To my Lord and Savior for giving me the ability to tell stories that have touched the hearts of so many.
I'd like to thank Arlene Robinson for editing the original manuscript and making it just right.
To my siblings, Dennis and Arlynda Daniels, for over thirty years of unconditional love. To Terrence, Nichole, and Tanisha Moore for your love and support.
To the Daniels clan: my aunts Sylvia and Cynthia, my grandmother Eleanor, and of course my father, Dennis Daniels. Words couldn't begin to describe the love and gratitude I feel for everything you have all done for me.
To my mother, Kathleen Anderson, and my grandmotherWillie Mae “Mommae” Rogers, for always being there when I needed you most.
To my aunt Elizabeth Moore and all of her support and to her daughters April, Melanie, and Chiquita. Thanks for opening up your homes and your hearts. I love you guys.
To my best friends Tonya Hill and Novia Mearidy for your unconditional friendship. Also to my girls Kim Ashcraft and Norma Rhodes and my sister-in-law Ja'Net. When are we goin' back to Jamaica, mon?
To my gurl Beverly Palmers for taking the time to read everything I have written and catching the mistakes I missed. To my gurl Sherrie Branch for a friendshipthat has survived the distance.
To my extended family at Stylistic Hair Design. Special thanks to Tony for hookin' up a sista's eyebrows,and to my homey Tyrone Hollingsworth, a helluvapoet who is gonna send me to an early grave if he doesn't put his talent to use.
To my Delaware bookclub family, In the Company of My Sisters, for all of your support. Thanks Melissa, Pam, Latasha, Sharon, and the rest of the bunch for making our weekends together loaded with calories!
To my fellow authors Doreen Rainey, Toni Staton Harris, Tanya T. Henderson, JM Jeffries, Seressia Glass, Natalie Dunbar, and Wanda Thomas. Thanks for your friendships, unlimited support, and words of encouragement.
To my new friends Maureen Hunter and Pam Robinsonfor reading everything I have written and loving it.
To my husband, Kenneth Darryl Hills, for all of your love and support 'cause I know I am not the easiestwoman to get along with. Thanks for sticking by me all these years. To my children, Mark, Ashlie and Evan. I love you all. Thanks for making my job as your mother easy.
To all of the fans that have supported me and have asked for this book. I hope it is everything you have been waiting for.
To my new editor, Karen Thomas, for making this dream possible. I so look forward to years of working together.
s he braced himself against the front door, Jay Andrews'seyes traveled frantically from the unmistakable swell of her abdomen back to the satisfied smirk on her round mocha face. While her announcement reeled through his mind, shock sucked the air from his lungs until he found the breath to gasp, “You've got to be fuckin' kidding!”
Kendra Johnson found his behavior rude; her mouth thinned with displeasure as she quickly concluded that Jay had no intention of inviting her inside, out of the chilly January wind. She brushed him aside and entered his masculine dwelling. With obvious familiarity, she traveled to his large mahogany dining room table and seated herself heavily on one of the accompanying soft chairs. Only then did she raise her chestnut-colored eyes to analyze his reaction. His panic-stricken expressionwas quite amusing. With smug delight, Kendra responded,“Does
look like I'm kidding?” She shifted uncomfortably in the chair, her long wool coat parting as she belligerently placed her palms on her inflatedbelly.
The blood raced to his head, which pounded with disbelief.
This can't possibly be happening.
Within seconds his mind traveled back almost seven months, returning to the exact moment the only woman he had ever wanted rejected him. It was also the same night, that in a drunken stupor, he'd fallen into the bed of anotherwomanâthe same woman who now sat before him, claiming to be pregnant with his child.
After shutting the door to his condominium, Jay slowly crossed the living room, feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders as he eliminated the distancebetween them. Perching a lean hip against the edge of the table, he looked down at Kendra. Although his temples pulsed, his face gave away no trace of the dread that filled him. With a calm voice, trying to mask his resentment that she had waited seven months to informhim he was going to be a father, he asked, “Why the hell didn't you tell me?”
Kendra peered at the towering figure for several seconds,pretending not to understand his exasperation. Then, inexplicably, she turned away to reach for an apple sitting in a ceramic fruit bowl at the center of the table. After several noisy bites, she allowed her eyes to settle on his long face, responding to his question as if the answer was obvious. “Because I didn't need for you to know.”
