.
I could hear Joey laughing behind me. Once he joined me, he leaned across the seat and pecked my cheek.
“And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t ignore you.”
I rolled my eyes, knowing that I wouldn’t get anything out of him. So, I just went with it, relaxed, and let my man navigate us through our day.
About forty-five minutes later, we pulled up at one of my favorite hotels. I looked at Joey skeptically as he pulled up to valet parking.
“Why are we here?”
“Because we’re staying here tonight.”
“Wait, why? That doesn’t make sense.”
“Shit doesn’t always have to make sense, Lee. Come on.” He got out, and the valet opened my door to help me out.
When Joey rounded the front of his truck to reach me, he pulled open the back seat and lifted two Louie duffles that I hadn’t noticed were there.
“You packed for us?”
“Yeah, now come on. With his free hand on the small of my back, Joey guided us inside and to the front desk where he spoke to the attendant about our reservations and received the keys to our room. After we were inside the elevator, I started with the questions again.
“We don’t have to stay here, we both live less than an hour away.”
“That doesn’t matter. You need a break, and so do I. You love this damn place, so we’re staying. It’s just one night. We’ll hit up Lenox and Phipps and then get dinner. After that, I’m going to spend the rest of the night taking away your ability to walk.” He winked at me, and I swear my body almost fell apart on me.
“All of that sounds amazing, but it’s not necessary. I could have cooked. I don’t need to shop, and… well the last part, I’ll keep, but we could have done that at my place or yours.”
“It doesn’t matter what we could have done. Tonight we eat out, and it’s not about shopping. I know that’s not really your thing, thank God.” He grinned at me, and I laughed. “But you love window shopping. I see how you get caught up in that shit and can do it for hours. It inspires you, and that’s what you need right now.
“I know the whole thing with your store has you in a bad head space, so I want you to be inspired and motivated to be that much better than you were before. I love that you do your own thing, Lee. It’s sexy as fuck that you run shit, and I need you to be back in your element. So, if it means that I have to walk around the mall with you watching you fall in love with your passion again, then that’s what’s happening. Today is about you. I need to see my pretty girl smiling again.”
“You make me sick.” I bit down on my lip and just stared at him for a minute.
“I hate your ass too, now come on so I can prove to you just how much.”
When the doors opened to the elevator, he let me exit first and then followed before stepping around me to lead the way to our room.
He got a terrace suite, one of my favorites, and it was perfect.
After Joey tossed our things on the bed in the master suite, I walked up to him and pressed my body against his while I locked my arms behind his back.
“Thank you for this. It’s perfect, and the fact that you put this much thought into me makes it that much more perfect.
“I told you I got you, Lee. I meant that, and I will always do what it takes to make sure you have what you need. That’s my word.” Joey kissed me again and then pressed his forehead against mine.
“What about business? I’m sure you have—”
“I do, and let me worry about that. I’ll make a few calls to handle things while we hit up the mall, and the rest is covered. I’m all yours today, aight.”
“If you fucking cry, I’m snatching your ass up, Lee. Real shit. Didn’t I say I needed a G on my team? Not a got damn cry baby.” The look he gave me forced a hard laugh that pushed my tears back. They were damn sure on the verge of slipping out.
“Shut up.” I balled up my fist and nailed him in the arm. “I wasn’t going to cry.”
“Yeah, aight. I know you, Lee. You cry about everything, but not today. I’m not with the shits.” Joey kissed my forehead and then stepped around me.
“Let me change real quick, and then we can head out.”
He grabbed his bag off the bed and then headed to the bathroom. I went in the opposite direction to relax in the living room while he got ready to leave. I let go of all of my frustrations about my store and decided that today was going to be a good day. No matter what.
“I’m drunk as shit,” Joey said and then laughed before his hand moved down his face.
We were tucked off in the corner of the hotel restaurant. I was full, tipsy, high and tired. As he promised, we spent the day window shopping at both Lennox and Phipps. Joey was also right in that it would get me inspired. I already had about ten new designs that I couldn’t wait to get started on, and I had also mapped out the floor plan for my new location. I just needed a building to house my vision.
The day was perfect, and I appreciated him for making today about me. Now we sat, sharing drinks and just enjoying each other’s company after having the absolute best meal ever. Well, aside from my mom’s home cooked meals.
“You know why I’m so into you?” I said randomly.
“Because I’m the got damn man. I’m fine, paid, and I take care of you.” Joey grinned at me with hooded eyes.
