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Novel Thoughts

AlTonya's Opinions, Musings & Other Information…

Month

October 2012

Mixed Signals- Final Installment!!!

         CHAPTER 7

 

“Brella, we need to talk.”

Gabby’s eyes widened at the familiar sound of Damian’s deep voice on the other end of her line. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“It’s no joke and it would be unwise for you to treat it as one. So, can I expect you?” He softly inquired.

“I…expect me? You want me to meet you there?”

“No, I’ll send someone to pick you up around eight. Be ready.”

The line went dead and Gabby stood there, her mouth open in surprise. Damian was the last person she expected to talk with after last night. LD was having such a wonderful time at the party; she decided to get a ride back to Brooklyn with a couple of friends. It seemed LD and Delois Graham found a lot to talk about and Gabby realized that the woman’s involvement with Damian obviously wasn’t a serious thing. Dismissing that from her mind, she realized she had over six hours before his car arrived. Chastising herself for being weak, she admitted that she really did want to see him.

After leaving her home, Gabby decided to head into the restaurant to check on things. When she arrived, she could tell that Joe was not pleased to see her. After a minute, she knew why. Since her absence, GJ’s had undergone a tremendous transformation. Although the restaurant had a state-of-the-art cooling system, there were now an abundance of ceiling fans. They covered almost every square inch of the ceiling. In addition to the Fichus trees that were spread here and there, leafy Ferns were placed on each table, in the windows and along the bar. She headed into the kitchen before there were any further surprises.

“Joe!” She called, hands perched on her hips.

Joe emerged from the rear of the kitchen. To the observant staff, he and Gabby looked ready for battle.

“What the hell is all that…clutter doing in my restaurant?!”

“I was trying to create atmosphere, Gabby. The place could use it.”

“What you’ve created is a jungle and that’s not the type of atmosphere I want here.”

“It’s a shock to me that you noticed anything, as little time as you spend around here.” He pointed out.

Gabby could feel the blood rushing to her head as she struggled to control her emotions. “Joe, you do very good work here and I appreciate you, but I will kick your condescending ass right out of here if I have to. Now when I come in here again, I want all that stuff gone. If it’s not, you will be.” She spoke with fierce certainty, leaving no question about her sincerity. Turning to leave the restaurant, she caught Joe’s deadly glare.

The look remained with Gabby during her entire drive back home. Despite their differences, she never thought Joe could have had anything to do with the prank calls. Now, she wasn’t so certain. From her car phone, she relayed her suspicions to LD and discovered he had a date with Delois Graham that evening.

“Well, it’s about time you took your nose out of jail cells and mug shots.” Gabby teased.

“Very funny. Listen, I’m gonna check this guy out. I don’t want you confronting him with this, you here? Gabby?”

“I’m in no mood to talk to Joe, don’t worry.”

“Good. Call me if something happens.” Louis instructed, making sure she had his cell number before ending the call.

 

Gabby ran a bath the moment she arrived home. Immersing herself in the luxurious, creamy bubbles, she tried to make sense of Damian’s call. Thinking better than to question it, she sank further into the tub and enjoyed the silence.

***

Gabby was slipping into a chic, figure flattering coat dress by a quarter to eight. The classy, gold frock hugged her small, curvaceous frame perfectly. Gold pumps added four inches to her height. She looked smart, sexy and ready to take on Damian Frinks.

As promised, the car arrived promptly at eight. Settling back into the cushioned interior of the beige Bentley, she allowed herself to admire the success Damian Frinks had acquired. Not many black men could claim jets, expensive cars and companies as their own. Especially at such a young age. After a while, Gabriella realized they were heading out of the city.

“Excuse me, Sir…uh where are we going?” She asked, trying to mask her nervousness.

“Mr. Frinks wants you to dine at his home on Long Island this evening, Miss.” The chauffer replied.

“Oh no.” Gabby breathed, leaning back against the seat. What was she going to do now? She was prepared to meet Damian on mutual ground in a restaurant. At his home, she was on unfamiliar and, perhaps, unfriendly territory.

After a while, the car was approaching a tall, iron gate that slowly parted. As they rounded the curving driveway, Gabby was awed. She stared at the huge, stone house nestled amidst a myriad of fir trees. She accepted the driver’s assistance when leaving the car. With a shaky sigh, she followed the driver inside the intimidating mansion.

What she entered, to her surprise, was a warm, cozy atmosphere. The foyer was covered with black and gold checkered squares. Further inside, the light radiating from the lamps was soft and inviting. The walls carried several canvases of African art. Ascending a few steps to the right, the chauffer took her into a cozy room that resembled a den. The color scheme was a beautiful burgundy and navy. A huge burgundy sofa was accompanied by cushioned seats of the same color and occupied one side of a thick navy carpet. An impressive entertainment system was imbedded in a shelf of movies with a wall of books on the opposite end. A flat-screened TV adorned a wall and the patio doors at the back of the room overlooked the massive lawn. No, this house wasn’t nearly as dark and intimidating as its owner.

As Gabby looked out over the landscape, she felt a familiar tingle in her spine and knew she wasn’t alone. When she turned, her breath caught in her throat. Whatever her problems with Damian, she could not deny how incredible he was to look at. She simply stared, taking in the sagging denims, matching shirt which was left unbuttoned to reveal the white T-shirt worn underneath.

“So formal, Brella? I thought we were…friends?” He asked, his deep voice sounding cold and flat.

Gabby understood the dig, but chose to ignore its meaning. “I didn’t know we were having dinner in your home.” She replied, determined to control her temper.

“Mmm…I’m sure you would’ve worn something more…appropriate, hmm?” Damian asked, his dark eyes roaming the length of her body.

“Are you finished?” She snapped.

Damian decided to let his mood shine through. “Baby, I haven’t started.”  He whispered, circling Gabby where she’d come to stand in the center of the room. “What the devil were you doing coming to the party with Davidson?”

Gabby winced; the flutter of her lashes brought a grim smirk to Damian’s face.

“Yes, I know who he is and I know about his daily visits to your house.”

“From Delois, no doubt. Who are you to jump at me for coming to a party with someone else, when you do the same thing?!”

“Who is he, Brella? Who is he to you?”

“Didn’t Delois tell you?” Gabby whispered in a tone of mock surprise as she walked away from him. “LD’s my lover.” She spat, turning to view his reaction.

For a moment, it appeared she’d knocked the wind out of him and there was that pained look in his eyes again. It quickly vanished, however, and was replaced by something that told Gabby she had gone too far.

Damian nodded, his eyes narrowing sharply. His expression turned ruthless as he headed towards her. Unmindful of the unease in her eyes, he caught her wrist.

“Damian-”

“I don’t want to hear it.” His handsome features contorted into a wicked frown.

Gabby blinked, praying her tears would not reveal themselves. She would not, could not cry in front of him. “Why did you bring me here?’ She asked.

Damian’s hold tightened and he jerked her closer. “Because I want you here.”

“For what?”

“Brella,” he sighed, “you’re a smart lady. You should know exactly why.”

“Then do it and stop trying to scare me with talk!” She ordered, struggling against his vice like hold.

Damian began to chuckle, the sound vibrating through his chest and filling the room. “Brave lady.”

“Mr. Frinks. Dinner is served.”

Damian looked away from Gabby, closing his eyes and ordering his temper to cool. Finally, he released his hold on her. “Follow me.” He instructed.

***

The dinner look delicious, but Gabby found that her appetite had completely disappeared. Damian, meanwhile, had wolfed down his huge Rib eye, potatoes and rolls. Gabby studied the massive back lawn from her spot on the spacious terrace where they were dining.

“Would you like to take a walk?” Damian asked, watching her stare over the grounds. At the quick shake of her head, he rose from the table and headed back into the house.

Realizing she had little choice, Gabby followed him back inside. She was so tense; she couldn’t begin to enjoy the beauty of the large house. In a matter of minutes, they were back in the den.

“I suppose you’d like to go home now?” Damian asked, pushing his hands into his pockets.

“If you don’t mind.”

“Oh… but I do mind, Brella. You see, we haven’t finished our conversation.”

“Damian please, can’t you just let it go? Let’s just end things here, okay?” She bargained, her voice barely audible.

“No, Brella. It’s not okay. I don’t just want to end things.” He softly assured her.

“It always comes down to what you want, doesn’t it. I guess if I just slept with you that would do it, wouldn’t it?”

Damian’s gaze narrowed instantly, then he dropped to the sofa and held his head in his hands. The dreads provided an effective shield across his face. “Brella,” he slowly, softly began, “I won’t deny that there have been women. Many women. My work doesn’t allow time to develop many meaningful relationships and I admit that my attitude doesn’t help much either. But that does not give you the right to assume my ultimate goal with every woman is to get her into bed. I didn’t take you for a ride in my jet to have sex with you, Brella. I didn’t listen to you talk about your family or tell you about mine to have sex with you. I may be cold, Brella. I’m not that cold.”

“Damian-”

“I can’t work. I can’t sleep. That meal tonight was my first in a week.” He shared, catching the look of surprise flash in her eyes. “It’s true. I’ll admit it, I want you. How much I want you is the first thing I’m reminded of every time I see you. I believe I want you in my bed more than I’ve ever wanted any woman and that drives me crazy. I guess you intrigue me so, because you’re the first woman I’ve ever met whose main concern isn’t to coddle or please me. I respect you and I want you, but I don’t want you to misunderstand me.” He pressed his hands against his thighs and stood. “Do you know what I mean?” He asked.

“I…” Gabby’s voice had deserted her. He had given her so much to absorb, that her mind was spinning. Her eyes lowered to his mouth in a look that was unconsciously inviting.

Damian didn’t disappoint her. Pulling Gabby close, he captured her mouth in a deep kiss. He firmly thrust his tongue in and out of her mouth as his hands stroked her back. A soft moan rose from her lips. A moment later, Damian lifted her into his strong arms.

“No Damian.”

“Brella-”

“Let’s stay here.”

He set her down and let her guide him to one of the cushioned seats. Gabby pushed him down, and then brought her fingers to the front of her dress. She began to undo the buttons as she stared into his beautiful eyes.

Damian’s gaze faltered, as he followed the slow, hypnotic movements of her fingers. The last button undone, Gabriella let the dress fall away to pool around her pumps. Damian felt his entire body tighten as his gaze wandered over the gold lacy bra, then downwards across her flat stomach and further down to the matching panties. Her body reminded him of maple syrup-smooth, brown and sweet.

“Brella…” He uttered, before rising from the chair. He swept her from her feet and lowered her to the sofa, determined to touch her…everywhere. His sensuous mouth found the pulse point at her neck and began to favor it with soft kisses. He moved lower to nip at the soft skin above the lacy edge of her bra. Soon, he had unhooked the fastening with expert fingers. He buried his handsome face in the valley between her breasts and inhaled her scent.

He favored one breast with the most erotic strokes, totally ignoring the tip. His thumb and forefinger teased the nipple of the other breast until the bud grew taunt and erect.

“Damian…” Gabby pleaded. After what seemed an eternity, he finally took the tip between his teeth. Gabby threaded her fingers through his dreads, as she pulled him closer to her breasts.

Damian’s attention soon focused on the other breast. His fingers trailed lower, until he came in contact with the lacy edge of her panties. Sliding his hand over her only remaining undergarment, he heard her emit a soft moan as he fondled her through the soft material. Easing his hand beneath the lacy middle of the lingerie, he found the center of her body. Gabby thought she’d die from pleasure. Damian heard her sharp gasp and raised his head to stare into her lovely face as he caressed her intimately. He took in her fluttering lashes and soft, parted lips.

His mouth came down on hers, his tongue probing deeply, lustfully. His finger plundered her moist heat, rubbing the extra sensitive bud of her femininity with one finger, then two. His mouth finally left hers to slide down the line of her throat. She cried out softly, tugging the denim shirt from his back. Her eyes snapped open, when she felt him moving away. He lifted her into his arms and carried her from the den. The rest of the house was darkened, as they ascended the stairway leading to his bedroom. Inside, he lowered Gabby to his bed, then shed the remainder of his clothing in the same seductive manner she had used earlier.

Gabby watched in utter fascination while he stripped away the T-shirt, revealing his smooth, blackberry toned chest and abdomen that was taunt with muscles. He unzipped his jeans and let them fall along with the white boxers. Gabby heard her gasp as she studied the incredible extent of his masculinity.

In the next moment, Damian was covering her body with his. This time, he gasped when he felt her silken body beneath him. Gabby arched instinctively, as his massive hands roamed her body. Her hips writhed in anticipation as Damian’s dreads teased the soft skin beneath her breasts and the flat plane of her stomach. He handled her body with a possessive touch, his wide mouth sliding closer to her thighs. Wet kisses covered the soft flesh inside, before his tongue grazed her womanhood.

Gabby moaned, as she placed her hands above her head and snuggled further into the firm mattress. His tongue penetrated the moistness of her body with firm, deep rotations. He grasped her buttocks gently, barely touching. Her soft moans graduated to breathless cries.

Damian pleasured her until his own needs took control. He granted her one last thrust of his tongue, grinning wickedly when she screamed his name. His hold on her bottom tightened as he settled himself between her satiny thighs.

“Damn.”

Gabby’s lashes fluttered as she focused on his imaged bathed in darkness. “What is it?” She whispered.

Damian was leaning across the massive bed and rummaging in the polished, nightstand beside it. He withdrew a small, square packet and extracted a condom. Soon, protection was in place and his attention was back to Gabby. She uttered a small cry when his huge hands gripped her hips and he pulled her to the center of the bed. Then, she felt the long, silken steel of his arousal filling her, stretching her inner walls to accommodate his impressive size.

“Damian…”

“Too much?”

Gabby smiled in the darkness as a shaky sigh slipped past her lips. “I can handle it.” She teased.

Damian chuckled. “Let’s see about that.” He decided, beginning to thrust his hips slowly. He pressed his mouth against her neck. The strokes of his tongue against her neck were in sync with those of his hips as his manhood plundered her softness.

“Brella…” He breathed, as her tight heat surrounded him. He lunged back and forth mercilessly, leaving her shuddering in ecstasy. His stamina was amazing and he kept her awake for hours. She had no complaints, though, when he finally gathered her in his embrace and they drifted into sleep.

***

Gabby woke around 3am to the sweetest kisses being rained down her back. She found herself nestled between soft, black sheets spread onto the king-sized bed. Unlike the rest of the house, the room was very dark and more than a little  intimidating. All thoughts, however, fled from her mind as the kisses slowly drifted toward her neck.

“How do you feel about staying in today?” Damian whispered, as his hands slid under her body and upward to cup her breasts.

What? You mean you’re giving up a day at DF Corp for me? I’m flattered.” Gabby teased, gasping as his fingers parted the petals of her femininity and stroked her shamelessly.

“Answer me.” He softly commanded, before turning her to face him.

“I don’t mind.” She breathlessly replied, running her hands across the smooth, bulging muscles of his arms, chest and back.

Damian uttered a heavy sigh and moved over to turn on one of the bedside lamps. He sat up and fixed her with a solemn look. “Brella, I’m sorry about before,” he said, a worried frown clouding his face, “I know I frightened you when you told me you slept with Davidson. I snapped and I had no right to react that way.”

“Well, I should probably apologize too.” She whispered, “I was just so angry. Louis Davidson is a friend like I told you. He’s nothing more. LD’s been seeing so much of me lately, because I’ve been getting some prank calls and he put a tracer on my phone. We came to the party together because we’re both good friends with Warren and Renee.”