Hands stuffed deep inside the front pockets of his jeans, Jay pushed away from the table and paced a small path on the chocolate carpet. Puzzled by her behavior,he asked himself if Kendra was trying to get back at his black ass for something he'd unconsciously done.
It was Thanksgiving Day two years ago when Jay had found himself in agony with a toothache. With a long holiday weekend ahead, the chances of finding a dentist willing to be called away from a turkey dinner with all the trimmings was next to fuckin' impossible. Natalia Bonaparte, a good friend, came to the rescue by calling upon her former college roommate for a long overdue favor, and Kendra was happy to oblige. Not only did she alleviate his pain and repair his tooth, Kendra invited him to her home for a holiday dinner with pussy for dessert. Jay found himself instantly attractedto the Creole beauty, and while thinking with the wrong head, quickly fell into a sexual relationship with her.
Jay made it perfectly clear from the beginning that he wasn't looking for commitment. Even though he found Kendra buck wild in the bedroom, and she could suck a dick as if it were a damn lollipop, it was going to take more than a bomb-ass pussy to tie him down. However, Kendra had her own agenda. She began reviewinghis caller ID and checking his pockets for phone numbers. The nail in the coffin was when she started dropping hints pertaining to love and marriage. True to his word, Jay had severed the smothering relationship.Now watching the smug expression on Kendra's face, Jay realized she hadn't taken the rejectionwell.
He stopped his pacing and stood only inches away from her chair, legs planted wide apart. In a coolly guarded tone he asked, “What the hell do you mean you didn't need for me to know?”
Kendra took another bite and chewed for several seconds before bringing her thumb to her lips to catch a drop of juice running along the side of her mouth. Sighing, she replied, “I was dating a surgeon who couldn't have children. He was intent on marrying me and raising this child as his own.” Her eyes shone with momentary delight and she paused briefly, rememberingthe excitement of being engaged to Dr. Lawrence Hill, one of the country's most recognized heart surgeons.“I was willing to do whatever he wanted,” she said. Then her smile faded, and she dropped her eyes and looked away from his steady gaze. “But, shit ... since then, things have changed.”
Immune to her theatrics, Jay narrowed his eyes and asked, “Changed like what?”
Kendra relaxed and transferred her gaze back to his well-defined face, blinking her eyes several times as if trying to get her emotions in order. “I mean ... we aren't together anymore.” She again bit into the fruit, allowing Jay a few moments to get used to the idea that she was back in his life and this time he couldn't do shit about it, then turned toward the table, where she found a magazineof sudden interest.
While she flipped through the pages, Jay studied her profile. He wondered what he'd ever found attractive about the conniving bitch. There was no denying Kendra was a beautiful woman. Even now, she looked
as hell. Pregnancy had obviously been good to her sensitive skin; it was clear and smooth as butter. It had also added several attractive pounds to her usually thin figure. However,beneath the eye-catching package, Kendra was still the same selfish, manipulative bitch who had maneuveredherself in and out of his life for over two years. Although he couldn't excuse his own actions, Kendra had clearly lured him into her bed and taken advantage of his drunken state. It wasn't until after they'd spent that night together that he finally saw her with abrupt clarity.
Jay snorted at the memory. The following morning he had awakened with a fuckin' hangover and Kendra's naked ass pillowed against the curve of his body. He'd remembered their night only vaguely, but Kendra quickly filled him in with elaborate details. When he rejected her desire to resume their relationship, she lashed out with the rage of a damn lunatic. It was no wonder the doctor had changed his mind about marrying her. Kendra Johnson was like that crazy bitch with the split personalities named Sybil.
Jay waited, but Kendra was apparently in no rush to explain, which only pissed him off even more. Clearinghis throat several times, he said in a formal voice, “I'd appreciate it, Kendra, if you'd get to the point.”
As she looked up at him, Jay thought he saw two deep lines of worry appear between her eyes, then vanishso quickly he thought he had imagined them. He was further bewildered when her face suddenly creased into a smile.
Kendra crossed her swollen ankles, then purred, “Now that Lawrence and I are no longer together, I believe it's time we get back together and raise this baby ... as husbandand wife.”
