“So explosive, dramatic, and sexual, it should come with an R rating!” —RT Book Reviews
With a drug addict mother and a drug lord father, Aphtan learns how to fend for herself at an early age. Being the princess of an empire has its perks—until her father gets arrested. From stealing clothes and food to committing fraud, Aphtan does what she has to do to take care of her mother and herself. But when her schemes prove problematic, she turns to a new hustle: dancing at Pearl Tongue, the most notorious strip club in Texas . . .
For Aphtan, the job’s fast money means security. Addicted to the cash, she promises herself she’ll never stop—until her new man, Scooter, makes her. In love, Aphtan trades in the pole for the life of a housewife. But nothing lasts forever and Scooter’s past ultimately catches up with them—bringing secrets to the surface that destroy their relationship.
Devastated, Aphtan needs a shoulder to cry on—and it belongs to Scooter’s brother, Cole. Now, between betrayal, lies, murder, and a robbery that may force her to leave town for good, Aphtan’s heart—and her life—are on the line.
About the Author
Tyrone Bentley has been telling stories since childhood. His mom always said he made the truth sound like a lie, so he took that as a sign that he needed to put his tales on paper. Born and raised in South Dallas, a lot of his inspiration comes from the lives of his friends and family. When he isn’t writing, he’s hanging out on the basketball court or working on cars.
Read an Excerpt
"S-i-x." Aphtan released the black-and-white dice from the palm of her hand, hoping to hit her number.
"You gon' crap out," Byron, a fifteen-year-old neighborhood hardhead, told her as sweat fell from his forehead while the dice bounced off the wall and onto the concrete pavement.
"Hell yeah." Aphtan's mysterious eyes sparkled from the essence of the Texas sun while she turned her baseball cap frontward. "Pay me, nigga," she said as the dice equaled her number.
Most girls were off in packs, eyeing little boys, but that wasn't what ten-year-old Aphtan Epps had in mind. She was the daughter of up-and-coming drug lord Lester "Boss" Epps, which made her rough exterior shine through with ease. She was a natural born hustler, and being raised by a gangster was nothing more than an enablement.
She wasn't your average ten-year-old; she couldn't afford to be growing up in Oakcliff, the slums of Dallas, Texas. Being in the slums would make her one of two things: hard or soft — and there was nothing marshmallow about her.
"You cheated, bitch." Byron used the dark redbrick wall of a building to get up. "You can't use the wall, my nigga, you cheated."
"Stop bitching, nigga, and just pay me my bread." Aphtan held out her yolk-colored hand.
"I ain't paying you shit." Byron smacked her hand down. "You can suck my dick." He grabbed at his jeans.
"Nigga, that's Boss's daughter you talking to," Peanut, another neighborhood hardhead, reminded Byron as he grabbed his arm.
"I don't give a fuck whose daughter she is. Fuck this bitch and fuck that nigga Boss. That nigga ain't anybody special. He sells just like the rest of our pops."
"Fuck who?" Aphtan held her hand up to her ear.
"Fuck you and your pops, bitch." Byron grinned.
Aphtan balled up her fist and, without thinking, punched Byron in his nose. They fell to the floor as blood gushed out of Byron's nose and onto Aphtan's crisp white t-shirt. Byron forced himself on top of her. He punched her like she was a boy off the street. Aphtan fought back, and they went blow for blow.
"You want to act like a nigga, then I'll treat you like one," Byron yelled at her as he wrapped his hands around her throat, choking her with all of his strength.
"Get off of her," Peanut said.
Aphtan's face quickly started to change colors. Before Byron could react to what Peanut had told him, the butt of a pistol busted him in the back of his head, causing him to release Aphtan's throat. The pungent hit caused his vision to grow blurry. He fell over on his side with his hand holding his head, which poured blood profusely.
Aphtan caught her breath and opened her eyes to see a skinny boy with the skin tone of rich caramel hovering over her holding a nine-millimeter. His eyes looked as though they had pain behind them, and she could tell he was a dope boy simply by his appearance. His gear, his stance, and the way he carried himself gave it away. His presence reminded her of her father's, which intrigued her.
"You okay?" The boy reached his hand down to help her up.
"I'm cool." Aphtan grabbed his hand as she got up off the ground.
