From a captivating new voice in African American women’s fiction comes a story of love and commitment as one woman tries to avoid her Mr. Right.
What happens when you find The One, but you’re just not ready?
Jasmine Taylor doesn’t have the time or the inclination to settle down. Not since her longtime boyfriend Nicco betrayed her. She knows how to take care of herself, and she has several sizzling lovers to satisfy her most arousing needs.
The arrangement seems perfect, except for one irresistible detail: Sean Williams, the only man Jasmine can’t take her mind off. A handsome, successful music producer, Sean has a different girl in every city. So why does he keep coming back to Jasmine? When she confesses her love one passionate night—a surprise to them both—he realizes he’s met his match.
Neither is prepared to give up the no-strings-attached lifestyle, but when Sean finds out Nicco wants Jasmine back, he loses his cool—and lets her go in the process. The only way Sean can win Jasmine’s heart is by dropping the playboy act and making a commitment . . . but will she be ready to trust him?
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Karyn Grice is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and the author of What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas and No Strings Attached.
Read an Excerpt
I was steaming as I paced back and forth behind the sliding cell door. I was waiting to be released. I couldn’t believe the mess I was in, and over a damn man. I had been charged with assault and then thrown in a cage at the Second District police station in Chicago.
The holding cell was overcrowded and the caged women were on edge. Ashley, my business partner, needed to hurry up and bail me out. There was an argument between two women about a jailhouse problem breaking out, but that didn’t matter to me. I had my own issues to deal with. As I continued to pace impatiently, I tuned out their cussing and the wretched smell in the cell, and reflected on how the hell I got put in there.
I had gotten up early that morning. I had lots of errands to run, plus I wanted to clean my house. I hadn’t had a chance to do a deep cleaning in weeks. My four-bedroom, two-bath home had a lot of space for one person, but I enjoyed every foot. I planned to remake my bed in the bright red, nine-hundred-thread-count sheet set I had recently purchased. I thought it would bring some sizzle to my bedroom.
After slipping on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt and pulling my hair into a ponytail, I had pulled the linens off my bed and headed to the basement to get the washer started. Before going to sleep last night, I had made a to-do list.
Since I owned a Lexus dealership, my car was important to me. I couldn’t be seen in a dirty car. Oh no. So as soon as I put a load in, I was going to get my car detailed. While climbing the stairs from the basement, I heard my doorbell ring. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and I wasn’t in the mood for company. I was hoping it wasn’t the Jehovah Witnesses. I was usually pretty nice to them, but today I had too much work to do.
I was surprised when I opened the door and saw Tyrone standing on my front porch. Tyrone was one of a few men that I dated on occasion. We didn’t have a serious relationship, but he was fun to hang out with.
He was fidgety and seemed frightened. That didn’t improve my mood any. I opened the screen door to hear what he had to say. He leaned in and whispered, “Jasmine, I told my wife that I was coming over here to tell you that it’s over. If you can just go along with what I’m saying, I can get this done and then we can continue to see each other.”
I almost laughed but was able to contain it. This was the first I’d heard of any wife. Plus, Tyrone wasn’t all that for me to act a fool over in front of my neighbors. I figured he’d had a moment of temporary insanity if he thought that was going to happen.
He stood there with a stupid grin on his face as he waited for my response. I looked past him and saw his wife standing at the curb with her head wrapped in a bandanna. Her outfit told me that she was ready for battle: tattered jeans, gym shoes, and a T-shirt tied at the waist. She stood staring at me with her hand on her hip. Was that Vaseline on her face? I wondered.
Tyrone had brought his problem to my house. How was that right? I glared at him for a few seconds before reaching behind the door for the aluminum bat that I kept for emergency purposes.
“Can I see you tonight?” he mouthed.
With another look at his wife standing at the curb, something inside me snapped. I took the bat from behind the door and stepped out onto the porch. My first swing hit Tyrone on his left arm as he threw it up in a defensive position.
“What are you doing, Jasmine?” he said, as he retreated down the stairs.
I quickly followed and swung the bat at him again.
“You played me,” I said as the second blow hit him in the back.
