Authors: Janice Ross
Two friends. Two lovers.
Dark pasts. Uncertain futures.
Mindless passion. Wondrous pain.
One remarkable love. One powerful friendship torn apart in a seemingly unending battle. This is Knox Jackson and Kasha Davies’ story about the cost of being number one.
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My Number One
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permission Request,” at the address below.
Prepared for publication by Karen Perkins, Lionheart Publishing House
© August 2016 Janice G. Ross
Published by Blu Savant Press
Cover design by Mayhem Cover Creations
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events are strictly the product of the author or used fictitiously. Any similarities between actual persons, living or dead, events, setting or locations are entirely coincidental.
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Some loves were meant to die,
While true love was meant to thrive.
“You’re not a whore tonight?” Melissa Davies slurred into the line.
“Really, Ma?” Just when I thought I’d grown accustomed to the insults, the woman that was supposed to nurture me forgot the rules again. Truth be told, I’d heard much worse, although the name-calling never stopped ripping me apart. “It’s my birthday. Why now?”
“Birthday?” She teased like it was a foreign concept. “Who cares? I’m so ashamed of you. If I could take you out of this world, end your misery—”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Ma. I’m not living in misery. I. Am. Okay.” As long as I was away from her, I had no choice than to be okay.
“Enough,” I barely managed through stifled tears.
“You’re a whore and now a liar. Are you into stealing as well?” Yeah, in a drunken stupor, she turned self-righteous. “Answer me!”
I didn’t need to answer because I knew her well enough. Every disgusting thought had probably rushed into her mind already. In fact, her words couldn’t come quickly enough.
“I hate you! You’re everything that’s wrong with me . . . with this world.”
The office I’d snuck into was a grungy type of set-up. I was one of the few girls allowed in there unattended; in my case, it came down to blind loyalty. Someone actually cared enough to let me be the one, the only one to enjoy free passage in a major part of their world. So even with my drunk mother’s raspy voice bursting through my iPhone, I lay back on a wide velvet chaise and smiled. When life got too rough, you had to learn how to recline along the smooth edges.
I’d grown up in love, then when my father was taken away from us a year ago, love dried up. As much as my heart pained, I accepted the name-calling for the sake of my mother’s bleeding soul. Couldn’t bring myself to end the call either. So I placed the phone on the armrest and fell sound asleep.
“Ummm . . .” a heavy male voice moaned loudly. My hips shifted as someone tugged on my tiny shorts. A metallic scent carried with the movement, followed by a stale alcoholic aroma. Every frickin’ person I knew drank, not a little—a whole damn lot!
Taking a deep breath, I eased open my eyes and reached for the phone that was still lying next to me. My mom must’ve talked herself to sleep. There wasn’t an ounce of light on inside the room, and when I pressed the button for my cell, I had to blink several times.
“Shit!” I jumped up, grabbed for my pink Vicky tote and searched out my shoes with the flashlight from the phone.
“Where are you going?” Van stood near. Too near.
“You’re gonna make me hyperventilate,” I whined.
He laughed from down in his gut, sending out more of his alcoholic stench. I sighed, drawing out the expression to make it clear that I wasn’t amused. He moved away. The lights came on low.
“Am I coming home with you?” he drawled. His beady black eyes were glossy. He had the nerve to grab at his crotch while talking to me.
“Oh, um . . . I have an early day. Um, I’m sorry, V.” I never felt comfortable about letting him into my home. In fact, Van didn’t really know where I lived. All of my mail was either directed to a PO Box, or I’d have items come to the club. Work remained at work. My personal life was mine, what little life it was.
“I’m not begging anymore,” Van finally responded, turning for his desk. He plopped down, proudly playing the part of king in his domain. A hint of a beer belly extended from his shirt. Tiny prickles ran up and down my spine as I studied his semi-attractive build. Not saying he wasn’t a good-looking guy or anything. Van just didn’t do it for me.
“Can you drop me home, V?”
“Only if I can come in.” Forget about the way he accentuated the “
”. My insides churned.
“Never mind, I’ll call a cab.”