"You stupid motherfucker," Byron yelled as he stood up. "I'll kill you."
"Nigga, go home before you get something hot put inside of you." The boy pushed Aphtan out of the way.
"Byron, that's that nigga named Scooter we been hearing about." Peanut pulled Byron by the shirt. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
"Hell naw." Byron looked into Scooter's eyes. "I should handle this little nigga."
It was as if Scooter was repenting for his sins, from how tight his grip was on the gun. The smell of gunpowder lingered as his finger pressed the trigger. The sun's blaze made the bullet shine like a kaleidoscope as it was ejected from the gun and entered Byron's chest, killing him instantly.
"Get the fuck out of here," Scooter yelled at a shaking Peanut, whose eyes were glued to Byron's lifeless body as it now joined the cracks of the warm concrete ground.
Aphtan looked at Byron and then at Scooter. All she wanted was for Byron to pay for choking her out. She didn't want him to lose his life. Despite her dismay, she walked over to Byron's body and checked through his pockets to get the money that she'd won from the dice game. She took everything in his pocket, feeling no remorse for him whatsoever. Her father's blood that ran through her veins wouldn't allow her to.
"You should have just given me my motherfucking bread." Aphtan kicked Byron's corpse. "Bitch ass nigga had the nerve to choke me? Fuck you." She spit on him.
"Let me take you home." Scooter grabbed Aphtan by the arm and forced her body to walk.
"How you know which building I live in?" Aphtan pulled away from Scooter's grip.
"I work for Boss, and he told me to keep an eye on you." Scooter put his hands in his pockets before he walked off.
"How old are you?" She caught up to him.
"Older than you," he answered dryly.
"I know that, but how old are you, though?"
"Seventeen and you're already ruthless like that?" she asked in an impressed tone.
"It's not a choice. It ain't like I got shit else going for my life. I got to eat, sweetheart." Scooter's eyes pierced hers. "This is your building, right?" he asked as they approached a building with the letter "Q" written on the front of it.
"Yes." Aphtan took her baseball cap off, revealing her long, sandy brown hair. "Thanks for walking me home."
"No need to thank me." Scooter turned around and paced off slowly. "It's business."
The crisp summer air blew in her face as she watched Scooter disappear into the creases of the buildings. She had never felt anything for any boy in her life, but from the way her stomach fluttered, she knew that she had developed her first crush. She smiled at the thought of them being together one day as she made her way into the building.
There was one family in each of the four apartments in every project building, except for the building Aphtan and her family stayed in. Boss used the bottom two apartments for distribution of his product. One of the bottom apartments was for pickups and the one next to it was for deliveries. The one at the top was for growing his product, and the one next to that one was the one they called home.
Aphtan entered the building, and the smell of freshly burned Mary Jane let her know that she was home. She eased up the staircase with her baseball cap in her hand, which ached from the fight that she'd had earlier. She pulled her house key out of her pocket in order to enter the door to her home, but the voices from across the hall stopped her in her tracks.
She recognized the voices; and with the hunger to know the way of the streets, eavesdropping had become one of her favorite pastimes. Her father wouldn't tell her anything. She got her information by ear hustling. She tiptoed over to the slightly cracked door and listened to the meeting that Boss was holding with his workers.
"It's time we take this shit to the next level." Boss's six-foot-five muscular frame stood up. His skin tone was identical to Aphtan's and had that same high-yellow glow. His voice was deep and demanded respect. He wouldn't be caught without a suit on or his hair freshly cut. His face was always neatly shaved, taking years off of his age. His motto was cleanliness was next to godliness. He was a laid-back type of man who was about business and business only.
"What do you mean?" Loon "Money" Dixon, Boss's right-hand man, asked as he sat around the cherrywood table along with eight other workers.
"This right here." Boss tossed a Ziploc bag full of white rocks in the center of the table.
"What the fuck is that?" Buggy, the man who took orders over the phone, asked as he picked up the bag and felt the crystal-like drug through the plastic.
"Our future." Boss took a seat. "That shit right there is going to make us a fortune. No niggas in the south is pushing this shit. It's more addictive than weed, and it cost way more."
"What is it called?" Danny, the man responsible for the growing of the weed, asked as he ran his fingers through his perm-pressed hair.