“Why didn’t you come to me?”

“I didn’t want to worry anybody. Doc doesn’t even know.”

“Are the calls still coming?”

“Well, I haven’t gotten any for a couple of days, so maybe that’s a good sign.”

Damian sighed, pulling her closer. “I can’t let anything happen to you. I don’t know what I’d do.”

Gabby hoped he couldn’t feel the harsh pounding of her heart as she listened to his words. “That’s how you really feel?” She coolly replied, eager to know if his feelings ran any deeper.

Damian pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. “I care a lot about you, Brella. A lot.”

Gabby pressed her lips together and squeezed her eyes shut. Though the words were spoken softly and in the sweetest tone, they were still hard to take. She felt his finger trace the side of her face before he pulled her up towards him. He kissed her softly, at first, then with more pressure. Gabby held onto him tightly.

***

Gabby woke just before daylight. She turned over to stare at Damian where he slept peacefully. Her eyes closed in regret. They had such a beautiful night together. Still, regardless of the things he’d said, Gabby knew she had been making love to the man she loved while he had just been having sex.

Damian said he wanted more from her, but what did that mean? Gabby believed he had feelings for her. She really didn’t think he was able to give her what she needed, wanted from a man. The last thing she’d do was push him, but sooner or later, she would have to let him go.

She eased from the bed and dressed. She looked down at Damian and placed a soft kiss to his forehead. Then, she headed downstairs to call a cab.

 CHAPTER 8

 

Gabby groaned with weariness upon entering her home later that evening. Leaning back against the front door, she closed her eyes and tossed her keys blindly across the foyer. After a moment, she kicked off her pumps and padded through the house in her stocking feet.

“What the hell?” She whispered, once she was halfway through the livingroom. Lamps were strewn everywhere, picture frames lay cracked and thrown aside. The place was in shambles.

Of course, Gabby’s first instinct was to turn and run, but curiosity wouldn’t let her. Taking more precaution, she grabbed a jagged slice from a broken lamp and headed upstairs.

Gabby girl this is dumb! You are no detective!

Just then, a figure dressed in black, raced downstairs. The intruder was so swift; they flew past Gabby in a blur. She was pushed down the stairway and left unconscious at the foot of the steps. The front door swung open after the fleeing figure.

***

Damian woke 20 minutes after Gabriella left. Angry that she had not stayed with him, he dressed and headed out to Brooklyn. He arrived at her home in time to see uniformed and plain clothes officers filling her front porch. He studied the crazed scene for only a moment, then rushed from his SUV and bounded up the crowded walkway.

“Whoa Mister, you can’t go in there.” One of the officers ordered, pressing his hands against Damian’s chest.

“The hell I can’t.” Damian growled, shoving the man’s hands from his body.

The officer’s green eyes widened slightly from the authoritative demeanor of the man facing him. He quickly regained his senses, but Damian was already headed up the porch steps. “Hey! You wait a minute there!” He called.

Inside, Damian saw the destructive state of the livingroom. He found Gabby seated on her sofa. She was leaning back against Louis Davidson and her eyes were closed.

“What the hell is this?!” Damian thundered, his deep voice resounding over all conversation.

Gabby’s lashes fluttered and she frowned. She jerked a bit upon hearing LD’s own rumbling voice.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” LD demanded, looking down at Gabby when she patted his hand.

“LD this is Damian Frinks, it’s okay.” She weakly assured him. “Damian.” She called, extending her hand.

“Baby what happened here?” He asked, taking a seat on the sofa as he squeezed her hand.

LD relinquished his hold on Gabriella and settled her in Damian’s arms. “Someone broke in, trashed the place. They left her at the foot of the steps.” He explained.

Damian’s scowl grew fiercer. “Who? What’d they do to you?” He asked Gabby when she smiled up at him.

“They demolished my livingroom and were about to start upstairs when I came in. All they did to me was knock me down the stairs on the way out.” She replied.

LD leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “I don’t want you staying here tonight, Gab.”

“She’ll be coming with me.” Damian assured him.

“Good.”

“Wait a minute,” Gabby ordered, a frown marring her soft features, “now I can’t just up and leave. We’ve got to find out who did this.”

“Wrong Gabby, I’ve got to find out who did this.” LD corrected.

“I won’t just run and hide.”

“Well you won’t be staying here, Brella. That’s final.”

Exasperated, Gabby watched both men with wide eyes. “You two can’t just order me around like this.”

LD pressed a large hand against her knee. “We can and we are. So it’s a waste of time to keep arguing.”

Gabby admitted she didn’t have the energy to argue with her bullying protectors. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against Damian’s chest and nodded.

“Good.” LD replied, waving a hand towards one of the female officers. “Take her upstairs, let her get a few things together.” He instructed.

“Get some things for warm weather. You may want to grab a bathing suit.” Damian added, toying with a thick lock of his hair, as the officer took Gabby out of the livingroom. “Now what’s goin’ on here?” He asked LD when she was gone.

“Has she told you about the calls?” LD asked, watching Damian nod. “It’s probably the same jackass that broke in here.”

“You think all this could have anything to do with the attack behind Warren’s nightclub?” Damian asked.

“It’s possible, but those two were sent up for five years for violating probation. Gab’s attack wasn’t their first offence.”

“Hmph, I figured as much.”

“Still, I plan on questioning them. Maybe they’ll be more cooperative in light of their present situation.”

“You think you’ll get anywhere?”

LD shrugged. “If they’re working with or for somebody, they may feel more inclined now to have them share the responsibility. It’s worth my time to find out.”

Damian nodded. “Keep me informed.”

 

Damian whisked Gabby away in his truck the minute she was packed. She fell asleep right away; too tired to ask where they were going. When she awoke, she found herself once again nestled in Damian’s darkened bedchamber. Stretching amidst the black sheets, she admitted how nice it felt to be taken care of after all she’d been through that day. Suddenly, thoughts of the attack returned and she jumped out of bed, suddenly restless and agitated. Damian entered the room to find her curled up in a chair.

“Brella? What’s wrong? Talk to me.” He coaxed, pulling her hands from her face as he knelt before her.

“Just thinking about the break in,” she whispered, slowly shaking her head, “I can’t believe it actually happened.”

“I wish you had stayed with me like I asked.”

Gabby sent him a knowing smile. “I would’ve had to go home sometime.”

“I would’ve been with you.”

“Hmph, and we both would’ve been lying at the foot of the stairs.” She teased.

“Funny.”

Gabby’s smile faded. “No, I’m just trying to forget how scared I am.”

“Baby-”

“Damian, did LD tell you anything…any suspicions he might have while I was upstairs packing?”

Damian looked away and shrugged. “Mmm mmm,” he coolly denied.

“I have a right to know if he did.”

“I agree, but he didn’t say a thing. Listen, I have breakfast downstairs if you’re hungry.”

“I’m starved.”

“Slip on a robe or something and I’ll take you down.” He offered, his onyx gaze sliding lower.

“Oh,” she whispered, realizing she was completely naked. She left the chair and treaded the thick carpet back to the bed.

Damian took a seat on the chair and watched her slip into a long mocha silk robe. “Come here,” he requested, when she turned to him. “I want you to stop worrying about this and let me handle everything.” He said, when she was sitting on his lap.

“Damian, thank you. I appreciate all that you’re doing. It’s just that I’m used to controlling my own affairs, you know?”

Damian cupped her chin and held her face close to his. “Brella, we’re talkin’ ’bout your life here. Indulge me once, eh? I’d appreciate it.”

The lilting tone of his Jamaican brogue thick with emotion brought a smile to her face. She caressed his smooth, dark cheek with the back of her hand before pressing a kiss to his mouth. When she tried to move back, he wouldn’t let her go. The innocent kiss turned lusty and deep. Gabby whimpered helplessly as she eagerly responded.

He groaned, when she wriggled her bottom against his arousal. Using a willpower he didn’t know he possessed, he pulled away. “Let’s get some food inside you.” He decided, moving out of the chair and taking her with him.

 

“You’re not serious.” Gabby breathed, the glass of orange juice poised before her lips.

Damian didn’t look up from his plate of steak and eggs. “No, I really want to know how you feel about spending some time at my parents place.”

“In Montego Bay?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“You really want me to meet your parents?” She breathed, completely shocked.

“It’ll do you good to get away from New York for a while.”

“Are you sure you’re not keeping anything from me? Anything LD might’ve told you?”

Damian set his fork aside and leaned back in his chair. “We’ve already been through this, Love.”

“I know.” She replied, reclining in her chair as well, “and I know you well enough to know that you didn’t just sit down there and talk sports with LD. You must’ve picked his brain about this case.”

After a while, Damian shook his head. “We haven’t known each other long enough for you to know me so well.”

Gabby smiled, the natural line of her brow rising slightly. “Start talkin'”

“I’m sure you know most of this, but Davidson said the person who broke in is probably the same one who’s been calling you.”

“And?”

And, there may be a connection between that and the attack behind the club. He thinks those two may’ve been working for someone else.”

“What? He thinks I’m being…targeted for some reason?”

“It’s just a theory, Brella.” Damian assured her, hating the worry filling her lovely light brown eyes. “So, will you accept my offer now?” He said, turning back to his breakfast. “I’m only asking to be polite. I don’t plan on being refused.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Gabby whispered, more than ready to leave town for a while.

***

“They have their own island?” Gabby cried, staring down through the clouds from the jet’s window.

Damian chuckled. “I thought I told you?”

“I didn’t know it was all this!” She retorted, taking in the sparkling blue water surrounding the jagged strip of land. It was absolutely stunning. Dazzling white sand encircled the lush greenery covering the remaining land.

“We’re only a couple of hours away from Montego Bay. I’ll take you there before we leave.” Damian was telling her.

Gabby only shook her head. “Don’t bother. Nothing could come close to having an island of your own.”

 

“Damian, boy!” Miles Frinks called, when his son jumped from the gray Jeep in the driveway.

“Papa!” Damian greeted, hurrying towards the tall, handsome older man who waited with open arms.

Ladine Frinks stood a few inches shorter than her husband. The lovely, caramel-complexioned woman stood awaiting a hug from her third son.

“Mama.” Damian whispered, sliding his arms around the long, elegant navy blue smock covering his mother’s svelte form. Though Miles and Ladine were both exceptionally tall, Damian still towered over them.

“Baby,” Ladine soothed, rubbing her hands across Damian’s back before she placed a kiss to his cheek.

Meanwhile, Gabby stood back witnessing the small family reunion. It was a treat watching Damian with his parents. The soft, humble look on his handsome face further endeared him to her.

“And this must be Gabriella?” Ladine announced, stepping out of her son’s embrace.

Gabby walked closer to the elegant couple. “Gabriella Jackson, Mrs. Frinks.” She said, extending her hand.

Ladine took Gabby’s hand in both of hers. “Oh love, please. It’s Ladine and this is my husband Miles. We’re very informal around here.”

Gabby laughed. “It’s very nice to meet you both.”

Miles Frinks stepped closer and took Gabby’s other hand in a light hold. “My dear, Damian told us about the troubles you’ve been having. We want you to think of this as your home. Relax and try to take your mind off all that.”

Gabby smiled, as she looked up into Miles Frink’s very handsome face. It was easy to see where Damian got his devastating looks. “I think it’ll be very easy to forget my troubles here.” She said, glancing up at the gorgeous blue sky sprinkled with fluffy white clouds.

“Good.” Ladine said, pulling Gabby’s arm through hers. “Damian, I’m going to show Gabriella to her room. You know the way to yours.”

“Yes ma’am.” Damian called, winked at Gabby when she looked back at him. Then, he turned and settled one arm around his father’s shoulders as they set out for a walk around the grounds.

 

“Now love, you can take a nap or do whatever you like.” Ladine said, taking a seat on the long white sofa next to the room’s fireplace.

“This is so beautiful.” Gabby breathed, taking in her cool surroundings. Long, white drapes covered huge windows and billowed against the strong breeze. A large canopy bed sat in the far corner on a massive square Persian rug. The bed was partially hidden from view by white chiffon curtains. Thick pillows covered by gold pillowcases lined the head of the bed.

“I think I’ll have a very good night’s sleep here.” Gabby predicted, pressing her hand against the thick pearl comforter.

“Well, I’m going to have one of my people bring in your luggage.” Ladine said, pushing herself off the sofa.

“Thank you. I think my first order of business will be to take advantage of your beach.”

Ladine laughed, the sound resembling the lilting melody of a flute. “That’ll be fine, dear. Dinner is at six, so bring your appetite with you.” She advised, before leaving the room.

***

Gabby sprinted from the gorgeous turquoise water and dropped to her spread on the sand. Taking a deep breath, she pushed both hands through her hair and looked out over paradise. Her thoughts turned to Damian. She hadn’t seen him since Ladine took her upstairs. It was her hope that the time there would prompt him to be more open about his feelings. More than anything, she wanted to know his emotions were running as deeply as hers.

Her eyes fell to the gold wristwatch on the spread. Spotting the time, she quickly collected her things and raced back to the main house. She didn’t notice Damian watching her from his room window.

 

Inside her own room, Gabby stripped out of the stylish pearl gray bikini. She left the two piece on the hardwood floor and headed to her private bathroom. Swimming and lying on the beach had been wonderful, but shampooing and washing away the sand felt even better.

She was standing beneath the steady spray of water, when the glass shower doors opened.

“Damian!” She cried, turning to face him.

He turned her away from him. Wasting no time with words, his wide powerful hands curled around her hips. He took her from behind, uttering low, animal sounds as he invaded her body.

Gabby gasped, placing one hand against the tiled wall to support herself. Her other arm curved around Damian’s neck and she played in his hair. His face was pressed against her shoulder as his slow thrusts continued. Gabby was completely at his mercy and couldn’t have been more pleased. Damian’s firm thrusts grew more rapid as he neared release. His massive frame shuddered beneath the exquisite sensation and he held Gabby still for several minutes. He slowly withdrew from her wet heat and left the shower as silently as he had entered.

***

“This is incredible.”

“You’ve never had curried chicken before, love?” Miles asked from his seat at the intimate, round table.

Gabby nodded, tapping a white linen napkin against her lips. “Oh I have, but no dishes that ever tasted like this.” She said, placing another sliver of the delicious meat inside her mouth. “Is that fresh ground cinnamon I taste?”

Ladine clasped her hands together and laughed. “It certainly is, that’s quite an ability you have.”

“Well, I owe that to owning a restaurant.”

“Damian told us you were an entrepreneur, but didn’t say you owned a restaurant.”

“Tell us about that.” Miles requested, sharing his wife’s interest.

For the next twenty minutes, Gabby, Miles and Ladine enjoyed an enthusiastic discussion of the restaurant business. Of course, Gabby delighted in talking about her work. Still, she couldn’t help but notice how reserved Damian seemed. He had barely spoken a word since they arrived under the back lawn gazebo for dinner. When the meal ended, he excused himself saying he had work to finish. Miles and Ladine showed Gabby to her room.

***

The next morning, Gabby found Damian working out on the beach. She stood watching him for the longest time, debating on whether or not to approach him.

“Have a seat.” He called, without looking away from his laptop.

Gabby joined him on the vacant chaise lounge beneath an oversized black umbrella. She enjoyed the calming view of the ocean meeting the sky in the distance. After a while, she turned to Damian. “Can we talk?” She asked.

