From: Swirl (a tale of love in the river city)
"The fuck you mean you thought you was gonna get the house?! For fucking what?!" A large man with caramel skin wearing a fine tailored suit towered over Adrian Strong's desk. His expensive watch flashed ominously like lightning in the distance as he gesticulated wildly.
"Baby, please calm down." His impeccably dressed wife begged in a feeble manner as though she knew that her husband was too far gone to be called back now. Adrian looked as if the whole scene was making her ill. She drooped over her desk watching the proceedings with apathy. The well-dressed gentleman continued to bear down on another, much younger, much smaller man who was seated. Anger flashed in the younger man's eyes but it was clear that he didn't dare challenge the older man, who was his uncle, straight on.
"Mane, my Grandma told me that house would be mine when she was gone." he uttered.
"Boy, she told you that when you was a child because she thought you would grow up to be a man. But you didn't. Did you?" The older man cocked his head to the side in question.
"Junior!" the delegation in the room made up of the man's wife, sister, brother and various other relatives, two lawyers, as well as Adrian and her protégé Lashonda Price rose up in protest.
"Don't 'Junior' me!" he bellowed” I'm not talking about his jail house faggotry."
"Junior, that ain't right." One of the women admonished.
"Totally uncalled for!" said another.
"I'm not talking about that." Junior snapped. "I'm talking about this lazy mofo laying up in my mamma's house - no job, no education, and no intention of getting either -"
"That's right." nodded one of the other men.
"He bled her dry and broke her heart while she was here" Junior continued, his chest began to heave with emotion "And now that she's gone you come around here trying to see what else you can get."
Now some of the women in the room were nodding too.
“Where were you the last six months? Huh?” Junior’s voice cracked. He gave into tears and melted back into his chair and folded into his pretty wife’s arms. Mrs. Junior even cried prettily. She did so onto the shoulder of his fine tailored suit. The anger drained out of the younger man’s face.
“I didn’t want to see her like that.” He said seeming sincere.
Junior snatched his face from his wife’s bosom. He unfolder her arms from around him treating her limbs gingerly and lovingly even as this face filled with rage. He folded her arms into her lap.
“She wanted to see you!” he bellowed. “Selfish son of bitch . . . “the last bit came out as a growl ad Junior sprang from his chair lunging at his nephew like a panther. His lithe and supple body moved freely in the expensive custom suit. Three seconds from contact Junior’s equally powerful brother stepped in and wrapped his arms around the ailing man. He didn’t speak a word but backed his brother against a set of pocket doors that led into the next room.
“I’m glad!” Junior cried. “I’m glad my sister’s not here to see how you turned out!”
Now it was nephew’s turn to fly into a rage.
“You don’t talk about my Mama!” he shouted over and over again. “You don’t talk about my Mama!”
All of the family members cried.
Adrian, nauseated by her own busily brewing family matters continued to look sick and green. She was disengaged from the drama playing out on the opposite side of the large library table she was using as a desk. Lashonda Price rubbed her bosses back lightly and discreetly. She’d only come into the dining room that her boss used as a conference room to bring her the warm ginger ale and the covered crystal dis of saltines that she seemed to need quite often lately – especially when stress levels were high. Mrs. Strong hadn’t announced her pregnancy but Lashonda had seen enough in her meager 27 years to know the signs.
