After the awful fight in Parrish’s office, they didn’t speak for two weeks. Dee had been hoping that after things cooled down, Parrish would talk to her, but he didn’t. He left every morning before she woke up and didn’t come home until she was fast asleep.
A mixture of pride and something else wouldn’t let Parrish open up. The truth was that he just didn’t trust himself to be rational and objective about that whole thing. All that; plus the fact that he was still angry enough to hit something, made things that much worse.
One evening, Parrish broke his routine and came home surprisingly early. The place was quiet and Dee was nowhere to be found. His heart started to race as he searched the house top to bottom. He finally found her curled up on the den sofa, asleep.
His features softened for a moment. Then his eyes narrowed and his expression was once again cold and guarded. Slapping his hand against the switch on the wall, he flipped on the overhead lights and walked over to turn on the television.
Dee sat up on the couch and ran one hand through her tousled hair. The confusion was evident in her eyes as she stared at Parrish.
“Why aren’t you dressed for the party?” He asked.
Now Dee was really confused. Party? After two weeks of silence, he asks her about a party? “Parrish-”
“I told you I had to be there. Don’t you remember?” He asked, already starting to take off his clothes.
Dee had no idea how she should go about handling his attitude. She certainly didn’t want to make things worse. She watched him a moment longer, then left the den to get dressed.
In the shower, she racked her brain trying to make some sense of everything. First, he gets upset because she won’t talk to him and when she does, he gives her the silent treatment. And they say women are hard to figure out! Maybe he really didn’t care what she did, she thought, remembering what he said in the office two weeks ago. Dee could feel tears stinging her eyes as the thought made her shiver. She didn’t think words could hurt so much, but they did when they came from someone you loved more than anything.
While Parrish took his shower, Dee arranged her hair in an elaborate coiffure. It was beautiful and would complement the long, spaghetti strapped evening gown she’d chosen.
Dee had just pulled on lacy red panties to a matching red strapless bra, when Parrish came from the bathroom. Dee was so caught up in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice that Parrish couldn’t keep his eyes off her. When she pulled stockings over her long legs, Parrish actually stopped what he was doing and just stared.
Shaking his head, he could feel his temper heating. When he was ready, he went to the door, wrenched it open.
“When you’re through, I’ll be downstairs.” Outside, Parrish leaned against the bedroom door for a moment. Faintly, he could hear Dee crying on the other side. He pounded a fist on his thigh and cursed himself for being the cause of it.
Mark Johnson, one of the partners, had a lavish home in one of the loveliest neighborhoods in Chicago. The stark beauty of his home however was a far cry from the down to earth man that lived there. Most of the guests had already arrived when Parrish ushered Dee inside an hour after they left the condo.
“Parrish! We didn’t know if you were going to make it, man!” Mark exclaimed when he shook Parrish’s hand and slapped him on the back.
Parrish smiled at the older man, “Yes sir, traffic was a mess for it to be so late.” He told his boss. Mark Johnson, like his partners, was an easy man to like. Unlike many employers, the three, older black men were admired and respected by everyone who worked for them.
“Well, I’m glad you made it. Now all we need is for Jonas to show up and he’s never on time!” Mark said, laughing.
Parrish chuckled at the joke aimed at Jonas Fredericks, one of the other partners.
When the laughter between the two men had subsided, Mark looked over at Dee. “Parrish, who is this beauty?” He asked, his eyes lingering on Dee’s lovely features.
Parrish turned towards Dee and pulled her next to him. “Mark Johnson, this is Demeshia Lincoln. Dee, Mr. Johnson is one of the partners at the firm.”
Dee smiled and extended her hand. “Mr. Johnson, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is definitely mine and call me Mark.” He said, pulling Dee’s arm through his. “Your coverage of the Reeves case was the best I’d read.”
Dee’s eyes sparkled as she enjoyed the compliment. “I believe you’re exaggerating, but I accept your compliment anyway.” She teased the handsome older man.
Mark’s rich, deep laughter filled the foyer and he glanced back at Parrish. “Jeffries you didn’t tell me this woman had beauty as well as charm!”
An easy smile crossed Parrish’s attractive features. “Hang around her long enough and you’ll fine even more to like.”
The unexpected compliment caught Dee off guard and she looked back at Parrish. His tone was light, but the look in his eyes was intense.
Mark slipped one arm around Dee’s waist and pulled her closer. Dee took no offense to the action, however, she liked Mark from the moment she met him. “Beauty would you like to dance with an old man?”
Dee smiled. “Well I wanted to dance with you first.” She flattered him.
Mark rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and sighed. “Girl, you’re too good for my ego.” He said, guiding her to the dance area.
Dee remembered Parrish and she turned back around to stare at him with questioning eyes.
A small smile tugged at his mouth and he waved his hand letting her know it was okay. Dee felt a small wave of disappointment, but she tried to ignore it.
“Parrish didn’t tell me he worked for such interesting men.” Dee told Mark when they were dancing.
Mark’s brows rose a few inches over his light skin. “You think I’m interesting?”
“Mmm hmm.” Dee nodded.
Mark kissed her cheek. “Hot damn. An old man likes to hear that especially from a sweet young thing like yourself.”
“You are not old.” Dee corrected him.
“Well I doubt I could compete with that.” Mark said, nodding his head towards Parrish who stood talking with a group of people.
Dee sighed and turned back to Mark. “I don’t know…younger men can be sooo… temperamental.”
Mark laughed loudly and pulled Dee closer to him. Parrish looked out at the dance floor for the twentieth time since Dee started dancing with Mark. He couldn’t fight the small twinge of jealousy as he watched the man twirl her around the room. Parrish took a seat at the bar and just watched Dee. He’d never get over how beautiful she was. He enjoyed the way she mingled with his colleagues. Mark must’ve enjoyed it too, because he hadn’t let go of her since they arrived.
Finally, dinner was being served and, of course, Mark wanted Dee seated next to him. Everyone, including the partners, seemed to be smitten by the brilliant, pretty reporter from New York. Several times during dinner, Dee could feel Parrish staring at her amidst the table full of people. When she looked at him, the expression on his face was so intense that she mistook his need for anger. He unnerved her so, that she did her best to ignore him.
“So Dee, when are you two getting married?” Marjorie Fredericks, Jonas Frederick’s wife was asking.
Dee looked down the table at Parrish before answering. “Well we haven’t decided yet.” She quietly announced.
Mark propped his chin against his fist adn stared at her. “Why don’t you both keep it that way?” He slyly suggested.
Dee laughed as loudly as anyone at that end of the table, but something told her that Mark wasn’t just kidding. The look in his deep-set, dark eyes said he was quite interested in her.
As handsome and charming as Mark was though, Dee couldn’t keep her mind off the gorgeous, quiet younger man sitting at the opposite end of the table.
Parrish hadn’t looked away from Dee since they sat down to dinner. Although the meal of roasted duck, broiled vegetables and dressing was fantastic, his attention was totally focused on Dee. He gave an aggravated sigh and briefly looked away, when Mark raised Dee’s hand to his mouth and kissed it. He should never have brought Dee to this thing. Mark Johnson was a good man, but Parrish knew he had an eye for beautiful women. Especially beautiful, young women.
Still, Dee didn’t look like she was upset any by all the attention she was getting. Well man, you haven’t been there for her so what did you expect? A nagging voice asked him and Parrish knew the voice was right.
“So Dee, are you going to quit working for ‘The Herald’, or do you have anything else in the works?” Gary Davis asked her.
Dee looked over at the firm’s oldest partner and smiled. “Well, I don’t know if you all are familiar with ‘The Corner’, but they’ve asked me to interview for the head writers’ position.”
Everyone at the table had heard of the popular magazine and were all very impressed.
Mark leaned back in his chair and regarded her coolly. “Well I hope you won’t be leaving any time soon.”
Dee smiled. “Well, I’m not going to rush into anything.”
Mark tilted his head to one side and nodded. “Good.”
If possible, his onyx gaze darkened even more. Dee cleared her throat at the message they sent her way and placed her napkin on the table.
Mark pushed his chair away and stood. “If everybody’s through we’ll meet in the living room.” He told the rest of the party. Looking down at Dee, he held out his hand. “Would you like to take a walk with me?”
Dee gave Mark a nervous smile and looked over at Parrish. He was in deep conversation with a group in one corner of the dining room. “I’d like that.” She told him.
The only thing that rivaled Mark’s beautiful home was the gorgeous lawn it sat on.
“This is so nice Mark. It’s good to see black people live this way.” Dee was saying.
Mark placed a hand at her waist and guided Dee down a walkway that was lined with small, perfectly hedged shrubs.