Damian hit a few more keys, and then closed the laptop. He set it aside, then turned to face her.

“Have I done something?” Gabby inquired, after a few moments of silence.

“Why would you think that?” He asked, a small frown coming to his face.

Gabby shrugged, turning back to look out over the beach. “You barely said anything at dinner. Then, afterwards, you just left.”

Damian was quiet for a while. His dark eyes took in her thick, short hair ruffling against the wind. His fingers ached to feel the locks brushing her skin. Instead, he looked away. “I had business concerns and I need to get some things taken care of.”

“Is the trip an inconvenience for you?”

“No. Hell no, Brella. This is where I want to be.” He assured her, reaching across the small, white wicker table between them. His hand settled against her thigh, his fingers trailing upwards.

Gabby’s lashes fluttered when a rush of pleasure engulfed her from the simple caress. Damian noticed how affected she was becoming and grew more bold. His long fingers slipped beneath the crotch of her silver, blue bikini to touch the heart of her body.

“Damian…” she whispered, leaning back against the lounge. Her legs moved further apart, allowing him more room to play. When his middle finger slipped deep inside and gently rotated, a tiny cry slipped past her lips.

“Damian? Ms. Jackson? Breakfast is served.”

Damian heard his parent’s butler, who called to them from a distance. He didn’t bother removing his fingers from their scandalous location. “Thank you, Russell. We’ll be there in a minute.” He said.

“Are you coming in?” Gabby asked, slightly breathless as she watched Damian resume work on his laptop.

“You go on, I’ll be up later.” He said, sending her a soft smile and sexy wink. He watched Gabby walk away, then turned back and continued his typing. He never joined her.

***

Over the next several days, Damian seemed to withdraw even more. Gabriella’s hopes for them to get closer in the sensual paradise, dimmed each time they made love. It was obvious that Damian thoroughly enjoyed the pleasures of her body, but anything more seemed out of the question.

The heavy crash of the ocean against the surf pulled Gabby from her sleep early one morning. She heard her bedroom door open and turned to focus on the approaching figure. The sun had not yet risen, and the room was still bathed in darkness. Of course, she knew it was Damian by the scent of his fantastic cologne. She felt him slip beneath the sheets and pull her back against his wide chest.

Gabby closed her eyes when his tongue traced the line of her shoulders and spine. Her body weakened at once and she buried her face in the pillow. Damian turned her to her back and settled above her. His hands cupped her breasts and he delighted himself in their lush softness.

“Damian…wait.” She whispered, feeling the creamy need build and moisten her inner thigh. He ignored her, taking one rigid nipple between his lips and alternate between suckling it and grazing it with his teeth. “Wait.” She tried again.

“No.” He growled, his mouth filled with her.

“I meant that.” Her words were as stiff as the rest of her and she shoved a hand against his shoulder.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” His tone was calm but his expression was fierce.

Gabby could see that as early rays of sun penetrated the room. She turned onto her stomach and buried her face in a pillow.

“Hey?” He whispered, pressing a soft kiss to her silky hair. “Brella, what is it?”

She finally looked up. Bracing herself on her elbows, she stared at the indention her face made in the gold pillowcase. “Why’d you bring me here? Was it so you could have a plaything while you enjoyed the sun?”

“What?” Damian hissed, his temper heating over her words.

“Sex is the only reason you’ve come close to me since we’ve been here.” She accused, wiping at a tear-moistened cheek. “I mean, I’ve spent more time talking with your parents than you.”

Damian grimaced and looked away. He wasn’t blind; he knew what she wanted him to say. He could see it every time he looked into her exquisite hazel eyes. Still, he couldn’t find a way to say the words to tell her how he really felt.

Gabby saw the expression on his face and ordered the rest of her tears to remain at bay. “I want you to take me home.”

Damian squeezed his eyes shut, but nodded.

***

Gabby jumped into the task of cleaning her house a couple of days after returning from Jamaica. It was wonderful therapy for her wounded pride which still smarted from the fiasco with Damian. She had just finished the extensive housecleaning when she received an unexpected guest.

Doc stood on the front porch looking more haggard than Gabby had ever seen him. Instantly, she wanted to know what was going on. Doc would only say he was experiencing a restless period. When he begged her to stay the night, she couldn’t refuse.

***

Morning light streamed past the cream drapes in the livingroom, waking Gabby. She and Doc stayed up late the night before, watching movies. When he finally went to bed, she remained downstairs and fell asleep three hours later. The doorbell rang and it took her a good five minutes to pull herself off the sofa. Damian stood on the porch, looking rested and sexy as he leaned against his preferred porch column.

Gabby rubbed her eyes, still feeling very sleepy and disoriented. To Damian, her disheveled, tousled state instantly aroused him. With a quick shake of his head, he told himself to keep his mind on the purpose of his visit.

“May I come in?” He asked, wanting to set things straight between them.

Gabby stepped aside and let him in. “I really need a cup of coffee.” She said, heading for the kitchen. “Can I bring you some?”

“I’m good.” He told her, taking a seat on the arm of a chair.

A minute after the kitchen door swung closed behind Gabby, Damian saw Doc Riley walk out. He too, seemed just as disheveled and groggy. Damian was too surprised to say anything as the man tossed up his hand in a lazy wave. When Doc disappeared upstairs, Damian stormed into the kitchen.

 

Gabby hoped the hot, black coffee would give her some energy, but she never had a chance to taste it. Before she could pick up the cup, she was being jerked around.

“Damian-”

“What the hell is he doin’ here?”

“Who?”

“Riley!”

Gabby blinked and shook her head. “He spent the night.”

“He spent the night?” Damian softly parroted, his dark eyes taking in the black T-shirt that barely covered her. “Where did he spend the night?”

Gabby was becoming more lucid and realized Damian was highly upset over Doc being there. Well, well he won’t tell me where things stand between us, but he expects me to be loyal to him, she noted. “He spent the night upstairs.” She finally replied, her tone of voice leading him to think the worst.

Damian was furious. “He spent the night upstairs? Hell, I’ve never been upstairs!”

Gabby’s hazel eyes trailed the devastating length of his massive frame, before coming to focus on his eyes again. “I guess that’s your problem, isn’t it?” She teased, wincing when his grip tightened mercilessly.

What sounded like a growl began low in his throat. A moment later, he shook her harshly.

She gasped, pressing her hands against his chest. Knowing she’d pushed him too far, she tried to reason with him. “Damian, listen-”

“Shut up!” His expression had become utterly sinister as he stood there with his chest heaving and fists clenched. He felt no sympathy as he watched her there shaking. He stepped towards her, but thankfully the voice of reason intervened. Fortunately, it was loud enough to make him step back before he did something he’d truly regret.

Gabby watched as he left her with another scathing glance before leaving the kitchen. When she heard the front door slam, she slid to the polished linoleum floor and cried.

 

 CHAPTER 9

     When Gabby entered her restaurant four days later, she vaguely noted that everything seemed back to normal. All the plants and ceiling fans Joe ordered, were gone. Gabby didn’t stop to speak with anyone, but went right to her office.

Work, however, was the last thing on her mind. Thoughts of Damian filled her head as they had for the past four days. She knew he was angry and upset, but decided it was probably all for the best. Unfortunately, as much as she wanted to avoid him, they saw each other everywhere. Each time, she made a hasty exit and Damian never visited her home.

“Gabby? Gabby?”

“What is it, Joe?” She replied, finally tuning in to the man’s voice.

“I didn’t come to argue, only to tell you that Doc’s looking for you.”

Gabby closed her eyes and uttered a silent prayer of thanks that Joe wasn’t looking for another fight. The moment she stepped out into the diningroom, Doc found her. He pulled her into his office located just off from the bar.

“Have you been getting some prank calls, G?” He hurriedly inquired.

“Who told you?” Gabby asked, her eyes widening.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” He said, his gaze faltering.

“How’d you find out? I didn’t tell anyone but LD…and Damian.”

“I know who’s been making the calls and I know why your house was trashed.”

“What? How did you-”

“I’ll start from the beginning.”

“Please.”

“Remember my trip to Chicago?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, I’ve taken three more since that one and I didn’t go to see my brother. I went to see a woman named Chelsea James. In fact, I’ve been seeing her for over a year now. She’s expecting my child in August.” He paused to watch Gabby’s eyes widen even further.

“That’s why I’ve been taking the trips so frequently. She’s a month away from her due date…anyway; Chelsea and my brother Darnell know each other very well. When D wanted to set us up, I was cool with it since they were friends and she was so incredible then…Unfortunately, D didn’t know she was…disturbed. Darnell told her about you when she wanted to know more about what I did in New York. Of course, she misunderstood. She made those calls to your house, thinking I’d be there. I guess she wanted to catch me or something. She seemed to thrive on our fights.” Doc buried his face in his hands and dropped to the edge of his desk.

“How’d you find out all this?” Gabby asked, still in shock.

“She made a comment, said her guy was supposed to do much more than knock you down the stairs.”

Gabby shook her head, tears forming in her hazel eyes. “What about the club that night? Did she have something to do with that?”

Doc looked her in the face and nodded. “I’m afraid she did, Baby. Those two were supposed to rough you up in the alley, then take you somewhere and…”

“Jesus…” Gabby whispered, raking both hands through her hair. “Doc, you said she was pregnant. Is it safe for her to have a child in that condition?”

“Her doctor says it is. Right now, she’s in the hospital and you won’t be getting any more calls.”

“D, I’m so sorry.”

Doc grimaced. “Yeah…so am I. I met Chelsea at a party Darnell had two years ago. She seemed so put together, smart, fine, financially secure…then all that stuff started happening…”

“What stuff?”

“She’d go off for no reason at all. It didn’t matter if we were in public or not. The smallest thing would cause her to flip. Then, she got pregnant. I guess I should’ve seen it sooner, but I didn’t want to believe it and I refused to talk to anyone about it.”

Gabby sat next to him and placed an arm around his wide shoulders. “You could’ve saved us a lot of trouble by telling me a long time ago.”

“I didn’t know about it all until this last trip, dealing with Chelsea’s moods and pregnancy has been rough.”

“I know.” Gabby consoled, feeling as if some of the weight had been lifted. “I never connected the attack with those calls. I thought Joe was behind them.”

“I wouldn’t have put it past him, he wants this place pretty bad.”

“I know. I guess I should call LD. He’s been on the case for a while now. I’ll tell him the mystery’s been solved…what do you say we check out the service here? My treat.” She said, her eyes twinkling.

“Let’s go. I never turn down a woman who’s willing to pay for a meal.” He said, ducking as Gabby swatted his head.

***

That evening, Doc and Gabby decided to have a night out on the town. It was their mission to dance the night away and forget the stress they’d both been under. The Warren Nightclub was the perfect place. When they arrived, the club was packed and lively.

Of course, Warren and Renee were overjoyed to have them there. With so many of their friends visiting the club that evening, they decided to have a special table prepared. In addition to Warren, Renee, Gabby and Doc, there was LD, Delois Graham, and Damian with another woman at his side. Though the group laughed and talked outrageously, there was a great deal of tension between Gabby and Damian. He unnerved her so with his constant staring, she grew flustered and excused herself from the table. She headed upstairs to Warren’s office and found solace on the sofa. Sadly, the serenity was not meant to last.

“Congratulations.”

Gabby jumped at the sound of the male voice filling the room. She found Damian standing in the doorway. “Leave me alone.” She begged.

“Don’t worry. I only wanted to tell you I’m glad the case was solved. I don’t plan to step on Doc’s toes.” He said, pushing the door closed behind him.

Gabby smoothed her hands across her silky hose and stood off the sofa. “What’s that supposed to mean ‘stepping on Doc’s toes’?”

When Damian’s dark eyes raked her body coolly, Gabby shook her head. “You know what? Forget it. Lemme tell you somethin’ Damian,” she snapped, pointing her index finger towards him, “I don’t know where you got the idea that I was supposed to be loyal to you. If I want to sleep with Doc or LD or whomever, I can and there’s not a damn thing you can say or do. You’ve got no rights to me. None! Especially when you can’t even be open about what you feel.”

In response, Damian turned his back on her. He waved off her tantrum in a completely disinterested manner.

“I hope your date knows what she’s getting into.”

“You jealous, Brella?” He asked, his back still turned.

Gabby smiled and shook her head. “Actually, I’m relieved. Relieved that I’m a person who can express feelings instead of hiding behind a mask. No matter how gorgeous a mask it is. You know Damian, you have so much: family, money, looks, success…it’s kind of sad in a way.”

Finally, he turned to face her. His head was cocked to one side as he watched her closely. “Sad?”

Gabby nodded. “Mmm hmm. You see with all you have, until you lose that need to be so rigid and in control, you’ll always be alone.”

Damian’s eyes narrowed and a strange sensation surged throughout his chest. It was as though Gabby had seen right into his soul. Her words seemed to penetrate him like a living thing.

She cleared her throat and headed towards the door. When she walked by, he grabbed her arm and pulled her back against him.

“Don’t leave.” He raggedly whispered against her hair. His hand massaged the softness of her arms beneath the chiffon sleeves of her dress.

Gabby wanted to stay more than anything, but she couldn’t. Wrenching her arm out of his grasp, she left the office.

***

The punching bag groaned under each swing of Damian’s fist. Drenched in sweat, he continued to jab mercilessly. He had to hit something and the punching bag was safest. Ever since Gabby left him, he’d been walking in a daze. He felt so helpless, he wanted to explode. Working out until he dropped, seemed to be the best way to release the unfamiliar feelings.

He loved her. Yes, it was true. He realized it a long time ago, but wouldn’t admit it. Now, she thought him to be a cold, unfeeling man and he had probably lost her for good. He knew she didn’t trust him, but he also knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. The problem was, he didn’t know how he would ever get her to believe him. She was right, he did have a problem dropping his mask. She had made him see that, or perhaps he had known it all along.

Damian walked away from the punching bag and started to remove his gloves. Leaning against a wall, he knew that he’d have to make Gabriella listen to him and believe him-whatever it took. It was the only choice he had.

***

“Doc, I want more authority around here. I think I’ve earned it! Now I’ve tried talking to your partner, but she’d got her head so far in the clouds, she can’t hear nobody. So what’s it gonna be? Do I get more say around here or do I walk?”

“Well Joe, when you put it like that, I guess you’ll have to walk. I hate ultimatums.” Doc smoothly replied, turning away from the stunned manager. After Joe walked away in shock, Gabby emerged from Doc’s office.

“Bravo partner.” She said.

“You’re back! How was the spa?” Doc was asking as he hugged Gabby who’d been away for a week.

“Great. I feel much better.” She said, although that wasn’t all together true.

“I guess you heard about Joe?”

“I heard. Thanks.”

“He was a good manager, G. Kept this place runnin’ while we tended our personal lives.”

“I agree. I think he should have more say around here, but he’s got to control his temper. He’ll be back.”

“You think so?”

“Mmm hmm, I do. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have lunch in our restaurant.” She decided, walking towards a table in the back of the restaurant. Success was good, but it had to be so much better when there was someone to share it with.

***

Damian’s powerful stride was more confident than usual as he approached the front door of GJ’s. After spending a few days in Atlanta, on an unexpected business trip, he came back knowing what he had to do. What he wanted to do. As his hand touched the doorknob, his knees almost buckled beneath him. “Man get a hold of yourself.” He whispered, entering the restaurant.

 

Gabriella’s head was bent, her chin in her palm as she studied the menu.

“Gabby? Someone asked me to give you this.”