Lashonda looked over at the only Caucasian person in the room, Adrian’s attorney, Robert White. Robert sat perched on the edge of Adrian’s desk monitoring the proceedings like a steely eyed raven. His sharp blue eyes darted from player to player in this high drama. Lashonda knew that he would recall every word that was said, remember every glance that was cast. Lashonda sniffed lightly and willed Robert to look in her direction. She was careful to tinkle the crystal lid of the cracker dish ever so slightly as she opened it and nudged it toward Adrian. Automatically the boss lady reached over and plucked a cracker from the dish. The action succeeded it catching Robert’s attention. He turned and looked at Lashonda in the eye. She cocked her head slightly at the screaming nephew. It seemed to her like enough was enough. Robert took the queue well but his eyes lingered on hers a few seconds longer than was necessary. He seemed to be asking a question. Lashonda smiled at him mostly with her eyes to let him know that, no, she wasn’t upset with him. Robert grinned broadly and shamelessly. Lashonda shook her head, he was completely inappropriate. She rolled her eyes toward the screaming nephew. Now was not the time for them to reconcile. Even so, Robert gave her another real and deeply inappropriate smile before getting to his feet. He rolled up to his feet and cast his right arm between the nephew and another family member, a potbellied man who was screening the nephew almost comically with both arms out at his sides “holding him back” from attacking his uncles. It was obvious that there was never any chance the young man would have tried it in reality. This was all a part of the show. Robert slipped one arm between them and wrapped another around the nephew’s shoulder. The nephew calmed easily under Robert’s touch. He said something quietly into the man’s ear.
“Excuse us.” Robert then said to the room at large before guiding the young man from the room. With Nephew gone the room quieted immediately. The family settled back into their seats. Tears were dried and constitutions were quickly recovered. Everyone settled in to review the details of a property management agreement with Adrian’s firm, Strong Realty. They’d decided to start a foundation in their late matriarch’s name that would lease her former home to single mothers for one year’s time for a little as possible in order to help families get on their feet. Nephew be damned.
The ginger ale, the crackers and the reduced noise level seemed to be doing Adrian just fine. Lashonda patted her on the shoulder once for good measure and then slipped past the two ling back sized brothers though the pocket doors into the parlor that was Adrian’s office. She closed the doors behind her and took a long deep breath. Drama. It was not her favorite thing.
A second set of pocket doors stood open near the front of the room leading out into the front hall. Lashonda could hear snatches of Robert and nephew’s conversation. She tried note to listen. Instead she grabbed a few files from Adrian’s desk and carried them across the main hall to the office she shared with her best friend, Mary.
“Wow!” Mary said in a low tone.
“Shhhh!” Lashonda tutted jerking her thumb toward the hall where nephew stood just feet away.”
“Oh.” Mary said.
“Yeah, I got your card. I’ll give you a call.” Nephew said to Robert in an exaggerated tone as he rounded the corner and came into Lashonda and Mary’s office. Lashonda was inwardly disgusted. Why hadn’t he chosen the front door instead?! Lashonda scowled as he came into the room, the look in his eyes making it all too clear why he was there. His extravagant grief from moments earlier had completely vanished.
“Yeah, I was just speaking with my lawyer.” Nephew declared. Lashonda and Mary shot each other a look. Neither of them spoke. “I thought I’d stop in and say ‘hi’ to you pretty ladies on my way out.” Nephew grinned slimily.
“Hi.” Mary said dryly. Lashonda nearly passed out from the effort not to roll her eyes. She headed toward her desk. It was clear to her needed to head home early and she would never do it if these files weren’t addressed. If she could just get them done before the family left she’d have much better luck convincing the boss lady to take a break.
“Slow down, lil mama.” Nephew said in what must have been his smooth and sexy voice “I’m just tryna talk to you.”
Lashonda glared at Nephew in a way that caused him to draw back immediately. He turned to Mary.
“Dang, girl. “He sidled up to Mary and tried to slip his arm around her waist. “You need to teach your homie how to act.”
Bang! The file drawer Mary had been peering into slammed shit as her clarion alto sounded,
“Boi! You’d better keep your hands to yourself!” Mary shunted Nephew away from her. For a moment it looked as though he might catch up on the beating he’d missed out on in the conference room.
“Fine then! Y’all some ol’ stuck up, uppity assed bitches. You need some dick so your stiff ass’ll know how to act.” He glared at Lashonda. Nephew backed away from Mary and brushed off his clothes as if her rejection would leave a stain.