“Yes it is nice.” He agreed, his midnight eyes taking in his estate.
Dee frowned a little. “I sense a ‘but’ coming on.”
Mark gave a short laugh and sighed. “It would be a lot nicer with someone to share it with.” He admitted.
Dee’s brown eyes softened as she stared at him. “You’ve never married?”
Mark shook his head. “Never found the right one.”
“I find that hard to believe.” She challenged, giving him a dubious look.
Mark shrugged. “It’s true.”
Dee shook her head. “Mark I don’t mean to sound…forward by asking this-”
“Oh Dee, I wouldn’t mind you being forward with me.”
Dee gave a surprised laugh and continued. “Anyway, I was going to say that you are a very attractive, distinguished and appealing man and I can’t believe that women don’t practically drop at your feet.”
Mark gave her a devilish grin. “Did Parrish put you up to say all this so he’d have a clear shot for the partnership?”
“Just kidding. I’m teasing you!” He laughed, holding up his hands. “But, Dee if you keep talking that way, I’ll have to give that younger man a run for his money.” He said the tone of his voice serious.
“I just call it as I see it.” Dee told him.
“Well I’ll admit that I’ve had plenty of opportunities to choose Ms. Right. I love women, especially younger ones.” He added, winking at her.
Dee nodded. “I figured that.”
Mark pressed her against the railing to the steps that led down to the garden. “You, by far, are one of the most captivating and honest women I’ve met in a long time.”
Dee smiled at the compliment. “Thank you.”
“I just call it as I see it.” He repeated her.
Dee’s eyes widened as she watched Mark lean forward and placed a kiss against the soft skin beside her ear.
Before he did anything else, Dee placed her hand lightly on his chest. “Mark-”
“Why don’t we go out for dinner sometime before you leave town?” He asked, pulling away from her.
For some reason, it never occurred to Dee that Mark wanted to have dinner with her alone. She just figured he’d discuss it with Parrish later.
“I’d like that a lot Mark, thanks.” She accepted.
Mark pulled her towards him and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. He lingered there for a moment, before he pushed Dee away and walked back to the house.
Dee just stood there watching him.
After a few hours, the dinner party began to wind down. Dee had a moment to herself and took time to enjoy the view from Mark’s terrace. A brisk wind blew over her and she shivered slightly. Suddenly, Dee felt strong hands moving over her bare arms. The touch sent shivers down her back and she knew it had to be Parrish standing behind her.
“Misha, are you about ready to get out of here?” He asked, his lips brushing lightly against her ear.
Dee closed her eyes and just enjoyed the feeling of being close to him again. Reluctantly, she pulled herself away and turned to face him. “I’m ready whenever you are.” She replied, her smoky gaze sliding over his mouth and the deep cleft in his chin.
Parrish’s grip on her arms tightened and he pulled her closer to him. Their lips were just a breath apart, when they heard people calling them from inside the house.
“Damn.” Parrish muttered, before he let her go and turned back to the house.
Dee pressed her hand to her tingling lips before she too headed back inside.
After a long, silent ride back across town, Dee and Parrish were finally back at home. Parrish took her coat and threw it, along with his, across the coffee table. As they slowly headed up the staircase, Dee could feel him behind her and she prayed that he would touch her. Meanwhile, Parrish was desperately trying to keep his eyes off the way the gown molded to her body.
They stepped into the bedroom and undressed in the dark. Neither of them spoke. Parrish lay on his side of the bed, tense and uncomfortable. He wanted to make love to her so badly, he could’ve burst. Knowing she was lying next to him in just that skimpy pair of panties was enough to drive him crazy. Dee hugged her side of the bed, contemplating whether or not to reach out to Parrish. She thought on it so long that she finally fell asleep.
Parrish heard her soft steady breathing and figured she’d dozed off. He turned over to watch her resting and couldn’t resist caressing her. He started lightly at first, lightly running his fingers across her collarbone and down to where the sheet covered her breasts. Indulging himself, he lowered his lips to her neck and began to press soft kisses to her body. His lips moved closer to the edge of the sheet and then he was tugging it down with his teeth.
Dee woke; gasping when she saw him nestled between her thighs, feasting on her breasts. The merciless tugging and kissing on her nipples almost drove her mad. When she started moving against Parrish; he slid his lips past her breasts, over her flat stomach and kissed her naval. Then, he moved lower…
Dee softly cried Parrish’s name as his tongue moved inside her. Parrish moaned as he deepened the intimate caress. His hands grasped her bottom and pulled her more closely to him while he caressed her warm moisture with his lips. Parrish let her hips go and Dee arched right off the bed. He pulled away from her and sank the throbbing proof of his maleness deep inside her.
Dee screamed when she felt him filling her. Parrish watched her pull her full lower lip between her teeth as she enjoyed the erotic pleasure he gave her. The force of his thrusts was almost frightening, but after being apart do many nights, Dee welcomed it.
Parrish buried his face in her shoulder and reveled in the wet heat surrounding him. Dee’s fingernails seared his back before moving lower to pull his tight buttocks closer to her. Their movements increased as they reached the peak of satisfaction simultaneously.
Dee reached over for Parrish the next morning and her eyes snapped open when she realized he was gone. The anger building inside her was forgotten when she moved to get out of bed. A certain soreness in her lower regions, gave her vivid reminders of last night. She slammed her fist against the cushiony mattress. She was a fool to have thought last night had to do with anything more than typical male desire.
Still, Dee couldn’t deny how much she wanted him last night. She’d hoped it was the beginning of them patching up their differences. It was as if the ice wall Parrish had hid himself behind, was slowly beginning to melt. So why did he leave the way he did?
“I refuse to let another night go by without this settled.” She vowed in the empty room. She was just about to get out of bed and head to the bathroom, when the phone rang. Hoping it was Parrish, she snatched the receiver off the hook.
“Good morning.” A deep voice greeted.
“Mark, good morning.” Dee politely replied. “I’m surprised to be hearing from you.” She added.
“Dee, after meeting you last night, there should be no doubt in your mind that I’d want to get in touch with you.”
“Well I’m afraid Parrish already left for the firm.”
Mark chuckled softly on the other end. “I’m calling to talk to you Dee.” He assured her.
Dee was instantly intrigued. “Talk to me about what?”
“Have dinner with me tomorrow night and I’ll tell you.”
Dee sighed and pushed her hair away from her eyes. “Mark that sounds very nice, but I don’t think Parrish would be in the mood to go.”
Dee could hear Mark laughing on the other end. “Dee, let me make something clear to you. I only want to have dinner with you not Parrish.”
That statement certainly did simplify things for Dee. “Mark listen-”
“Dee, it’s dinner. That’s all. I enjoyed meeting you last night and I’d like to know you better. So how about it?”
Dee couldn’t see the harm in it and she certainly didn’t have a full social calendar. Parrish wasn’t asking to spend any time with her so, what the hell?
“I’ll pick you up at seven.”
Dee decided to spend the day pampering herself. She’d gone to the nail salon, shopping, to the movies and out to dinner. She didn’t return home until later that evening. Just as she stepped from her rented Camry, Parrish drove up. Dee sighed as she watched him get out of his car. Once again, his eyes had that hard cold look. A faint shadow of a beard, added a rugged sexiness to his face.
“Parry?” Dee called, when she realized he was going to walk right past her.
Parrish stopped, but didn’t bother turning around. “What?”
Dee slammed her hand against the side of her car. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”
Parrish leaned against the car and held his head down. “I have a headache and your screaming isn’t helping any.”
Dee gave a short laugh and looked at him. “A headache?” She asked, walking around her car to face him. “A headache?”
Parrish slowly rose from the car to tower over her. His eyes shot daggers right through her, but she was way past caring. “What is it Parrish? I’m good enough to have sex with, but not for you to talk to?!”
“Will you shut up?” He softly ordered, clenching his fists at his sides.
“No I won’t, since shutting up seems to be our problem!”
Parrish chuckled and shook his head. “That’s not our problem Dee.” He assured her.
“Oh?” Dee asked, surprised he’d actually said something. “Then what is it?”
Parrish stared at her for a minute, then one hand wrapped around her upper arm and he jerked her along behind him. Dee moaned at the force of his hold and tried to pull herself free. His grip tightened and he turned to look down at her.
“Stop pulling away from me or I’ll drag you in here.” He promised her softly and she ceased her struggles. They made their way inside the building and to the apartment where Parrish shoved her inside before he slammed the door shut behind them.
“Sit!” He ordered and she complied. Parrish’s chest heaved as he stared at her. “You want to know what this is about? This is about you lying to me about wanting to stay in Chicago when you had no intentions of quitting your job or leaving New York!”