“You can’t cut me a break? I give you more affection that anyone else. I pamper you, Kasha. Do you think it’s just because I’m looking out for you?”
“Van, we’re cool, right?” Sure, I might’ve led him on. It wasn’t intentional. I actually enjoyed being around him and knew he was safe, for many reasons. But getting involved in an actual relationship with him was nowhere on my agenda. Someday, I planned on having a kick-ass romance with the right type of man, when I became the right type of woman. Maybe I’d even decide to have kids. As for Van, he definitely wasn’t the man. And the time, it sure as hell wasn’t now.
He sprang up from the seat, his boots hitting the floor with loud thuds. Neither of us spoke. Instead, I clutched my personal items to my chest. My stilettos dangled from my pinky finger, while the soles knocked on my right thigh.
“Boss, ready?” The door shoved open. Axel, his driver, appeared. He literally filled the passageway. His entire body moved when he inhaled and exhaled, making him resemble an oversized teddy bear. He was intimidating to a degree, if not for the fuzzy dimples set among the whiskers of his beard.
Van paused, ran his eyes over me, then turned back to Axel and pumped his head up. He signaled me out of the door with two fingers.
The club was empty. Hard to believe the venue had been packed so much that he’d had to turn people away. But I tiptoed through, securing my items to my chest. A chilly sensation trailed down my neck to rest on my back. Once outside, I took the back seat of a Cream Escalade, hoping that Van would sit up front, but he didn’t.
“How many stops, Boss?” Axel teased.
I squinted at the rearview mirror, throwing invisible punches his way.
Van spat out, “We’re dropping her at the usual spot. You can take me home afterwards. You won’t have to pick me up until late afternoon.”
Axel nodded, turned up the music and sped off. Van eased over on the leather seats to my side, only to lean his head on my shoulder. I tensed up when his fingers started massaging through my blue chiffon blouse. He eventually landed inside of the pale material.
“V, c’mon . . .”
“Can I come home with you?” He was persistent to a fault.
I wanted to shove him away. But he’d found me when I needed a friend. Shit, I was in full view of anything that could possibly occur, so there was absolutely no way in hell that I was going to demean myself. I needed to be firm with him; not to piss him off, but strong enough to make him stop. I wasn’t trying to make him think I was ungrateful. After my family life deteriorated, he’d found me. Van had accepted me—a shy, broken girl. Could’ve left me out on the streets, but chose to take me in. I didn’t want to insult him. I could just never be with him in the way he wanted.
“Van?” I whispered. My lips parted in time to hear tires screech. The vehicle jolted. Van shot forward, hitting the back of the passenger side seat. His horny behind didn’t strap up, so he was caught without a seat belt.
“What the hell was that, Axel?”
“This idiot stepped in front of us.”
“Why’d you get off of 95?”
“Get you ass out of the street!” Axel yelled, sitting on the horn.
The Escalade chilled as the windows came down. A man’s voice grew louder by the second, cussing up a storm.
“What are you waiting on? Run him over if he doesn’t move. As a matter of fact, there’s plenty of street out there.” Van punched on the seats.
If only I’d left out earlier, before my mom’s insults had put me to sleep. My chest felt heavy. Sweat trickled down my face. I didn’t need to be here at this hour, when the sun hadn’t yet come up and the streets were still lifeless.
From the corner of my eyes I observed Van’s fingers shifting behind his back, underneath his shirt. I assessed my potential flight, in case I needed to break away. I’d already put on my heels, my bag was near and I was determined to grab it and run like hell through the streets of South Florida.
The vehicle began bucking just enough for Van to take further notice. “Is this fool kicking my fender?”
“Boss, I’ll handle.”
“Get the—” Van dipped out of the seat and swung open the door at once. A dark object flashed from the waist of his khakis. Axel exited from the driver’s side door at the same time.
“Put down the weapon,” a booming voice demanded. “Police! Put down your weapon.”
Every fiber of my being shook. My thoughts and plans were blown the hell up. I somehow managed to unhook the seatbelt and duck down on the floor. Life flashed before me. While my fingers were anything but steady, I fumbled to remove my shoes. Why the hell didn’t I walk with a pair of sneakers? Not that it was going to erase my presence from this possible showdown. And why the hell didn’t I call a cab?