Robert rushed into the room.
“Is there some kind of problem in here?” He demanded. Roberts’s eyes locked on Nephew. He seemed to be demanding an answer and yet daring him to speak. Nephew was silent. “I think we’ve had enough of you for one day.” Without giving Nephew any time to respond Robert grabbed his arm and forced him from the room and into the foyer. Moments later Lashonda and Mary heard the front door close behind Nephew.
“Are you girls alright? Mary?” Robert asked as he strode back into their office.
“I’m fine!” Mary snapped still in a huff. Robert nodded and seemed not to take her mood personally.
“Lashonda?” he asked. Lashonda looked over the man she’d been spending all of her free time with for the weeks. Her would be lover.
“I’m o.k.” she said. Robert’s face was flushed. She’d never seen him so angry. In fact, she thought, she’d never seen him angry at all. Worked up, yes, but never this . . . furious. He looked . . . dangerous.
Robert’s chest rose and fell visibly as he took a deep breath.
“Good.” He said curtly. He took another deep breath and looked as if he were about to speak again but instead turned and wheeled out of the room. Seconds later the two women heard the doors to the conference room slide open and closed again.
“Wow.” Mary said again. “Whew!”
“Girl you about went off didn’t you?” Lashonda questioned her friend. “You alright?”
“Me?!” Mary retorted. “What about Mr. White?! Humph! I wouldn’t have thought he had it in him.”
Lashonda took an exasperated breath.
“Had what in him?” she asked.
“You know,” Mary waggled her fingers in the general direction of the conference room which was toward the back of the large home that housed the Strong Realty office. “You know what I mean. That.”
Lashonda rolled her eyes.
“Well I don’t see why not.” She mumbled pointedly. But she did see. Truthfully Robert had surprised her just as much as he had Mary. To date his temper had existed mainly in the form of legal action. Forms and filings of varying degrees. Today he’d looked about ready to take it to the streets.
“Don’t front.” Mary chided reading Lashonda’s mind. “He surprised you too. It was all over your face.” Mary dropped her jaw feigning shock and awe before pretending to faint. “I thought you were going to peal your panties off and throw them at him. . . Now that he’d keep ‘em.” she mumbled in closing.
“I told you that in confidence!” Lashonda hissed.
“It’s just us dummy” Mary giggled.
Lashonda shook her head.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get the drawers one of these days, Cuzzo.” Mary sighed deeply.
“Shut up.” Lashonda said. “I’m not your play cousin no more.”
Mary burst into laughter. She giggled until Lashonda couldn’t help but smile too.
“I was about to toast that dude.” Mary said.
“I know.” Lashonda laughed.
Both women turned back to their work. A few minutes of quiet passed as each did her own work.
“But really,” Mary as usual started a sentence as though Lashonda had heard her preceding thoughts. “Do you ever worry sometimes?”
“Worry about what?”
“That it won’t be, I don’t know . . . good I guess.”
“What?! No!” Why would I be worried about that?”
“No offense or anything.” Mary rushed to waive of any hurt feelings. “He’s just so . . . laid back.”
Lashonda sucked her teeth and snapped shut the file she’d been working on.
“Keep it real, Mary. You’re basically saying that he won’t be good in bed because he’s White.”
“I’m just saying, you basically served it up on a silver platter for him the other day and he didn’t take it.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t like he didn’t want to.” Lashonda whined.
“Then what was it like?”
Lashonda sighed. How could she explain when she didn’t fully understand herself? It had been wonderful. It had been sweet. She’d never been kissed or touched like that in all her life – and then had stopped. She’d been just about to be penetrated for the first time in her life and then Robert had simply pulled back.
“It was nice.” She said honestly. “I think maybe he thought it wasn’t the right time. Maybe he’s never done it before.”
“Ha! I beg your pardon honey, but he ain’t hardly no 40 year old virgin.”