“It wasn’t like that.” Dee said in a small voice.
“Oh it wasn’t?” Parrish challenged, speaking as though he were talking to a child. “So what are you going to do Misha? The truth please.”
Dee looked down at her lap, then back at him. Lord, he looked like he could’ve killed her. Did he hate her that much? “I’d like to try my hand at this position with ‘The Corner’, so I guess I want to go back.” She answered. Half of her hoped he’d say he’d come with her and the other half hoped he tell her he needed her and wanted her to stay.
Parrish felt his heart lurch painfully in his chest, when she finally admitted the truth. He’d intentionally tried to pull herself away from her so it wouldn’t hurt so much if she left. Instead, he’d managed to turn into a cold unfeeling man.
“Fine.” He harshly replied. “Since it’s obvious we’ll never have any kind of life together, you might as well leave.”
“I can’t believe you said that.” Dee whispered.
“Why not Dee? You came here to play around. Now you’re ready to go back to work and to hell with whatever we were trying to start right?!”
Dee sniffed and demanded her tears to remain hidden for a few minutes more. “That’s not true.” She finally said.
Parrish massaged the tense, corded muscles in his neck. “You know what Dee? I don’t give a damn, I honestly don’t. Take your ass back to New York.” He quietly ordered, his voice sounding tired.
Dee sat there in shock as she watched him go into the den where he turned up the television. She felt tears fighting to get past her eyes, but she held them back. Getting up from the sofa, she stomped upstairs.
The next night, Mark rang the doorbell promptly at seven o’clock. Dee hurried down the stairs, checking the backs of her gold hoop earrings. Stopping in front of the full length mirror, she gave herself the once over. The short, red skirt and matching blazer over a ruffled, white blouse complimented her perfectly. Satisfied with her choice of attire, she opened the door.
Mark whistled when he saw her. “Just gorgeous.” Was all he said as his dark eyes thoroughly appraised her.
“Thanks.” Dee said, then a doubtful look flashed in her eyes. “This is just a friendly dinner isn’t it?”
Mark held up his hands. “That’s all it is.” He told her.
Dee smiled and stepped away from the door. “Come on in, I just have to get my coat off the sofa.”
Mark followed her inside the condo and waited for her to get her coat. “Where’s Parrish?” He asked.
“Working as usual.” Dee sighed.
“Yeah, he does put in a lot of long hours doesn’t he?”
“Mmm hmm, he works for a bunch of real slavedrivers.” Dee teased.
Mark’s rich laughter filled the room at Dee’s joke. Then he shook his head. “I can’t understand why he’d work those unnecessary hours, when he’s got you hear waiting for him. They’d have to drag me into work.”
“Yeah right.” Dee lightly replied. Unfortunately, she couldn’t hide the troubled look in her eyes.
Mark decided not to comment on her expression. Instead, he held his hand out to her and ushered her out the door.
Mark took her to a restaurant right in the heart of the city. The intimate establishment had a quiet, classy elegance that relaxed Dee the moment she stepped inside.
“Mark this is so lovely.” Dee quietly breathed as her warm, brown eyes took in the surroundings.
“Yeah it sure is.” Mark agreed, but his dark eyes never left her face. “Can you hear the band okay?” He asked, referring to the jazz band on stage.
“Mmm hmm. I can hear and see them just fine.” Dee assured him. They had a great view even though their table was nestled deep inside the restaurant. She tried not to make too much of the seductive environment, but Mark was making it very difficult.
“What do you want to drink?” He whispered in her ear a few moments later.
“Oh, I’ll have a Peach Daiquiri.” She told the waiter who’d stopped by their table.
“Are you having a good time so far?” Mark asked.
Dee smiled and nodded. “This is great. I love it.” She told him.
Mark was toying with a lock of her hair. He soon leaned forward to kiss her softly on the cheek.
After drinks, they ordered dinner and enjoyed the music. Deciding to spend the rest of the evening inside the restaurant, they ordered more drinks and talked well into the night.
It was very late when Mark finally drove her back home. After Dee assured him she could make it to the condo by herself, she headed inside.
Dee quietly slid her key into the lock. She wasn’t sure if Parrish was home, but if he was, she certainly didn’t want to wake him.
Closing the door softly, Dee took off her coat and hung it in the closet. She headed over to the staircase, when Parrish called her.
“Hello.” His baritone voice sounded from deep within the livingroom.
Dee’s head whipped around and she moved away from the suitcase. “Parry, I didn’t think you’d be up this late.” She said, grimacing at the breathless tone of her voice.
Parrish’s gorgeous brown eyes narrowed as he watched her walking into the livingroom. His gaze slid from her lovely face to her body. The outfit she wore, complimented all her curves perfectly, but he forced away the arousing emotions she evoked. “Yeah it is late. Where’ve you been?” He calmly asked.
Dee took a seat in the chair opposite him. “I was out with Mark.”
Parrish’s heavy brows drew together. “Mark?”
Dee nodded. “Mark Johnson from your firm.”
A wicked smirk tugged at Parrish’s sensuous lips and he stood. “You were out with him? Out with him as in out on a date with him?”
“Well,” Dee began, “It was just a friendly um…outing.”
“I see.” Was all he said.
“Are you okay with it?” She asked.
Parrish shrugged his wide shoulders. “Yeah, it’s fine. Why should I care?”
Parrish had turned away before he could see the disappointment on Dee’s face. She felt tears beginning to sting her eyes and ran upstairs before they could roll down her cheeks.
In the wee hours of the morning, Parrish finally decided to go to bed. Dee was already asleep when he stepped into the room. He stripped away his clothes and slid beneath the covers.
In her sleep, Dee turned towards him. She threw one arm across his well chest while one leg lay over his thighs. For Parrish, sleep was forgotten. There was no way he could doze off with her that close to him. He turned slightly towards her and toyed with the lacy, beige see-through nightie she wore. Dee moaned softly and pressed herself closer to him.
“Please make love to me Parrish.” She whispered in his ear.
Parrish’s long lashes closed in silent thanks and he pushed Dee onto her back. Lowering his mouth to her neck, he pressed moist kisses to it, before his lips slid lower. Dee moaned again, when she felt his lips caress the soft fullness of one breast before his teeth and buried his face in her chest. Meanwhile, Dee wrapped her long legs around his all the while begging him to take her.
It wasn’t long before Parrish granted her request. He heard her gasp when he filled her completely. As Dee moved sensually against him, Parrish groaned and nuzzled his face into her shoulder. After their passion was spent, Parrish collapsed on top of her and held her tightly. They fell asleep right away, their bodies still connected.
The next morning, Dee hugged Parrish tightly and smiled. After making love last night, he didn’t turn away. He held her close and was still there in the morning. She felt her most intimate regions tingle, when he awoke and began kissing her ear. Dee moaned when he began thrusting softly. They spent the entire morning making love.
Later that afternoon, Parrish came home from the office so they could have lunch together. Dee was so happy to be spending some nice quiet time with him, that she didn’t spoil it by getting into their problems.
The phone rang just as they were finishing up and Dee rushed to answer it.
“Hey Dee.” Mark Johnson’s voice called through the receiver.
“Hi. How are you?” Dee asked in a friendly tone.
“I’m good. I was just calling to check on you.”
“You’re sweet and I’m fine.”
“That’s what I needed to hear. Was Parrish there when I dropped you off?”
“Mmm hmm. He’s here right now if you needed to speak to him.” Dee said.
Parrish raised his head when he realized Dee must’ve been talking to Mark. He’d been in a pretty decent mood today, but it was quickly vanishing.
“I don’t need to speak to Parrish.” Mark was telling Dee. “I just wanted to call and talk to you for a minute.”
“Dee!” Parrish called across the kitchen.
Dee turned to stare at Parrish. He was leaning back in his chair and there was a dark frown on his face. “Hang up.” He told her.
Dee looked at him for a moment, before returning her attention back to the call. “Um, Mark listen, I need to go alright, but I’ll call you later.” She promised. Hanging up the phone, she walked over to Parrish. “Who the hell do you think you are to give me orders?”
Parrish shrugged his shoulders. “You didn’t waste any time doing it.” He noted.
“That’s because I want to know what the hell is going on with you.” She retorted.
“What’s going on with me? I should be asking what’s going on with you and Mark Johnson.”
Dee closed her eyes. “I told you last night. He’s just trying to be friendly.”
“Mmm hmm. He’s just trying to be friendly now.” Parrish knowingly replied.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying he took one look at you and started figuring out how long it would take to get you into bed.”
Shock was written all over her face. “Do you really think I’d do something like that?” She cried.
