Authors: Tressie Lockwood
Tags: #all romance, #contemporary, #interracial, #tressie lockwood, #are, #erotica
transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement of the copyright of this work.
HALF WAY TO LOVE
Copyright © 2011 TRESSIE LOCKWOOD
Cover art by Amanda Kelsey Edited by Trinity Scott
All Romance eBooks, LLC
Palm Harbor, Florida 34684
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events, or locales is coincidental.
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever with out written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First All Romance eBooks publication: February 2011
“You didn’t,” Shannon’s sister Kim said, disbelief in her tone as she arranged chocolates on a tray. “Girl, tell me you did not take a job like that.”
“What choice did I have? Okay, I feel guilty about it, but you know how it’s been lately. Coming off of this past winter when everybody—including me—wanted to hibernate instead of taking singing lessons. I barely made the mortgage at my condo.”
Kim shook her head. “You could have asked me.”
Shannon cringed like her sister had suggested she go into stripping to make her living. “Uh, that would be a no. I’m not depending on anyone. You know that. I take care of me, even if it means I scrape and scrounge until things get better.”
“Stubborn,” Kim commented. “But what about this job? I mean it’s Valentine’s Day, all about love and commitment.”
Shannon rolled her eyes and nabbed one of the chocolates to pop into her mouth. She really shouldn’t, given she’d put on an extra twenty pounds in the last few months. A diet would soon have her name on it, but not yet. “Please, as far as I’m concerned you have snatched up the last good man out there. I admit I still find this day sacred in the arena of love, but seriously I need the cash bad. And my client made this guy out to be some loser who doesn’t care anything about her and treats her wrong even though they have been together for three years. I say he deserves it.”
Kim glared at her.
“Don’t start. This is not about me and my lack-of-a-man issues. I do not begrudge any other woman from having one. I’m just going to do the job quickly and get out of there. No muss, no fuss.”
“Uh huh.” Kim put her hands on her ample hips. She was at least two sizes bigger than Shannon, petite to Shannon’s five-foot-nine height. Growing up, every guy ran after Kim for the extra booty. Shannon had always had a little too much mouth. Kim was mild and sweet in comparison, so she’d caught her husband eight years ago and held onto him. “You could work here in the shop as my assistant…”
“Not,” Shannon vetoed. “This place is just taking off, but from what you’ve told me, it’s not there yet. You can’t afford to pay me a full time salary. Besides, I—”
“—take care of you. I got it,” Kim grumbled.
Wanting to change the subject, Shannon pointed to the small basket of goodies Kim was putting together with golden-wrapped candies as the centerpiece. “Is that new?”
Kim’s eyes lit up. “Yes. It’s my new creation. These are my babies. They are called Halfway to Love.”
Shannon wrinkled her nose. “What?”
Kim explained as she handed one of the pieces to Shannon to sample. “They’re called Halfway to Love because whoever gives these as a present will be halfway there after the recipient tastes them. The other half is up to them, but these will get you started.”
Doubtful, Shannon unraveled the foil and took a tentative bite. She’d been subject to Kim’s experiments before, and they were not all great. The creamy chocolate melted in her mouth with a sweet goodness that made her eyelids flutter closed and a moan escape her lips. “Mm, they should be called Halfway to Lust. I would jump a man who gave me these for Valentine’s Day. If only they’d been put out earlier. They’re amazing. People would have been fighting to get their hands on a box.”
Kim whooped. “I knew you’d love it. Well, I didn’t get the recipe right until too late, but that’s okay. Love is all year around. Here, you take this basket to that man. Maybe it will cheer him up after losing his girlfriend.”
“Doubtful.” Shannon glanced down at her cupid costume. She was going to freeze her butt off in the frigid February weather. The white dress stopped too far above mid-thigh, and the velvet heart-shaped bodice left so much of her cleavage out, her boobs might get frostbitten. At least the wings were bendable, and she could stuff them under her coat. Why oh why hadn’t she worn tights? This was the last gig she’d do where the costume had to be so threadbare in the winter months. “I guess I’ve put off this thing long enough. She said he’d be at the restaurant waiting for her.”
“And instead of the girlfriend, he’ll get you…in front of all those people.”
Shannon sighed. “Well that’s what a singing telegram is all about—the embarrassment of getting it with an audience. At least it’s public, and he can’t attack me because I gave him a break-up notice on Valentine’s Day.”
Shannon stuffed down her ethics and her worry and picked up her mock bow-and-arrow set off the counter, along with the goodie basket Kim had made. The sooner she got this madness over the better, and she could go home and curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book—alone.
Alexander pulled his jacket sleeve back and checked his watch for the millionth time. Laney was always late. He shouldn’t be surprised. Although since he had a habit of canceling at the last moment, he didn’t blame her for taking her time. She had no way of knowing if his work would interfere this time as it had all the others.
Twice the waiter had come by asking if he was ready to order, and each time Alexander sent him away. He fingered the roses he’d bought to give to his girlfriend. She hated chocolate, which he considered unnatural, at least in women.
Movement at the front door of the restaurant caught his attention. For some reason, his gaze locked on the young black woman standing just inside the door, scanning the room. She wore spike heeled red open-toed shoes. Her feet must be freezing, he thought. When he looked higher, he was arrested over the shapeliness of her long legs. They too were barer than the weather called for. Plump and coffee with cream colored smooth skin, she arrested his attention and refused to let it go.
