In this fast-moving, gritty debut novel, one woman learns that even the strictest rules are made to be broken…
At thirty-seven, Tuesday is eager for a better way of life. That means getting out of the game her gentleman’s club has been fronting. Her all-female “business” team has made a fortune using the club to attract, seduce—and rob—wealthy men. But in addition to being squeezed by a corrupt cop, an unfortunate incident has put Tuesday deep in debt to a ruthless gun dealer and is creating dangerous dissent behind-the-scenes...
Tuesday only sees one option. She’ll have to go undercover playing girlfriend to legendary Detroit crime boss Sebastian Caine. But the risky move just might cause her to break her #1 rule: don’t catch feelings. Because things are not what they seem—and neither is Sebastian. Now Tuesday may have to choose between the future she’s always wanted, the team she swore loyalty to, and the money she desperately needs to save her own life…
About the Author
ZAIRE CROWN began writing in his early twenties, inspired by his love of horror and suspense novels. A native a Michigan, Crown drew on his urban surroundings to write his first novel, infusing it with the suspense that he loves as well as the crime unfolding in his neighborhood. He is hard at work on his next novel.
Read an Excerpt
For most of his life, Tank's luck with women had been all bad. Being six foot three, black as a Michelin tire, a sloppy three hundred forty-five pounds with big bug eyes, he knew that for him, love would always be conditional and very expensive, which was why he hustled so hard. But now, thanks to Simone, even that changed.
He met her six weeks ago at a hand car wash that a lot of ballers hit. One day while he was getting his truck detailed, she pulled up in a G6 and stole his heart.
Tank had never been a sucker-type nigga who believed in love at first sight. Before Simone, women only fell into three categories: those he couldn't fuck, those he wanted to fuck, and those he didn't; but from the first moment he saw that tiny light-skinned angel standing at four foot eleven with the innocent hazel eyes, he didn't just want to fuck her, he wanted to spoil her, to protect her, he wanted to be everything for and to her, and this was before even knowing her name. To Tank, she shined brighter than all the custom paint and polished chrome being washed that day.
Simone was his type without being his type. As far as looks, she was everything he'd ever been attracted to: petite but curvy with a pretty face and tiny feet; but her personality was unlike anyone he'd been with before. She had just enough street smarts but for the most part was a square: she didn't smoke or drink, and spoke so proper that Tank thought it was funny when she tried to curse. She was not spoiled or money-hungry like so many other females of her status — twice Tank had tried to surprise her with gifts, first a Louis bag and then a diamond bracelet, only to have her turn them down. She was always friendly, always smiling, always humble and considerate. She viewed every stranger as a potential friend rather than a threat. She was almost unreal and Tank couldn't believe that a girl this pretty wasn't conceited, wasn't a slut, and wasn't into his big black ugly ass for the money.
He soon came to accept that Simone was simply something special, like some beautiful goddess come straight down from heaven. This was the reason he nicknamed her Tiny Angel.
Although she was pretty close to perfection, the only thing that frustrated the hell out of Tank was Simone's sixty-day rule. Regardless of who it was, any man courting Simone had to endure a two-month waiting period before they could do what she called "the nasty," and the two months did not start at introduction but rather at the first date. Since it took Tank ten days to convince her to go out with him, that meant he still had close to four weeks to go. He was like a child in December counting down the days to Christmas, and as any eager child will tell you, those days move incredibly slowly.
Lately, they were spending almost every day together, having plenty of make-out sessions that always ended with her suddenly pulling back, leaving him all rocked up and begging for more.
On this particular night, luck struck. They were at Tank's loft on his California king–sized bed in the middle of another heated make-out session when she broke their kiss, looked up at him with those sparkling gold eyes and said: "I think I'm ready," even though he technically still had twenty-eight days left on probation.
"You ready now!" he blurted with excitement. She nodded while chewing on her bottom lip and Tank damn near started to cry.
Watching Simone undress was the closest he had ever come to a religious experience. She slipped off her top then ran her fingers through her silky black hair. Tank gazed up at this delicate porcelain doll as she rolled her hips in slow circles. It surprised him that she could dance so sexy.
She unbuttoned her white jean shorts and let them settle at her ankles then playfully kicked them off. The lacy turquoise panties underneath complemented her shape and skin tone. She did a slow turn so that he could see that they were thong; that was when Tank noticed the small devil tattoo on the upper part of her right butt cheek. Apparently his good girl had a bit of a wild side.
She stooped down to mount him and their lips met again. Tank held her against his chest and ran his hungry hands all over her. The kiss was eternal, blissful, but she broke it only to ask: "Why do you still have your clothes on?" Tank had been so mesmerized by her striptease that he forgot to undress himself.
He jumped out the bed and stripped to his boxers while she slipped beneath the covers. With a shyness that he just found too cute, she pulled the sheets up to her neck, unhooked her bra and shimmied out of her panties then tossed the lacy underwear at his feet. When Tank scooped up her panties and sniffed them, Simone giggled like a schoolgirl.
