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God this is the last place I needed to be. I glanced around the large Hilton Hotel suite admiring the elegance of its interior. Sitting in a luxurious leather Barcelona chair, I pulled my leg up crossing it over my thigh and settled into the comfort of the soft material. Bringing my focus back to Julian, my limb bounced as I waited for him to answer my question.

His dark gray eyes stilled as he followed the spring of my leg, and I hoped I was making him as uncomfortable as he made me. I had many talks with myself on the drive over, once I found out lunch would be in his suite, my belly tossed. Suddenly, I was as warm as an oven. But, I managed not to stare at his smooth-shaven face no matter how bad his enticing mouth beckoned me to.

Straightening a bit in my seat, I reverted to my question. “I’ll take that as a no.”

Finally, his gaze left my legs and came back to my face; but not without riding the swell of my thighs, breasts, and lips first. I made it a point not to squirm at the ripple of chills crawling up my skin.

“No, it’s not a coincidence that I’m in Houston. Mr. Walls has been on my radar for a few years now, wanting to get first dibs on a spread.”

Mr. Walls being my boss, Fredrick Walls the third. “So, what made you finally give in?”

His fingers coiled together and sat in a fist on top of the table as he leaned in. “Let’s just say, I’ve been given a little motivation to help Mr. Walls out.”

I wanted to question him further but didn’t want to push the bounds of the professional space we were working in. He offered no more explanation, so I didn’t press him about his sudden appearance in my city.

“Is there a problem, Ms. Stevens?”

“Not at all,” I adjusted myself in the seat. “It’s just the last time I saw you was at Jaden and Claudia’s engagement dinner in Chicago. It seems,” I hesitated wondering if I should move forward with my thought.

“You’re free to speak, Ms. Stevens. Tell me, what does my appearance here in Houston seem to you?”

Exhaling lightly, I reached over to my briefcase and pulled out a note pad and ink pen.

“I’m good,” I said. “How about you tell me where the idea of shooting a spread in Dubai resonated from.”

His eyes fell to my notepad then back to my face. “Are you sure that’s what you want to know, Ms. Stevens?”

“Julian…” I said. He quirked an eyebrow. “It’s okay if I call you Julian, right?”

“I would prefer it.”

“You don’t have to call me Ms. Stevens. We’ve been on a casual name basis since I saw you sitting next to my mother in her hospital room.”

A wide grin trudged across his lips. “I wasn’t sure if it would be apropos in this particular situation. However, if you’re fine with it, so am I.”

“I’m fine with it,” I quipped. I’m fine with whatever you want, I thought. When Julian pulled his lip in with his teeth, I wondered if it was for the same reason that I did – to hold back the urge to jump his bones right here and now.

“Are you seeing someone, Desiree?”

The question caught me off guard. “I, um, no. You do mean as in am I dating someone?” I couldn’t believe I was stuttering like a buffoon. To make matters worse, my unease amused him as his lips held a shadow of a smile.

“Yes, that’s what I mean.”

“I’m dating, but nothing serious at the moment.”

So I told a small fib. I didn’t want Julian to think I had no takers. The gentle smile left, and his face became expressionless. I wondered where his mind went, then decided to play it safe and get back to business. Any more of his invasive stare and we’d use this room to do what it was meant for. I know I sound like a horny teenager, but I’d never been affected by another human being the way Julian affected me.

It felt dangerous and roguish like I could marry him now and live happily ever after. Some people might call that love at first sight, but I thought it was downright looney. I wouldn’t try and explain the temerarious emotions that assaulted me. I’d just do what I do best. Ignore them. My only concern was if I could withstand a trip to Dubai with him and not give in to those carnal inhibitions. One thing was for sure; I needed a drink.

“So, about my earlier question. What gave you the idea of shooting a spread in Dubai?”

“Dubai is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister. He’s invited A Few Good Men to model a catalog for their top modeling agency and when the Prime Minister calls, you answer.”

“I see.” My cell phone rang, and we both pulled out our phones to check the screen. I silenced it then placed it back in my briefcase.

“Is that one of your dates?” Julian asked abruptly.

Again, he took me by surprise with his query. “Why do you want to know?”

“The same reason I want to know why you moved to Houston and what’s keeping you here.” I raised a questionable brow. “You intrigue me, Desiree. Do you know why that is?”

I honestly had no idea. I was just about as interesting as a singing frog. The doorbell rang, saving me momentarily. Julian rose to his feet and strolled to the door. I couldn’t help myself from undressing him with my eyes, and I wondered if he did the same to me. Julian allowed what I assumed was room service to enter with silver trays adorned with food.

