Two people sharing a meal together, not looking for more than friendship. One simple question breaks down the barriers and they share their most intimate secrets.
Yasmine and Zachariah may just be destined to be. My friend, M.J. Kane takes over Marvelous March with one of my favorite stories. Read on and leave a comment to be entered into the #giveaway.
JADED (BUTTERFLY MEMOIR, BOOK 2) BLURB:
A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control — starting her own business.
When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of the men from her past, she doesn't expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other woman in Zachariah's life.
The restaurant she’d chosen was known as ‘the’ spot for romantic interludes. For someone who claimed not to be interested in dating, coming here was an unexpected choice.
The lights were low throughout the dining room. Along the walls were booths with high backs for privacy and trellises wound in faux flowers giving the illusion of an evening spent outside on a Venetian terrace. During the day, soft lights glowed from overhead, illuminating the area. In the evening, the light source came from wall sconces set to low.
Our orders placed, Yasmine studied the painting on the wall next to the booth we occupied. The re-creation of sitting high above the cliffs of Italy, peering over a hedge of flowers, down a steep cliff into a harbor where boats drifted on the deep blue ocean, was beautiful.
The artist’s work, while well executed, would never surpass the beauty of the woman sitting across from me. In the low light, Yasmine’s cream-colored skin and grey eyes seemed to glow, bringing a sensual side begging me to savor and explore.
What were two people who were not searching for any kind of relationship doing here? I should have suggested dinner at McDonald’s or an all-you-can-eat buffet. Instead, my desire to please her kept my mouth shut.
When she faced me, I could tell she was nervous. “Maybe this was a bit too much.”
I leaned back in the booth, clearing my thoughts and forced a smile.
She studied me. “You don’t want to be here, do you?”
“Am I transparent?” A chuckle escaped as I willed myself to relax.
“If you want we can go somewhere else.”
“No, we’re good. It’s just…this place holds a few memories.” She didn’t reply, but appeared as if she wanted me to continue. “I proposed to my fiancée here, well, ex-fiancée.”
Yasmine covered her mouth. “Oh no, come on, let’s go.” She reached for her purse and the jacket she’d removed.
“No.” We both looked at my hand now resting on her arm. Damn, her skin was soft. I forced myself to let go. “We don’t have to leave.”
Her finely arched eyebrows creased. “Are you sure?”
“I’m good. Maybe being here with you will erase the negative image stuck in my head. After all, they do serve the best shrimp risotto.”
The expression on her face said she didn’t believe me.
We sat in silence before she spoke again. “You were engaged?”
“Surprised?” I reached for my glass of water.
Yasmine didn’t rush to answer. “No…yes…,” she laughed. “I never thought about it. What happened, if you don’t mind me asking?”
I studied her. Her question wasn’t demanding, only curious. Not many people were aware of the true reason behind my breakup with Melissa.
“Melissa and I dated in high school. Our families were close, and we were friends before we became lovers. As we got older, marriage seemed the next step. Everything was good until my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I spent every available moment taking her to doctors’ appointments and holding her hair out of the way while she threw up. I slept there more than I did at the condo Melissa and I shared. My life became working and caring for my mother. We didn’t have family or friends available to help,” I huffed. “It’s funny how a life threatening-illness will weed out the ones who love you from the ones who don’t.”
My eyebrows creased in thought. As many people as my mom knew within the community, not many stuck around to hold her hand when she needed support.
“Nobody helped?” she asked in disbelief.
“You know how it is. People learn about the diagnosis and come share their sympathy. It’s not their job to stand by twenty-four-seven. The one person I should have been able to rely on pushed both of us away.” My lips tightened.
To this day, the last words Melissa spoke to me still pissed me off and broke my heart.
“Let me get this right, your fiancée left because your mom got sick?”
I nodded, unable to say anything further for fear of calling her a ‒
“That bitch,” Yasmine spat.
I sat back in the booth and laughed. “And here I was trying not to say it.”
Yasmine’s expression remained the same, one of disgust. “She knew your mother since she was a little girl?”
“Yep,” my throat dry, I reached for my water again.
“Don’t tell me her last name. I’m liable to Google her ass,” she warned.
I held a hand up. “Whoa, it’s going to be okay.” A completely different side of Yasmine emerged. Hot tempered and passionate. I liked it.
Her breathing sped up as she leaned forward, her hands flat on the table. Damn, she was sexy when angry.
“How could she do that to you? To your mom?”