Back in the bed, he rolled on top of her four-foot-eleven-inch frame, using his arms to brace himself so he wouldn't crush Simone under his 345 pounds.
She playfully jiggled the fat rolls on his side and said, "Papa Bear," which was her pet name for him.
He called her "Tiny Angel."
"I love you." The words were spoken so sweetly and meekly that he cried tears of joy for a future filled with promise. A future with Simone. He knew that her words weren't just a confession, they were a plea. Simone was surrendering herself to him while asking only with her eyes: Take me but don't abuse me!
Tank kissed his way down her neck until he found her breasts. Simone was a modest B-cup and while he had seen much bigger, none had been more flawless. On mounds of buttercream flesh, her quarter-sized areolas sat like caramel brown peaks. Each was crowned with a fat, stubby nipple that he teased with his tongue before taking both swells into his mouth one after the other.
He sank beneath the covers leaving a trail of kisses down her stomach, past a navel ring he never noticed, and then lower. Tank learned that she was waxed and this relieved him, because he feared that a girl who wasn't heavily into sex might neglect her lady garden. He kissed her lips, opened them, then attacked the clit with a trained tongue. This was where he shined and he had been eager to show off his skills to Simone.
Tank was under the sheets doing what he did best. He wasn't big and couldn't last very long but Tank learned that a female was less likely to complain about a little-dick nigga who couldn't fuck if he could make her cum four or five times by eating it first. She moaned her appreciation and the sound of her ecstasy made him go harder. When Simone grabbed the back of his head and started grinding her crotch into his face, Tank knew he had her.
Then Simone screamed and it was not the pleasure-filled cry of a girl about to bust. There was surprise and terror in that sound. Tank feared that he somehow had hurt her, so he threw the blanket off his head to check on her.
When he saw the gun, he knew that his talented tongue had not been the problem. Two big black guns were pointed directly at his head. They were only rifles but with the barrels only an inch away from his face, they loomed as large and menacing as battleship cannons.
Four of them. Armed. They were all surrounding the bed. They had crept into the room as stealthily as ninjas and were dressed the part. Black from head to toe: combat boots, cargo pants, long-sleeved shirts under Kevlar vests, ski masks, and leather gloves. Their masks were the type made without a mouth hole and only a horizontal viewport along the eyes, but even this small swatch of exposed skin was painted black, revealing nothing of their true complexion. They were shadows.
Tank saw that two of them were standing at the head of the bed, one with a .40-caliber Glock aimed at Simone. The two covering him had AK's in his face.
For a long unnerving moment the four of them stood there silent and motionless. To Tank it was almost like someone had slipped into his loft and set up a display of mannequins as a joke.
After that initial scream Simone had also gone quiet but now she was silently weeping. Tank reached out to comfort her but the fourth one jammed another Glock .40 in his face as a warning.
Tank threw his hands up to surrender. "Look, man, just take whatever the fuck y'all want and go!"
One of the Glock-holders went to the side pocket of his cargo pants and pulled out a device that Tank was scared might be a Taser. When the gunman held it out and pressed the button, it didn't produce electric volts, only words from a tiny hidden speaker: "Thomas Humphries, the four men that have you surrounded have no problem with killing you and your lady friend unless you follow my instructions."
Tank didn't know if it was a recording device or some sort of CB radio but the deep, gravelly voice that came from it frightened him.
"You are about to lose something, Mr. Humphries, but how much is totally up to you. If you obey, these men will only be taking your money and drugs, but if you disobey the cost will be your life. Nod if you understand, Mr. Humphries." He switched it off.
Tank nodded, still trying to figure out how they knew his full name. There wasn't a nigga he had fucked with since tenth grade that knew his whole government.
The second Glock-holder grabbed a fistful of Simone's hair and dragged her off the bed. When she tried to pull the sheets to cover herself, they were snatched away from her. He stood about three feet away from the others holding the tiny naked Simone by the throat with the .40-cal pressed to her temple.
Number one pressed the button again: "Now, Thomas, your instructions are simple, straightforward, and fairly easy to understand. Step one: You are going to lead these gentlemen to the drop safe that you have hidden in the floor. Step two: You are going to open that safe. Step three: You are going to give them everything inside. Step four: You are going to let them leave without doing anything stupid." He stopped it again.
Tank looked at them wild-eyed. "I don't know what the fuck y'all talkin' 'bout. I ain't got no safe! Now I got 'bout three bands in my pocket and my truck keys on the dresser but ain't no safe. Somebody done fed y'a11 some wrong information."
Without warning the gunman holding Simone smashed her over the head with the butt of his Glock. She crumbled to the floor in a heap of flesh, cried aloud. The sound pierced Tank as if he'd been struck. Before he could voice a plea, she was snatched up and held by the throat again.
The voice on the recorder said: "Mr. Humphries, any hesitations, denials or stall tactics will be considered disobedience, and disobedience will be punished severely. The assaults on your lady friend will gradually escalate in brutality until it ends with a very gruesome violation then two bullets pumped into her skull. Nod if you understand, Mr. Humphries."