Parrish popped a French fry into his mouth and shrugged. “I don’t know. How far are you planning to let things go?”
“I can’t believe you said that.” Dee told him, her voice husky and cold.
Parrish waved his hand and started clearing the table. “Don’t worry about it, but I advise you to tell Mark you won’t be in town long, before he starts thinking he loves you.”
Parrish washed and dried his hands and headed out of the kitchen. Before he walked out the door, he gave her a smirk and a devilish wink.
“I tell ya Jeri, I’m trying so hard to make this work with Parrish, but I just don’t know.”
Jeri smiled and patted Dee’s hand. The two of them had decided to have lunch together the next day. Over the several weeks Dee had been in Chicago, Jeri had become a treasured friend.
“Well Dee, I guess he’s probably wondering how things can work out with you all the way in New York and him here in Chicago.”
Dee frowned. “Whose side are you on?” She demanded.
“Nobody’s.” Jeri firmly answered. “Parrish is my boss and you are my friend, but I love you both. I just want you to consider how hard it would be for ya’ll to have a relationship so far apart.”
“It can work if the two people really love each other.” Dee stubbornly replied.
“Well, I’ll give you that, but those people also have to be willing to talk to each other.”
Dee gave her friend a doubtful look. “Are you sure you never considered being a lawyer?”
Jeri laughed. “I just want you to see it from Parrish’s side too.”
Dee just sighed and leaned back in her chair.
“Speaking of Parrish’s side,” Jeri continued, “what’s he got to say about you seeing Mr. Johnson?”
Dee leaned forward. “I’m not seeing him Jeri.”
“Well you went out with him right?”
“Mark’s just a friend. I need one of those rights now.”
“Well excuse me!”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Dee explained, realizing she’d offended Jeri. “It’s just nice to go out and have a good time with a man.”
“That’s what Parrish is there for.” Jeri reminded her.
“I know.” Dee weakly replied.
The expression in Jeri’s light eyes was a troubled one as she stared at her friend.
Dee dropped Jeri off at the firm, then reluctantly walked her to her desk. Dee just kept hoping she wouldn’t run into Parrish while she was there.
At the same time, Mark Johnson was walking out of a conference room with a group of people. When he saw Dee, he let the group walk ahead of him and waited for her.
“Hi Mr. Johnson.” Jeri greeted as they approached her boss.
Mark gave Jeri a bright smile. “Hey Jeri, you doin’ alright?”
“Just fine, thanks. Dee, I’ll call you later girl.”
Dee smiled and nodded at Jeri. Turning to Mark, she shook her head. “You look tired.” She told him.
“It’s been a long day.” He admitted. “But, thanks for being concerned.”
“I’m just surprised to see one of the top men in the company running himself so hard. Especially when you have all these people to do it for you.”
“Well, they have to see the top people running too, otherwise they’ll slack off.” He explained. A moment later, Mark took her arm in a light hold and pulled her with him in the conference room.
“You know, you loved that jazz band so much the other night, I figured you might like going to see them again tonight. They’re performing at a club on the other side of town.”
Dee pressed her hand to his arm. “Mark, I don’t know-”
“What? You’re turning down the opportunity to hear one of the best jazz groups in the city?”
Dee smiled. “I’ve already heard them, remember?”
“Once is never enough.” Mark decided.
Dee was still very uncertain about accepting the offer. “Why don’t I call you? I need to check with Parry and see if he has any plans for us tonight.” Dee couldn’t remember the last time she’d been out alone with her man. She hoped he would take her out tonight, but she knew he wouldn’t.
“Mark, I really don’t think you should be going out at all. You look like you need to rest.” She advised, laughing when Mark made a face.
At that point, Parrish was walking up the hall. He was just about to walk past that conference room door, when he heard someone laughing. Someone who sounded exactly like Dee. Frowning, he stopped outside the door and listened.
“After the club, we’ll go back to my house for dinner. How’s that?” Mark asked.
Dee shook her head again. “I’ll call you.” She promised, patting his cheek.
Outside, Parrish was seething. His temper was quickly going through the roof as he listened to Mark and Dee making plans.
When Dee walked out of the conference room, closing the door behind her, she saw Parrish heading down the hall.
“Parry?” She called.
Parrish walked a few steps further, then he stopped and turned to face her. “What?”
Dee shrugged and gave him and uneasy smile. “Have you already had lunch?” She asked.
Dee kept trying to lighten the mood. “Well, can we still go somewhere and talk?” She asked hopefully.
Parrish’s usually warm brown eyes now showed an emotion that was cold and hard. “No.” He said shortly.
Dee’s lips parted in surprise. “Why?”
“Why should you want to talk to me when there’s Mark Johnson to listen to your problems?”
“My problems?” De asked, her voice rising slightly.
Parrish just stared at her as if he’d said nothing wrong.
“When are you going to start talking to me? What did I do to make you treat me like this?!”
A frown darkened his features. “Do you really need to ask me that?”
“Parry what? Is it Mark? I told you we were friends. You’re never there for me!”
Parrish winced at her words. She was right and he knew it. But hell, he was hurt too and she just couldn’t see it.
Dee sniffed and pushed her hair away from her face. She watched Parrish turn and walk away from her. Slapping her hands down to her sides, Dee walked in the opposite direction and left the building.
Warm applause filled the nightclub. The establishment was smoky and dark, but full of character. If possible, the band sounded even better than before. They selected material from vintage jazz creations and pieces developed by members of the band. Dee managed to have a fantastic time with Mark, even though she wished Parrish were there with her. She lounged back in her chair and thought about the argument they’d had earlier.
At least, it sounded like an argument. These days, she didn’t know what to think. Especially where Parrish was concerned. Although she’d come to cherish Mark’s friendship, she had to admit that on some small level she’d been trying to get a rise out of Parrish. She hoped he’d realized how fast she was slipping away and rush to save their relationship.
Dee took her mind off the troubled thoughts and focused on the voice calling to her. “I’m sorry Mark what did you say?”
Mark ran on finger down her cheek and smiled. “I was asking if you were ready to get dinner?” He repeated.
Dee smoothed her hands down the close fitting cocoa colored jumpsuit and nodded quickly. Anything was better than sitting there trying to figure out her brooding boyfriend.
Mark ushered her out of the club and into his black Lexus. He made various attempts at conversation, but gave up when Dee continued to be distant. She waited patiently on the passenger side of Mark’s car. Instead of opening her door, Mark pressed her against the car. The slight buzz Dee was experiencing kept her from pushing him away when he got too close.
“I hate seeing you this way.” He said as his dark eyes travelled over her lovely face.
Dee smiled and tossed her head back. “What way?”
Mark stepped closer. “Sad, upset…lonely.”
As Dee and Mark talked, neither of them noticed the group of four men leaving the club. Parrish was among them and, though he was more than a little drunk, he spotted Dee right away.
It took everything in him not to rush Mark’s car when he saw how cozy they looked. Surprisingly though, he kept his calm.
Meanwhile, Dee was trying to convince Mark that she would be fine. Mark, on the other hand, could only concentrate on her sensual mouth. Finally, he dipped his head and kissed her like he’d wanted for so long. Dee was so surprised, she could only gasp, allowing his tongue more room to explore. The kiss lasted longer than Mark had intended. Once his lips touched hers, he couldn’t seem to pull away.
Dee at last snapped too. “Mark-”
“I know. You can’t.” Mark finished for her.
“The man you love.”
“You know me so well.”
Parrish watched the entire scene with increased disgust. As he stood there by the car, he gripped the door handle so hard he could’ve broken it. His gaze was murderous as he watched them drive away.
Dee was just stepping out of the elevator, when she saw Parrish pushing his key into the lock.
“Where the hell have you been?” He asked, not bothering to turn around.
Dee didn’t bat a lash. “I could ask you the same question.” She calmly replied.
“Out for drinks.” He smoothly explained. “And you?”
Dee sighed. “Mark took me to hear this band playing on the other side of town.”
Parrish opened the door and stepped inside the condo. He threw his heavy, black overcoat on the back of a chair and turned to face her. “What are you doing with him?”
“I told you we’re friends.”
Parrish snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah, yeah friends. Dammit! How the hell can you see him like this right under my nose Dee? Answer me!”
It was then that Dee realized Parrish was drunk. Dangerously drunk. Knowing that his temper was a force to be reckoned with, Dee didn’t want to be near him now that it was laced with alcohol. She slowly backed up the stairs and tried to calm him down. “You know it’s not like that.”
“No I don’t.” Parrish quietly responded. “You sleepin’ with him?”
