Read Dangerously In Love Online

Authors: Allison Hobbs

Dangerously In Love (20 page)

He returned the smile. Her pulse went crazy and the room seemed to spin. She ran an uncomfortable hand down one thigh and then the other as she self-consciously tried to smooth out the wrinkled fabric. “Have we met?” he asked with a slight lift of a silky brow.

“I saw you at Carmella’s but we weren’t introduced.” She was amazed that her words came out in a smooth melodic flow as if talking to this man of unearthly good looks was an everyday occurrence.

“Okay, I knew you looked familiar,” he said. He leaned back a little and gave her an intense look as he tried to envision her at Carmella’s. Then his face lit up with recognition. “Oh yeah, I remember you!” He nodded and gave her another smile. A big smile. Was it her imagination or did he emphasize the word
you?

“I work at Carmella’s part-time. Hopefully I won’t have to stay at that gig much longer,” he said, shaking his head. His locks seemed to dance. “Yeah, I’m getting tired of waking up feeling like I just smoked a pack of Newports.” His laughter was infectious and put Dayna somewhat at ease, but she wasn’t following him. She really didn’t have a clue as to why his job made him feel like he’d smoked a pack of cigarettes.

When he noticed her puzzled expression, he quickly explained, “You know…inhaling all that secondhand smoke. It gets into your lungs, your hair, your clothes.”

“Oh!” she blurted a bit too loudly. “Oh,” she repeated in a much softer tone. Damn, she hated the way she acted around attractive men—so nervous and ill at ease.

“What’s your name?” he asked as they finally approached the salad bar.

“Dayna,” she said as she picked up a pair of tongs and dug into a bowl of mixed salad greens.

“Ammon,” he said softly. But the effect of those two syllables had the power of an electrical jolt.

Dayna almost dropped her plate. “You’re the artist?” she said with awe.

“Yes, but not The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” Ammon said, with a burst of laughter. “I’m just a regular Joe.”

Dayna smiled. “A regular Joe you’re not. I saw your paintings; a regular person doesn’t express his inner feelings the way you do. I fell in love with “Serenity,” but I’m…uh, I couldn’t purchase it because I’m between places right now and…” Her rambling trailed off and she gave an apologetic sigh.

“Hey, I’m glad you like my work,” he said in a sincere voice that assured her there was no need for her to feel uneasy. “Kendrick promised a big crowd and the brother delivered. He’s already setting up my next exhibit.”

“That’s awesome. Congratulations,” Dayna gushed.

“Thank you,” Ammon said, and lowered his eyes humbly. He scooped up a mound of couscous. “Want some?” When Dayna nodded, he carefully shook the grain over her salad.

His gallant behavior took her off guard, and she struggled to get the surprised look off her face. Being married to Reed for so long, Dayna had no frame of reference for this simple act of kindness from a man. Reed had been charming, but never kind. A taker, never a giver.

She gave Ammon a long look. He was about six feet tall, with the chiseled features of a Greek god. Beautiful light-brown locks touched his shoulders. He was dressed in a cotton tunic and matching loose-fitting slacks, shell jewelry adorned both wrists, and a pair of leather sandals completed his majestic look. This sensual brother was the truth. A shiver ran down Dayna’s spine as she acknowledged her serious physical attraction to Ammon.

“I’m sitting outside. Care to join me?” Ammon asked after they finished filling their plates.

Dayna didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t just leave Cecily waiting in the other room. But on second thought, maybe she could. Cecily would certainly leave her at the drop of a hat to get her mack on. In fact, she’d done just that the night she met Kendrick. “Sure, why not?” Dayna said, nonchalantly.

Ammon held the door open for Dayna. She took a deep breath as she stepped out into the open air. Outside, Ammon pointed to two unoccupied lawn chairs. After sinking into the seats, Dayna and Ammon balanced the plastic plates on their laps. A part of her was aware of the festive atmosphere in the backyard as she picked up bits of conversations and heard the tinkling sound of laughter, but everything and everyone seemed distant, far away like props and background music. Ammon had her undivided attention. Ammon held center stage.

