Read Kiss the Ring Online

Authors: Meesha Mink

Kiss the Ring

Praise for

Real Wifeys: Hustle Hard

“A well laid out plot spiced with wild sex moves Mink's story right along. Readers will keep turning pages to see if Suga succeeds as she moves toward redemption. Mink's books are the real deal.”

—
Library Journal

“Mink's energy and grit make it a fun read.”

—
Juicy Magazine

Praise for

Real Wifeys: Get Money

“Mink's brisk combination of insult, profanity, and pop culture is what street lit is all about . . . Another powerful story of women orbiting the hip-hop world . . . Luscious is both a villain and a heroine whom readers will embrace. Order in anticipation of high demand.”

—
Library Journal

“Unexpected story lines . . . Very realistic . . . A quick read with an engaging main character.”

—Huffington Post

Praise for

Real Wifeys: On the Grind

“Marking her solo debut with this new series launch, Mink (coauthor,
The Hood Life
;
Shameless Hoodwives
;
Desperate Hoodwives
) gives Kaeyla a snappy and profane voice laced with sarcasm. She's a charismatic woman, both vulnerable and tough. Female readers will love her, but men may want to check their own woman's purse for Taser wires. Load your shelves with multiple copies.”

—
Library Journal

“A gritty new urban series with a down-and-dirty intensity that's heartbreaking.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“The
Real Wifeys
series tells the tales of strong female characters who overcome obstacles while standing by or getting over the men that they love.”

—
AllHipHop.com

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For those with big dreams and the inner hustle to make them come true

Prologue

M
y son is dead. Just fourteen short years he lived on this earth and now it's been snatched away from him. Chased and run down in the street like a stray dog. Left to die like his life ain't meant shit.

Naeema Cole pushed the folder away from where she sat at her kitchen table. She picked up her glass pipe, dick-shaped, the balls hollowed out and filled with Lime Haze, her favorite strain of medicinal marijuana. She had a connect named Mook and not a doctor in sight trying to cure an illness. Pressing her lips to the tip, she took a deep toke, letting the smoke fill her mouth and then her lungs as a tear filled with her pain and regrets raced down her cheek. Exhaling the thick smoke through her nose, she shifted her slanted ebony eyes to the copy of the Newark Police Department's official record of the investigation into the murder of Brandon Mack.

Just one day after being released from the hospital with her newborn son she had placed him in the arms of Ms. JuJu, an older woman who lived down the street from the group home Naeema hated so much. She wanted Ms. JuJu to bless her son with all the kindness she'd shown every last one of the misguided group home girls where she volunteered.

I never was a mother to him but I loved him because he was mine. He came from me.

A tear of guilt followed the other as she shifted in the
cheap black chair, causing it to loudly scrape against the dull laminate tile covering the floor. Pain hit her deeply in a place she never knew existed until the moment she got the call from Ms. JuJu telling her of her son's death. His murder. Naeema closed her eyes and opened her mouth slightly to exhale in short puffs as the words she read in the police report formed a mental image while she envisioned the night of his death . . .

• • •

The sound of feet pounding against pavement echoed heavily through the long stretch of alley flanked by two towering brick buildings. His heart pounded furiously in his chest and his throat was dry and pained from inhaling deep gulps of air as he ran for his life. Death was on his heels and fear was his adrenaline.

He didn't want to die at fourteen.

“Shit!” he swore, his eyes squinting when a pair of bright headlights suddenly flashed on him from the other end of the alley.

The light illuminated the panic in his eyes.

His harsh and labored breathing echoed more loudly as he stopped running and looked left and right for an escape route. There was none. “Shit!” he swore again, looking back into the bright lights as the vehicle suddenly accelerated toward him.

He turned and ran back down the alley, wishing his presence was as large and looming as his shadow cast against the brick by the towering streetlights. Then he wouldn't feel so afraid . . . so alone . . . so near death.

He burst from between the buildings and paused just
long enough to decide if he should jet left or right. In that moment that shit felt more like choosing life or death.

The rumble of the engine steadily became louder behind him.

He took off to the right, his hands balled into fists and arching upward like he could make himself run faster. The muscles in his thin thighs burned and his chest ached from the exertion.