"It's called crack." Boss looked back. From his expression, Aphtan was willing to bet her life he'd seen her shadow dancing on the hallway through the crack of the door. "Danny, since you make sure our Mary grows right, you gon' be the nigga to get this right."
"I got it." Danny nodded.
"Money knows my plan and my goal. He's going to explain that shit to y'all niggas while I go talk to my nosy ass baby girl." Boss stood up. "Soak this shit up and take it in. I want y'all niggas to learn this before the week is up. Or I can find some other cats that will. We're taking over the rest of the eighties with this one. All of the nineties will be ours."
Aphtan ran to her apartment as fast as she could when she saw her father coming. Not wanting to hear his lecture, she hopped on the couch and cut the television on as if she had been there watching it for hours. Boss walked through the door and smiled at his baby girl's attempt to pretend she was into the show that was blasting from the top-notch entertainment system.
"Baby girl." Boss grabbed the remote and cut off the television.
"What did Daddy say about being nosy while I'm handling business?"
"I don't know, Daddy." Aphtan batted her long eyelashes at him.
"Aphtan, you can't listen to everything. Some things aren't meant for your ears, baby girl." Boss grabbed the white t-shirt on her person. "What the fuck happened to your shirt?" His nostrils started to flare.
"Calm down, killer." Aphtan reached down and untied her shoes. "I was shooting dice with these niggas from the B building, and one of them didn't want to pay up. So I decked him."
"He hit you back?" Boss asked in a serious tone.
"Yeah, he started choking me, but this dude named Scooter came and handled it."
"Good thing I told him to look after you, then."
"So who is he, Daddy? Where is he from? Does he have a girlfriend?"
Boss smiled. "My baby girl has a crush?"
"Shut up, it's not like that." Aphtan crossed her arms into each other.
"It bet not be. That little nigga a good worker, but I'll cut off his dick if he even thinks about some shit like that."
Boss reached over and kissed Aphtan's forehead as she chuckled at how overprotective he was. Her father was dead serious; she could tell from the stern look plastered all over his face. Boss got up as he adjusted his tie to go back to conduct the rest of his meeting.
"Daddy?" Aphtan stopped him in his tracks. "What were those rocks in that bag?"
"It's a drug called crack, baby girl. It's going to be the thing that gets you the fuck away from this place. This is going to change our lives, Aphtan. Before you know it, we're going to be the fuck up out of here and in one of those rich neighborhoods with the stuck-up ass white folk."
"What's going to be the street name for it?"
"What do you mean?" Boss asked, in shock at the level of his daughter's street smarts.
"Well, we call marijuana, weed, Mary Jane, ganja, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So, what is the name for this crack?"
"That's a good question." Boss walked back over to Aphtan and kneeled down to look her in her face. "They say the first man to sell marijuana named it Mary Jane because it was the woman who meant the most to him in his life. So, since I'm the first cat to sell it around these parts, I guess I'll name it after the most precious thing to me." He gazed into Aphtan's eyes.
"What is that?" she asked.
"You, baby girl." Boss smiled, exposing his pearly white teeth, which was a rare thing for him. "I guess we gon' call it Aphtan. That shit gon' spread fast, and it's the perfect name for it."
"I don't know if I want my name to represent a drug, Daddy."
"Think about it, baby girl." Boss took some crack out of his pocket and held it in front of Aphtan's eyes. "It's dangerous, but it's worth a lot. When it comes to drugs, it doesn't get any finer than this. It's the most addicting, so it's going to always be in high demand."
"I don't get it, Daddy." A puzzled look took over Aphtan's face.
"I keep forgetting you just a baby." Boss stood back up and walked toward the door. "Don't worry, baby girl, you'll understand one day."
"That's enough of that." Simone, Aphtan's mother, walked through the front door. "Don't be teaching our baby girl about that shit." She set down a slew of shopping bags on the couch.
An unearthly chill fell upon the room as she entered. All voices hushed and movement paused, as if time itself did not dare continue its incessant journey in the presence of such a creature.
She walked so gracefully that she appeared to float through the room, seemingly unaware of the effect her presence had on those around her as she sat on the couch and crossed her legs. Her perfect lips curved into a smile, but her rich chocolate cheeks showed no hint of color to support the gesture.