“Thanks Mina.” Gabby smiled at the young waitress as she took the note. Bowing her head again, she opened the small piece of paper.

 Marry Me

           The words were written simply, yet boldly against the card. Gabby stared at it in speechless surprise. Her head was still bent, when she heard a deep voice above her.

“You wouldn’t talk to me on the phone, so I figured I’d have to come to you.”

Gabby’s head snapped up at the sound of Damian’s voice. She watched as he took a seat at her table.

“I knew you didn’t believe me back when I said I wanted more than sex from you and I was too stupid to just tell you… Brella, I love you. I want you to share my life and I’d like for you to share yours with me. I need you and I never thought I’d say that to anyone. Ever. I don’t know what else to say to make you believe I’m for real. I’ve never been very good at this but…then I haven’t had much uh… practice.” He grimaced at himself for faltering over his words.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Gabby whispered, watching him closely, “I mean, I knew you cared, but I didn’t think it would ever be more than that. You weren’t this…up front.”

“A mixture of pride, uncertainty, nervousness and fright.” At Gabby’s surprise, Damian grinned. “Yeah fright Brella. You’re the first woman to ever call me on the fact that my behavior is an act.” He smirked, watching his fingers tap a slow tune on the tablecloth.

“My family sees it well enough,” he continued, “but um…well never anyone outside of it-never any other woman.”

“And was that the woman’s fault or your own?” Gabby’s voice was as soft as the look in her eyes.

He grinned. “A bit of both, I guess. That’s where the fear comes in. It doesn’t do for a man in my position to be seen as weak or to give someone the inside track on what rattles me or that I can even be rattled…”

Gabby nodded and began tapping out her own silent tune against the table. “So…why me?” She asked eventually.

“I think less stupid side of my brain realized that you were holding me to a higher standard. You expected more of me. You didn’t just accept what I dished out because of who I am or what I look like.”

Gabby felt her cheeks burn. “What you look like hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.” She confessed, smiling when he had the decency to appear embarrassed.

“Maybe not,” Damian cleared his throat, “but those two things have allowed me to get away with… a lot.”

“So are you saying that you’re tired of getting away with… a lot?”

“I’m saying that I’m tired of pretending that I have everything I need. I um…I understand if you can’t accept this yet,” he reached into the front pocket of the midnight blue shirt that hung outside his denims and withdrew a small box.

Gabby’s lips parted when she noticed the red velvet case he opened and the gleaming sphere of brilliance inside.

“Will you at least tell me that you’ll think about it?” He set the open box before her and leaned back in his chair. “I’ve screwed up with you so many times since we’ve met and I don’t expect you to believe a thing that comes out of my mouth but please know that when I say I love you…when I say I love you, I mean that. Please say you’ll think about this.” He pulled a hand through the dreads covering his head and frowned just slightly.

“If you think about it and decide you can’t…I’ll hate it like hell, but I’ll accept it.”

Gabby’s expression reflected sudden enlightenment. “You’re serious.” She breathed.

“I love you too much to be otherwise.”

Gabriella looked at the ring, wondering if it really gleamed that brightly or whether her gaze was blurred by that many tears. Whatever the case, her heart pounded with a fierceness she’d never felt. Ever.

“I do love you Damian.”

He took her tone to mean the worst. “And you don’t need to think about it.” He guessed, nodding as he accepted defeat and closed the box.

“No,” she propped her fist to her chin and shook her head. “I don’t need to think about it.” She felt too stunned in that moment to say any more.

Her silence said it all as far as Damian was concerned. His heart; which hadn’t ceased its rapid pounding since he saw her sitting there, threatened to beat right out of his chest. He prayed his legs would carry him to the front door when he stood.

“Hey? Where are you going with my ring?”

“Huh?” He had to hold onto the back of the chair for support.

“Well?” Gabby folded her arms over the front of the gold toned wrap blouse she wore. “It’s mine, isn’t it?”

He blinked, looking completely and adorably bewildered. “But you said you didn’t need to think about it.”

“And I don’t.”

Damian shook his head then and gingerly made his way back into the chair. “Brella what are you saying?” He bowed his head as though drained of every bit of his strength.

Gabby leaned close and smoothed a handful of the shoulder length dreadlocks from his striking face. “I’m saying that if you’re sure about asking me to be your wife then I’m sure that I’d like to be.”

Damian studied her but a moment and then yanked Gabby from her chair and into his lap. Gabriella feared her neck would snap under the crushing pressure of his mouth on hers, but she welcomed it.

“I love you,” he gave her a little tug to emphasize the words.

“I love you too.” She whispered.

They kissed again, slowly and with a more deliciously lusty pace. Their tongues swirled, stroked, thrust eagerly with a sweetness fueled by desire, love and commitment.

“Say you love me again,” he asked when their lips parted but an inch.

“I love you.” She brushed her mouth along his strong jaw. “Damian? Can I ask you something?”

“Anything.”

“Can I have my ring now?”

THE END

Hot M.A.M.A.s

For this week’s blog, I’d like to take time to direct you guys to another blog that I’m participating in. That’s right, I’m posting in not one but TWO places. I feel very accomplished right now as I have tried and repeatedly failed at blogging. I’m not claiming victory just yet, but I don’t think a pat on the back will hurt things.

Anywho…I want to thank you guys for dropping in to check out what I’m doing. You know how I try to be unpredictable and I find that blogging allows me the freedom to share whatever pops into this crazy head of mine, so I really am enjoying it- finally 🙂

So in this week’s blog, I’d like to announce my upcoming post at Hot M.A.M.A.s next Friday November 2nd. For those of you who still don’t know about Hot M.A.M.A.s- where the heck have you been??!! Seriously though, this venture came about earlier this year at Romance Slam Jam in Little Rock, Arkansas. Author Kianna Alexander spoke to many of us writers about highlighting the work of authors in the NC & VA area. Thus Hot M.A.M.A.s- Hot Multicultural Authors of the Mid Atlantic– was born.

We’re all so very excited about this venture and if you haven’t checked out the posts yet…what the heck are you waiting on??!! We’ve got some of the savviest and most scintillating authors in the business offering up their thoughts on everything from books and babies to day jobs and deadlines.

And we’re not stopping there! In December we’ll start our Hot Holiday Giveaway Days. Every blog post that month will provide readers with a chance to win a book related prize- could be a gift card, print book, eBook…who knows… 😉

And we’re not EVEN stopping there!! Mark your calendars for March 9th 2013. We’ll be hosting a luncheon in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. Stay tuned for more information on that. This is such an exciting time for book lovers. I and my colleagues appreciate our readers so very much. Thanks for letting us do what we love!

Be sure to check out my blog on next Friday November 2nd at Hot M.A.M.A.s. Don’t worry I’ll remind you 😉

Love and Blessings,

Al 🙂

 

MIXED SIGNALS- SECOND INSTALLMENT

CHAPTER 4

 

Damian awoke the next morning to a dull pounding in the back of his head. Stretching languidly on the king sized bed in his gracious Long Island home, he wished his mind felt as rested as his body. Remembering the events of the previous evening, he realized it was time to answer some questions he had long avoided.

Having Gabriella in his arms was like Heaven. It took all his will to break away from her. As he kissed and caressed her beautiful body, he decided he wanted more than sex from her. A lot more. No woman had ever intrigued him quite like she had. He had known many women, so the thought both exalted and frightened him. It scares the hell out of me,  he admitted and smoothed one hand across his tightly muscled torso.

He wanted Gabby with him always and that was something he thought he’d never feel for any woman. She was beautiful, courageous, self-confident. Moreover, she stood up to him. She wasn’t out to stroke his massive ego. All this made him want to know her that much more. Unfortunately, he had a way of bulldozing his way over everyone in his life. He knew that if he pulled that with Gabby, he would lose her. There was no way he could let that happen. He knew he would have to play his hand very carefully. Still, this was a new game and he wasn’t quite familiar with all the rules.

***

In Brooklyn, Gabby was still questioning Damian’s strange behavior. She’d made no secret that she wanted him to continue doing the marvelous things he was doing.

“Men.” Was her only explanation, as she stared at her reflection in the mirror above her oak dresser. As she applied her makeup, she decided she wasn’t as upset that Damian didn’t make love to her as she was over the fact that he just… left. Her feelings were running in so many directions and it didn’t help to know that he was only physically attracted to her.

“Which still doesn’t explain why he left,” She announced to her empty bedroom. The telephone’s insistent ringing broke her thoughts a moment later.

“Hello? …Hello?”

The opposite end of the line carried silence, then a dial tone when the unknown caller hung up. Shaking her head, Gabby caught a glimpse of her bedside clock. Spotting the time, she rushed from the house.

She arrived at the restaurant just before noon, but Joe seemed to have everything under control. In fact, things seemed to be going smoother than usual. There were no problems. No one spilled anything, they weren’t overbooked, no one had to wait. Things were frighteningly… perfect. The only thing she could complain about was Doc’s mood. At first, she thought he might still be brooding about last night. It didn’t take long to realize it was more than that.

“D?” She called, placing her chin on his shoulder as he sat at the bar frowning over some figures.

“Hmmm?”

“Since it looks like Joe’s got everything under control, how about a late lunch? I know a nice place. Let’s check out the competition. Please? Things are goin’ so good around here, it’s driving me crazy.”

“Alright, alright you sold me.” Doc said, laughing.

“Great.”

 

Fifteen minutes later, they were seated in a new cafe off 42nd Street which specialized in African and Caribbean cuisine. They had just ordered and were waiting on their meal.

“This was a good idea girl. I think I needed to get outta there myself.” Doc said, winking at Gabby.

“I’m glad you approve.” She replied, looking down at the multi-colored table cloth. “D? Is something wrong? You seem to be in some sort of mood. I can’t put my finger on it. Do you want to talk?” She asked, slowly raising her eyes.

“There is something, but it’s got nothing to do with you, so don’t worry. I’ll tell you about it, but not now, okay?” He asked, his brown eyes pleading.

“Okay, as long as you know I’m here.” She reminded him. Her eyes left his to drift across the beautifully decorated dining room. Regal tribal masks, exotic plants and murals gave the restaurant an atmosphere that was nothing short of breathtaking. Still, the decor of the room did not overshadow the sudden feeling which washed over Gabby. She felt as though she was being watched and her eyes immediately scanned the crowded room. Her vibrant gaze suddenly connected with a familiar dark one which held her captive.

Damian was seated only a few tables away from she and Doc. Gabby found it impossible to escape his onyx stare. She realized that Doc was speaking to her and with some effort she broke eye contact with Damian. However, each time she looked up, he was watching her.

The food finally arrived, but Gabriella’s appetite for the delicious looking curried chicken had vanished. She let her gaze shift from Damian’s to the woman he dined with. Assuming it was yet another acquaintance she shook her head and chose to concentrate on her meal.

After eating, Gabby and Doc shared a light conversation with one of the chefs. For Gabby, it was almost impossible to pay attention to the words, when Damian continued to stare at her as though she had done something wrong. Damn him! She kicked Doc under the table to let him know she was ready to leave. The chef they were speaking with decided to show them to the restaurant’s lobby. When Gabby and Doc said their goodbyes, Damian and his lunch date were out front as well.

“Brella. Riley.” Damian greeted them both, only glancing briefly in Gabby’s direction. “This is my assistant Francis Dubose,” he continued. His dark gaze returned to Gabby several times, but his look was always guarded and pensive.

At least, that was the way Gabby perceived it. He’s acting like nothing happened last night, she told herself as she stood there listening to his words. Suddenly, feeling both confused and hurt, she grabbed Doc’s arm and pulled him towards the door.

“It was very nice to meet you Ms. Dubose, but if you’ll excuse us we need to head back to work. Damian.” Gabby added, as she whisked through the door.

 

 

CHAPTER 5

 

The trip back to GJs was a quiet one. Doc thought it best to leave Gabby alone. Unfortunately, Joe had other ideas. He felt that it was time for Gabriella to face up to who was really keeping the restaurant together and who should be running it.

“Gabby, we need to talk.”

“Joe please, not now.” Gabby breathed, as she and Doc entered the restaurant through the kitchen entrance.

“Yes now, Gabby I-”

“Joe, this time I think you better listen to her.” Doc cautioned, as he headed out to the dining room.

“Look Gabby, this restaurant doesn’t run itself and, excuse me for saying it, but you and Doc seem to think it does. Since the party, actually before the party, I’ve been running this place and I think it’s time I got some recognition for it. At least a thank you.”

Gabby’s anger was replaced by disbelief. However, the events of the day had drained her spirit. “Thanks Joe.” She conceded, having no desire to argue with the man. Then, she headed towards the dining room.

“Gabby, I want to become a partner.”

“I already have a partner, Joe.” She said, turning around to face him again, “and even if I wanted another one, it wouldn’t be someone who thinks I’m not pulling my weight around here.” She snapped, hating to lose her temper before the staff who all watched the scene with increasing interest.

Of course, Joe was undaunted. “Face it, Gabby. This place has been running like clockwork since I took over-”

“Took over?!”

“Deny it if you like, but you know I’m right. Gabby think how much easier things’ll be if you at least bring me in as a partner-able to make quick decisions without having to consult with you or Doc first. Will you just think about it?”

“You know, Joe, you’ve been a tremendous help around here and I would’ve thought about it if you’d used some vestige of professionalism in presenting your request. Unfortunately, you chose to have a showdown with me in my own kitchen. Since you decided not to handle it that way, I’ll decide not to consider you for partner. I guess that’ll make us even.” her voice was soft, yet oozed with confidence. When she left the kitchen, Joe stared after her murderously.

Out in the dining room, Doc was nowhere to be found. Feeling completely drained, Gabby leaned against the bar. She placed her elbows against its polished cherry wood surface and held her head in her hands. A few minutes later, as though she were being controlled by some overpowering force, she raised her head and herself staring right into Damian’s pitch gaze.

“What now?” She sighed, shaking her head as she closed her eyes. When she opened them, Damian was right in front of her, his wide shoulders blocking everything in sight. “What do you want, Damian?” She asked, taking a seat on one of the barstools.

“What was that at the restaurant?” He whispered, though it was impossible to miss the anger in his voice.

Gabby started to move off the stool. “I don’t have time for this-”

“Answer me.” He ordered, placing his hands on either side of her against the bar.

Effectively trapped, Gabby had no choice but to respond. “I don’t know, you tell me. I’m as confused as you are.” She admitted, her light eyes searching his darker ones. “Unless I was mistaken,” she continued, “I thought we were both enjoying what was happening last night, then the next thing I know, you’re leaving. Then today, you’re looking at me like I’ve done something wrong. What was that? You wanted to see how far I’d let things go last night, so you could put me on hold and come back for it later?” She stopped herself and turned her head to blink away unwanted tears. “Just go away.” She softly requested.

“Have dinner with me tonight.” Damian asked, his thumb brushing an escaped tear from her cheek.

“Damian leave me alone. I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing but-”

“It’s no game. We should talk. I won’t take no-”

“For an answer,” she finished, “yes, I know…okay then, whatever you want.” She told him, too tired to argue.

“Don’t say that unless you mean it.” Damian warned, his sexy midnight gaze narrowing sharply.