She was frightened by her sudden and powerful attraction to him. She was so distracted by worry; she could hardly keep up with his conversation. What would he do next? Would he ask to take her out, ask for her phone number? Or would he finish his plate, stand up, and thank her kindly for her time and be about his business?

Imagining the awkward silence that would hang between them if Ammon stood up abruptly after he finished his meal, Dayna began to chew quickly, racing to finish first. She wanted to be the one who said, “It was nice meeting you.” She desperately needed to adjourn this curious encounter to protect herself from the shame of being left outside alone.

Hadn’t she experienced enough shame in the last week to last a lifetime? She nodded her head in response to her silent question, picked up the half-eaten plate of salad greens from her lap, and abruptly leaned forward with the heel of her palm pressed determinedly on the wooden arm of the chair.

“You leaving?” Ammon inquired, his brow furrowed in confusion.

“Yeah, I, uh…have to check on my girlfriend; she’s probably wondering what happened to me.”

“Oh, excuse me. I was so concerned about losing you again; I didn’t even think to ask if you were alone.”

Concerned about losing me again!
So, it wasn’t her imagination, they truly had shared a moment at Carmella’s. A moment so intense, she’d fled from his gaze and sought refuge in her car. Dayna eased against the back of the chair, relaxed her hand from escape mode, and fastened her eyes on his.

Ammon tilted his head and asked with a chuckle, “Can I get a phone number or something?” Then his voice turned serious. “I’d like to see you again.”

“You’ll have to give me your number; I’m staying with my mother right now and I don’t…” She could have easily given him her cell phone number, but she wanted to see how he’d handle the situation. Would he offer just his cell phone number or would he give up his home number? She’d heard somewhere that a man who only gives his cell phone number is usually unavailable—a cheater. Like her no-good husband. She recalled how secretive Reed was about his cell phone; always keeping it turned off whenever she was in close range.

“No problem,” Ammon said, placing his plate on the ground while he fished around in his pocket. Clipping a business card between two fingers, he said, “Here you go. You’ve got both my numbers…home and cell.”

She felt like jumping up and down and squealing in glee, but Dayna calmly accepted the card and promised to call soon. As she quickly whisked away, she mouthed the word
yes!

She walked as fast as she could as she wrestled with an overpowering urge to dance or skip…or hell, she might even start turning somersaults all the way from the backyard to the main room of the big house.

Chapter 28

T
he old woman had squirreled away fifty-two thousand dollars! Reed had never seen so much cash in his life.

Rolls upon rolls of twenty- and fifty-dollar bills had been tightly packed and stacked in an old rusty coffee can. The top was homemade—aluminum foil folded over the rim and secured with a rubber band.

“Look at all this paper,” he muttered in amazement. Tightly curled bills covered the kitchen table, and no matter how much pressure he used to smooth the money out, it stubbornly refused to unfurl.

Perspiring from excitement, he counted out the bills for the third and final time. Astounded by his good fortune, he shook his head and mopped his brow. Then, filled with a sense of smug self-satisfaction, he gave a loud whoop and raised both fists high in the air.

He wondered if there was still time to get in on that real estate action in Chester. But then again, did he really want to part with twenty thousand dollars of such hard-to-come-by cash? He scratched his head in thought and decided he’d deal with that situation when he had more time. Right now, the go-go bars were screaming his name and he could not ignore the alluring call.

Reed pulled the ironing board out of the kitchen closet, set it up and plugged in the iron. He grabbed a couple rolls and began pressing the money, attempting to give the crinkly old bills a more presentable appearance.

After showering and dressing, he decided to remove the unsightly bandage that was plastered against his forehead. He couldn’t go out in public looking like he’d been victimized. In his car, he took a closer look at his injury. He pulled down the visor, looked in the mirror, and frowned at the ugly black sutures that zigzagged across his forehead. He looked like a fucking monster—like Frankenstein! Fuming, Reed closed the mirror with a heavy thud, which he emphasized with a twisted grimace that aggravated his injury and caused him tremendous pain.