Alexander had always appreciated the beauty of an African American woman, and this one was among the sexiest. Her pursed full lips and determined big amber eyes drew him in. He thought her honey brown hair extending to her shoulders worked well with her features. Of course, all of this impersonal yet appreciative speculation of her went out the door when her gaze locked on him and she shed the coat.
The dress was skimpy, and her breasts practically spilled over the top of it as she headed in his direction. Alexander’s air was cut off, and he told himself to stop looking at her like this, feeling like he wanted to devour her sweetness when he was not available. He had never and would never cheat on the woman in his life.
To his surprise, the beauty stopped at his table. “Alexander Stone?”
“I am,” he stated simply.
“I have a message for you from Laney.”
She broke into song with obvious talent. Alexander felt his face growing warm. Other patrons stared at them. The host seemed to question whether he should put a stop to the display. Only when he focused in on what she was saying did his anger begin to build. He said not a word, and at the conclusion to her little ditty, she perched on his lap and turned a mouth up to him that surely she couldn’t mean for him to kiss. Yet, he was tempted despite his anger. His cock had grown rock solid, and it was everything he could do not to touch her.
When she noticed his eyebrows bunched low over his eyes, she scrambled from his lap. “I’m sorry. Oh crap, it was poor taste to do this. She wanted me to break it off with you in this public way. Maybe she was angry at all you did, how you treated her and thought you deserved it.”
“The way I treated her… All I did?” Alexander surged to his feet, and the woman jumped back a few feet, agile in the high heels. She uttered another apology and fled. Rather than chase after her insisting on an explanation, he barked, “Check!” and settled up for the two glasses of wine he’d consumed while he waited.
On his way to the door, someone called out to him, and he turned. The waiter rushed up with the roses and a small basket he didn’t remember seeing before. “Sir, you left this.” The man’s gaze didn’t quite meet his eyes, only worsening Alexander’s embarrassment. He snatched the items and stormed out the door.
After slamming himself into his car, Alexander tossed the items in his hands on the passenger seat. The basket fell over and spilled chocolates into its plastic cover. He tugged his phone from his jacket pocket and punched in Laney’s number. When she answered, he heard the hesitance in her voice.
“This your idea of a joke, Laney?” he growled. “I know we had our problems, but to attempt to humiliate me in public? I don’t get it.”
“Now you do, Alexander. I’m done,” she spat. “Everybody thinks you’re a good man, and I guess in a way you are, but you’re married to your job. That means you’ll never be married to me.”
“That woman you sent, she said some things about me,” he began.
“I had to get her to do it some way,” she said, a shrug in her tone. “Making you out to be a lying, cheating bastard made up her mind. I wanted to get it clear that we are done. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am enjoying my Valentine night like everyone else.”
Alexander blinked in shock when the line went dead. This whole situation was incomprehensible. He’d always known Laney was self-centered, even catty when she didn’t get her own way, but she’d never turned those traits against him. Not until tonight. Examining himself and trying to figure out if he was guilt-ridden for driving Laney to this extreme or if he was angry and hurt over how she handled it, he broke open the plastic on the basket and took a chocolate. The foil unraveled between his fingers, and he popped the small square into his mouth.
Damn, that’s good.
He opened another and leaned back with his eyes closed. The truth was, he felt like a fish out of water. A relationship with Laney had been predictable. They’d satisfied each other’s needs and stepped out to dinner and a movie upon occasion. He’d never been able to speak about more serious issues with her. Conversation centered on what she was doing, what she wanted, where she’d shopped.
With another of the candies melting on his tongue, he thought back to the woman who’d sung for him. He should be angry with her for taking such a job on this night of all nights, and he was somewhat. After all, Laney had been the mastermind behind the assignment. Still, what kind of woman would do such a thing? He conjured up a vision of her incredible body, not thin to the point of model size like Laney was, but soft and rounded, more than enough for a man to lose himself enjoying her. How her husband or boyfriend let her leave the house dressed liked that, he didn’t know, but Alexander wouldn’t have allowed her past the bedroom door.
His cock hardened again thinking about the mystery woman, and he tried to distract himself with eating more of the candy. Unfortunately, every piece was gone. He’d consumed them all. He sighed and picked up the round card lying at the bottom and read it. “These candies by Kim’s Confections have gotten you halfway to love. Now the rest is up to you.”
, he mused,
more like halfway to lust
. A vision popped into his mind, of smooth tawny-colored legs, thick and long, wrapped around his waist. He grinned and then shook his head. No sense fantasizing about it. If he tracked her down, she’d only think he was after her for doing what she’d done. He dismissed the naughty thoughts and started up his car. An evening alone was in store for him since he’d cleared his work calendar for this special night. Sometimes fate was cruel.
Shannon hadn’t walked far from the restaurant where she’d sung for Alexander Stone before she ducked into a convenience store. The bus stop that would take her home was nearby. She really should spring for a taxi, but the fact was she’d decided to return that woman’s money to her. She should never have taken the job in the first place, and while that guy didn’t look heartbroken, it was still wrong.
She didn’t have a scrap of food in the house since she’d put off grocery shopping, so she had to grab something microwaveable from here. Nothing behind the glass display appealed. That might have to do with a fear that opening the door would subject her to a cold blast of air. She’d had enough to last a lifetime. She couldn’t feel her toes as it was.
Shannon spun around only to squeak in surprise at the man standing behind her. At the restaurant she’d noticed how tall he was when he stood up—maybe six-two or three if she had to guess. In his heavy winter coat, his shoulders appeared more imposing. The man was so big he could crush her, which was nice since almost every man that had ever showed an interest in her was either the same height or shorter by a few inches.