Gabby’s lovely hazel eyes studied the sinfully handsome dark face before her. Damian Frinks had a wild, untamed persona that made her ache in the most intimate way. Never had she been so captivated simply by the way a man looked-or looked at her for that matter. She told herself that Damian was far too domineering and demanding for her tastes. After all, she was an independent, self confident, intelligent woman with no time to be controlled. Still, she found herself unable to resist the sensual spell he had cast. Clearing her throat softly, she managed a tiny smile. “I’d love to go out with you tonight, Damian. Is that better?” She asked.

“Good. I made reservations for eight, but I’ll pick you up at six-thirty.” He quickly informed her. He cupped her neck in his large hand and kissed her. His tongue probed the inside of her soft lips, before delving inside to taste the sweetness of her mouth. A low chuckle rose in his throat, when she moaned in response. A moment later, he was gone.

***

“…who is this, dammit?!” Gabby asked a second time. It was twenty minutes to six and she had just received a third phone call. She slammed the receiver down and stared at the phone. This call had ended just like the others. The entire thing was really beginning to get to her. At first, she cast the calls off as wrong numbers, but now she was starting to believe that there was a lot more to it than that. A moment later, she heard the noisy clamoring of the doorbell. As she rushed to the door, she stopped before the full length mirror. The long, spaghetti-strapped cream-colored gown hugged every curve and the side split complimented her legs perfectly. Still, she was slightly worried over the call and the smile she managed didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“What’s wrong with you?” Damian bellowed, a deep frown clouding his face.

“Well, you look wonderful too.” Gabby sighed, angry that he’d seen through her facade.

“You’re beautiful and you know it, but I can see you’re upset. What’s the matter?” He asked, more softly that time.

“I-” Gabby tried to think of some excuse, but the phone rang again. Closing her eyes, she willed the caller to give up, but the ringing continued.

“Brella?” Damian called, taking her hand in a gentle hold. “Baby, you’re phone’s ringing.”

“Could you get it, please?” Gabby asked. She hated to feel so helpless, but was thankful to have him there.

Damian was already headed to the phone. “Hello?” He repeated the greeting and then frowned and slammed down the receiver. “Must’ve been a wrong number.” He concluded, focusing his attention on Gabby once again. “Now what’s the matter?” He probed, concerned by the look in her eyes.

“Nothing Damian, it’s just business worries. Nothing for you to be upset about.” Moving away from him, she waved her hands in the air. “So, why are we leaving at six-thirty when you said the reservation wasn’t until eight?”

Realizing her attempt to change the subject, Damian decided to let it go. “It’s a surprise.” He said, using a mysterious tone as he escorted her out of the brownstone and into a sleek, black Bentley that waited out front.

***

They rode along in comfortable silence for almost twenty minutes. Gabby finally realized they were heading to the executive airport.

“Alright Damian, enough is enough. I demand that you tell me where we’re going?”

“You demand?” Damian’s heavy dark brows rose in amusement. “Sorry Brella, you’ll just have to wait and find out.”

Gabby punched her fist against her thigh, but said nothing more as she looked out the window. Fifteen minutes later, they were arriving at a private airstrip where a gorgeous jet waited.

“I take it this is yours?” Gabby asked, nodding as she stepped out of the car to admire the magnificent machine.

“You take it right.” Damian softly confirmed, grabbing his tuxedo jacket from the seat.

Gabriella watched him as he headed over to speak with his pilot. She loved the way the black and white checkered vest fist over the fine white silk shirt, the contours of his massive chest were clearly emphasized. She also took in the authority in his stance as he stood with one hand thrust into the pocket of his trousers while the other held the jacket slung across his shoulder. Admit it, you’re falling in love with the man. A voice demanded, as she stood there watching him. Gabby looked away and shook her head to deny the words. “No!” She finally whispered.

“No what, Brella?” Damian asked, as he strolled up behind her.

“Just thinking out loud.” She replied with a smile.

“Well, come on. Time to take off.” He said, placing one hand against her small waist.

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going now?” Gabby asked, when Damian set her into the sofa seat of the jet and strapped her in.

“Would you just be patient and quiet?” Damian pleaded as he leaned back against the cushioned seat next to Gabby. He stretched out his long legs and crossed them at the ankles.

Gabriella decided to give up her inquisition and follow suit.

***

Less than an hour later, the jet was landing. Gabby was still uncertain about their destination. Damian was being quite vague, as he guided her to the edge of the deserted strip where a chauffeured Limo waited. Gabby simply watched Damian in amazement as he assisted her into the cushiony dark interior of the car. A short while later, their surroundings were revealed.

“I don’t believe this!” Gabby cried, when she caught sight of the Washington Monument. “Isn’t this a bit much for dinner?” She asked, taking great interest in the sights beyond the window.

“I thought it would be a good idea to get away from New York for a little while and I know a good restaurant here.”

“If it gets you to come this far, it had better be outrageous.” Gabby decided.

As they drove through the city’s streets, Gabriella resembled a kid at the zoo. Her face gleamed with awe when she caught sight of something outside Damian’s window. Leaning across him, she rested her hand on his thigh.

“I take it, this is your first visit to DC?” He asked, hoping to take his mind off the location of Gabby’s hand.

“Oh no,” she assured him, “I’ve visited quite often, but I haven’t been in a while and I love the town. I see something new every time.” She sighed, reclaiming her seat. “Damian, thank you. This is a real treat.”

“We haven’t done anything yet, Brella.” He laughed, his onyx eyes twinkling. Gabby’s excitement was becoming very contagious.

In a matter of minutes, the Limo was approaching the front of a stylish building with a huge, black canopy bearing the letters GG’s on the front. They were stuffed after feasting on a meal of Southern fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, macaroni casserole, collard greens and lemonade.

“I haven’t had a meal like that since I visited my Grandma in Georgia.” Gabby declared, placing a hand across her full stomach as they strolled back to the car.

“I know. My Granny used to make meals like that all the time before she died.”

“I’m sorry.” Gabby whispered once they’d reentered the Limo. When she placed her hand across his arm, Damian smiled.

Over the next hour, the two of them rode in the chauffeured car talking and learning more about one another. Unused to this side of Damian, Gabby listened with genuine interest, greedy to learn more about him. Damian told her stories of summers spent in Jamaica with his maternal grandmother after his family moved to The States. He told her of how rough life was after his parents relocated, in hopes of having a better life for their children. Damian’s father drove for the city’s bus line, while his mother did housekeeping work to support he and his four brothers. The boys all vowed that one day neither of their parents would have to work. Today, Miles and Ladine Frinks lived very well in Jamaica courtesy of their sons.

Gabby found herself understanding Damian a bit more. She supposed being so close to the youngest in a family of so many men, made him very determined and in need of control.

***

“Dance with me?”

“Alright.”

Damian had taken Gabby to a new, upscale nightclub just outside the city in Maryland. The club was packed and a long line of people waited outside the door. Gabby eyed the curving line in despair, but Damian headed right for the front door and was granted instant entrance.

Inside, the music was wonderful-a mixture of reggae and soft R&B tunes filled the spacious, posh facility. The atmosphere set the stage for romance. Small glass tables skirted the polished hardwood dance floor. Brick walls were decorated by sensual paintings of lovers in the most erotic positions. Upstairs, the club’s patrons could take time out from dancing to relax in the lounge. Overstuffed loveseats filled the candlelit area which was complete with a long, fully-stocked bar.

“Oh.” Gabby gasped, when Damian’s arms encircled her and held her snuggly.

“So, tell me about your family.” He growled, his perfect teeth tugging on her earlobe.

Breathless, Gabby’s long lashes fluttered. “What?” She asked, her hands slipping beneath his jacket.

Damian dropped soft kisses along the side of her neck, as his hands massaged her hips. “I told you about mine, it’s only fair.”

“Yes, but my story isn’t half as extraordinary as yours.” Gabby argued.

“Hey,” Damian whispered, looking down into her lovely, oval face then. “I want to know.”

“Why?”

“Just start talkin’.” He ordered, resuming his inspection of the sensitive area below her ear.

“Well,” Gabby said, clearing her throat softly. “I grew up in New York-an only child.”

“Were you lonely?” Damian asked, his deep voice muffled in the side of her neck.

Gabby shook her head, toying with one of his dreads. “No, I had plenty of friends and cousins who were like substitute siblings. My parents are teachers, so they really pushed me to get a good education. After I got my business degree and told them I wanted to open a restaurant, they tried to talk me out of it. ‘Go into something more stable’, they said. Now that I’m a success, they couldn’t be happier.”

Damian’s soft kisses grew more insistent. “They should be happy. They’ve raised a real beauty inside and out.”

“You think?” Gabby asked, pulling away to look up into his face.

Damian cupped her neck in his large hands. “I know.” He said, propping her chin on his thumbs. Slowly, he tortured her with gentle sweeps of his lips against hers. His tongue outlined the pout of her mouth before thrusting deeply inside. The kiss was long, probing and shockingly possessive. It was as though they were the only two people in the room. Gabby’s fingers disappeared in Damian’s long, thick locks and she returned his kiss with equal passion.

Once they made it back to the jet, the mood was rather subdued. They processed the wealth of knowledge they had gained about one another.

“I gotta hand it to you. You do know how to show a woman a nice time.” Gabby complimented, settling once again into the cushioned seat.

Damian acknowledged the comment, bowing his head.” Are you saying it’s the best date you’ve ever had?” He asked, a devilish look in his dark eyes.

“It ranks right up there with the best.” She coolly replied.

Damian looked as though he were about to say something. Thinking better of it, he rested his head against the seat and folded his arms over his chest.

Gabby had to admit she was surprised and very impressed by Damian’s behavior that evening. He abruptly ended the kiss they shared at the nightclub and suggested they resume the conversation about their respective families. Gabby didn’t mind. It was a treat listening to Damian discuss his life and she felt that his interest in hers was genuine. Gabby wished they could have talked forever. Sighing contentedly, she kicked off her shoes and propped them on the small coffee table that sat before the seat. Closing her eyes, she drifted off.

Damian, on the other hand, was not so relaxed. He wanted to be with Gabby more than ever before. Not only sexually, but being alone with her that evening had been murder on him. He wanted nothing more than to make love to her all night.

Gabby’s eyes drifted open and she looked over at Damian. Her eyes leisurely assessed him, beginning with the tips of his leather wingtips. Her gaze trailed the devastatingly long length of his legs and powerful thighs hidden beneath the black trousers. She admired the lean waist and wide expanse of his chest before coming to his handsome dark face. Damian’s own eyes were open and the obsidian depths mirrored her need.

“Don’t Brella.” He warned. Impossibly, his eyes darkened even more.

Gabby ignored the warning as her gaze grew more intense. Damian lost his ability to resist and grabbed her arm. He hauled her tiny frame against his much larger one. Bringing one hand around the nape of her slim neck, he searched her eyes briefly before his mouth crushed her own. Her full lips parted instantly as his tongue explored the inner recesses of her mouth. He teased her mercilessly before kissing the smooth line of her jaw. His hands began a leisurely caress of her back while his lips tugged at her earlobe.

“Damian…” Gabby moaned, grasping his suspenders. She ached to feel him next to her and pulled him down onto the seat. The effect on Damian was instant and a low growl passed his lips.

“I knew I’d have you before long. I knew it…I knew sooner or later you would give in to me.” He spoke with the utmost confidence, his touch growing more heated.

Gabby, however, felt as though she had been doused with ice cold water. Damian’s confidence turned her stiff in his arms. He sensed her mood change and slowly raised his head.

“What is it?” He asked, his accent growing more evident in the wake of passion.

The sound of his voice brought Gabby back to reality and her lovely eyes widened. With a strength she didn’t know she carried, she struggled from beneath Damian. Moving too quickly, she landed on her bottom and sank into the cushioned floor of the jet. Of course, she was too angry to pay attention to her predicament.

“Is that what tonight was about? Was this all you were after?” She asked, her eyes clouding with mistrust and anger over her own lack of common sense.

“All I was after, Brella?” Damian softly asked, a small smirk coming to his face.

“Stop it. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about! Just stop.” She snapped, eyeing the arrogance she saw in his dark stare.

“Brella, what the hell are you talking about?” Damian asked, completely bewildered. His amusement quickly turned to anger. Until a moment ago, she wanted him, now she was accusing him!

Gabby continued her tirade. “What I don’t understand is why you went through all this?”

“All of what?” He asked, slowly beginning to understand.

“The jet, the dinner, the club. Pretending to want to get to know me. I just don’t-”

“Wait a minute! You think I did all this just to get you into bed?” He asked, watching her fiercely.

“Isn’t it?”

“Brella, the only thing I have to do to get a woman into bed, is ask. Don’t flatter yourself.” He slowly informed her, pure contempt in his black eyes.

“You conceited bastard.”

“Overconfident wench.” He returned, glaring down at her. They sat that way for the longest time.

Finally, Gabby looked away. She said nothing further. She pushed herself from the floor and took a seat in the cushioned chair across from Damian. Propping her fist beneath her chin, she turned her face towards one of the jet’s small windows.

The flight and ride back to New York, was a silent one. In the leather interior of the Bentley, Gabby thought of how the car reminded her of Damian. It was sleek, powerful and darkly sensual. She was so deep in thought, she didn’t notice the car stopping before her home and the man himself assisting her out. She snapped back to reality when she felt his strong grip on her arm.

“Damian, it’s not necessary for…” She trailed off, taking in the clouded look in his pitch black stare. If she hadn’t known better, she could have sworn she saw hurt in his gaze. She quickly dismissed the notion.

“Goodnight Brella.”

“Goodbye Damian.” She replied, her voice monotone as she entered her home.

It was a slow walk for Damian back to his car. Instead of settling into the plush interior, he remained outside. Then, frustrated, he crashed a huge fist against the top of the roof. The fierce action produced a miniscule dent in the shiny black surface.

“Damn.” He muttered. His thoughts were wholly centered on the woman-the only woman he wanted, locked away in her home. For the first time, Damian found himself feeling uncertain and uneasy.

CHAPTER 6

 

“Hello?…Hello? I know somebody’s there and if you don’t speak up or hang up, I’m going to trace this call!”

The line went dead and Gabby fell back to her bed, cradling the receiver against her chest. The cold, distant silence on the other end of the line was really getting to her. She almost wished the caller would be more vocal. Anything was better than that silence, she thought. She decided to go to the police later that morning. She had a friend who could probably make some sense out of the nonsense.

Hauling herself out of bed, she headed for the shower. A glimpse of creamy silk material on the floor caught her eye. It peeked out from the foot of the bed. It was the dress she had worn the night before. After reaching the sanctuary of her home, she headed right for bed. In her haste, she let the dress fall where it now lay.

When morning arrived, she cursed herself for being so foolish to believe Damian. After the great time they had, Gabby thought their feelings might have been moving in the same direction. She discovered, instead, that his interest had not been genuine, but all coolly calculated. Feeling the sting of tears, she banished all thoughts of Damian and went to the bathroom.

***

Gabriella called the restaurant and informed Joe that she wouldn’t be in. She tensed at his cool response, but put it out of her mind. She headed to the police precinct where she caught up with her friend.

“How’s my favorite restaurateur?” A dark giant man asked as he grabbed Gabby’s tiny frame in a warm bear hug.

“How’s my favorite policeman?” She said, smiling brightly. Detective Louis Davidson had been a good friend since they were children. It was amazing that their early friendship had ever survived since they’d always fought over LD’s wanting to play cops and robbers. Therefore, it was no surprise when he entered the police academy instead of college.

“Now what’s this about some hang ups?” LD asked, referring to the conversation they had earlier that morning.