“He’s only 39! And that’s not what I meant!” Lashonda knew full well by the way Robert had kissed her, putting his tongue into her mouth and then using it to draw her out of herself – and out of her underpants that he’d had plenty of practice in the art of seduction. “I meant that maybe he’s never taken someone’s virginity before.”
Lashonda said “virginity” in a muffled kind of way that made it seem as if she was ashamed of the fact.
“Maybe . . .” Mary said hesitantly. She was thoughtful for a moment and then shook off her doubt. “Anyone can see that he cares for you. His whole mood is different when you’re around. I couldn’t tell that he was really angry with himself for letting that guy come in here with us.”
“You think he was angry with himself?”
“Sure.” Mary said knowingly. “Brandon gets just like that sometimes.” She said referring to her fiancé and lover since 15. “He probably felt he put you in danger.”
“Well then he doesn’t know you could have polished that dude off with one hand while sipping tea with the other.”
“You better let ‘em know!” Mary laughed. “But really, I know that Robert is nice. He’s sweet to you and romantic. I just can’t imagine him being. . .”
“Spit it out, Mary. Being what?”
“Sexy. I mean it’s good to be a gentleman and have romance but sometimes you just want him to sex you up. Come get it you know?” Mary shook her head. “Maybe you don’t know, but you’ll see. There’s a difference between romantic and sexy. All I’m saying is he doesn’t seem sexy.”
Lashonda kept quiet. The afternoon she’d spent in Robert’s loft apartment had been the closet to sex she’d ever been. There was no way she could refute what Mary was saying because the truth was she didn’t know any better.
“But who knows?” Mary said. “He surprised us today, didn’t he? Sometimes you never can tell.”
They worked a few minutes in silence before they heard the doors to the conference room open again. The Detrick family poured out into the hallway and seemed to roll toward the front door like a stream. All of the earlier angst seemed to have disappeared with the removal of nephew. The remaining Detricks, all nine of them were pleased with their collection decision. They were a series of cheerful thank yous and good byes, and se you soons as they finally left. Robert poked his head into the office as the front door swung closed behind the last family member.
"I'd love to stay for lunch but I'd better head back to the office and get caught up."
Lashonda was disappointed, but not surprised. A week ago lunch with Robert had been the highlight of her day. Lately he'd been avoiding their time alone together as if he was afraid of another close encounter.
"Alright" Lashonda answered cheerfully.
"See you later. Thanks for earlier. You're our knight in shining armor." Mary said.
Robert did a mock bow.
"At your service my liege." A moment later he was out the door headed three blocks west to his own office.
Lashonda noted that Rob or no Rob she had to eat.
"I'm going to grab something from the kitchen." She said.
"Bring me a soda."
On the way to the rear of the house Lashonda peeked into the conference room to check on Adrian to find her missing.
"I'm here." Adrian's voice came from above.
Lashonda looked up and to the left to find her boss half way up the stairs.
"I know y'all want me to go home early. I'll compromise. I'm going to go up and have a lie down instead. I'll be refreshed in a bit."
"O.k." Lashonda nodded at her mentor. She made a mental note to call Mr. Strong to come and pick his wife up as soon as Adrian had had time to fall soundly asleep. Adrian nodded and headed up the rest of the stairs. Lashonda headed into the kitchen. What she needed was a brookie. Some dark chocolate part cookie part brownie deliciousness would put the morning she'd had on ice. She walked into the warm kitchen decorated in rich wood one and over to the tiled counter where a clay urn held her salvation. She was reaching out for the lid when she felt the arms close around her.
Fear. When the first instinct should be to scream or to fight fear makes traitors of our limbs and our voices. Panic sent Lashonda's heart dropping to the floor. A hand was over her mouth before her voice could return. She felt herself being spun around.
Relief washed over her.
"Robert!" she said indignantly. She'd have slapped him if her limbs still weren't cooperating.