“Desiree, this is Lawrence, my personal chef. He’s endured long days and nights of me shuffling him around from city to city, and I wouldn’t give him up for the world.”

“Oh sir, you’re too kind. I don’t mind being shuffled at all. Seeing the world while cooking your favorite dishes, who could have a problem with that, eh?”

I smiled and shook my head in agreement. “I’m with you there. What do you have for us, Lawrence? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Oh no, no, not at all.” Lawrence removed one of the silver tray tops and steam fled from the dish.

“Mmmm, that smells delightful.”

Lawrence smiled brightly. “It’s shrimp fettuccini and crab cake with a side of fresh Caesar salad. Would you mind if I made you a plate?”

“I would feel exiled if you didn’t. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until you mentioned it.”

Julian and Lawrence chuckled. He fixed our plates, poured glasses of wine, then saw himself out.

“I don’t know if I should be drinking in the middle of the day,” I said. I was being modest. I favored white wine, probably more than I should have.

“You’re more than welcome to have something else. Water, lemonade, sweet tea?”

“No it’s fine, I’m beginning to feel bossy.”

“It would be my pleasure to serve you, Desiree.”

A spark of heat crawled up the middle of my back and spread over my shoulders. If the hungry gaze in his eyes was an indication that Julian wanted me and not the food, I wasn’t sure how long being able to hold out would work. Then I had a thought. Why was I holding out? I hadn’t had sex in years; since that last mistake, I dated. But deep inside, I knew what it was. I didn’t want to seem easy with him. For whatever reason, I wanted to make a good impression on Julian. I was still trying to figure out why I cared.

“I’ll take sweet tea,” I said.

He made his way to the connecting kitchen giving me an extensive look at his broad back. I picked up my wine glass and took a sip anyway, but quickly put it down when the sweet alcohol raced down my throat causing more heat to stream inside me. Wrong move, I thought pushing the glass to the side. The last thing I needed was heat.

When Julian returned, he noticed the purple lip stain on the glass and smirked but did not comment.

“You know what, on second thought…” I lifted the glass and took a bigger sip then chased my lips. “Tell me, Julian, why’d you want to know if I’m dating anyone?”

He sat down getting comfortable at the table in front of me.

“Because Desiree,” he said. “I have plans for you.”

 

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Only If You Dare is available now on Amazon Kindle Unlimited!

Trouble In Paradise

How Hard Would You Fight For Love?

Falling in love shouldn’t be this complicated, nevertheless…

Victoria and Joshua have moved to Chicago Illinois while Victoria pursues a career in psychology. Recently engaged, the southern bred couple are in love and set out to start anew. Just when Victoria thinks she’ll get her happily ever after, Joshua’s past catches up with them.

They’ve barely unpacked before trouble is in their midst. Victoria can withstand the pressure until secrets are revealed, lies are told, and unexpected events occur. Will the couple weather the storm together or will they crash and burn?

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New Release!

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Book Title: Everything I Always Wanted

Author: Stephanie Nicole Norris

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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book blurb

It was a mouthwatering kiss that changed everything…

One thing that held constant in Shelby Donovan’s life was her career. As a world renowned artist, Shelby’s paintings traveled the globe, landing in museums and homes across the nation. But what she couldn’t seem to get under control was her love life. Why? She asked herself that question time and time again. Her mother thought it was because of her best friend, Sebastian Cartwright. They’ve known each other for years. Sebastian and Shelby shared everything; embarrassing moments, secrets, dating tips, affection, and even an explosive kiss during one tipsy night on Shelby’s birthday.

But, when Shelby’s current boyfriend asks for her hand in marriage she should be excited, dancing, ready… but she isn’t. In fact, Shelby can’t stop thinking about the kiss she shared with Sebastian. It had to be a fluke, right? A simple, delicious, fiery kiss that pulled at her loins and caused her heartbeat to slam against her ribcage. Honestly, it rocked her world and thoughts of what could be played like piano keys in her head. But their friendship was too important to mix with the uncertainty of a relationship. Even worse, what if Sebastian didn’t feel the same way? It could ruin everything. Should Shelby accept the marriage proposal, or shed her fears and open up to her best friend? Find out in Everything I Always Wanted.

excerpt

Sebastian

She said yes. The restaurant erupted with applause and congratulatory praises as I sat there stunned. She said yes. Melanie grabbed my hand, her eyes bright. She was sincerely excited for them, but I hadn’t moved, blinked, or said anything. Alan moved from his seat and lifted Shelby, an overjoyed smile on both of their faces. A waiter approached with the bottle of wine I’d requested. He poured everyone at the table a glass and sat it in a bucket on ice.