Fortunately his throat tightened, because Jay didn't know if he was going to laugh or cry. Never in his wildest dreams could he imagine doing anything permanent with Kendra's crazy ass. If the child she was carrying was his, he'd take care of his responsibilities as a father. But marriage? Shhiiit! That wasn't even an option.
Gazing down at Kendra's face, he noticed a shadow of uncertainty there, and it tugged at his heart. He didn't want to hurt her, but what little they once had had ended long ago. Her persistence and his feelings for someone else had closed that door.
Jay moved to rest his frame against the taupe wall, facing her. “Girl, you're trippin'. A baby's not gonna bring us together.”
Kendra's heart sank at the sight of his grim face, but she stubbornly refused to believe it was over. She knew that with a little persuasion, Jay would do the right thing. However, from what she saw of his sour expression,she knew his decision wasn't going to be instantaneous.Disappointed, she realized it was going to take much longer than she had anticipated. Jay would fight her. Kendra nibbled on her lip impatiently. Shit! She didn't have the time to wait! Where was the joy? Send out the mothafuckin' champagne. Her voice low and wounded, she said, “Damn, Jay. I guess I don't mean shit to you.”
Jay stood across from her, silent, his arms folded tight across his chest, waiting for her to continue.
Let his ass wait.
However, the realization of his resistance,coupled with his silence, caused something inside Kendra to snap and turn cold. Following several eye-blinking seconds, she retaliated. “Without you, this baby's a waste of my time.”
Jay had to sink his teeth into his lower lip to stop the heated words from falling from his tongue. What the fuck did she think a child was, a toy? Frustrated, he took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. “Can't you for once think about someone other than Kendra?”
Kendra closed the magazine and pushed it away. A note of irritation had spilled into his voice.
Who the hell does he think he is?
Jay was a man who liked to control every mothafuckin' thing. He was the one who had decided how often they would spend time with one another, and when the opportune moment came for his weekly booty call. And it was Jay who decided when it was finally time to go cold turkey on her ass. Well, this was one situation he would neither control nor dictate.
You've come too far to punk out now.
Kendra lifted her shoulders, and her confidence rose. For once in her life, she knew who had the upper hand. She had an agenda, and damn if she wasn't going to stick to it. Setting the apple core on the table, she raised her eyes and met his probing gaze.
Jay's eyes were calm, but he shifted uneasily.
“Okay, let's get down to business,” she said with straight attitude. “I don't want this baby.”
Jay swept an agitated hand through his short wavy hair in irritation and dismay. In a thunderous voice that no longer tried to hide that he was pissed off, he bellowed,“Girl, what's up with you? A few minutes ago you wanted to get married. Now you're ready to give up your own child!” He pointed to her midsection. “How the hell do you expect me to react to somethin' you should've told me about months ago?” He forced himself to pause; getting angry wasn't going to get him anywhere. “Damn, Kendra,” he said, his voice softer now, “if this really is my child I should have some kind of say.”
“If this is
child?” Kendra mocked, then rolled her eyes. “Fuck you, Jay! I never wanted you or this baby in the first damn place. I was doing it for Lawrence. Now it is too late for me to do shit about it.” She took a moment to catch her breath, and her lips curled into a slow, challenging grin. “And as a matter of fact, you
have a say in the matter. Yes ... or no?”
Jay stepped forward, his brow elevated in confusion. “Yes or no what?”
“Yes or no on whether you want to be a part of your child's life or not.” She'd spoken in a low voice, but now she chuckled, and her next words rushed out. “As my husband, of course.”
Not waiting for an answer, Kendra latched on to the edge of the table and attempted to rise out of the chair. Jay stepped to her aid but she held up a hand, refusing his assistance, and struggled into a standing position as she mumbled, “Don't touch me.”
Jay was at a loss for words. The seriousness of their situation slowly sank in as he watched Kendra button her coat and waddle toward the front door. It wasn't until she reached for the doorknob that she pivoted sharply on her heels to face him. What he saw chilled his bones. Her expression was cold, her eyes glowing with hatred.
“I'll be damned if I'm gonna raise a child alone, especiallywhen I never wanted it in the first place.” Her eyes flashed a stern warning. “You've got six weeks to make up your fuckin' mind. After that, I'm putting
child up for adoption.”
With that she was gone, leaving both the door and Jay's mouth wide open.