For the next half hour, they talked. It didn’t take LD long to convince Gabby to put a tracer on her phone after she refused to change her number. They spent the remainder of the day at her home and Gabby learned how the machine worked. By the time LD left, she was surprisingly exhausted. Her hopes for sleep were dashed though, when she opened her door to Doc fifteen minutes after LD left.

“Are you alright? Joe said you weren’t coming into the restaurant today.” Doc said, a worried frown clouding his face.

“I’m fine, I’m fine. I just had some stuff to do today and I’m sort of tired.” She sighed, not wanting Doc to be worried. She judged by his ruffled clothing and weary look, that he’d had a rough night. His face held a tight, drawn look and his eyes appeared hollow and glazed.

“Doc? Are you alright?” She now asked, her brows drawing close.

“Yeah, why do you ask?” He grunted, running a hand across the back of his head.

“Well you-” She began, then stopped herself. Thinking better of it, she slapped his back. “How about some dinner?” She asked instead.

“Thanks G.”

Gabby knew he wasn’t just talking about dinner.

***

The calls continued, but they were so brief, the tracer didn’t help much. The toll on Gabby was a bit much and she spent the next week and a half at home. Doc had taken another trip, but he called every other night and he still had no idea anything was wrong.

Meanwhile, Joe seemed to be reveling in his boss’s absences. The few times Gabby spoke with him, his voice held the unmistakable tone of happiness and power. Louis Davidson was who she saw most of. He arrived every day to check on her, bring her dinner or just to talk. One day he arrived just after she’d taken in the mail.

“LD! Isn’t this a little early?” She asked, laughing as they hugged.

“Yeah, but I had some time. Everything okay?”

“Uh-huh.” She said, motioning him inside as her attention returned to her mail. Coming across a small envelope, she tore into it and scanned the contents. “Damn.”

“What? What is it?” Louis asked, instantly alert.

“Nothing. It’s just a dinner party tomorrow night. I don’t want to go, but Warren is a friend and I’d hate to disappoint him.”

“Well, I think you should go. You’ve been cooped up in this house for over a week.” Louis advised, moving to take a seat on the sofa. Stretching his long legs, he took interest in one of the numerous magazines on the coffee table.

“Yeah…you may be right. Okay, I’ll go. If you go with me.” She quickly finished, her brows rising. “Please…”

***

At the same time, Damian was scowling over the same envelope. Gabriella entered his mind the moment he read the invitation. He wondered if she’d be there. In truth, she was all he had been able to think of for over a week. He tried going into the office, but gave up after he snapped at everyone so terribly, they were afraid to approach him. He still couldn’t believe Gabriella had misunderstood his intentions and he had behaved just as badly.

Things had gotten way out of hand and he didn’t know how to correct the situation. Courage was something he never lacked, but he could not get himself to knock on Gabby’s door after he arrived. On several occasions, he noticed a tall man visiting her. Gabby always seemed so happy to see him. A murderous jealousy tore at him and he wondered if he had lost her. Going to that party would be the perfect way to find out.

***

Gabby applied a small amount of oil spray to her short, sleek cut. Standing away from the mirror, she gave herself the once over. The burgundy dress complimented her cocoa complexion, long sleeves flared widely at her wrists and the gorgeous material smoothed across her body-emphasizing her full breasts and small waist to reach her mid-thigh.

As she stared into the mirror, her thoughts turned to Damian. She remembered how persuasive his hands felt covering her body. Her legs weakened beneath her just then as heated thoughts filled her mind. She had tried so hard not to think of the man, but being home for a while had given her the chance to do just that. Unfortunately, knowing that his feelings weren’t as intense only increased the hurt. Gabby wondered if he would be at the party. She vowed that if she saw him, she would not let him get to her. Then again, what was she concerned about? It had been almost two weeks since she’d heard anything from him. He had not tried to see her or even call. Then again, what could she expect? She had exposed him for what he was and that was the end of things. Shaking herself back to reality, she turned off her bedside lamp and went downstairs to wait on her date.

***

Warren lived with his wife Renee, in a gracious home in Long Island. Renee had been with Warren since he’d been a bartender in a Brooklyn nightclub over fifteen years ago. They had been through a lot but Renee was confident of her importance in her husband’s life.

Gabby had loved the couple for years. In some ways, they were her inspiration. She hoped to find the type of love they shared…someday. Gabby’s smile widened as the couple came forward to greet their new guests.

“We’re so glad you could make it!” Renee cried, her ebony eyes sparkling as darkly as the sleek evening gown she wore.

“LD! Man it’s been a while. Hell, I don’t believe you broke out of the station long enough to mingle with us civilians.” Warren teased, slapping Louis’s shoulder.

“Yeah, well we have to check on you rich folks from time to time, you know.” Louis replied. The uproar of laughter between the long time friends, made everyone look forward to the rest of the evening.

The doorbell sounded again, breaking up the foursome. Warren answered, wiping tears of laughter from his face.

“Damian, Lois glad you could make it!” He called.

Even though Gabby and Louis had already moved from the door, Gabby could still hear Warren’s deep voice as he welcomed the two new guests. Her heart dropped to her stomach and she forced herself to calm as someone called she and Louis.

Gabby didn’t have to speak a word to Damian to know his temper was thoroughly heated. Everyone gathered around a long table in the massive dining hall. There were over twenty people there. Of course, Gabby felt it was just her luck that Damian was seated diagonally across from her. Each time she looked up to answer a question or respond to something LD had said to her, she found Damian staring at her. His onyx gaze was expressionless. As dinner progressed, he seemed to grow increasingly agitated. So did Gabby. Soon, Damian’s unnerving stare became accusing as he shifted his dark gaze from her to Louis.

Gabby clenched her fists and ordered herself to remain calm. Her anger clearly showed in her eyes as she pinned Damian with an accusing glare of her own. She moved her gaze from him to DeLois. In response, Damian raised his glass in a mocking toast and Gabby nodded.

Of course, she knew Damian would not let it go at that. She felt like a coward, but she could not handle the man’s staring whenever she looked up. If she shared a dance with LD or any other man at the party, his gaze would turn absolutely murderous. Finally, she retreated to the sanctuary of one of the upstairs bedrooms. She wet a cloth and pressed it to the back of her neck, hoping to ease the tension there. She heard the bedroom door open and the lock click into place. Tossing the cloth to the counter, she rushed from the connecting bathroom thinking it was Renee. It was Damian.

“What do you want?” She snapped.

“Who is he, Brella?” He softly inquired.

“A friend.” Gabby retorted and turned her back on him. She dismissed the gorgeous image he made in a pair of cream trousers, cream and brown striped shirt and coordinating jacket.

Damian closed his eyes briefly, before bounding across the room. “I said, who is he?” He whispered, towering over her.

Gabby fixed him with a scathing look. “Listen, I know it may be difficult for you to comprehend this, but it is possible for a man and woman to be just friends without either of them being after…anything.” She whispered, making her meaning clear. She noticed Damian’s wince and could have sworn the painful look was clouding his eyes again.

Damian gnawed the inside of his jaw and drew his mask back into place. He turned as though he were about to leave, then changed his mind. Gabby retreated when she saw him heading back towards her. He reached out and caught her forearm in an iron grip. Gabby pressed her palms against his chest. Her intention was to push him away, but when she touched the hard width of his chest, she decided against that. Heat practically radiated through his clothes and she felt completely aroused. Her lips parted slightly and she tilted her head back in anticipation of his kiss.

Suddenly, Damian released her and walked out of the room. Gabby wanted to call out to him, but her pride got in the way of that. For a while, she stared at the closed bedroom door. Then, she ambled over to peer out the window overlooking the curving driveway. Five minutes passed, before she saw Damian settle into a black Mercedes and speed away. Alone.

 

Mixed Signals- First Installment

                   MIXED SIGNALS

CHAPTER ONE

 

A gorgeous onyx stare followed Gabriella Jackson as she made her way through Harlem’s Warren Nightclub. The man watching wondered if she was there alone. He told himself it didn’t matter. He was receiving the most pleasure just looking at her. His midnight eyes travelled from her glossy crop of short, dark hair to her lovely face. He took in the beautiful eyes, the full mouth and the shapeliest pair of legs he had ever seen. His reaction to her was powerful and he knew he wanted her.

Still, Damian Frinks did nothing more than stare as the woman spoke with the club’s owner, Warren James. When she left the crowded establishment through a rear door, Damian shook his head. Hell, I’ve at least got to get her number; he decided and left after her.

Unfortunately, Damian Frinks wasn’t the only one watching Gabriella walk out of the club.

     “Well, well look at this.”

Gabby turned her petite frame in the direction of the gruff voices and her large, brown eyes widened at the sight of a burly man and his younger thinner friend. Her mahogany-toned legs carried her in the direction of her Miata and she cursed herself for being foolish enough to park in the dark alley.

“Whoa, little lady, what’s your rush?” The larger man asked, as he fell in step beside her. One hand landed on her shoulder and he pulled her around to face him.

“Gabby gave a jerk, slightly nauseated by the man’s whiskey-tainted breath.

“Easy now,” He slurred.

Gabby could feel the thinner man’s arms settle around her waist and she began to struggle, determined not to go down without a fight. Despite her efforts, the two men overpowered her. When a pair of grimy hands curled around the scoop neckline of her lavender, satin dress, Gabby closed her eyes and worked to summon more fighting will. After a second or two, nothing happened. Her long lashes fluttered open and she saw the larger man being slammed against one of the brick walls behind the club.

Gabriella stumbled when the thinner man released her. Obviously, he hoped to escape the wrath of the giant who had invited himself to the party. The smaller man was too slow, as a swing from one mighty, coal-colored fist left him lying unconscious on the crunchy gravel.

Meanwhile, Gabby could do nothing more than watch in disbelief and amazement. She was unsure if the huge man was friend or enemy, but prayed that he was a friend. Her eyes travelled way up to the top of his head which was covered with shoulder-length dreadlocks. Her gaze lowered to his massive shoulders and further down to the long length of his legs. Suddenly overwhelmed by the strange turn in the evening’s events; her legs weakened just as she was caught.

“Hey? You alright?” Damian whispered, his soothing, canyon-deep voice called to her. He tried to shake her from her state of shock, but she seemed too unsettled to hear him. With infinite care, he lifted her against his wide chest and carried her back inside the club.

 

“Oh my God! What happened?!”

“Just call the cops, Maxi.” Damian instructed the waitress. “Two jackasses out in the alley need to be picked up. They attacked her.” He explained, in a tone that sent the woman rushing to do as he’d asked.

Once Damian reassured everyone that Gabby was alright, he took her to Warren’s office. He hated to relinquish his hold on her, but he had to make sure she was okay. After a few moments, he saw her blink and press one hand across her eyes.

“Dammit,” she whispered, “I should’ve stayed home tonight. I knew it. Lord knows I have enough work to do.”

A deep chuckle rose from somewhere in the room and Gabby pulled her hand away from her face. She found herself gazing into the darkest, deepest pair of eyes she thought she had ever seen. They were fringed with long, thick lashes and deep-set under a pair of heavy brows. She scanned the length of his nose and lips. Finally, she realized this was the man from behind the club.

“You’re obviously a friend.” She whispered relief evident in her voice as her eyes feasted upon the gorgeous, dark giant.

“I’d like to think so.” He replied, with a slow grin. His perfect white teeth contrasted sharply against his dark chocolate skin. “Are you alright? I know you were shaken by what happened out there.”

“I…” My God, I feel like I could drown in his eyes. Gabby thought. Her lips parted and she appeared to be inviting him to kiss then. Shaking her head, she regained her senses. “Yes, I’m fine. Everything happened so fast. Thank you, I don’t know what I would’ve done if-”

“Don’t mention it.” He said, waving his hand while the dreads crossed his wide shoulders. His temper heated at the thought of what he’d seen when he walked out into the alley.

Just then, Warren burst into the spacious, starkly furnished office. His handsome, honey-complexioned face was a picture of concern. “What happened?” He asked, rushing over to the sofa where Gabby rested.

“I’m fine.” She assured him.

Warren’s dark brown stare was focused on Damian.

“Two guys out in the alley.” Damian replied. “I got there before…”

Warren nodded toward his old friend, before turning back to Gabby. “What possessed you to park your car in that alley?”

Gabby closed her eyes and grimaced. “I hadn’t planned on staying long. I wanted to be able to leave quickly.”

“Hmph.” Warren grunted.

“Will you please not start?” Gabby begged.

“He’s right, you know?” Damian interjected.

“Both of you.” She retorted. Of course, when her light brown eyes met Damian’s dark ones, she ceased her argument.

Suddenly, Warren stood. “Listen,” he told her, “you get home now and I’ll call you later. Thanks again, man.” He told Damian, before leaving the room.

“Are you okay to get up?” Damian asked, moving off the sofa.

“Mmm hmm, thank you.” She quietly replied. She felt somewhat subdued by his size as she turned to leave the office. “You know,” she said, facing him again, “I don’t even know your name. I’m Gabriella Jackson.”

“Damian Frinks.” Was his only reply as he took her hand in the lightest grasp.

Gabby nodded slowly and turned once again to leave the office. Damian followed closely behind, deciding that he had to have her it was as simple as that for him. Suddenly, his calm expression turned dark when he realized she was headed to the back door of the club.

“Uh…Gabriella where’re you going?” He asked, watching her curiously.

She was watching him just as curiously. “To my car.” She pulled open the door.

“Hold it.” He whispered, placing one massive hand on the cool wood. “I don’t believe this, you’re almost raped and now you want to go back to the damned scene of the crime?”

“I just want to get in my car and go home. I’m sure those guys are long gone.” Gabby knew she wasn’t thinking rationally, but she was tired and ready to leave the club.

“Give me your keys.”

“You can watch me walk to my car and get in.” She bartered wearily.

“Gabriella, give me the damn keys.” He kept the request quiet but steely.

The underlying strength she heard in his tone, advised her not to press the issue. Still, that didn’t stop her from rolling her eyes to the ceiling as she shoved a small, silver key ring into his palm.

“Go wait out front. I’ll be around in a minute.”

Gabby had to hesitate then. She couldn’t believe a man she barely knew was giving her orders and she was letting him!

     When she arrived outside the club, Damian was already there leaning against the side of the black Miata. The vehicle appeared miniature next to him. Focusing straight ahead, Gabby made her way to the car door.

“Don’t I even get your number after saving that beautiful skin tonight?”   He teased, favoring her with a sexy smile and wink.

Gabby massaged her forehead and wondered how she could have wanted him to kiss her. “I should’ve known there was a price for your chivalry.” She drawled, settling behind the wheel.

“That’s life.” He informed her, his baritone voice growing deeper. The teasing expression on his handsome face suddenly changed into one that was intense and hungry. When Gabriella started the car, he propped his hands along the door and leaned down to look inside. “Well?” He asked, his smoldering dark gaze narrowing as he watched her.

Gabby ignored the shiver cooling her body, as she looked into his eyes. “Goodnight, Mr. Frinks.” She sighed.

Damian didn’t push, choosing to let her have the last word. Leaving her with an unmistakably arrogant smile, he stood and headed back to the club.

I’m going home and forget all about Damian Frinks and this entire night. I swear I am. Gabby decided, before driving away.

Damian watched the car speed down the street. His deep-set onyx eyes lowered seductively. Then, he sighed and strolled back inside the club.