At that moment, had Dayna been sitting in the passenger seat, he would have grabbed the back of her neck and banged her head into the dashboard repeatedly until he heard her brains rattle. Consumed by rage, Reed pushed hard on the gas pedal. He started to feel better and could feel his anger dissipate as he watched the odometer needle zip past one hundred.

Fifteen minutes later, he strolled into Lizzard’s like he owned the place.

“Corona, with a slice of lime.” He spoke to the bartender without bothering to look at his face. Reed’s eyes were fastened on the stage. An Asian chick he’d never seen before who had a blanket of black hair that touched the crack of her ass was swiveling her slender hips, slicing the air with sharp, hard thrusts.

Reed was intrigued; he’d never had any Asian nookie. He made a silent declaration that tonight he would.

Reed saw the grubby hand of the bartender set down the bottle of Corona. Refusing to look at the man, Reed tossed him a slightly coiled twenty-dollar bill.

“Still looking for Sensation?” the bartender asked with a snort, demanding Reed’s attention as he pushed Reed’s change forward.

Reed felt wealthy and magnanimous and had planned to give the man a tip but, irked by the bartender’s ignorant-ass comment, he sucked his teeth and snatched up his change like it was the last money in the world.

When the slant-eyed beauty came off stage, Reed beckoned her by waving a twenty. She floated toward him wearing a phony smile.

“Hello,” she said, standing before him, wiggling her waistline. She rubbed her tiny breasts, her fingers carefully avoiding the star-shaped rhinestone pasties that covered her nipples.

“Hey whassup, little lady?” Reed inquired, still clipping the twenty-dollar bill.

“My name’s Amy,” she said, her lips still smiling mechanically while annoyance flickered in her narrowed eyes.

“Can I get a couch dance, Amy?” He smiled wide, proud that he could finally afford to blow money on an expensive dry fuck at Lizzard’s.

She glanced over at the designated couch dancing area. “No, the room is full right now; maybe later.” Her words were tinged with irritation but, anticipating Reed’s money, she maintained a twitchy smile.

Though the rules of the game were not rigidly set in stone, Reed knew full well that he should pay Amy for her time. But suspecting Amy didn’t want to get it on with a black man, Reed put the twenty back in his pocket and exchanged it with a one.

“What the hell is this?” Amy exploded when Reed tried to hand her a crisp dollar bill. “We don’t accept dollars here!” Her eyes shot daggers at him as she recoiled in disgust. She twirled toward the bartender. “Bernie, call the manager.”

“Call the manager, Miss Ching Chong!” Reed hurled the slur with a sneer “What’s the manager gonna do—kick me out?” he scoffed.

“Hey, Bernie,” he said, now addressing the bartender. “Save yourself some trouble, man,” Reed rose from his seat. “I’m outta here!”

He took a healthy swig from the chilled bottle of Corona and slammed it down on the counter. Intent on provoking Amy further, he summoned his alter ego as he walked away, assuming the slow, impudent movements of a street hoodlum. With one shoulder hunched up while the other was dipped way down, Reed dragged his feet across the floor, exiting the premises with an arrogant thuggish glide.

It didn’t matter that Amy was a bitch; she was still a sexy little chink. He didn’t know if she was Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese, but whatever her heritage, her spit-fire temperament had put him in the mood for some tight-eyed twat.

He swung his Lexus to the curb on Thirty-Eighth Street and parked illegally, trotted half a block to Spruce Street, and ran into the WaWa convenience store.

He picked up a copy of
The City Paper
, which was in a bin in the front of the store. Reed flipped to the back and perused the small block ads until he located the heading Massage Parlors. He ran a finger down the page until he spotted a photo of a young Asian woman holding an umbrella and smiling invitingly—at him!

The massage parlor was called The Song of the East, an establishment located on Bustleton Avenue, way up in the northeast section of the city.