I saw his wife on her cell phone, but she didn’t come near us. After the third swing, Tyrone ran to his wife, screaming.
“What is wrong with you, Jasmine?” he shouted back at me.
I stopped on the bottom step and yelled, “Nothing is wrong with me! But you’d better get away from my house before something seriously wrong happens to you!”
I was turning to go back inside when I saw a squad car roll around the corner. One of my neighbors must have called, because the officers arrived so fast.
After closing the door, I watched out my living-room window as Tyrone and his wife had an animated conversation with the officers. “Shit,” I said quietly. If he could lie to his wife like that, there was no telling what he would say to the police. When I saw the officers sternly marching to my door, I knew I was in trouble. I could see the evil look on Tyrone’s wife’s face. They were pressing charges. I waited for the bell to ring.
As I expected, I was arrested.
That was how my day began.
I heard the guard walking toward the holding pen. He stopped in front of the cell door and called, “Jasmine Taylor.”
I quickly approached, waiting to be set free. Officer Wilson was his name, according to his tag. I was usually turned on by a man in uniform, but not today. Standing behind bars had drained every sexy emotion out of me.
Officer Wilson opened the door. “Jasmine Taylor?”
I walked down a long, dimly lit hallway with Officer Wilson following close behind. We stopped at another set of cell doors.
“It will be a few minutes,” he said.
“Do you have the time?” I asked politely.
He looked at his walkie-talkie. “It’s three forty-five.”
We waited for a few minutes before the doors were unlocked and we had clearance to pass through. After retrieving my sack of personal belongings, I was released. This was my first visit to a police station, and I hoped it would be my last.
I was very happy to see Ashley. She had been waiting for more than two hours for my release in the crowded station lobby with lots of angry people. The entire incident was a nightmare that I never wanted to live again.
I saw Ashley from a distance. Her height made her look out of place. She was five-ten, slender, and always dressed well. When I approached her, she hugged me and said, “What happened?”
A flash of my former anger at Tyrone came back to me.
“We can talk about it when we get in the car,” I said.
Ashley’s silver RX350 was parked a few blocks from the station. Once inside the car, I said, “Thank you for coming down here to get me. I can’t believe I was arrested.”
I fastened my seat belt, cracked the window, and told her how everything had played out.
Ashley looked like she wanted to laugh, but instead she asked with concern, “Is he crazy?”
By this time I was seeing the humor in the situation myself.
“I may have beaten the crazy out of him. His punk-ass wife showed up dressed for battle, but instead of stepping to me, she pulled out her cell and called the police. This man was trespassing on my property and I get charged with assault!”
Ashley laughed with me. She knew just about all my secrets. She didn’t judge me and was a good listener. When we arrived at my house, I reimbursed her for the bail money. After making sure that I was okay, she headed home.
Ashley was my partner in Taylor & Daniels, a successful Lexus car dealership in Chicago. Like me, she was single, going on thirty. As I entered my home, I eyed the bat posted up behind the front door and shook my head. I needed some stability with the men in my life. My last long-term relationship had ended in disaster two years ago, and I had been running wild ever since, dating multiple men and not making a commitment to any of them.
After closing the door behind Ashley, I leaned against it and closed my eyes. My original plan had been to clean the house, but that was the last thing I wanted to do with the remainder of my day. First and foremost, a hot bubble bath.
My home, located in Hyde Park, a historic neighborhood in Chicago, was built in the late 1800s. The area was culturally diverse and I enjoyed the short walks to my favorite shops. A huge selling point was the stone fireplace in the master bath.
When I bought the house, it needed a lot of work. I hired an architect to redesign the floor plan. There were originally five bedrooms, but I knew it would be just as fabulous with four, and I wanted to increase the square footage of the master suite.
I decided to restore instead of replace. I hired a friend from high school whom I’d kept in touch with over the years to head the project. He was able to preserve most of the original woodwork and fixtures. The hardwood floors were restored and stained. The fireplace was the focal point of my dream bathroom, and I also loved the depth of the vintage claw-foot bathtub. The Carrera marble tiles on the floor were heated and the same tiles were used on the walls, which were laid in a subway fashion. The space was perfect for me to unwind and relax.