***

     “Mmm…” Gabby smiled, taking another sip of rum-laced tea. Returning home from the club, she enjoyed a long, hot shower. Afterwards, she relaxed in the living room with soothing jazz and a cup of the herbal blend. The doorbell rang just as she was about to take her cup to the kitchen for a refill. Instead, she carried the oversized mug with her to the front of the house checked the privacy window and shook her head in disbelief.

Outside, Damian Frinks was leaning against one of the stone porch columns. His penetrating onyx stare studied Gabby’s small, bare feet before moving over her shapely legs, thighs and full breasts pressing against the material of her sleep shirt.

“Good evening.” He whispered, when his eyes met hers.

“Hello.” She sighed, resting her head against the doorjamb. “How did you find me?” She whispered.

“Warren.” Damian answered, pushing his massive frame from against the column.

Gabby nodded, her cool brown gaze sliding past him. “Is that yours?” She asked, referring to the sleek, black Navigator parked behind her car.

Damian glanced over his shoulder. “Mmm hmm.” He confirmed, turning his attention back to her. “Will you let me come inside?”

Despite the strong buzz ruling her actions, Gabby felt a strong tingle in response to the slightly suggestive tone to his question. “Please.” She finally obliged, stepping aside. A small gasp escaped her lips when he moved past her. His 6 foot plus height, massive body and the scent of his cologne almost made her swoon.

Damian stopped in the foyer and turned to watch her close the door. He smiled; pleased he had caught her dressed so…provocatively. The white nightie only reached past the swell of her bottom. With a grimace, he looked away- forcing the vision from his mind.

“What brings you by?” Gabby asked, as she headed back toward the living room.

Damian watched her curl up on the sofa. He could tell that she wore nothing beneath the shirt and he prayed for enough strength to keep his hands off her. “You left without giving me your number.” He announced.

Gabby placed her cup to the glass coffee table and smiled. “Obviously you got the information elsewhere.”

Damian took a seat and rested his elbow along the arm of the cushioned pearl-colored sofa. “Good ol’ Warren.” He slowly responded, propping one finger against his temple.

“Mmm…and what else did Warren tell you?” Gabby asked, her body overheated by his sensual, melodic accent.

Damian pushed the dreads away from his handsome face and fixed her with a steady gaze. “He told me about your restaurant. He told me how successful and smart you are… I was impressed…”

“Mmm…” Gabby sighed, her eyelids growing heavy. Listening to the man’s voice relaxed her more than the music or the rum.

Damian stopped talking when he realized Gabby had drifted off. Unable to resist just one touch, he reached out and trailed one finger along the silky, dark length of her calf. A tiny furrow formed between his long, sleek brows as his touch grew bolder. Slowly, he closed the space between them, pulling Gabby against his unyielding chest.

She uttered a subconscious moan, when Damian’s mouth touched the base of her throat. His fingers brushed the strap of the gown from her shoulders, allowing him to cup one bare breast in his palm.

“Dammit. What the hell’s wrong with me?” He groaned, moving away before he took unfair advantage of her. Taking a deep breath, he lifted her from the sofa and into his arms. Her lashes fluttered open then and Damian prayed she wouldn’t take offense to being held by him.

There was no need to worry, Gabby’s cool stare traced his face slowly and finally settled on his mouth. When she arched against him and parted her full lips, he could not resist. In one heated motion, he brought his mouth down on hers.

Gabby accepted his thrusting tongue, moaning softly as she eagerly responded. Her fingers curled around the lapels of the expensive, Herringbone sport coat he wore.

“Your room?”

“Last door…on the right.”  She instructed, gasping when his mouth slid across her jaw.

Inside the darkened room, Damian located the inviting queen sized bed and lowered Gabby to its center. His hands and mouth were everywhere. Male determination drove him to become sensually acquainted with her voluptuous body. Gabby’s soft, shameless gasps in his ear brought a confident smirk to the provocative curve of his mouth. He pressed harsh, open-mouthed kisses down the front of her body. His wide hands grasped her thighs and held them apart as he settled between.

Gabby shuddered, when his nose nudged her femininity.

He stroked the velvety cocoa folds before plundering the center of her body. Damian uttered a ragged groan, his tongue rotating deeply inside Gabby’s tight heat. An annoying voice in the back of his mind continued to ask him what the hell he was doing and also reminded him again that she was imbibed-he’d tasted the rum when they kissed. It would be unfair to take advantage of her. He repeated the words in his mind. It worked. He pulled away, but could not resist his gaze roaming her desirable frame. He was so absorbed in his study that it took him a moment to realize she had drifted off to sleep again.

“Brella?” He called, without realizing he’d shortened her name. Shaking his head, he realized she would not awaken that night. He took no offense, noticing the satisfied smile on her lovely, dark face. Pulling himself from the tangled covers, he decided to leave the house as quickly as possible. He tucked Gabby in, then cast one last lingering stare down at her.

“Damn,” he whispered, knowing he was inches away from stripping out of his clothes and returning to the bed. Dragging one massive hand through his dreads, he turned and left the room.

 

CHAPTER TWO

     The telephone’s insistent ring woke Gabby around 9:30 the next morning. Slowly, she made her way over to the side of the bed and made a blind grab for the receiver.

“Yes?”

“Uh yes, good morning. Gabriella Jackson?”

“This is she.”

“Good morning Ms. Jackson, I’m Sergeant Gordon. Say, aren’t you the Gabriella Jackson who owns G.J.’s Restaurant downtown?”

“Yes, I’m the one.” Gabby groggily confirmed.

“My wife and I eat there all the time. It’s our favorite.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

After a brief pause, the Sergeant cleared his throat. “Ms. Jackson, I’m calling about the attack last night.”

“The attack?” Gabby parroted, slowly becoming more lucid.

“Yes, although we have Mr. Frinks eyewitness account, we would like for you to come down to the station as well.”

“He’s already been there?” Gabby asked in disbelief.

“Yes ma’am, Mr. Frinks was here at seven-thirty this morning. He told us he didn’t want you disturbed, but we need your statement as well.”

“I don’t believe this.”

“Excuse me?” The Sergeant asked.

“What? Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, yes I’ll be there. How’s eleven o-clock?”

“That’ll be fine. We’ll see you then. Goodbye Miss.”

I would pick last night to be at my most helpless around the most take-charge man in the world, Gabby berated herself. Pushing the covers aside, she swung her legs off the bed and froze. Vague memories of the previous night flashed through her mind. She recalled Damian visiting her late. She also remembered how ‘buzzed’ she was after a couple of oversized mugs of hot rum tea. Though she couldn’t recall every explicit detail, Gabby knew things had become very…heated.

“Oh no…” She groaned, massaging the sudden tightness in her neck, “Maybe I should pay Mr. Frinks a visit after I leave the station. Or maybe not.” She left the bed unsure whether she wanted all the details from the previous evening.

When Gabby stepped beneath the warm spray of water and lathered herself with scented soap, she replayed the conversation she’d had with Warren shortly after she returned home last night. He was very candid, telling her everything he knew about Damian Frinks. Warren James was something of a lady’s man himself before his marriage and he and Damian were quite close. It seemed that Damian was the fourth of five sons born to Jamaican parents who left the country when Damian was seven. That accounted for his slightly detectable accent. The family settled down in Maryland. After graduating college, Damian obtained his MBA and went on to own his own business. DF Corp handled everything from consulting small businesses to managing some of the East Coast’s best restaurants. Warren made no secret of the fact that Damian was admired by all who knew him.

However, Warren’s description of Damian wasn’t all flattering. It seemed that Mr. Frinks was a man used to being in charge of his public and private life. His size greatly contributed to his success as he was very intimidating to most people. His take charge persona had often made it difficult to maintain lasting relationships with women. To Damian, this mattered little, since according to Warren, he’d proclaimed no woman would ever have his heart or his mind. He always got what he wanted the way he wanted it. No questions.

***

     Gabby dressed in a lightweight pea green skirt suit with matching pumps. Then, she left her brownstone and headed for the police precinct. It was difficult, seeing her attackers from the night before, but she performed courageously and positively identified both men.

An hour later, she was parking her Miata in front of the sleek high-rise DF Corp. Making her way through the pristine lobby; she took the elevator to the top floor.

“Gabriella Jackson, here to see Damian Frinks.” She announced to the receptionist in the corridor.

“Let me see if he’s available.” The attractive, vanilla-complexioned woman was saying as she reached for the phone. “Did you have an appointment, ma’am?”

“No, but he should know what this is about.” Gabby explained, watching the woman press a button.

“Mr. Frinks? There’s a Gabriella Jackson here to see you…Mmm hmm…certainly.” The young woman replied, then looked up at Gabby and smiled. “He’d like you to go right in. His office is at the end of the hall.”

“Thank you.” Gabby said, with a smile before she headed towards the large paneled doors at the end of the long hall. After a brief knock, she let herself in and looked around the spacious, dark office. Though the temperature of the room was quite comfortable, Gabby felt a distinct chill cross her body. She walked further into the room, rubbing her hands across her arms. She had become engrossed with one of the gorgeous black and white paintings on the wall, when a throat cleared behind her. Whirling around, she found Damian standing right behind her.

A soft smirk tugged at his lips while he stared down at her. “Did I frighten you?” He asked, knowing that she was definitely unsettled.

Gabby folded her arms over her chest and regarded him with a stale look. “I need to ask you something.”

Damian turned away and took a seat on the edge of his massive, cherry wood desk. “Anything.” He granted.

Clearing her throat softly, Gabby took a few steps closer to the desk. “Damian, last night…did anything…happen?”

Surprise flashed in the pitch-black depths of Damian’s intense gaze. “You don’t remember?”

Gabby’s lips parted and her heart began to race. “No…vaguely. I’d been drinking and I know I was a little tipsy when you came to my house…”

Damian’s surprise quickly changed to realization. Gabby wanted to know what happened after the club. Enjoying her unease now, he decided to have a little fun. “Well,” he sighed, “it’s true; you’d had more than enough to drink. I couldn’t believe it when you opened the door in that skimpy little…and invited me inside.”

“Oh…” Gabby breathed, closing her eyes in regret. “I invited you in?” She asked.

“Mmm hmm.” He confirmed, sounding delightfully smug. “Did you ever,” he added, relishing her discomfort.

“What happened?” She whispered, unable to face him as she listened to the account of her wanton behavior.

Damian moved off the desk and went to take a seat in the black suede chair behind it. “Well, I didn’t know what to think. You treated me so cold at the club and all. But damn, when you showed me you weren’t wearing any underwear and gave me directions to your bedroom-”

“What?!” Gabby snapped, facing him then. Her lovely, dark face was a picture of shock as she watched Damian. What she saw on his face changed her expression from shock to anger. “Wait a minute…oooh! You conniving…nothing happened, dammit!”

Damian leaned back in his chair, his penetrating onyx stare raking her tiny, voluptuous form meaningfully. “Oh, something happened, alright. I can honestly say I know every inch of that delicious body, right down to that sweet little mole inside your thigh, right next to your-”

“Stop! Just stop it…” She ordered in a vicious whisper. “What on earth did I do last night to attract your attention?” She groaned, smoothing one hand across her short, glossy hair.

Damian’s low chuckle was filling the room, when two men walked inside the office. Avery Sims and Jeff Agers saw their boss with the stunning, dark lady and turned to leave.

“No wait,” She called to them, before turning back to Damian. “Look, thanks again for last night, but I would’ve appreciated handling the police on my own. For twenty-eight years I’ve managed to do just fine and I think I have it under control. Good-bye gentlemen.” She said, acknowledging the two men still standing next to the door.

Meanwhile, Damian rested his head against the back of his chair. He admired the confidence in Gabby’s step as she strolled out of the office.

“Man, who was that?” Avery asked, regarding her departure as well.

“All I know is that if I knew someone that fine, she would not be mad at me.” Jeff vowed, chuckling over the scene.

Damian, still reclining in his chair, brushed invisible lint from his tailored navy, blue trousers. He knew Gabriella wasn’t really angry at him for helping out, but he admired her for standing up to him. Not many people did that. He flashed a devastating smile towards his two associates, then motioned for them to take their seats. “You two know I always arouse the most passionate responses in women.” He informed them.

The office was soon filled with the unmistakable roar of male laughter.

***

     “Gabby? Gabby…Do you hear me? Come on, we got work to do. Gabriella!”

“What? Oh, Joe I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“I’m just making sure you don’t want any changes made before this party tomorrow night?”

“No, no changes. Are you sure you don’t need me down there?”

“Positive. Look, get some rest before tomorrow. You sound beat.” The line went dead before Gabby could utter another word.

No Joe I don’t need rest. What I do need is to have my head examined. She scolded herself in the livingroom. After leaving Damian’s office where she asserted herself, she returned home and exchanged the sophisticated suit for a pair of cutoffs and a halter top. Now, she wished she had not gone home. Being there, had only given her more time to think of how foolishly she’d reacted in going to the man’s office. If it weren’t for him, she could have been raped or worse.

“Oh well, no since crying about it now.” She said, heading for the kitchen. The doorbell’s insistent ringing brought her back into the livingroom a few moments later. After a moment, the visitor impatiently leaned on the bell.

“Okay, okay I’m coming!” Gabby called, racing towards the door and whipping it open.

“You know, you should be more careful about who you open your door to?” Damian advised, as he leaned against the doorjamb. His dark eyes took a leisurely trip along the length of her body.

“What do you want?” Gabby questioned, trying to remain unruffled. She knew exactly what he was doing there.

“Brella,” he whispered, “you can do better than that. Aren’t you going to let me in?”

Accepting defeat and liking the way he’d shortened her name, Gabby stepped aside. Grimacing at her own appearance, she took in the expensive cut of his clothing. She was mesmerized by the way the gorgeous, navy blue suit molded to his magnificent form. She also admired the way he moved around her home, sliding one hand through his dreads as he walked. He removed his jacket and tossed it across the back of the sofa before taking a seat there.

“Well, are you coming to talk to me or stand by the door?” He asked, watching her expectantly.

Gabby rubbed the back of her neck, while looking at the floor. With a sigh, she closed the door and took one of the cushioned chairs opposite the sofa. “Okay, talk.” She ordered, preparing for the worst.

“For God’s sake, Brella, I’m not here to jump down your throat. I only wanted to explain.”

Gabby eyed him suspiciously. “Oh.” She murmured.

“Listen, I didn’t want the police bothering you about those guys because I thought you’d been through enough. As for last night, I couldn’t help myself-at first. I knew you’d been drinking the minute you opened the door.” He admitted, smiling at her look of surprise. “I um…I indulged in the opportunity, but I knew it wouldn’t be right to just…I left and we didn’t have sex if that’s what has you worried. If you still don’t believe me, then believe that I am truly sorry.”

Gabby searched Damian’s handsome, molasses-toned face for a full minute. What she saw there, convinced her. “No please,” she began in a miserable tone, “you saved my life. I should be thanking you for wanting to handle the police instead of yelling at you. I still don’t know why you came to explain all this.”

Damian rose from the sofa, walked over to Gabby and pulled her close. “It’s very simple. I’ve never had such a beautiful woman so upset with me and I didn’t like it.” With those words, he bowed his head and captured her mouth with his sensuous lips as his thumbs stroked her cheeks.

Gabby almost swooned with pleasure as she smoothed her hands across his broad chest and back. His lips trailed the length of her neck, and he paused to nibble at her ear lobe. The phone rang, interrupting the fabulous progress of his hands and mouth. When he released her, Gabby collected herself and turned away.