Dee’s brown eyes widened and she ran a hand over her face. Instead of answering him, she turned and ran upstairs. Slamming the bedroom door, she took off her coat and threw it to the floor. A split second later, Parrish stormed into the room. “Are you sleepin’ with him Misha?”
“I won’t answer that question.” Dee replied in a brave voice, placing a hand on her hip.
“Oh yes you will.” He promised, his speech becoming more slurred.
Dee rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, then looked back at him. Parrish’s eyes slid from her face to her body. Suddenly, Dee wished she’d kept on her coat since the jump suit more than complimented her voluptuous figure.
Parrish took a step toward her and Dee backed away. “No Parrish.” She said.
A sinister frown crossed the handsome face and he smiled. “Since when do you turn me down Misha?”
“Since right now.” Dee said, continuing to back away from him.
Parrish kept walking towards her and Dee knew there was no way she could fight him should he decide to do whatever was running through his mind.
“Parrish please, not like this.”
The wicked smirk crossed his face again. “Not like what Misha? You never seemed to mind when it was rough.”
Suddenly, he grabbed her arms and pushed her against the bathroom door. Lifting her against the paneled wood, he pressed hard kisses to her neck.
All the while, Dee struggled. The attempt was futile, however, since Parrish showed no reaction to the blows against his shoulders and back. He finally let her slid down the door as his large hands went to work on the gold zipper in back of her suit. Dee pushed at the hard wall of his chest and Parrish stumbled. Recovering quickly, he took her by the waist and carried her to the bed. Tears streamed down her cheek as she struggled to loosen his hold. When Parrish threw her to the huge bed, she scrambled to get off it. Unfortunately, he caught hold of one of her slender ankles and dragged her back to him.
“I don’t want this Parrish.” She assured him.
Parrish pressed her hands above her head and looked down at her. “You will.” he promised.
Dee closed her eyes in defeat and laid there as Parrish pressed hot kisses to her body through her clothing. This went on for a few moments until Dee felt him collapse on top of her. She realized, with a sigh of relief that he’d passed out. Bracing herself, she managed to get out from under him. Once that was done, she grabbed a T-shirt, hurried down stairs and locked herself in the den for the night.
Dee didn’t come out of the den the next morning until she heard Parrish leave. Her knees almost buckled beneath her as she remembered last night’s events. Deep down, she was glad that Parrish had been so drunk. If he hadn’t been he most certainly would have…
Lord how did things get so out of hand. How? At that point, Dee didn’t even want to work things out with him. She just wanted to get away from him. Before she started thinking with her heart again, she picked up the phone and made plane reservations to New York.
Three Weeks Later…
“Dee Dee, you’ll be missed around here girl, but good luck to you!”
Dee smiled and tipped her glass to Aaron Little. The entire staff of ‘The Queens Herald’ had gotten together to throw her a going away party. Friends and family had gathered as well to wish her luck on her newest endeavor.
Although landing the job as head writer at ‘The Corner’ had been one of her greatest achievements, thus far, it didn’t compensate for losing Parrish. He hadn’t called or tried to get in touch with her through Sheila, since she’d left Chicago. Dee knew it was probably for the best that he didn’t call, but she still missed him terribly.
“Dee can I talk to you a minute girl?” Sheila was asking, when they had a moment alone amidst the celebratory lunch.
“What’s wrong?” Dee asked, concern on her face.
Sheila smiled and fiddled with the tablecloth. “I guess it’s nothing. I don’t know.”
“Is it Parrish?” Dee had to ask.
Sheila grimaced. “Like I said, it’s probably nothing. I mean he’s been calling a lot to check on Mama, but Dee it’s like he’s a different person.”
Dee frowned. “How do you mean?”
Sheila ran her fingers through her short hair. “Well, I mean-well, when he asks about Ma he’s real sweet and all, but even then I can pick up on this coldness in his voice.”
Dee leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. Yeah, she knew all about that “coldness”.
“Dee I don’t mean to be all in your business, but I think Parrish is taking this a lot harder than you think.”
“Sorry but I doubt that.”
“I’m serious Dee.” Sheila said firmly. “I mean how far are you going to let things go before you talk to him?”
Dee’s eyes narrowed at Sheila’s comment. “Sheila, I don’t know if you just forgot, but I have a new job starting Monday and, on top of that, I’m done with running to Parrish Jeffries”.
Sheila raised her hand. “Dee-”
“Wait Sheila, now I tried talking to Parry, but all he ever did was push me away. Then he starts treatin’ me like dirt? No way. You can forget me ever going back to him again.”
Sheila pushed her chair away and stood up. “Now this time you listen to me.” She stared down at Dee. “You didn’t waste any time flying back here and taking that job. I have to wonder why you didn’t come clean to him about not wanting to leave New York from the jump. So don’t dare try to make my brother out to be the bad guy in all this.” Sheila walked away from the table, leaving Dee to stare after her.
During the next several months, Dee threw herself into her work. It didn’t take her long to become an ace at her job or to make new acquaintances. Moreover, her writing had become stronger, perhaps with a bit more of an edge. The top brass at ‘The Corner’ couldn’t have been more impressed. Dee’s ideas and opinions were very well respected and many of them had even increased ‘The Corner’s’ sizzling popularity.
Sheila and Dee also managed to patch up their differences. In part, because they’d missed each other terribly since their argument and Sheila was very worried about her mother’s illness.
Overall, however, Dee would’ve said her life was very satisfying. As long as she didn’t think about Parrish Jeffries. Unfortunately, not thinking about Parrish was something she just couldn’t seem to do. Even though she was asked out on several dates and friends were always asking her to do things with them, Dee always refused. If she wasn’t working, she was content to stay at home. Alone.
Luckily, her long hours paid off in the best way. One evening, she was invited to a dinner meeting with the editors. She figured they wanted to formally congratulate her on a job well done, but it was a lot more than that.
When Dee arrived for the dinner, she had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. The meeting was held at the fabulously elegant and expensive ‘Gramercy Tavern’.
“Okay.” She breathed, trying to calm down.
As she was shown to the table, Dee smoothed down the gray, linen suit she was wearing. She looked great.
The four men at the table all stood when she arrived.
“Dee,” Amos Carver, the publisher, was saying, “it’s good to see you again. Sit down.”
Dee smiled. “It’s good to see you to Mr. Carver. I didn’t know you’d be here.” She said, the surprise evident on her face.
Raymond Atkins spoke up. “Well Dee, Mr. Carver always likes to be in on this type of stuff.” He said.
Dee glanced at her editor. “This…type of stuff? She looked over at Amos.
Amos smiled and patted Dee’s hand. Then, he glanced at one of the other gentlemen who had joined the meeting. “Lenny, why don’t you tell Dee why she’s here?”
Leonard Xavier leaned across the table as he spoke directly to her. “Dee, you know we don’t like to brag, but ‘The Corner’ has been on the cutting edge and very popular in doing so since our first edition hit the stands three years ago. We have a lot of loyal subscribers and we’re gaining more every day. Since you’ve come on board, you’ve given us many new concepts and opinions that have made us stronger and more respected.”
Dee let out the breath she’d been holding and smiled. “Thank you.” She said, relieved.
“Well now,” Leonard continued, “since fans and subscribers are what keeps any magazine afloat, and Mr. Carver here is a very greedy man, we want to tap those resources to the fullest extent. Plans for expansion have been in the works for a while now and we think it’s time we implemented those plans.”
Dee leaned back in her chair and frowned slightly. “How?”
Jared Markum, ‘The Corner’s’ advertising director, spoke up. “Dee, you know that the concept of ‘The Corner is to keep a finger on the pulse of a city, namely this one. We give tips on the best restaurants, hotels, cultural events, news that affects the African-American and many other ethnic communities. It’s like talking to some friends on the corner and getting the scoop on what’s happening around town.”
Everyone at the table nodded, agreeing with Jared’s explanation.
“What we want to do,” he continued, “is to bring that concept to other cities in the country. We’d like to open magazines in two other cities, for starters.”
Impressed, Dee’s brows rose slightly and she smiled. “I think that’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard. I believe that it’ll work. In fact, I know it will. But, why was I included in the meeting?” She still wanted to know.
Amos answered her. “Dee we want a fresh perspective on this. We need someone young, energetic and brilliant. You are all that and then some. We want you to head the opening of one of the magazines.”
Dee’s brown eyes widened and her breathing really did stop that time. “Are you serious?” She asked, pressing her hand to her forehead.
“We’re serious.” They all chimed. “Do you accept?” Raymond Atkins asked.
Dee looked at Raymond like he’d grown two heads. “Of course, I accept!”
“Well, you can take your pick of either city.” Amos told her.