“Congratulations!” he quipped. I gathered myself, standing to my full height and closing the few buttons on my jacket.

“Ms. Scott, excuse me for a moment.” I beat a hasty retreat, my long strides taking me past the bar to the men’s room. Inside I washed my hands and checked my reflection in the mirror. My mind was reeling from what just happened. She said yes. I smirked, my mood not even close to hearty. I composed myself. Shelby was the ultimate catch. Why wouldn’t he want to marry her? I convinced myself it was for the best. She deserved every moment of happiness in her life. Who was I to feel indifferent about it? I didn’t even congratulate her. Foolish. I was acting like a child, why? That was a question I didn’t need to answer. I had no right to want her. I was her friend; she confided in me about every part of her life.

I was to keep her safe and allow her to bare her soul without thoughts of stealing her heart. It was not my place, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I thought back to her twenty-first birthday. Something had taken over me that night. I don’t know if it were the alcoholic beverages that gave me the courage, but I’d stolen a kiss that night, and it was phenomenal. Nothing like I’d ever felt before or since. When she responded with such vigor, I’d convinced myself that we were good, and I wanted more of her, but the drive to her place gave me time to think.

None of my relationships thus far had lasted. Mostly because I couldn’t keep up with the demand of quality time. I was busy, all the time, and no woman wants a man who spends more time at work than with them. More than that, I’d shared countless stories about women I only bedded for my own pleasures. Simply because I saw no interest in pursuing a relationship. Our bond was as tight as a hogtie and I couldn’t very well offer her the love she deserved and then fail to deliver. The thought of breaking her heart was too monumental for me to pursue anything other than friendship with Shelby.

And even though I knew this and continued to tell myself it was for the best, I felt despondent. I had to find a way to rid myself of these emotions and move on. I inhaled and exhaled a deep breath and left the restroom. At the bar, I asked for another bottle of the rich wine the waiter had brought over to the table before my abrupt retreat.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a gift bow to attach to it?” I asked.

“Ah, yes.” The bartender disappeared for a moment and returned just ask quickly. He slid a ribbon onto the bottle and fastened it into a bow clipping the edges. “How’s that?”

“Excellent.” I made the purchase and strode from the bar a determined man. I pulled a smile back on my face as I neared. “Congratulations.” I held the bottle out to Alan and slapped him on the back. He stood and shook my hand.

“Thank you.” His smile was burgeoning.

I stepped to Shelby, taking notice of her downcast expression. I reached down and pulled her out of the seat, capturing her in a sealed embrace. “Congratulations,” I whispered, my lips hovering just slightly over her ear. I could feel a vibration run through her.

“You disappeared.” I could hear the question in her voice.

“Never fear, I’m back.”

She pulled back from me. “Is everything okay?”

“Of course. I want you and your fiancé to take this bottle of Tony’s finest wine and celebrate the night away.”

She smiled. “Are you coming along?”

I kept my face void of expression. “Why would I tag along, silly goose? This night is about you and him.” I released her and looked to Melanie. “We should get going so these two can enjoy their night.”

“We haven’t had a bite to eat yet,” she said.

“We’ll get something.” I looked to Alan then Shelby. “You guys have a great night.” We took our leave. I made sure to get Melanie something to eat before dropping her back at her vehicle. She was interested in more than just a five-page spread, but I wasn’t.

“Thank you for your generosity tonight, Mr. Cartwright,” Melanie said when we approached her car. “The night is young. Are you sure you’re ready to call it a night?”

I grinned. “I have to get an early start.” I placed a gentle kiss on the back of her hand and opened her driver side door. She crawled in. “Drive safely,” I said, closing the door and retreating to my vehicle.

I wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight. In my garage, I switched gears, leaving my truck for my bike. I rode through Saint Louis for an hour and a half before returning to my penthouse. I strode through the rooms in darkness, tossing my keys on the counter. My eyes shifted around the cold, lonely place, and I settled on a bottle of scotch. My cell phone buzzed and my screen lit up. I check the Caller ID and found Shelby’s face on the screen. Why was she calling me? I decided not to answer the phone. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to have a reasonable conversation with her.