Boss's mouth opened, but no words issued forth as she pinned him with a look from her coal-black eyes. She thanked him for being quiet and moved on, leaving him feeling simultaneously elated and disappointed. She had spared him a glance, albeit far too brief. Though she struck the fear of God into him, the feeling he would die for one more moment drowning in those bottomless pools of darkness remained long after her attention had dwindled.
Her beauty was both unnatural and breathtaking. A nightmare in motion, yet poetry personified, and no one could tear their eyes away from her. From the first moment anyone saw her, they were ensnared. They stood no hope of escape. She was the finest woman in the hood and every man wanted her, but she belonged to Boss.
"Whatever you say, Simone," was his delayed reply.
Boss closed the door behind him, unaware of the can of worms he was about to open. The drug he was about to start distributing would be a blessing for them, but a curse all the same. The drug would be the biggest thing to sweep the streets of Dallas, Texas, ever.
The sun beamed rays of gold onto the public pool that was located across the street from the projects. It burned like a perfect circle of melted butter in its blue sky dish. The breeze whistled through the turning leaves of the solid oak trees. A blue sparrow flew anxiously above the tops of the willows.
The smell of chlorine tickled Aphtan's nose as the laughter from the other kids from the projects boomed throughout the gate separating the pool from the busy street. Aphtan fixed her bathing suit as she walked around the pool looking for a familiar face. When she saw no one she knew, she thought it was a bad idea to sneak out against her father's will. Boss would never let her go to the pool by herself, if at all.
The brand new Jordans on her feet scuffed against the scorching concrete ground as she approached the edge of the pool. She looked down at the rectangle with its edges smooth and rounded. It was filled with glittering water as clear as the sky, not murky anywhere.
Aphtan noticed how the bottom of the pool sloped gently, going far enough down that she couldn't guess the depth. Some parts were tiled, and the tile glinted in the sun, making the water shimmer even more. Like a silvery blue sidewalk, it was straight and formal looking.
"Them Jordans nice," a girl said from behind as Aphtan was about to jump in.
The sun dazzled in Aphtan's eyes as she turned around to look at the girl who stood before her. Aphtan could tell the girl was around her age as she examined her outfit. She sneered up her nose at her and turned back around as if she'd never said anything at all.
"Fuck her ass." The girl walked off. "Scooter's fine ass and his crew coming in right now, anyway."
Aphtan turned around as Scooter entered the gate to the public pool. Her heart sped up as his eyes met hers. He smiled at her, and she wondered if it was because she didn't have on a baseball cap, because it was the first time he'd seen her without one. Although she was younger, her body told a different story. She was more developed than any girl her age.
Aphtan sat on the edge of the pool; the sun's ray's bathed her with her natural oils. Water from kids playing in the pool splashed on her as a shadow hovered over her. She knew it was Scooter. She could smell him, but still, she ignored him as she removed her socks and shoes.
"Does Boss know that you're here?" Scooter asked.
"Yes." Aphtan handed him her socks and shoes before diving into the pool.
"Stop lying." Scooter bent down as her head came out of the water. "Man, if your pop knew that I saw you here and didn't take you home, I'll be in some shit."
"I won't tell him." Aphtan leaned back on the water and started floating, pushing her curly hair out of her face.
"Get out," Scooter ordered. "I can't take that chance."
"How about you get in?" She splashed him twice.
"Girl, this Tommy Hilfiger," he protested as he wiped the little droplets of water off his shirt. "Get out, Aphtan."
Aphtan obliged; as she held her hand out of the water for Scooter to help her get out of the pool. He leaned his hand down, his gold watch fighting with the sun's oasis for the brightest light at that moment. Aphtan smiled as she grabbed his arm, and before he could mouth a word, she pulled him into the pool.
"Fuck, Aphtan!" Scooter exclaimed as he wiped the water out of his face.
Excerpted from "Pearl Tongue"
Copyright © 2017 Tyrone Bentley.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Phase One - Childhood,
Phase Two - Teenager,
Phase Three - Adulthood,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is everything! I love urban fiction, so I went to the store and randomly picked up a book. Tyrone Bentley is an amazing author. He did a really good job on his first release. "Pearl Tongue" is one of those books that you will not be able to put down once you crack it open. I read this book in one day. I am anxiously waiting on him to release more books.