Dee nodded, still in shock. “That’s good, but I warn you, I don’t think I could make it in California.” She teased, slowly becoming her old self.
Everyone laughed at the comment. “Well the two cities we decided on are Atlanta and Chicago.” Amos announced.
When her publisher announced the second city, Dee could feel her heart plunge to her stomach. Did he say Chicago? Dee asked herself, not trusting her own ears. She shook herself from her state of shock and looked around the table. Everyone was watching her expectantly.
“Well?” Amos said. “Which one, Dee?”
Still quite uneasy, Dee cleared her throat as she patted her hand lightly against her chest. “Well um…I’ve always been partial to…Chicago.”
“Chicago? Dee are you serious?” Sheila was stunned later that night when Dee called to tell her the news.
“I know, I know…I couldn’t believe it when they asked me.” Dee confided, becoming excited all over again.
“Well, when do you leave?” Sheila asked.
Dee sighed and lounged back on her bed. “It won’t be for a while. We still have a lot of ground to cover before the actual move is made.”
“God Dee, I’m so happy for you girl.” Sheila cried. “Are you going to tell Paris?” She quietly asked.
“I don’t know that it matters anymore.” Dee admitted, her voice full of emotion. “I think I just picked Chicago so I could at least be where he is.”
“Dee-oh wait a minute…yeah it’s me, my phone is beeping. Somebody must be on the other end. Hold on a sec.” Sheila said, before clicking over.
While Dee waited, she thought about what Sheila had asked. What would happen if she called Parrish? Would he be happy about her moving to Chicago? Would he even care? Although her first instinct had been to pick up the phone and tell him, she knew that her going back to Chicago wouldn’t solve their problem. Sure, they could forget what happened before she left, but they really needed to talk about what went wrong. Unfortunately, they were both too stupid and stubborn to admit their mistake.
Sheila finally clicked back over. At least Dee thought she had. All she could hear on the other end was soft breathing.
“Sheila? Are you back? Sheila?” Dee called.
“I’m sorry Dee what’d you say?”
Dee could tell her friend had been crying. “Sheila what happened?”
“It was my Aunt Laura, she said they had to rush Mama to the hospital.”
“Oh my God.” Dee breathed, swinging her legs off the bed. “Is it serious?”
Sheila didn’t answer and Dee figured she was too upset to say much.
“Dee could you just meet me at the hospital?” Sheila finally asked.
“I’ll be there in a few.” She promised.
When she walked down the hall where Joyce Jeffries room was, the place was packed. Relatives lived all over the Tri-state area and it appeared they were all there.
“Dee baby, is that you?” Sara Leighton, Joyce’s sister walked up to Dee and pulled her close.
Dee smiled and hugged the woman, kissing her cheek. “Miss Sara, it has been a long time…Is she going to be alright?” Dee asked, looking down the hall.
Sara sighed and patted Dee’s hand. “It looks very bleak, that’s what the doctor’s say. Joyce has been sick for so long.”
Dee nodded and felt herself becoming emotional. “Can I see her?” She softly asked.
Sara smiled and led her down the hall. Dee recognized most of the people there and they were all happy to see her. When she finally walked into Joyce’s room, she was stunned to see how small the usually robust woman appeared. Dee waved to Sheila in the corner, and looked down at the woman in bed.
“Miss Joyce?” Dee spoke softly as she approached the bed.
Joyce slowly opened her lovely hazel eyes and looked at Dee. A weak smile tugged at her mouth as she recognized her.
“Baby, I didn’t expect to see you hear.” Joyce softly said.
Dee smiled and took the older woman’s hand. “You knew I had to come.”
“How are you?” Joyce asked.
Dee shook her head. “You always worry about everybody else. I should be asking how you’re doing.”
Joyce shook her head slowly in the cushiony pillow. “Baby, God has let me live long enough to see my daughter own a good business and my son be a successful lawyer. My life has been good.” She said peacefully. Joyce pulled Dee closer and pinned her with a steady gaze. “I know you and Sweet Pea are having problems.” She said, referring to Parrish.
“Hush now. Parrish’s Daddy, may he rest in peace, was just like Parrish is now. He was tough, stubborn and full of pride. Too much pride, if you ask me.”
Dee laughed and Joyce continued. “My son fooled himself for a long time that he was over you, when he wasn’t. The Lord wouldn’t have brought you back into his life if you weren’t for him. Now baby, it’s gonna be tough, but you two need to work this out and you know I’m right.”
Although Joyce’s voice was weak, her message was clear and her snapping hazel eyes relayed her sincerity.
Dee kissed Joyce on the cheek. “I know you’re right, but get some rest. You’re only entitled to one sermon a day.” She teased.
“Ohh you.” Joyce lazily replied, her eyes already fluttering close as she drifted back to sleep.
When Dee walked out of the room, Sheila left behind her.
“Dee thanks for coming.”
“I wouldn’t have felt right if I didn’t.” Dee told her friend.
Sheila pulled her lower lip between her teeth and gave Dee an uneasy stare. “Um, I called Parish about Mama.” She said.
“Is he coming to New York.” Dee quickly asked.
“Well, he’s probably on a plane already. He’s gonna be staying with me.”
“I see.” Was all Dee could manage.
“Dee, I’m really begging you now. Listen to Ma. Don’t let Parrish leave without at least trying to patch things up with him.”
Dee pulled Sheila close for a hug. She was going to make an honest effort to talk to Parrish when the time was right. When, though, would that be?
“Hey Dee, what’s up?”
“I’m just calling to let you know I’ll be in late today.” Dee told Lisa Jones, her assistant. “I’ve got a friend going through a family emergency.”
“Alright. You take care of everything, we’ll be okay.” Lisa assured her.
Dee put down the phone and grabbed the overnight bag she’d packed for Sheila. She’d made the call her friend’s house since she had to stop there for the clothes.
On the way to the hospital, Dee thought about Parrish. He was surely back in New York by now. Her heart raced at the chance of seeing him again. If only she had told Parrish about not wanting to quit her job from the start, they wouldn’t have been going through all this now. It was ironic, that she’d quit anyway to take a job that would eventually put her right back in Chicago. She sighed over the way things could turn out.
Deep down, Dee knew she wouldn’t make the first move in approaching Parrish. It wasn’t stubbornness that would prevent her from doing so. If she put her feelings on the line, opened up to him and got hurt again, it would kill her.
Sheila was asleep on one of the sofas in the waiting room, when Dee found her. Most of the family had left the hospital early that morning so the waiting room was nearly deserted.
Dee decided to just leave the overnight bag she’d packed for Sheila next to the sofa. When she turned to leave, Sheila woke up.
“Hey, where’re you goin’?” She called lazily.
“I was tryin’ to let you sleep.” Dee whispered.
“I’ve slept long enough.” Sheila argued, swinging her legs off the side of the sofa.
Dee sat down next to her. “Where is everybody?”
“Gone home to check on their kids or to get some rest.” Sheila answered with a yawn.
Dee frowned. “You should be doing the same.”
Sheila rolled her eyes away from Dee and stood up.
“How’s Miss Joyce?” Dee asked, standing as well.
Sheila shrugged, “She’s resting now, but there hasn’t been any change.”
“Can I see her?” Dee asked. Sheila just nodded and turned to stare out the windows overlooking the city.
“Oh Dee wait-” Sheila suddenly called, whirling away from the windows, but she was gone.
Dee was already down the hall and about to enter the room, when the silver lever twisted and Parrish stepped outside.
Dee’s eyes widened to huge brown saucers as she stood there dumbfounded. Parrish just leaned against the door as his fantastic gaze blazed a trail down the length of her body.
Dee opened her mouth to speak to him, but she didn’t have the chance.
“What are you doing here?”
Dee’s mouth opened wider as a small frown formed on her face. “I’m only here for your sister and Miss Joyce, so don’t worry.” She started to walk away.
Before she got too far, Parrish grabbed her upper arm and hustled her into a deserted waiting area.
“I don’t want to see you here again.” He ordered.
Dee’s perfectly arched brows drew together. “You can’t ask me that.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. See I’m not askin’, I’m tellin’.”
“Jackass! I don’t know who you think you are-”
“I thought I was the man you wanted to marry, but I guess after you got a taste of Mark Johnson that all changed.”
“What?” Dee asked, totally confused.
“Don’t even try it. I saw you kiss him outside that jazz spot that night.”
Dee closed her eyes. “Parry-”
“Save it. I should’ve known this joke of a relationship would only go from bad to worse.”
At that point, Dee realized there was no point in trying to explain anything to Parrish. He was still so angry, nothing she said would’ve made much difference anyway. When he turned his back towards her, Dee took that as her cue to leave.