He didn't know, when he finally headed home after midnight and took a shortcut through West Side Park, that he would have to outrun death. That the same route would lead to much too much isolation for anyone to even hear his scream for help at that time of the night.

“Fuck this shit,” he swore under his breath, turning the corner and fighting the urge to spin around and beg them to leave him alone.

Va-room!

He looked over his thin shoulder just seconds before the car jumped the curb and rammed his body back against a chain-link fence. Pain pierced his legs and ribs as the bones broke from the unrelenting pressure. He felt his bladder empty and the smell of his piss filled the air. As he closed his eyes, his upper body fell forward with a heavy thump against the hot hood over the rumbling motor.

The car jolted when it was switched into reverse.

He cried out in a high pitch as the car pulled his body forward, causing his broken legs to drag against the concrete of the curb and then the black asphalt of the street for a few feet before he finally slumped off the hood. Tears flooded his cheeks while he lay writhing in pain.

This ain't no way to die, man.

Even though his eyes were squeezed shut, the headlights lessened the darkness behind his lids.

Va-room.

“God help me,” he whispered, feeling an odd blend of pain, fatigue, and fear.

The weight of the car rolled across his body with the first set of tires and then the second. This time he shitted on himself and the sounds of his bones crushing echoed around him. His body felt warm all at once and then cold chills caused his limp and battered body to shiver.

The pain was unbearable. The smell of blood was cloying.

“Take me, God,” he begged, already feeling his ability to breathe fail.

He opened his eyes at the sound of footsteps, the last of his fourteen years of life seeping from him. A pair of boots came to stand in his blood that stained the street.

“Fuck you, motherfucker,” a voice floated down to him, filled with rage.

He didn't understand. He knew the man standing above him. The man was someone he thought was a friend.

He'd thought wrong.

In the final seconds, as life left his body and his eyes became vacant, he felt his head being lifted from the concrete just before the acrid burn of a knife dragged across his throat.

His lips moved but the words wouldn't form. God forgive me, he thought just before his eyes filled with death.

• • •

Almost every night since Ms. JuJu called her, that was her dream. Her nightmare. Her vision of the night her son died.
The invasion of peaceful sleep. It had her fucked up for real. She had no idea if the last moments of his life were better or worse than her imaginings. Only thing she knew for sure was her son was dead and the police had his friends listed as “persons of interest,” but that was as far as their sorry-ass investigation had gotten in the last few weeks. As far as she could tell they never even questioned any of them. It was clear they could care less about another dead black boy in the streets of Newark.

Did I care any more than them when I never made sure my son even knew who I am?

Naeema lowered her head into her hands and cried so hard that her shoulders shook and her chest heaved. She screamed from the pit of her stomach until the veins in her neck strained. She stood up so forcefully that her chair slid back across the floor and slammed into the front of the refrigerator.

Somebody has to pay.

She sniffed and angrily swiped the rest of her tears from her eyes as she picked up the 9mm sitting on the kitchen table next to the file. It fit nicely in her hand and her finger itched to fire off a round as she flipped through the pages of the folder with her free hand. She spread the photos. Four of them.

Four guilty motherfuckers as far as she was concerned.

Smiling bitterly, tears of anger raced down her cheek as she tapped each face in the photo with the barrel of the gun. Hatred burned her gut like an inferno was lit inside her. One of her son's friends had become a lethal foe. She just knew it. She always trusted her gut.

Biting her bottom lip, she flinched as she fired off the gun, blasting a hole through each of the faces.

POW!

POW!

POW!

POW!

The wood of the table shattered and flew up in the air around her like confetti with each blast. She didn't give a fuck that she'd demolished it and filled her kitchen floor with bullets. She didn't give a fuck if the cops came knocking. She didn't give a fuck about anything but flushing out her son's murderer and making him beg her for forgiveness just before she blew his brains out.

Dropping the gun, she let her body sink down to the floor. “I'm so sorry,” Naeema whispered, closing her eyes, letting the pain consume her and fuel her need for revenge.

1
Four months later

“Don't die today, motherfucker.”

Steely brown eyes were all that showed through the ski mask as the barrel of the gun was pressed against the fleshy cheek of the bank's lone security guard. His eyes were filled with fear, shifting to the left to try to view the holder of the gun.

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