I left the phone on the counter and went in search of a shower. I was determined to get over tonight no matter what it took. Maybe I should’ve invited Melanie over. It had been months since I’d been intimate with a woman. Mainly because the one night stands and brisk temptations were not enough to fulfill the desire I had for her. Shelby, Shelby, Shelby, I thought. A grumble moved through me. I opted instead to drink the night away, by myself. Maybe things would be better after I’d had a little sleep. It seemed like a good idea at the time, until I found myself flat on my back staring at the ceiling.

This night was going to be a miserable one.

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meet the author

Stephanie Nicole Norris is an author from Chattanooga Tennessee with a humble beginning. She was raised with six siblings by her mother Jessica Ward. Always being a lover of reading, during Stephanie’s teenage years her joy was running to the book mobile to read stories by R. L. Stine.

After becoming a young adult her love for romance sparked leaving her captivated by hero’s and heroines alike. With a big imagination and a creative heart Stephanie penned her first novel Trouble In Paradise and self published it in 2012. Her debut novel turned into a four book series full of romance, drama, and suspense. To date Stephanie has self published seven books which includes five full novels and two short stories. They can be found on most retailers sites. Stephanie is inspired by the likes of Donna Hill, Gwynne Forester, and more. She currently resides in Chattanooga Tennessee with her husband and one year old son.

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Prowl

2017 will be my breakout year for collaborations. I penned this novel with Celebrated Author Deidra Ds Green. High stakes crime at its finest. Check out what we have in store for you with Prowl. We’re about to feed your need to read for sure!

Brooklyn, Drew, Symone and Leah grew up the best of friends. Their parents co-own and operate Patterson Pharmaceutical Company, a thriving business that has continuously grown over the last ten years. But after the economy took a hard turn, the family business suffered major losses, leaving the family’s income on pins and needles.

To make matters worse, the property the Patterson’s inherited from their late grandparents is up for auction from missed payments the family wasn’t aware they’d missed. With the family’s debt growing and relationships being tested, the four friends decide to take drastic measures to get the funds needed to secure generational survival. Being high end thieves wasn’t something they agreed on overnight. Taking from the less fortunate they couldn’t stomach. But stealing from those who already had plenty might just save the family from ruin.

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Risky Retreat!

Hola! Welcome to this week’s Risky Retreat! Here you can find a teaser of the romance, drama, and suspense that flow through my pages when I write. Even though this is only a teaser it will still feed your need to read. Some of these stories are coming soon, some are available now, and some are simply free short stories I wanted to share with you! Enjoy and don’t forget to check back in two weeks for the next Risky Retreat!

Broken

“Hello?”

“Yes, I was told to let you know that if your rent wasn’t paid by 10 p. m., you will have to vacate the premises.”

“10 o’clock?” Marissa looked at the time on her Netbook, which read 8:28 p. m. “Who told you to call and tell me this?”

“Harry. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just doing my job.”

“I won’t have the money until tomorrow afternoon. You can’t wait until then?”

“It’s not up to me. It’s what Harry says and I’ve got to abide by the rules.”

“Where is Harry? Let me talk to him.”

“He’s already gone for the day and I don’t want to disturb him because he will have an attitude. I’m not trying to go through it with him.”

“I’m about to get put out and you don’t want to go through it with him?” Marissa sucked her teeth. She was so fed up with the extended-stay hotel and the Arab owners.  They were so rude and unmerciful. “So, what am I supposed to do?”

“I’m sorry. I have people at the front desk, so I’ve got to go.”

Suddenly, the line went dead.  Marissa dropped her head and hung the phone on its base.  Frustrated, she dialed Nathanial and waited for him to answer.

“What’s up,” he answered.

“The front office just called and said we have until 10 o’clock to bring them the rent money or we have to leave.”

A sigh resounded through the phone. “And what did you say?”

“I asked who told her to tell us that. She said it was Harry.”

“Well, call them back and tell them I’m at work and won’t be back until tomorrow afternoon.”

“I don’t want to lie for you!” The line went dead again. “Hello!” Marissa slammed the phone down. “Ugh! I’m so sick and tired of this! It don’t make no sense!”

There was an unexpected knock at the door.  She opened the door to find Nathaniel on the other side.  He stepped in looking unsettled and upset. Standing at 5-feet-8-inches, he closed the door and put the lock and chain on it.

“Yeah, putting the chain on the door should keep them out. You sure solved that problem,” Marissa said.

Instead of responding, Nathaniel walked to a chair and sat down. The soles of his feet ached from the torn Crocs he wore. After removing his shoes, he rubbed them gently.