Sheila saw Dee whisk past the waiting room door. She hurried out and looked down the hall at Parrish.
“Where’s she going?” Sheila asked her brother.
Parrish just shrugged his wide shoulders and walked down the hall. “Sheila I really don’t care.”
Sheila grabbed Parrish’s arm and pulled him into the waiting room. “What the hell is wrong with you? Dee didn’t come here to argue with you. I’m sure that’s the last thing on her mind right now!”
“Oh really?” Parrish asked, his heavy brows rising. “How do you know that?”
Sheila raised one hand and shook her head. “You need to ask Dee that. But, let me tell you something. Ya’ll are going to be seeing a lot of each other while Mama’s sick, so I suggest you get a handle on this attitude of yours.”
Parrish’s eyes narrowed as he stared at Sheila. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t plan on talkin’ to Dee any more while I’m in town.” He added.
Sheila let out a frustrated sigh before she spoke. “Look Paris, I know that male ego is bruised because Dee left you,” she spoke in an intentionally condescending tone, “but either you or Dee had better mature and talk about things before it’s really too late!” With that, she stormed from the room.
Parrish ran a hand over the back of his neck. Then, his legs gave out and he dropped to the sofa.
Later that week, Dee was having lunch alone in a small cafe not far from ‘The Corner’s’ office. The establishment was very small, so when Parrish walked in with James Willard and Dion Ames, Dee couldn’t help but see them.
She pushed a few tendrils of hair from her eyes as she watched Parrish. It wasn’t her imagination the other day. He looked even better than before she left Chicago. If that was possible. All she wanted to do when she saw him at the hospital was throw herself against him.
Unfortunately, that seemed to be the last thing on Parrish’s mind, Dee thought remembering his words to her. She wasn’t over Parrish and would probably never be, but he had obviously moved on.
Dee’s long hair curtained her face when she bent her head over the papers she was studying. She didn’t notice the three men approaching her table.
“What’s up Dee?” James spoke to her first.
Dee looked up and she gave them a dazzling smile. “Hey James, what’s up Dion?” She greeted as both men kissed her cheek. Her bright smile faded when her eyes landed on the third member of the party. “Parrish.” She spoke softly, watching him nod slowly.
“Dee, you want to join us at our table?” Dion offered.
Dee would’ve accepted, but one glance at the cold look in Parrish’s eyes and she refused.
James and Dion walked away from the table, obviously sensing the tension between their two friends.
Dee’s eyes were locked on Parrish’s as she watched him step closer to her table. “Congratulations on your new job.” He said.
Dee gave him a weak smile. “Thanks.”
“I hope everything works out with it. I know how badly you wanted it.”
Dee looked down at her plate and lightly massaged her temples. “Why are you doin’ this to me?”
“You were the one who left.” Parrish reminded her.
“Like you had no part in it?” She argued. “You were the one who wouldn’t bend a little so we could work it out.”
Parrish braced his hands on her table and frowned at her. “I couldn’t bend all the way to Queens, Misha.” He whispered.
“I didn’t-!” Dee began hotly. “I didn’t ask you to.” She quietly finished.
“You left didn’t you?”
Dee gripped her fork and envisioned herself stabbing it into Parrish’s hand. “Do you remember how you treated me? I couldn’t say or do anything to please you.”
Parrish stood up straight and ran a hand over his close cut hair. “You would’ve pleased me by being honest with me from the start.”
“I tried.” Dee weakly replied.
“Not hard enough.”
“How can you say that?”
“You’re still here aren’t you?”
Dee threw her hands up and sat back in her chair. Parrish felt his own hands aching to reach out to her. Instead he dropped his head and walked away.
“You know I wish he’d just realize how unfair he’s being. But he’s so hell bent on being cold that it’s a hopeless wish.”
“I know what you mean. When I talked to him that morning at the hospital, I said everything I could to try and make him snap out of it. I guess it didn’t work.”
“Sheila there’s so much I need to explain, but I can’t as long as he’s acting this way.” Sheila curled her legs beneath her in the easy chair. “So I guess you won’t be pinning him down to tell him about the job in Chicago?”
“No way. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything either.” Dee told her friend.
Dee sighed and massaged her aching neck. “I know a lot of the blame for this lies in my corner.” She acknowledged. “But I have to know why Parrish pushed me away and built that wall around himself. That’s not like him. I’ve never known him to back down from a conflict. In fact, he always seemed to thrive on them. When I go to Chicago, we can’t just forget what happened before I left. I wouldn’t want is to get back together without that settled.”
Dee had only stopped by Sheila’s to check on her. After about an hour, she decided to leave not wanting to run into Parrish. When she got ready to get into her car, Dee noticed that one of her tires had gone dead flat.
“Damn!” She hissed, kicking the tire. “Why here?”
Parrish had been at the gym and decided to jog back to his sister’s house. He was just getting back, when he saw Dee standing by her car examining her tire. A soft smile touched his lips as he watched her kick the flat tire. God, he’d missed her so much. Losing her the second time had hurt him far worse that the first time ever did. Damn! Everything was such a mess. Dee had snagged her dream job and she’d never leave New York. He realized that he wouldn’t want her to give that up for anything. Not even him. On top of that, the law firm of Davis, Fredericks and Johnson had finally decided to add the name Jeffries to their nameplate. Parrish sighed and walked over to the car.
Dee rummaged in her pocketbook for her keys, when she heard a deep voice behind her.
“I can change that for you.” Parrish offered, smirking when Dee jumped at the sound of his voice.
Dee slowly turned around and stared at him. “You don’t have to.” She said.
“I know.” Parrish replied as he leaned closer to her. Dee’s eyes lowered to his sexy mouth and she was sure he would kiss her. Parrish, however, only sought the keys that dangled from her weak hand. Dee blinked a few times and pressed a hand to her forehead as she watched him walk to the trunk.
Dee leaned against her car admiring the way his butt outlined the black cotton sweatpants that hung around his hips. Her cocoa eyes were repeatedly drawn to the muscles rippling in his back as he changed the tire.
To her disappointment, he soon finished his task. Dee’s heart was beating madly beneath her T-shirt as Parrish pressed keys into her hand.
“Thank you.” She said quietly, her stared at deep cleft in his chin. She began to turn away, but Parrish propped his hand against the roof of the car.
“I want to apologize for what I said at the hospital and at the restaurant. I’m sorry.” He softly said, looking directly at her.
Dee was too shocked to say anything. Apologies were not Parrish’s forte and she knew it must’ve taken a lot for him to do it.
Parrish’s brown eyes narrowed as he stared down at her. Suddenly, he pushed her against the car and pressed his mouth to hers.
Dee moaned weakly as Parrish’s tongue filled her mouth and he caressed every darkened recess. She could hear him moaning too as he pressed her closer and deepened the kiss. Dee thought she’d faint when Parrish finally let her go. Breathing heavily, Parrish pressed his forehead against hers for a brief moment. Then, he walked away.
Dee was speechless as she watched him walk up the steps to Sheila’s house. She finally managed to get in her car and drive away.
Later that night…
The phone woke Dee from her coma like sleep. Slowly, she reached over to the bedside table and lifted the receiver from its hook. “Hello?” She answered.
“Dee? It’s Sheila.”
Dee yawned. “What is it girl? Is everything alright?”
Sheila was silent for a moment before she spoke. “It’s- Mama’s gone.”
Dee sat up in bed and switched on the lamp. “Oh God, Sheila I’m so sorry…Can I do anything?”
“I’ll be okay.” Sheila said in a surprisingly strong voice. “But Dee, Paris is real shaken up. I think he probably needs you.”
“I think I’m the last person he needs to see right now.” She sadly admitted.
“I’ve got enough room for all this food. Umm..am I forgetting anything?”
Lila and Nancy Jeffries smiled sympathetically at their niece. They patted her on the back and turned her towards the kitchen.
“Baby,” Lila was saying, “we have everything under control.”
“That’s right.” Nancy agreed with her sister. “Now you march yourself in there and get something to eat.” She ordered.
Sheila smiled and did as she was told. The wake was that night and it was being held at her house. Although she had plenty of help getting everything together, she had to stay busy.
Parrish was on the phone when she walked into the kitchen. She sat at the table and waited for him the finish his call.
Parrish soon wrapped up his conversation and walked over to the table. He sat down beside his sister and put his arm around her shoulders. “You okay, baby girl?”
Sheila smiled and nodded. “I’m fine, but I’m more concerned with you. I wish you would talk to me.”
Parrish leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. “Sheila…”
He was quiet for a moment, then began to speak. “You know it’s funny how things work out. Dee wound up quitting her job to take a position with more power, but I couldn’t get her to give it up for me.”