"Shhh!" he hushed.
She dropped her voice to a whisper.
"What? How did you?"
He held up his right hand. There around his middle finger hung the set of keep that as Adrian's trusted attorney he was bound to have. Lashonda drew in a deep breath to let him have it. Robert wrapped himself around her pinning her arms down by her sides and kissed her squarely on the mouth.
"Hush." he told her Robert released Lashonda's arms so that she could return his embrace which she did.
"I'm going to kill you." she mumbled into his mouth. Robert kissed her gently but thoroughly, licking each one of her soft brown lips before delving into her mouth with his tongue. He chuckled.
"You are killing me."
He was killing himself as far as Lashonda was concerned. He could have her any time he wanted, that was clear, but still he held back. Even now in the kitchen of her boss’s office his hands were racing down the buttons of her creamy satin blouse and she was powerless to stop him. Robert backed her against the kitchen counter. Once again she knew the sensation of his manhood swollen against his fly pressed into her sex. Robert pressed himself against her crotch through the pleats of her skirt as he mouthed her left breast through her lacy bra. How many seconds had passed since she was out of her mind with fear? Now she was out of her mind for a different reason. Lashonda curled her hands in Roberts’s soft wavy blond locks. He pulled her hand from his hair down to his erection. He seemed to go from flesh to hardened stone under her touch. He moaned painfully into Lashonda’s mouth. A moment later they were on the move. Robert backed quickly across the hardwood floor into the butler’s pantry pulling Lashonda with him. The rear staircase loomed at the back of the pantry.
“Adrian’s up there.” Lashonda Whispered breathlessly.
Robert pulled the pantry door closed behind them.
“We’re not going up there.” He said softly. He pulled Lashonda back into his arms. Robert’s his was soft and gentle but his grip was firm and his body was rock hard. He seemed to be giving off a heat that soaked into Lashonda’s body and caused her muscles to relax making her putty in his hands. Robert lowered her onto the stairs. Lashonda was breathless and intoxicated. All she could do was cling to him and return his kisses. Robert parted her knees and kneeled between them caressing her, kissing her, fondling her breasts. He breathed in her perfume as though it were the breath of life then sucked each of her lips in turn as he slipped his hands under her pleated skirt. His fingers played with her panty line as his kisses moved from her mouth to her collar bone to her breasts and finally to her bare thighs peeking out above her hose. He nursed on them bruising them with suction so that later when warm water streamed down her naked body in the shower, she would remember that he had been there and be hot for him all over again. As he did this his fingers played under the thin layer of cotton in the folds of her vagina. Lashonda murmured and begged revealing the secrets of her desire to him. She wanted him on top of her, inside of her. Robert paused in his work to kiss her lips.
“Shhh.” He hushed before lowering himself between her legs again, this time to lap at her vagina through her panties teasing her clitoris and encouraging her to grind her body against his tongue. Minutes passed. Sometimes he pressed into her with his fingers. Other times he used them to hold her panties aside while he tortured her with his tongue. Something was building inside her. Lashonda’s blood ran quick and hot. Her throbbing clitoris seemed to be begging Robert of its own accord for just a little more, just a bit more and then it would happen. . . But it was not to be. Before she could get there Robert lifted himself up and looked her in the eye. Lashonda moaned her disappointment. Robert kissed her quiet and then said into her ear so softly she could almost have imagined it.
“When you come for the first time, I will be inside you. I am going to stretch that pretty little pussy to fit me and me alone. I am going to write my name all over your body.” He kissed her again. “Do you understand?”
“Robbie I . . .” her voice trailed off. I what? I don’t want to wait? I don’t know how I’m going to get through the rest of the day? I don’t want to be away from you? I love you? Her mind was scrambled.
“I know.” Robert said. “It’s hard for me too – no pun intended.” The couple quietly into each other’s arms. “But our time is coming.” He added. They laughed again. “I love you, Lashonda.” Robert confessed. Lashonda’s eyes rounded at the revelation.