“So, you’re not going to say anything?” Marissa asked.

“Your whining is not helping. Spitting out insults and threats isn’t making our situation better.”

Marissa huffed. “Do you have the rent money?”

“Not all of it.”

“This is so ridiculous!” she screamed. “I’m sick and tired of going through this!”

“Well, since you don’t want to call the office, I suggest you call your sister and tell her to come get you,” he responded.

The disappointment was apparent when the creases appeared in Marissa’s forehead.

“If I leave, I’m not coming back. Being in this hotel with you is turning me into a mad woman and it has to end. I’m tired of sitting in here waiting for you to step up to the plate. Will you ever get a real job?

Nathaniel sat back and cracked his back, relieving the tension in his sore muscles. He reached for his shoulder and massaged it. Marissa was getting on his nerves. All she did was nag about everything. She sat in the room, day after day, complaining like her legs were broken when she could just as well be working.

“So, you’re just going to ignore me?”

Nathaniel turned the volume up on the San Diego Chargers game.  Not only was he going to ignore Marissa, but he was glad they would be apart for a while.  Even though the love was there, frustration and intense emotional strain in the relationship were as well. They were losing their way.

Marissa sat across the room brewing and ready to explode on Nathaniel.  She didn’t appreciate being kicked out of the only place they called home for a year now. Tension understated the description of the atmosphere surrounding her. She would either be screaming at the top of her lungs or trying to hold it back.  In return, her ears, along with the sides of her face, had turned red. She felt the heat rushing, like one of those hurricanes threatening to destroy Louisiana.

“This is not a joke! They will put us out — and then what? Where are you going to go? What are you going to do?”

He scratched his forehead and turned the TV up even louder. Marissa grabbed her purse and headed out the door.

“Where are you going?” Nathaniel asked.

She turned around sharply. “Oh, now you want to talk? I’m going to do what you obviously can’t do — get the rent money!”

“And how are you going to do that?”

“Don’t worry about it — like you always do.”

She walked out the door and slammed it. Nathaniel rose from his chair and chased her. “Girl, get back in this room!” he yelled.

“For what? After while, we won’t have a room to go back to because you playin’ games. I should’ve left when I had the chance. Now I’m broke and stuck up here with you, trying to make sure I don’t get kicked out!”

“Listen, girl. Chill out . . . chill out! I’m gon’ get the rest of the money.”

“How?” she said.

“Come back in the room and I’ll tell you.”

Marissa weighed her options, which weren’t many. Her plan was to go borrow the money from Minnie downstairs. She would always help her when Marissa was in a bind. If that didn’t work, she would go see about Joe. That would be the last thing she did. Marissa knew Joe had a crush on her, and sometimes she used it to her advantage. He, too, would give her whatever she wanted. Though that was the case, Marissa knew she was playing with fire when it came to Joe. Men always had an ulterior motive. They never just wanted to help. Most thought women were naive and still wet behind the ears.

“You better not be lying, Nathaniel. I swear!” she huffed.

They went back into the room and Marissa flopped down on the bed. Nathaniel locked the door and put the chain back on it. Marissa rolled her eyes in disgust.

“I have a couple of bangs on the way,” he said. “One of them don’t get off until 12 a.m., and he’s coming to get a quarter. If all of them show up, we’ll be good.”

Nathaniel was a small-time weed hustler trying to get his weight up. For the longest, Marissa begged him to do the honest thing and get a job. That was like pulling teeth. Nathaniel would always say, “By the time I got my paycheck, I could’ve made that money already and re’d up.”

That made Marissa want to slap the taste out of his mouth. This was her man. She hated having these ill feelings towards him, but he gave her no choice. His lifestyle drove her to the point of leaving him multiple times, but she loved him. They had been together six years and engaged for two. When it first happened, Marissa was psyched and ready for the new life. Unfortunately, she was the only one working a real job and trying to put the wedding together on her salary was unrealistic. It bugged her because after everything they’d gone through, he still would not get off his lazy butt and work.

“What if they don’t come through, Nathaniel? What then?”

“I’ll just give them what I have; they’ll take it,” Nathaniel answered. “Harry always be talking about putting us out, but when he get the cash in his hand, he’s always cool until I get the rest.”

“The lady at the front desk sounded pretty certain that if we didn’t have the full amount by ten we have to go” Marissa countered.

“She’ll be gone before 10 o’clock anyway, and Derrick will be in. You know security is the only one here at night, and me and Derrick are cool. He won’t put us out.”