I shrugged, and struggled to ignore the increased attraction for the woman sitting across from me. “Melissa was selfish since the day we met. I knew, but I loved her. I never thought she would be that bad. My mom says things happen for a reason.” I felt my expression go sour. “Her illness in order to break us up is not one of them.”
“Zack,” her hand rested on mine. Her bright skin appeared delicate on my large, darker palm. “Your mom is right. Sometimes things do happen in order for us to see the worst in people close to us.” Her lips tightened. “Even if it does hurt like a bitch.”
I forced myself to keep still and not reach to cup her hand in mine. The contact of her skin and concern for my mother went straight to my chest. I ignored the heat building and cleared my throat. Why hadn’t Melissa been this way? “Spoken like a woman who’s experienced it, too.”
Yasmine noticed the contact and froze. She removed her hand. “More than once.”
The loss of contact left me drifting. I didn’t realize I’d felt grounded until the warmth of her hand left.
A full minute of silence passed as she gazed into the dark room.
“I was engaged for all of four hours. Technically I can say I’ve never been asked,” she laughed sadly. “I wish I could forget that night.”
“Four hours? Damn, what happened?”
Yasmine straightened in the booth; her hands settled in her lap. “I discovered my fiancé was a rapist.”
I felt my mouth drop open. A cheating boyfriend or an unknown baby’s momma were what I expected. A rapist fiancé? “You’re kidding.”
When her eyes met mine again, they were hard as steel.
“No, I’m not making this up. He was the roommate of the man my best friend dated. Her boyfriend left town for a few months for work. My friend went to his house to get something she left behind, and my son-of-a-bitch fiancé raped her. The bastard lied to his roommate and me to cover his ass. In the end, we both believed her. The revelation happened after he proposed…,” her voice faltered.
My fist tightened. “How long ago?”
“Over three months.”
“That motherfucker…” I’d meant to cut myself off before the rest of the word slipped out.
She smiled slowly. “Why Zachariah, who knew you had such a dirty mouth. And all this time I thought it was just me.”
I ignored her comment. “Please tell me the bastard is in jail,” I said, my teeth clenched.
“He served some time, but in the end, got away with it because there was no evidence. He did, however, lose his job and left California.” She sat up and glanced around. “Didn’t we order some wine? I could seriously use a drink.”
“Me, too.” I spied our server, waved him over, and inquired about our order.
A few minutes later, we sat with two freshly poured glasses of wine. I told the server to leave the bottle.
Yasmine held her glass high. “I propose a toast.”
“Okay,” I mirrored her action.
“To our bastard and bitch exes. I hope wherever they are, they realize they fucked up when they screwed us over.” Firm resolve was in her voice.
“Interesting choice of words; I second that.”
We clinked glasses and watched each other as we drank. Neither of us sipped.
I swallowed hard. “You are an interesting woman, Yasmine Phillips,” I poured a second round for the both of us the moment her glass touched the table.
“Really?” she smirked.
I nodded. “You are beautiful, smart, have a body that’s hot, and the mouth of a sailor.”
Yasmine froze mid sip; laughter burst from her.
“Sorry, it’s my mom’s Irish side of the family.”
“Irish? You have black family members from Ireland?”
She smiled. “No. The Irish comes from my mother’s side; she’s white. My father is black.” The expression on her face at the explanation of her heritage seemed apprehensive.
“That explains a few things.”
Her eyebrows rose. “Like what?”
“Like where you get those grey eyes? I thought you wore contacts. It also explains the beautiful color of your skin.”
Her cheeks flushed under the low lights. “Thank you.”
She avoided my gaze. I’d never been this forward when sharing my thoughts with women I found attractive. For some reason, talking to Yasmine was as easy as breathing. “I’m sure you were told that a lot while growing up.”
She ran a finger along the rim of her glass. “Not really. Most comments were negative. Believe me I’ve heard them all. ‘Oh, that’s why you’ve got such light skin’ or ‘didn’t your parents know not to reproduce?’” She shrugged.
I shook my head in disgust. People could be so ignorant.
“The majority of my white family disowned my mother for marrying a black man. We rarely spent time with them. The black side welcomed us. I’ve spent more time trying to decide which side of the family I could identify with most.” She held up a hand and studied her skin in the low light. “I don’t favor any particular side. Honestly, it was harder for me than my brother. He looks more like a black man than a white one. Me? I guess I’m just…me.”
I waited until her gaze met mine again. “Your parents did an amazing job when they made you.”
Yasmine stared at me, a sense of appreciation on her face. I could feel something change in the air between us. We connected on another level. It was comforting and nerve-racking at the same time.