The warnings that should’ve kept me away from Van in the first place crept in; they never really left. After leaving Port St. Lucie two weeks before I was due to start undergrad at FSU about a year ago, Miami had seemed like the place to be. Life ended for me back then. I needed to suppress every single memory of what might’ve been; otherwise, I would’ve ended up worse than my mother. Van had been the only friend I’d made during that time. His “in” had been the innate ability to know I needed help. He’d taken me in, allowed me to work menial jobs in his club and paid me like a regular associate, even though I was only seventeen at the time.
Peering through the windows at Van and Axel, while they argued with a hooded guy claiming to be an officer, fear consumed me. What if things were to go haywire? What would I do? Go back home to a mother that had lost the will to live? Was I ready to go back, though? No matter how difficult life on the streets could be, was going back to a life without the only man I’d ever loved a possible option? Could I live “at home” when home no longer included my father?
My heart throbbed through every minute corner of my body. Tears loomed at the brim of my lashes. I willed myself to remain calm, but Van, Axel and the officer were all shouting at each other.
The cop’s words grew louder. “I’m sick of your bullshit!”
“The way I see it, Officer, you can go about your business or we can end this bull once and for all,” Van warned.
I tuned into that particular wording. Did Van have some type of dealings with this man?
“I’ll go with the last choice,” the man quickly responded.
There were a few more exchanges back and forth, but I didn’t want to wait around for the final outcome. It was still dark enough that I couldn’t be entirely sure of our location, but I refused to sit there and wait this out. I vaguely remembered seeing a sign for Hollywood Blvd when our speed had slowed. We had to be outside of Miami.
Perhaps Pembroke Pines? But with this sort of noise?
My mind raced nonstop. I prepped myself to do what needed to be done. Finally taking a deep breath just when their voices had reached an all-time high, I eased opened the door and maneuvered out of the truck. My back pressed against the vehicle, while I allowed the tears to flow down my cheeks.
And then, there it was . . . a single shot.
“Shiiiit!” Someone yelled out the very thought that had manifested within me.
I bit on my bottom lip to keep from calling out. The morning slowed down. I detached from everything; instantly feeling alone and exposed. Even the men ceased to exist, if but for a split second. That brief time afforded me the chance to make a sensible choice, a judgment call. Sweat trickled down my forehead. I reached into my bag and snatched out a thin gray hoody. I needed to be forgotten, to disappear. As my chestnut hair faded out of sight under the cloth, I spun around to search out the location and plot an escape. The air filled with some more profanity and several more loud firings. I was no longer able to decipher the voices.
I decided to not stay around for an outcome. I wasn’t concerned with who had been hit, and hoped that all three might take each other out. But knew enough to know that Van wouldn’t forget about me for much longer. So I remained low, hiding between the cars parked on the street. I was prepared to go underneath if need be. As weak as I’d come to feel, I needed to prove to myself that I was a survivor.
I stooped down next to the curb, between a blue Chevy and a white Dodge. Van came into view, holding a gun to the back of the man’s head. I could almost see blood soaking up the left side of Van’s shoulder. His usual pale skin had a dingy tint, making him almost filthy looking. They must’ve scuffled on the road. Even at a disadvantage, the guy was reluctant in his movements. He was thin. His clothes were plain—jeans and a black tee. With arms stretched sideways, his head hung down. Sandy colored hair brushed forward to cover his eyes and forehead. Axel came around from the other side, blanketing the two with his shadow. He exchanged words with Van for about five seconds; long enough for the guy to take off running toward me.
My chest beat in tune with his quick footsteps. I inched back, held my breath and prepared to run. But I didn’t know where to go in the perfect stillness of the residential area. There was nowhere to hide, at least not without them seeing me. I slid against the bumper of the Dodge until I was able to get over to the other side of the car; my heartbeat loud, hard at my chest. I shivered through and through. The poor injured guy was thrown onto the very car that was my present savior. My own back pressed close and held near.