This was true. Derrick smoked weed too, so all he needed was a blunt and he was good. If they got put out, Derrick would let Harry do it the next day.

“I can probably borrow the rest of the money from Minnie.”

“No! I don’t even like that girl, so why would I borrow anything from her?”

“You are not borrowing from her — I am.”

“Naw, man. She’s trouble. Neither one of us is fooling with her.”

“Why? Because you tried to holler at her and didn’t know she knew me?”

“I told you I didn’t try to holler at that girl. She just needs attention and feeds off drama. If you believe her, you stupid.”

“I’m not stupid, but I’m no fool either. I know you like them white girls.”

“Girl, don’t nobody want no old Minnie.”

“She isn’t that much older than me, so what you trying to say?”

Nathaniel turned his back and walked away from her. The conversation was going nowhere. It seemed to always happen that way. Marissa believed anything she heard. Yeah, he cheated on her in the past. Ever since then, he couldn’t get the benefit of the doubt. In fact, she questioned almost his every move. Cheating on her was him being immature. He’d grown since then, though. As long as they’d been together, he was over the cheating. Well, sort of. Sometimes, he couldn’t help but flirt. It was in his blood. But flirting wasn’t cheating, right? So what if he called a hotline to talk to women in his area while she was sleep. He was only doing it because he was bored. He had to admit, though. Marissa caught him doing something wrong from time to time, whether it was flirting, texting, or talking on the phone to another female. To Nathaniel, it was all entertainment, but to Marissa, it wasn’t.

“You like my old self, so I know you’ll like her, too. You can walk off if you want, but I know what I know.”

“You don’t know nothing,” Nathaniel said.

“I know you’re a cheater.”

“Do you just want to argue tonight? Because you keep coming at me. Soon, we will be in another heated argument!” he shouted.

“I’m not trying to argue. I’m just keeping it real.”

“Why don’t you just get back on your little computer and play on Facebook like you always do and leave me alone!” Suddenly, his phone rang. “Yeah, you outside? Aight, here I come.”

He gathered a few bags of weed he put together and stuffed them down his pants. Nathaniel was good at getting on Marissa’s nerves, but every time he went out to make what he called a ‘bang’, she prayed on the inside he would come back. Living this lifestyle was costly and he was just too stubborn to see the consequences. When he and Marissa first met, they were official for one week before he went to jail his first time. She got a call from Gwinnett County with him on the other end saying he needed to be bonded out. That time, it cost Marissa sixty dollars to get him released, with six hundred as bond. She was grateful she only had to pay ten percent because he would’ve been sitting still for a while if she had to come up with the full amount.

That wasn’t the last time Nathaniel went to jail. He went from only selling weed to selling crack cocaine and got caught one night while Marissa was at work. While he was handcuffed in the back seat of the police car, he managed to pull his cell phone from his back pocket and call her. It was a good thing he had her on speed dial. When Marissa answered the phone, he yelled.

“Baby, they got me!”

Marissa knew immediately what he meant. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“The police busted up on me and Lil’ Chris. I tossed my stuff, but he found it. Man, now I’m in the back seat of his car. He about to take me to jail, baby.”

Marissa cried her eyes out. She loved Nathaniel with all her heart and she didn’t want anything to happen to him. She was twenty-three years old then. She knew better now. Still, she didn’t want anything to happen to him, but he continued to put both of them in dangerous situations.

Three quick sharp bangs at the door made Marissa almost jump out of her skin.

“Baby, open the door,” Nathaniel said.

“Boy, why are you banging on the door like that?” she asked, attitudinally swinging the door open. “You know that drives me nuts.”

“My bad, baby. I left my key inside. You know I like to get in the room quick.” Nathaniel shut the door. “It’s cold out there. Good news,” he said.

“Don’t make me wait for it.”

Nathaniel laughed. “You need a chill pill, girl. I got the rest of the rent. Kevin had three dudes in the car with him. They all wanted some. Good thing I took more than he asked for. It’s too cold to be running in and out.” Nathaniel put his fists to his mouth and blew on them to warm them up.

“I’m about to hop in the shower,” Marissa said.

“Let me hop in with you.”

“First, go pay the rent. Then maybe you can hop in.”

“Man, by the time I get back, you’ll be halfway done.”

“My nerves bad. Can’t you tell? Go pay the rent first. Please?” she pleaded, giving him a soft kiss on the lips.

That was all he needed to get him going. “Don’t wash up too fast,” he said, walking out the door.

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