“You’re the only one besides my best friends who know I was ever engaged.” Her eyebrows scrunched as if she couldn’t believe the secret she’d shared.
“You never told your parents?”
“No, they weren’t aware I was seeing anyone. Not even my brother knows.”
“Are you close to your family?”
Yasmine laughed lightly. “We’re close, and they are aware I date, make that, dated in past tense. I have a bad history with men. It could be a curse,” she muttered. “The relationship between Javan and me was...” She inclined her head in what seemed to be embarrassment. “We weren’t officially dating at the time. We were more like…cut buddies.”
“Oh, friends who have sex, huh?”
“Yes, it’s what I chose. The first man who wanted to marry me felt he needed to be with more than one woman. My experiences taught me men do what they want with anybody they want. Why can’t I do the same? Don’t misunderstand. I don’t sleep with just anybody. I have standards. I think it’s unfair that I am considered a ‘ho’ because I like sex with more than one partner.”
I couldn’t help it; both eyebrows rose in surprise.
Yasmine rolled her eyes. “Not at the same time…what I mean is men have a little black book, so do I,” she shrugged and sipped her wine again. Defiance mixed with pain shown on her face.
Oh yes, Yasmine Phillips was definitely in a league all by herself. Normally I would have taken what she said and looked at her differently. However, with her hurt past…I could understand her reasoning.
“That’s where we differ,” I said. This time her eyebrows rose. “I’m old fashioned. I believe in monogamy. If I’m with you then I expect the same. If I’m not happy with the relationship, I’d be honest and end it.”
“Good for you,” She tilted her head as if to study me. “You think I’m wrong for feeling this way, don’t you.”
Her reply was more of a statement than a question.
I considered her words before responding. “Yasmine, we make decisions based on what is best for us. You were unable to find what you were searching for and decided not to let it deter you from finding some happiness. You protect yourself, physically and emotionally. I can respect that.” I chuckled. “It sounds like way more fun than self-imposed celibacy.” I drained my glass.
“Wait, did you say you are celibate?” she didn’t hide her laugh.
“Yeah, got a problem with that?” I laughed, too. Guess it did sound unbelievable.
“No…,” she rested her elbows on the table, lowered her head in both hands, and tried her best to keep her laughter contained. “Zack, how crazy is this? Here we are, two attractive people whose hearts have been ripped out, eating dinner in one of the most romantic places in town. Neither of us has had sex in…for me it’s been over three months. How about you?”
This conversation got weirder and weirder. “I stopped counting after the twelfth month.”
Her head rested on the table as my admission broke her dam. Talk about embarrassing. I confessed to a sexy woman I was in a sexless period of my life. It felt like I admitted impotency, which was not the case. My ego should have been hurt, but instead, I was seriously aroused. Go figure.
“Zack,” she paused to catch her breath. “You see what the problem is, right?”
“I should be the one with the three month set back and you should be the celibate one?”
Yasmine nodded and put a hand across her mouth. All attempts to quit laughing ceased. “Oh, Zack, we’re pathetic.”
I poured another glass of wine and raised it in a new toast. “To single people who have no intention of sleeping together.”
Where did that come from?
We clinked our glasses and sipped our wine, all the while contemplating each other.
“Can I ask you a question?” Yasmine’s stared at her glass.
“Why not, we’re putting everything out on the table tonight.”
She smiled and ran her finger over the glass rim. “Remember the best friend I told you about?”
“They’re getting married in a week. I don’t want to go alone. Would you mind—”
“I’d be honored to be your date for the evening.”
Yasmine looked up and smiled softly. I didn’t miss her relieved expression. “Thank you, Zack.”
“For you, it’s my pleasure.”
About M.J. Kane
M.J. Kane stumbled into writing. An avid reader, she never lost the overactive imagination of an only child. As an adult she made up stories, though never shared them, to keep herself entertained. It wasn’t until surviving a traumatic medical incident in 2006 that she found a reason to let the characters inhabiting her imagination free. Upon the suggestion of her husband, she commandeered his laptop and allowed the characters to take life. It was that, or look over her shoulder for men caring a purple straitjacket. And the rest, as they say, is history.
MJ’s debut novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken (Butterfly Memoirs, Book 1) became an instant Amazon Bestseller in Multicultural Romance and African-American Literature and Fiction within hours of publication. It has also spent time on the African-American Women’s Fiction and African-American Romance Bestsellers lists.
MJ can be found online connecting with readers and other authors sharing her writing, talking about music, life, and family. She’s always excited to meet new people.
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