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.

 

 

 

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Velva Seay says:

    Can’t wait to read the rest. Altonya, girl you are so talented. Don’t make me wait too long for some more.

    1. altonyasblog says:

      Hi Velva!!

      Thanks for your kindness…it was a first effort but it really motivated me to keep at it and keep getting better. I still have far to go. Thanks for joining me on the journey! Hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the story! 😉

  2. Ronise says:

    I LOVE this. You continue to tease us, Ms. Washington. When will the next installment be released. Hopefully, next week and not the following. Also, how many chapters to this story?

    Keep up the good work.

    1. altonyasblog says:

      Hi Ronise,

      Tried to respond through my Smartphone- didn’t go through so apologies for late reply. There are about 9 chapters to this one I think. Yes, I’ll be loading up the next installment this week. Stay tuned 🙂

  3. Shantal Y. says:

    AlTonya, as always, you intrigue me with the storyline. This first installment was an excellent quick read and of course I need to know how this plays out. Give me more! LOL! Thanks for sharing.

    1. altonyasblog says:

      Hi Shantal!!

      Thanks so much. Look for more this week! 🙂

  4. Kathy Hardy Jones says:

    Altonya,

    Wow this was a great read. You pack so much goodness in a few chapters and leave us waiting for more. I look forward to reading more.

    1. altonyasblog says:

      Thanks so very much Kathy! So glad you’re enjoying this one 😉

  5. Tricia says:

    Kathy, one of our book club members sent us this link. So glad she did!
    I don’t like spoilers so I just read up to a certain point and stopped. That ‘s because I want this book YESTERDAY! I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL IT IS AVAILABLE! 🙂

    1. altonyasblog says:

      Tricia!

      Thanks so much for taking a chance on the work. I really hope you’ll enjoy the full story!

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