“I love you too.”
“I know. You said.” Robert smiled at her. Lashonda grinned shyly. There was no telling what she’d said in the throes of pleasure.
Robert lowered her skirt and began reworking the buttons on her blouse. They shared brief kisses here and there but tried to put themselves back together. It was still early afternoon. There was a lot more of the work day to get through.
“We’d better get back.” Lashonda said. Robert nodded. Lashonda stood and smoothed her front. All of her clothes were refastened. She was put back together. Robert’s raging erection was still present though slightly less evident.
“Don’t look.” He buttoned his suit jacket over it. “It makes it worse.”
“Looking at it makes it worse?”
“Yes.” Robert groaned. “Don’t talk about it either.”
Lashonda realized then for the first time that Robert White’s famous control stood on a knife’s edge. It was all a bluff. She could tip him over at any moment – if she was sure that was what she wanted. It made her feel powerful. She gave him a sexy smile that only weeks ago she wouldn’t have had the nerve to pull off.
“Stop it.” Robert admonished her but he couldn’t keep the smile of this face. Lashonda wrapped her arms around his neck. She got on tip toe to kiss him. Robert hugged her tightly and pulled her in. He palmed her behind and lifted her body up to meet him intimately.
“Shonda.” He sang in a soft voice, his eyes closed. “You should go back to your office. Now.” He placed her gently back onto the floor. His voice was strangled his face stiff with the remaining scraps of his control.
“O.k.” Lashonda agreed obediently. She gave him one last pick and turned to leave the store room.
“Shonda,” Robert squeezed her hand. “I do want you. So much that it hurts. But I can’t let your first time be in the back of Adrian’s pantry. I want it to be just right and when you look back on it you will too. There’s nothing unsexy about being romantic. And sex with you will not be unromantic.”
Mary’s words from earlier echoed in the small room. Lashonda tried to remember whether or not here defense of him had been rigorous enough. Robert gave her a small smile. She sprang up and kissed his nose in as non-sexual a way as possible. There didn’t seem to be any words for making sure his feelings weren’t hurt. She turned to go.
“No. I’ll go first and make sure the coast is clear. Give me a minute to duck out the back.” He kissed her on the forehead and exited the pantry. Seconds later she hear the back door close quietly. The dead bolt slid into place. She gave herself a few second and then stepped out into the kitchen. The room was silent. The clock on the stove suggested that only about fifteen minutes had passed since she’d gotten up from her desk. She had lost all track of time. Her whole life had changed while she was in the pantry splayed on the back stairs with Robert’s face between her thighs, one of her legs draped over his shoulder as he licked her, sucked her, fingered her. The memory of it made her shudder. He’d said he loved her. He’d proven it now more than once by not taking advantage of her when she was vulnerable. Lashonda washed her hands. It seemed like a good move seeing that she couldn’t remember exactly where they’d been. She grabbed one of the brookies she’d been after when she came into the kitchen in the first place and seated herself on one of the bar stools at the island. Lashonda reached for the phone on the counter and dialed her boss’s husband Jeremy. He would be able to convince her to head home. Adrian’s knight in shining armor. It might be time to think about what she wanted out of this relationship besides Robert’s body inside of hers. Could Robert be her “Jeremy” someday? There in the quiet kitchen it didn’t seem hard to pinpoint exactly what she wanted. She and Mary had discussed it a thousand times. Their dream was to have what Adrian had; a successful career, a loving husband, and (someday) a bun in the oven. The freedom to take a nap in the middle of the day if said bun needed a rest. Robert was a serious man. Not one to play games. Their feelings for each other seemed to grow every day. It could be that he wanted all of the same things. Lashonda allowed the small hope she’d had hidden in the back of her heart grow a bit taller, past the shade canopy of doubts and fears her mind had created. Maybe . . . she hoped. Just maybe.