Tank nodded. He didn't finish high school but it didn't take a diploma to understand what "gruesome violation" meant. The raspy voice on the speaker reminded him of Anthony Hopkins when he played Hannibal Lecter. His calm tone and sophistication made him sound like a madman. Only a twisted mind could speak about rape and murder with such eloquence.
The voice said: "Step 1: You are going to lead these gentlemen to the drop safe that you have hidden in the floor." The order was repeated with the same rhythm as the previous time; this made Tank suspect that it was just a recording and not a two-way radio.
Sadly, that tidbit of information gave him no strategic advantage nor made his enemies any less dangerous. None of the masked men had spoken; they did all their communicating via the recorder. The fact that they apparently knew his full name, knew about his safe, and the ease with which they got past a first-rate security system with a seven-digit pen marked them as professionals.
He stared into Simone's glistening eyes and saw the fear in them. Already so tiny, Tank imagined that she shrank until she was as small and fragile as a doll. He knew he had to protect her. It was no stretch to assume that men so disciplined might be equally ruthless. Any threats made against him or Simone had to be treated as serious.
He decided to stop bullshitting with them.
"Please don't hurt her!" He folded with tears in his eyes. "I'll take you to the safe. I'll do whatever you want. Just don't hurt my Tiny Angel!"
The Bounce House was not one of those inflatable castles parents rented for children's parties. It was a small gentlemen's club set in a strip mall on 7 Mile with a beauty supply store, a rib joint, an outlet that sold men's clothing, and an unleased space that changed hands every few years. In no way was The Bounce House on the same level as some of the more elite clubs in Detroit; with a maximum capacity of two hundred fifty and limited parking, it would never be a threat to The Coliseum, Cheetah's, or any of the big dogs. It wasn't big but it was comfortable, well managed; plus the owner was very selective in choosing the girls so this had earned it a small but loyal patronage.
Tuesday Knight knew that Mr. Scott, her neighbor and owner of Bo's BBQ, would be waiting in the door of his shop the moment her white CTS hit the lot. The old man had a crush on her and always made it his business to be on hand to greet her whenever she pulled in to work.
She frowned when she saw that someone had parked in her spot right in front of The Bounce House. The canary Camaro with the black racing stripes belonged to Brianna, and she was definitely going to check that bitch because she had been warned about that before.
Since all the other slots outside The Bounce, Bo's BBQ, and KiKi's Beauty Supply were taken, she had to park way down in front of the vacant property and she speculated about which business would spring up there next. In the past five years it had been an ice cream parlor, a cell phone shop, and an occult bookstore. She wished its next incarnation would be as a lady's shoe outlet that sold Louboutins at a discount.
She shrugged the Louis Vuitton bag onto her shoulder then slid out of the Cadillac.
Up ahead on the promenade Mr. Scott was standing in front of his carry-out spot pretending to sweep the walk but really waiting for her. This was practically a daily ritual for them.
"Hi, Mr. Scott," she said, beaming a smile.
He did an old-school nod and tip of the hat. "Hey, Miss Tuesday, you sho lookin' mighty fine today." He always called her Miss Tuesday even though it was her first name.
"Thank you, Mr. Scott. You lookin' handsome as always."
He removed his straw Dobb's hat and was fanning himself with it even though the afternoon was mild. "Girl, if I was thirty years younger I'd show you somethin'!" Mr. Scott was seventy years old and had always been respectful of her and all the dancers so she didn't mind putting on for him.
"I know you would, Daddy! You have a nice day now, okay."
What The Bounce House lacked in size it attempted to make up for in taste. There was nothing cheap about the place despite being a small independent establishment. The design wasn't unique: a fifteen-foot bar ran against the far right wall; a large horseshoeshaped stage dominated the center with twenty or so small circular tables surrounding it; booths were lined against the left wall and wrapped around the front, the entrance was where that front wall and right one intersected and the deejay booth was next to it.
Before Tuesday had taken over, the entire place was done in a tacky red because the previous owner thought that it was a sexual color. Tuesday had brought the place into the new millennium with brushed suede booths, a bar with a granite top, more understated flooring, and mirrored walls that gave the illusion of more space. She even gave it a touch of class and masculinity by adding dark woods, brass, and a touch of plant life.
When she came through the door, the first thing that jumped out at her was that the fifth booth hadn't been bused. There were half a dozen double-shot glasses on the table, an ashtray filled with butts and cigar filters, and a white Styrofoam food container that had most likely come from Bo's. She knew that it was her OCD that caused her to immediately zero in on this but before she could start bitching, one of the servers was already headed to clean it up. Everyone who worked there knew their boss had a thing for neatness so she shot the girl a look that said: Bitch, you know better!
Things were slow even for a Monday afternoon. There were only three customers at the bar with eleven more scattered throughout the tables and booths. Most of them were entranced by a dancer named Cupcake who was on stage rolling her hips to the latest hot song. Two more girls were on the floor giving table dances.
Excerpted from "Games Women Play"
Copyright © 2015 Zaire Crown.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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