“Yes?” She breathlessly greeted.

“Gabby, what took you so long?”

“Sorry Joe, I was outside. What’s up?”

“I just needed to know if you approved of the staffing for tomorrow night?”

“Staffing?”

“Yeah, we don’t wanna come up short on manpower for this type of party.”

“Oh yeah! Yeah, Joe the numbers you gave me earlier sound good. Um…are you sure you don’t need me there?”

“Positive. Bye.”

Gabby replaced the receiver and turned to face Damian, who had his suit jacket thrown across his arm. “Business.” She explained, gesturing towards the phone.

“Problems?”

“No um…some bigwig is throwing a party at my restaurant tomorrow night. My manager’s been handling most of the details. Everything’s kind of hurried because it was a last minute request.” She explained, growing uneasy beneath his deep gaze.

Damian only nodded, as he leaned against one of the cool mauve colored walls. Conversation between he and Gabby quieted as they studied one another.

 

 CHAPTER THREE

 

     “You’ve done good, Joe. You’ve done real good.”

“Don’t sound too surprised, Gabby.” Joe tiredly replied as he turned back to the kitchen.

Gabby only shook her head, while inspecting the lounge area of the restaurant. Cream colored sofas surrounded a glass, brass trimmed coffeetable. Leafy, green Fichus trees filled every corner of the restaurant, giving it a coolly exotic appearance. Long, curving, satin-clothed dining tables held the exquisite buffet: steaming dishes of seasoned meats, spicy rice dishes, beautiful vegetables and fruits. An extraordinary array of fresh baked breads, cheeses, desserts, wines and non-alcoholic beverages topped off the glowing buffet.

In addition to the appearance and professionalism of the staff, Gabby was also very impressed by the guests who filled her restaurant. She also gave a silent prayer of thanks that none of the employees of DF Corp recognized her from the other day. Gabby thought she’d faint earlier when Joe told her who was giving the party. To her surprise and mild regret, Mr. Damian Frinks had not yet arrived. After the scene in her apartment the day before, she had not been able to get him off her mind. Not that she really wanted to. Gabby couldn’t help but remember how strangely he acted before leaving. Damian just stood there with an odd look tingeing his face. Then, he walked over to her and caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. Afterwards, he left and she hadn’t talked with him since.

Shaking her head, she turned just in time to see the object of her thoughts entering the restaurant. He was devastating in a black and gold checkered jacket over a fine cream colored shirt and black trousers. Apparently, most of the women in the restaurant, shared Gabriella’s opinion.

“Goodness, now that is a fine man.”

Gabby turned in the direction of the two waitresses who had just walked past. She had to agree, feeling her own pulse quicken. Her study of Damian came to a halt when she realized that he had not arrived alone. The woman at his side was, in a word, regal. She was half a foot shorter than Damian. Her midnight hair was pulled back into a chignon and the long, deep coral gown she wore was in perfect contrast against her dark skin. Gabby stared at them for only a moment. Then, she shook her head, angry that she had become so entranced by Damian.

“What a man.”

Gabby smiled and turned toward the woman who had expressed her admiration. “I guess you mean Damian Frinks?” She asked.

“Mmm hmm,” the woman replied, smiling as she stared across the room.

“Do you work for DF Corp?”

“Sure do.”

“What kind of boss is he?” Gabby inquired, her own eyes returning to rest on the man.

“Well, he can be very tough. But, he’s fair.” The woman spoke with conviction. “And gorgeous.” She added.

“Yes, he is.” Gabby agreed. “I suppose that’s the woman he’s seeing?” She noted, trying to mask her curiosity.

“Well, it’s no secret that Damian Frinks isn’t serious about any one woman. But, he’s been seen with her on occasion. I think her name is Delois Graham.”

The woman turned to speak with a co-worker, just as Mike, one of the bartenders, caught Gabby’s attention. As she focused her attention on his question, she was unaware that she was being watched by the subject of her previous conversation.

The moment Damian entered GJ’s he tried to find its owner. As much as he hated to admit it, she had gotten under his skin. He knew he would not stop until he had her in his bed.

“Damn, what the hell is wrong with me?” He whispered, shaking his head. He continued to watch Gabby, who, by now, was mingling with his male employees. Completely ignoring his “date”, Damian spent the next 20 minutes watching his hostess. He saw her share a joke with Darius Green and Leon Phipps, have a drink with James Louis and dance with Avery Green. Her backless, cobalt blue gown molded to her petite form, while the long split in the back revealed tantalizing glimpses of her pretty legs. Deciding then that he’d had enough, Damian headed in the direction of the dance floor.

“Excuse me, Avery may I cut in? I haven’t had a chance to speak to our hostess.” Damian explained, smiling at Gabby who regarded him suspiciously.

“Fine with me.” Avery drawled, as he bowed toward Gabby. “Thank you madam.” He said, before strolling away. Gabby laughed as she turned to Damian.

“You seem to get along with all the men who work for me.” Damian noted, pulling her obscenely close. He placed both arms around her waist.

Gabby could barely think due to the hypnotic scent of his expensive cologne. “Not all.” She managed.

Damian dipped his head and spoke closely to her ear. “Nice dress.”

“Thank you.”

“Were you shocked to find out I was the “bigwig” giving the party?” He pulled back slightly to look into her eyes.

“At first, but the shock didn’t last long,” she spoke quietly, unknowingly seductive.

Damian pulled her back into his snug, possessive embrace. “What would you say if I asked you to come with me tonight?” He whispered against temple.

“I’d say ‘what about your date?'”

“It’s not like that between Lois and me.”

“Oh I see, she’s just one of your uh…women?”

“She’s one of my acquaintances.”

“Mmm, I see…so I guess that’s what I am, an…acquaintance?”

“Brella, you’ll never be just an acquaintance. I don’t know exactly what it is about you, but I do know that I want you and I intend to have you.”

“Just like that? I’m just supposed to fall into your bed?”

“Well, when you put it like that…suffice it to say that I always get what I want. Especially when it comes to a woman.” He spoke softly, but with fierce confidence.

Gabby could only stare in amazement of his certainty. The spell was broken when one of the waiters called her to the phone.

“I think you better go take care of your…acquaintance.” She advised, looking across the room at Delois Graham.

Damian kissed the corner of her mouth, leaving her with a look that said everything was far from over.

Gabby headed for the phone. Her knees were still shaking after the heated dance. Taking a deep breath, she placed the receiver against her ear and answered.

“Gabby come get me from the airport!” A gruff, male voice demanded.

“Doc? Is that you?” Gabby questioned, frowning at the sound of her partner’s voice. “What did you get back? Where’s your car?”

Doc Riley gave a heavy sigh. “If I knew that I wouldn’t need you, would I? Will you just come get me, girl?”

“Doc I’m having a party here. Why don’t you take a cab?”

“Gabby…”

“Okay, okay I’m on my way.”

 

Damian watched Gabby leaving the restaurant. He wondered what was going on with her then. An easy smile crossed his handsome face, as he took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. He knew he would see her again before the night was over.

***

     “I don’t believe they towed your car.” Gabby was saying an hour later. She was trying hard not to laugh at the tense expression on Doc’s face as they drove back to Brooklyn.

“Gabby, if you even giggle, I’ll seriously think about killing you. This isn’t funny.” Doc ordered, a terrible scowl darkening his handsome face.

“I’m sorry D, it’s just that you yell at me when I get a speeding ticket. It’s hard to believe you parked illegally.”

“Parked illegally my ass. I’m going to fight that ticket.”

“Mmm, well why don’t you stay with me tonight? You can get your car from the impound tomorrow. I can cheer you up-”

“Listen to you make remarks about my car all night? No thanks…I’ll be satisfied with one of your omelets, then I’ll be on my way home in a taxi.”

“Okay. Fine.” Gabby sighed, pretending to be offended.

The ride continued in comfortable silence as they listened to one of the city’s R&B stations. Gabby stole secret glances at Doc, amused by his attempt to be angry with her. Gabby loved Doc like a brother and he was just as close to her. They had known each other since the age of ten. Upon returning home from college, they decided to start a business. Although the relationship was never a romantic one, their business partnership was a complete success.

Just as they were turning onto Gabby’s block, Doc asked how things had been going since he’d been out of town. He had been visiting his brother Darnell in Chicago for the past two weeks. As they were walking through the door, Doc was yelling at her for the incident at The Warren Nightclub.

“Do you know what could’ve happened to you behind that club, G? You could’ve been-”

“D, I know all that. I’ve said the same thing to myself fifty times. So right now, if you don’t mind, I really don’t want to hear it. It’s been a rough night.” She groaned, and headed to the kitchen.

Doc held his thumb and forefinger across the bridge of his nose as he shook his head. Then, running his hand over the back of his close cut wavy hair, he sat down and began to thumb through one of the financial magazines on the coffeetable.

“Baby, let me go and change out of this dress. I’ll be right back.”

“G, wait a minute. Come here.” Doc called, as he stood. When Gabby was standing before him, he brought his large hands up to cup the sides of her face. “You know, they’d have to bury me or lock me away if anything ever happened to you, don’t you?”

Gabby looked into her friend’s light brown eyes. Then, she stood on her toes and gave him a sisterly kiss on the mouth. Afterwards, she headed upstairs.

     Gabby returned moments later wearing a pair of navy blue cotton sweats, a white short-sleeved Knicks T-shirt and a navy blue and white scarf tied across her head. Just before she reached the middle of the livingroom, the doorbell rang.

She glanced at the large Grandfather clock that stood in the corner of the livingroom. It read 1:15am. She looked over at Doc, before peeking through the privacy window. Realizing who it was, shock and suspicion clouded her face. With a grimace, she opened the heavy oak door.

“Damian…what are you doing here?”

“At your unexpected departure, I thought I’d come over here to say…goodnight.” He explained. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone and, as he leaned against the doorjamb, he used one hand to push the dreads away from his face.

Gabby’s brown eyes took in his casually sexy stance. Taking a deep breath, she ordered herself to remain cool. “How thoughtful.” She sweetly replied.

Damian’s striking white grin appeared. “I see I’m just in time. You look about ready for bed.” He noted, taking in her attire.

Slowly realizing what he meant, Gabby brought her hands to her head. “Come in.” She whispered and quickly removed the scarf. “Come in.” She whispered, gesturing quickly as she stood before the long mirror next to the front door and finger-combed her hair.

Damian was laughing softly as he walked into the livingroom. Unfortunately, his easy mood vanished when he noticed Gabby’s other guest.

Gabby thought the tension that filled the room could have been cut with a knife. When she came into the room, both Damian and Doc were so tense, they resembled two dogs ready for a fight.

“Uh…Doc this is Damian Frinks. Damian, this is Doctor Riley.”

“Doctor?” Damian repeated, somewhat indifferently.

“My mother’s idea of creativity.” Doc said in the same manner.

When the room quieted again, Gabby decided to make another stab at conversation.

“Doc is my partner in GJ’s. Doc, Damian is the man who helped me that night.”

“Mmm…” was the response from both sides.

“Damian I was just about to fix D an omelet, would you like something?”

“A glass of milk, if you’ve got it.” He quietly replied, as he took a seat on the large, overstuffed chair opposite Doc.

Gabby nodded as she left the silent room. When she returned with the milk, it was just as quiet.

“Thanks.” Damian said when his hand brushed hers. He accepted the glass while his probing dark eyes roamed the length of her body.

Gabby glanced towards Doc, who seemed engrossed with his magazine. She gave Damian a small smile, then headed to the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later, she emerged to tell Doc his omelet was ready. By this time, both men were reading magazines.

In the kitchen, Gabby lit into her friend. “What the hell is your problem?”

“What’s he doin’ here this late? You still repayin’ him for the other night, G?” Doc whispered, his heavy Brooklyn accent more evident.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I didn’t know he was coming over here tonight. Now, if you have a problem with that, too bad,” She threw over her shoulder and beat a hasty path out of the kitchen.

     “Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing here and why you’re acting like such an ass?” Gabby hissed at Damian when she stormed into the livingroom.

“I have a better idea,” Damian said, staring up at her from his seated position. “Why don’t you tell me what he’s doing here so late or, should I say, so early in the morning?”

“I already told you, Doc’s a good friend and my business partner.” Gabby explained, placing one hand on her hip.

“Now tell me what else he does for you besides helping you partner your business.”

“Why you-” Gabby began, only to be interrupted by the ringing phone. “What?!” She screamed into the receiver. “Oh?…yes, yes just a minute. D, telephone!” Taking a deep breath, she turned back to Damian. “Listen, I don’t know why you’re here, but maybe you should leave.”

Damian’s smirk was as sexy as it was dangerous. “I’ll leave if you really want me to. Somehow, I don’t think you do.”

Gabby folded her arms across her chest. “Oh? Is that right?”

“You bet.” Damian assured her, bowing his head.

Gabby’s brown gaze grew stormy at his smooth confidence. Before she could respond, Doc walked into the livingroom. He was prepared to leave.

“Baby, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to take the food with me.” He told her, placing a protective arm around her shoulders. “There’s something I need to take care of.”

“Right now, D? It’s almost two o’clock in the-” She stopped herself when she glanced over at Damian. His expression was murderous, which made Gabby think twice about persuading Doc to stay longer.

Doc leaned over to kiss her cheek. “Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Do you need my car?”

“Nah, I’ll get a cab. You gonna be okay?”

Understanding the question, Gabby smiled and nodded.

“Good. Frinks.” Doc threw over his shoulder as he headed towards the door.

“Riley.” Damian replied.

Gabby slapped her hands to her sides. “Well, it’s late.” She pointedly announced.

“Not so fast. You didn’t answer my question. What else is Riley to you besides partner and…friend?” Damian asked, coming to stand in front of the door.

“Not that I have to explain anything to you, but what I said about Doc is the truth and if you don’t believe me, that’s your problem. Now, if you’ll get out-” Gabby began, as she turned her back on him and headed towards the door.

Damian had a different idea and wound an arm around her middle then carried her to the large sofa.

“Damian wait.”

He’d already taken both her wrists in one of his massive hands. Holding them above her head, his lips found the side of her neck. He traced the outside of her full lips with his tongue, instantly parting them. Finally, he kissed her deeply and smiled at the low moan he forced from her lips.

Gabby worked to verbalize a refusal when his mouth released hers.

“Don’t stop me.” He let go of her wrists to place one hand around her neck. He held her there as his tongue teased inside and outside her ear. His other hand found its way beneath her T-shirt. Discovering that she wore no bra, he groaned into the side of her neck.

“Brella…” Lifting the shirt above her breasts, his mouth found them to be irresistible. As both arms surrounded her body, he feasted on her. He took one nipple between his sensual lips, while Gabby’s fingers delved into his dreadlocks. In response to the erotic movements of her body, she felt the impressive bulge of his arousal through his trousers. Her eyes widened when she realized the full extent of his thrusting power.

Then, suddenly, Damian’s mouth left her breasts and he buried his head between them. “What are you doing to me?” He whispered, his deep voice sounding unusually bewildered. Then, surprising Gabby, he left the sofa, retrieved his coat and walked out of the house.

Gabby’s face was a picture of confusion and disappointment. She straightened her clothing and watched the front door close.

 

 

 

African American Fantasy

Good Morning All,

This week’s blog will direct you to this weeks posting at the HOT M.A.M.A.S site. Entitled: African American Fantasy. The posting will be up until Friday. Next posting will be from Kianna Alexander on October 5th!! Enjoy 🙂

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