Once the tub was full with warm bubbly water, I lit four scented candles, trying to get the smell of jail urine out of my mind before climbing into the bath. My body relaxed as I slid to the bottom of the tub, head and all. When I came up for air, I dried my face and hands, turned on the CD player, and listened to Jill Scott’s latest. I put the bath pillow under my head and relaxed. I had been seeking comfort, and I had found it.
After my bath, I headed for the kitchen to fix a salad. I had all my ingredients on the counter when my phone rang.
“Hey, Jasmine,” said a familiar voice. “This is Sean. How are you?”
Instantly, I was in a better mood. Spending time with Sean always helped me forget my troubles.
“I’m doing all right. I haven’t talked to you in a while. Where have you been?”
“You know me, I’ve got a lot going on,” he said. “But you also know I’m only a phone call away and always thinking about you. I need to see you. Do you have time for me this evening?”
“I’ve always got time for you, Sean.”
“Great! Ray Cash is in town and he wants us to join him and his date for dinner at the Signature Room. Are you up to it or did you want to keep me to yourself?”
I giggled at the sly tone in his voice. “I finally get to meet Ray.”
“Have you wanted to meet him before now?”
I didn’t want him to think that I was starstruck, so I said, “I knew that you were friends and I just wondered why we had never met. I’ve met most of your friends from Detroit except him.”
“I guess you two have never been at the same place at the same time with me, but you both are here now, so we’ll do the introductions tonight. All right, baby?”
“Yes, all right.” Still, I wasn’t willing to give up the other option. “I guess I can share you for a little while, but after dinner, you’re all mine, right?”
“Yes, all yours.” His voice was as smooth as a purr. “I’ll pick you up. Eight o’clock okay?”
“Yes. Sounds good.”
I put my salad fixings away, grabbed a few Wheat Thins, and darted to my bedroom to look for something sexy to wear.
I hadn’t told Sean about my earlier incarceration because I didn’t want him to know anything about my life with the other men I saw. When I was with him, it was just us, no one else.
Of all the men I dated, Sean was the only one who had my heart. I was in love with him, though I didn’t dare say anything. I didn’t want to drive him away.
Sean was a very successful music producer. We saw each other often, although Sean lived out in Malibu. He wined and dined me when he came to town. I’d visited him at his home in California and his condo in New York on many occasions. We’d spend a week together or sometimes we’d just be together for a night. I knew he had other women and he knew I saw other guys. Our arrangement worked for both of us—or at least it had until lately. Now I wanted more.
Sean and I had met a little more than two years ago, when he walked into my dealership to buy a car for his aunt Frances. He was in town, working at one of the local studios. I was sitting in my office with Ashley, going over the inventory, when I saw him on the showroom floor with Martin, one of our salesmen. I couldn’t concentrate because I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. Ashley turned to see what was distracting me.
“Girl, why don’t you just go out there and introduce yourself?”
“Am I that obvious?”
“Uh, yeah,” she said. “Go on. I’ll finish this up.”
“How does my hair look?” I asked, trying to fluff it up. “I knew I should have gone to the shop yesterday like I planned.”
“Jasmine, you look fine.”
Although my hair wasn’t exactly how I wanted it, my dress was perfect. I wore a charcoal Chanel pencil dress. I quickly changed into my leather pumps to complete the outfit.
“It’s time to get over Nicco and move forward.”
“I’m over Nicco, Ashley,” I said, annoyed. I stood and straightened my dress. “Is this dress too tight?”
“Yes, but what’s new about that?” She chuckled.
I tugged down the hem, getting it just so. “All right. Wish me luck.”
Sean was sitting inside one of the floor models when I walked up to the car.
“Good afternoon,” I said in my sexiest voice. “Are you finding everything to your satisfaction?”
Sean looked up at me. He didn’t show any interest as he said, “Yeah, I want to test-drive this car.”
I turned to Martin, who was standing nearby, and asked, “Can you have one of the porters bring around a demo?”
“Sure, Jasmine.” Martin moved closer and made the introduction. “Sean, this is my supervisor, and the owner, Jasmine Taylor. She’ll take good care of you.”