Sheila gazed at him and rubbed his shoulder.
“She never would tell me what her plans were for her job or us. So I had to gain my own understanding of the situation. I thought pulling myself away from her would keep it from hurting so much when she finally left.”
“Did it work?” She softly asked.
Parrish gave a short laugh and shook his head. “No. It made it hurt even more.” He admitted.
“You know it’s not too late don’t you?” She reminded him.
“There’s no way it can work with her here and me in Chicago. I mean it’s impossible for me to leave my job when I just made partner at the firm.”
Sheila screamed and her black eyes lit up. “Paris!” She exclaimed, punching him in the arm. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
Parrish smiled and shook his head. “I just didn’t think the time was right, but I did tell Ma.”
Sheila’s eyes began to tear. “You did?”
Parrish nodded. “She looked happier that I’d ever seen her. I actually thought it might-might make her feel better.”
A tear escaped Sheila’s eye and she pulled Parrish to her. They sat there hugging each other for the longest time, missing their mother.
Family, friends and neighbors all filled Sheila’s house that evening. Joyce Jeffries was a well-known and well-loved woman. Everyone missed her terribly. The affair was not a sad one though. There was singing, story telling and laughing. Sheila and Parrish didn’t mind, since they knew that’s how their mother would’ve wanted it.
“So when are you making that move?” Sheila was asking Dee in the kitchen, where they had retreated for the moment alone.
Dee picked a speck of lint from her short, dark skirt and smiled. “In about three weeks I think. They want to hurry up and get a jump on this thing.”
Sheila hugged her and they talked for a little while longer. Parrish walked into the kitchen a while later. He and Dee stared at each other for a moment. When Dee turned to leave,
Sheila pulled at her sleeve and shook her head. Then, it was Sheila who left.
Dee took a deep breath, then walked over to where Parrish stood near the sink.
“Parrish I’m sorry about Miss Joyce.” She told him, her brown eyes sad.
“Thanks Misha.” Parrish quietly responded. Dee felt her heart lift when he used his nickname for her.
“Sheila told me about your partnership. Congratulations.”
“Thanks again.” He said.
They looked away from each other and silence once again descended over the kitchen. Then, Parrish decided to say something. Before he could get the words out, a swarm of people invaded the kitchen and the moment was lost.
Everyone gathered at Joyce Jeffries home in Queens before heading to the funeral that day. When Dee arrived, she had to park her car way down the street and walk the distance to the large, brick house.
Parrish walked out of the house and ran one hand over his head. It didn’t feel quite right being inside that house without his mother running around in it. First Dee walks out of his life, then he loses his mother. Thank God he still had Sheila.
Parrish was walking down the steps, just as Dee arrived in the yard.
“Hey Parry.” She said politely.
“Misha, how you doin’?”
Dee just nodded her head and kept walking up the steps. When she reached the top step, something made her turn around. She saw Parrish stop on the last step with his head bowed. Concern was written all over her face as she walked back down the steps.
Dee placed her hand lightly on his shoulder. “Parry?”
Parrish was still for a moment, then he turned and pulled her to him.
Dee heard Parrish crying into her shoulder as he held her tightly. She ran her hands over his back as his whole body shuddered.
“Shh.shh it’s okay, it’s okay…” Dee’s voice was soothing as she gently rocked him. “It’ll be okay, shh…”
After a while Parrish raised his head and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Will you ride with me in the Limo?”
Dee didn’t hesitate. “Of course I will.”
The service was brief, but very lovely. Not one person left without shedding a tear during the uplifting eulogy delivered by Joyce’s pastor.
Everyone began placing single stemmed yellow rose on the silver casket and filing out of the cemetery. Dee was talking with a few friends of the family when Joyce’s sister Sara pulled her to the side.
“I see you came with Parrish.” Sara noted.
Dee smiled at the woman. “He needed me.”
The beautiful woman nodded for a moment before she pinned Dee with a serious stare. “I know he needs you. You know, if my sister believed in one thing, it was not wasting time. Don’t let my stubborn nephew get away.”
Dee frowned slightly. “It’s almost as if Miss Joyce is speaking through you. She told me almost the same thing.”
“Well then maybe she is speaking through me sweetie, maybe she is.”
Dee watched the woman walk away and she sighed. She wanted to talk to Parrish so badly, but she didn’t know where to begin.
“Sheila? Sheila! You in here?” Dee called. She’d been trying to find her friend since they get back from the funeral. Sheila had been downstairs with everyone else, but she suddenly disappeared and Dee needed to talk to her desperately. She ran upstairs to check the den, walked inside and looked around but the room was empty. She sighed and ran her fingers though her hair. The door shut behind her and Dee whirled around. When she saw Parrish standing there, looking so gorgeous in the dark suit he wore, her heart flipped.
“We need to talk.” They spoke at once.
“Me first.” Dee volunteered and Parrish nodded. She cleared her throat and took a seat in an arm chair. “Parry I realize that most of this never would’ve happened if I had been straight with you from the jump. If I had been, then I would’ve told you that I loved you very much, but that I wasn’t ready to leave New York and quit my job.”
“But you quit anyway.” Parrish interjected.
Dee looked over at him sitting across from her and nodded once. “When John Charles told me about ‘The Corner’, I was so excited- Well…you know. It was the chance to be in a position where I could do so much. I guess the power sort of shocked me too. I still said to myself though, ‘if Parrish thinks ya’ll can work it out, then take the job. If he doesn’t, then forget it because you can’t lose him again.’ That’s why I came to your office, but you wouldn’t give me the chance to explain myself.”
“It sounded like you’d already made up your mind.”
Dee shook her head. “But I hadn’t. Parry I didn’t make up my mind until you put that brick wall between us. You’d always told me what was up. Then, all of a sudden, you stopped and I didn’t know why. I know I wasn’t totally straight with you, but I didn’t deserve to be treated like that. You really hurt me.”
Parrish massaged the bridge of his nose. “Well that was how I was dealing with losing you again.”
“But you weren’t losing me.” Dee corrected.
“But I didn’t know that.” He replied. “You were just so vague about your plans and that’s what made me angry. I don’t want to justify what I did. I know I was a jackass and I thought it was time I explained myself. About everything…especially Mark Johnson.” Parrish saw Dee tense, but he continued. “Baby, I’m so sorry. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you. I never should’ve questioned you about Mark. I was way out of line asking if you’d slept with him.” He admitted.
“I didn’t sleep with him.”
“I know that.”
“Mark was a good friend. He’s a handsome and distinguished man, but he’s not you. I love you.”
“I love you. I love you Misha.” Parrish vowed and then laughed softly. “How could we be so foolish twice in a lifetime?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” She replied, shaking her head. “But I think it’s time we started to wise up.”
When Parrish walked over to her, Dee stood and slid her arms around his waist. Her black heels gave her enough height to look directly into his beautiful eyes. “Don’t you agree?” She asked, pressing her lips to his.
“Totally. So is that proposal of yours still good?” He asked.
Dee’s head popped up at his mention of the proposal. “You know it is.” She breathed.
Parrish was about to kiss her, when he stopped and pushed her away.
“What’s wrong now?” Dee asked disappointedly.
“Misha before we take any vows, we’ll have to work out this distance thing.” He said. “I at least want to give the firm a year since I made partner, then I’ll quit.”
Dee’s eyes grew stormy. “Oh no you won’t. Even if I weren’t moving to Chicago, I wouldn’t let you quit.”
A frown crossed Parrish face as he stared at her. “What’d you just say?”
“I said I’m not letting you quit your job-”
“No. About Chicago?” He questioned.
“‘The Corner’ is opening two new magazines. I’m going to head up the one in Chicago.”
Parrish tried to control his excitement, but his dark brows did raise a couple of inches. “When did you find out all this?” He slowly asked.
“About seven months after they hired me.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Dee sighed and pressed herself closer to him. “Parry I wanted us to talk about what happened. I couldn’t just jet back to Chicago and push everything under the rug.” She explained.
“Is this really what you want?” He softly asked.
Dee’s cocoa eyes gazed lovingly at him. “I have my man and a good job. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Parrish ran one finger down her cheek. “I can’t believe we have another chance to do this right.” He whispered in disbelief.
“I think it’s about time something went right.” She sighed.
“I love you so much Misha. I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure you never doubt that again.” He fiercely assured her.
“I love you.” Dee told him, the look in her eyes relaying just how much her heart and soul belonged only to him.
Parrish closed his eyes in relief and hugged her close. All he could think about was how much fun it would be making up for so much time.
**This story is available for download to Nook & Kindle**
Coming soon in print and to other e-reader devices.