They were red and lazy from the drinks and the weed that he had consumed. His dreads were neatly done and in two French braids, further enhancing his appeal.
I smiled as I admired my man. He had one arm on the table as he held onto the beer that he was now nursing after about four or five glasses of Hennessy. The muscle in his tatted arm flexed as his fingers moved across the base of the beer. God, he was sexy.
“That’s part of it, but the most important part is that you’re just you.”
“Who the fuck else am I supped to be?” Offering a lazy grin, he then moved his tongue across his bottom lip.
“No one, but what I mean is that no matter what, you always stay true to who you are. From the day I met you, you’ve always been the same, no matter what the situation. You never apologize for that either. If someone is not feeling anything about you, you’re just like fuck it. Even with me, you’re just Joey. It’s always take me as I am or don’t take me at all, but even with that, you still find a way to be what I need. This whole place is not you.” I waved my hand in the air and then looked around.
I was in a strapless maxi dress, heels, and had my hair in big spirals. Causal chic. Joey was in jeans, a pocket tee, and a pair of Adidas Yeezy Calabasas. He rocked a simple gold Cuban link around his neck, matching bracelet on one arm, and his Rolex on the other. Simple, but it screamed street, especially with the tattoos that were exposed on his arms and neck.
Everyone else in there was in slacks, dress shirts, or straight up business attire. Joey didn’t care. He was him, and it didn’t bother him in the least that he stuck out like a sore thumb.
“It’s not me, but it’s you. I can live in your world as long as you can live in mine, Lee. It’s not a big deal. Shit like this makes you happy, and my goal is to make sure you always have that. I can rock with this if the end goal is your smile.”
“But even though you don’t fit, you’re comfortable.”
“I’m with you. I’m always comfortable when I’m with you.” His expression was serious and intense.
“See, that right there is why I’m so into you. You’re just you, but you make me feel like I’m more than just me. You make me feel like I’m everything.”
“Because you are, to me anyway, so I’ll always work hard to make sure you feel that. Even if it means being up in bourgeoisie ass places like this.”
“I’m ready to go back to the room,” I said quickly. Looking at him and hearing him build me up had my clit throbbing and my panties soaked.
“You just ordered another drink,” he said and looked around for what I assumed was our waitress.
“And you still got one more thing that was on your list. Fuck that drink. I want my last thing.” I pushed my chair back and stood.
Joey looked up at me and grinned. “Aight, I’m with that. Just know I warned you. I’m not taking it easy on you either.”
He stood and tossed two bills on the table before reaching for my hand. Once he had it, Joey pulled me to his side and draped his arm around my shoulder. The ride up to our room was quiet. I stayed by his side the entire time, but the second we were in our room, that changed. Joey was all over me.
He forced my back against the door after he shut it and cupped my face in both his large hands. Taking control of my mouth, he worked his tongue so deep into it that I gave up on breathing.
The weight of his body on mine held me in place as he pressed into me enough for me to know that he was ready for me.
I decided to offer a special thank you, so I pushed away from him and dropped own to my knees, taking hold of his belt at the same time. Shortly after, his jeans hung just below his waist while I worked my hands into his boxers.
By the time my mouth made contact, he was done for.
Joey’s hand gripped my hair, and he thrust into my mouth. I almost gagged because of his size but managed to catch myself. I took in as much of him as I could while he pushed in and out of my lips. I put my tongue to work, making sure to take him there. Based on the way he was gripping my hair, moaning my name, and cursing under his breath, I’d say mission accomplished.
In no time at all, my legs were around his waist and he was moving both of us to the sofa in our suite. My body landed on the back of it aggressively, and my legs were pushed open wider. He smiled and shook his head when it registered that I wasn’t wearing any panties.
“You better not ever do this shit when you’re not with me.”
“Never, I promise,” slipped from my lips with a sly, seductive grin.
“Got damn.” Joey grunted after he had a condom on and pushed inside me.
He was lost already after only the first stroke. When his pelvis started a slow, steady rock, pushing in and out of me, he began to mumble under his breath.
“Lee,” barely made it from his lips, but I heard him, and it made my body shiver. The second time I heard my name, it was huskier and came out as a bit of a growl.
I wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol that had my body so open or just the way he was moving inside me, but I felt every second of every inch as he moved in me. With my arms securely wrapped around his neck while his hands cupped my ass to make sure I didn’t fall, I fell in love with this man to every depth that he reached. This had to be perfection!