“All right, thanks,” he said.
Sean remained in the car, messing with the controls on the dashboard. I was a little surprised that he hadn’t gotten out of the car to get a better look at me.
I took the opportunity to check him out from head to toe. He wore a pair of Lucky Brand indigo jeans, a striped button-down shirt, and a nice pair of leather shoes. I think they were Prada. His jewelry was expensive but not too showy.
“So, Sean, right?” I said, breaking the trance the Lexus had on him.
“Yeah,” he said. “Hey, do you have this car in black and in stock?”
“I’ll check my inventory. Please excuse me.”
As I headed to my office, I saw Sean staring at me through the glass. That was a little more like it.
When I walked into my office, Ashley said, “Well?”
“Nothing so far,” I said happily. “I may have to work to get this one’s attention.”
“You need to work for it for a change,” she said, smiling.
Checking my computer, I saw that we did have a black LS430 in stock. When I stepped back onto the showroom floor, Sean was leaning against the car, waiting for me.
As I walked to him, my low-cut, form-fitting dress clung to my hips, and this time I had Sean’s full attention.
“Okay, Sean. It’s your lucky day. We have a black LS430 in stock, fully loaded. Would you like to see it?”
“Yes. Thank you. Jasmine, right?”
“Nice to meet you,” he said, shaking my hand. His touch was electric, tingling all the way up my arm. It was lust at first touch.
Besides being well dressed, Sean was handsome. He was slightly over six feet tall, his complexion was medium to dark brown, and he had brown eyes and a beautiful smile.
I saw the shiny new LS430 waiting at the front door. Martin handed Sean the keys and Sean looked at me. “After you.”
I smiled and headed for the door.
He walked around the car, getting a better look at all the great features. We climbed inside at the same time. Sean continued to examine the controls on the dash and check out the luxury features that came standard in this model.
“This is a nice car,” he said.
“It’s one of our bestsellers.” We closed the doors, fastened our seat belts, and I directed Sean to Lake Shore Drive so that he could try out the car on an open road.
After we were on the road for a few minutes, I said, “So how do you like the ride so far?”
“It’s beautiful. It accelerates in what?”
“Zero to sixty in 5.4 seconds, and even better, a quarter mile in 13.9 seconds. Top speed hits one hundred thirty miles per hour, but I’m sure you’d never have a need to drive that fast.”
He looked at me and smiled in amusement.
“The 4.6-liter V8 generates three hundred eighty horsepower, and three hundred sixty-seven pound-feet of torque contributes to its impressive acceleration. You see how fast we took off.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty fast.”
“The performance improvement is almost entirely a result of the six-speed automatic. First gear is lower, and second, third, and fourth gears are closer together, all of which makes for a quicker launch and quicker acceleration.”
I touched the gearshift and added, “You can manually control shifting, though we found it usually best to put it in Drive and let it do its job. The V8 and six-speed automatic deliver strong acceleration for quick passing and highway merging.”
He was shaking his head, acknowledging how impressed he was with the car. “Plenty of leg room and ceiling room, too. I see you know your business. I’m impressed,” he said. “I was hoping to have the car delivered to my aunt. Is that something that you can do?”
“It certainly is, Mr. Williams. When we finish your paperwork, we’ll include delivery instructions.”
“Thank you, Jasmine.” He looked extremely pleased. “Thank you very much.”
Sean took me to dinner that night, and we have been seeing each other ever since.
We met while I was transitioning out of a long-term relationship that had ended in disaster, and I was on a serious antiman campaign. Sean softened my heart toward men in general and offered me a relationship that I could handle at that time. I was extremely attracted to him from the beginning, but my heart was too fragile to handle any more disappointment from a man. I proposed a relationship where we didn’t answer to each other and saw each other when we could. He readily agreed. I guess that plan backfired—because he seems to be very happy with our arrangement and by now I’m in love with him.
Still, Sean’s phone call put me in a good mood. Spending time with him tonight would give me an opportunity to wear a new dress that a local designer made exclusively for me.
No matter what we were to each other, I wanted his eyes to light up when he saw me.
© 2010 Karyn Grice