He cut in front of a long line of WaWa customers. “Yo, buddy…you got a pen?” Reed asked the harried young cashier.

Sighing before he handed Reed the pen, the grungy-looking youth cautioned, “You gotta give it right back, man.”

Reed picked up a brown paper bag from the counter, ripped off a piece, and jotted down the address. Having no further use for the newspaper, he flung it across the counter along with the pen.

Driving to the far northeast was a hell of a hike, but the opportunity to sample some Chinese snatch made the trip well worth his while.

The Song of the East was in a strip mall. Reed pulled into a parking space in the lot. Before getting out of the car, he checked his reflection in the mirror and noticed that his stitches looked hard and dry and were jutting out every which way like jagged threads from a broken seam.

From his glove compartment, he retrieved a small container of medicated Vaseline and dabbed on a bit to soften and smooth down the stiff sutures. After snapping on the cap, satisfied that he looked more like his usual handsome self, Reed walked briskly to the place where he expected to receive some freaky sex…Chinese-style.

“You want massage?” inquired a plump Asian woman the moment Reed walked through the door.

“Yeah, how much?” He looked around, surveying the surroundings. The place was sterile, no character or personality, and no Asian ambiance.

“Fifty dolla,” the woman said, holding out her hand.

“What do I get for my fifty?”

“Very nice massage,” she said, smiling and nodding.

“What else do I get?” Reed asked, suspiciously.

“That up to girl. You tip her; not me.”

He briefly thought about what the woman had just said and concluded that if he gave a tip, there was no doubt that he would get more than a lousy massage. Reed felt a little better, but not much. He had hoped for an erotic Asian experience, had fantasized a scene with a hot little Chinese girl walking on his back, washing his feet, and then skillfully using a set of chopsticks to feed him something exotic before the main event. To get all that, he now realized, he’d have to go somewhere like Las Vegas…or, hell, with all his dough, he could go straight to Beijing!

“So where are the girls?” He looked around, wondering where they kept their sexy little China dolls.

“Pay fifty, I show you.”

It seemed like a scam; Reed was annoyed at being hustled. His first impulse was to tell the woman to fuck off, but he had driven too far for a piece of Chinese pussy to turn around and slam indignantly out the door. So he reluctantly dug in his pocket and pulled out the cash.

After he paid the woman, she led him down a narrow hallway past five or six closed doors and ushered him into an undistinguished waiting room equipped with a vending machine, a microwave, a table, and chairs. “Have seat; I come right back,” the chubby lady assured him and vanished.

The woman returned with three fairly average-looking young Asian women. “They all very nice,” she said, her eyes all atwinkle.

Reed felt his disappointment wrestling with frustration. None of the women had the looks of the smiling beauty that posed in the newspaper ad, or were even as pretty as Amy for that matter. But what the hell? He’d come this far, he might as well pick one of them so he could hurry up and get his fuck on.

The young women met Reed’s scrutiny with nervous smiles. They chattered anxiously amongst themselves in Chinese, Vietnamese, or whatever—gesturing and acting ill at ease. He got the distinct impression that none of the three homely broads wanted to service him.

“What’s the problem?” Ticked off, Reed arched an eyebrow.

“They wanna know why scar?” The woman pointed to Reed’s stitched forehead, which glistened with medicated petroleum jelly.

“Why scar?” He touched his forehead, chuckled, and said, “Oh, I had a little accident.”
Why don’t you mind your business, bitch!

The older woman spoke to the Asian hookers in their language. Reed didn’t know what she was saying, but she was being long-winded and basically working his nerves. With all the cash he was carrying he could purchase some poontang anywhere. He didn’t have to deal with this shit.

Reed breathed out heavily and shifted his feet. He was about to demand his money back when the woman practically shoved one of the girls in his path. The girl was a scrawny little thing, possibly the youngest of the three and definitely the worst-looking in the bunch.

“Come with me,” the girl said sorrowfully and with a thick Asian accent. As she led Reed out of the waiting room, she cast a regretful last glance at her friends, and then bravely lifted her chin.

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