The Author Yani | Love's Deadly Masquerade | Crime Fiction | Thriller & Suspense| Instant Downloads

Check out a preview of the African American Crime Fiction, Thriller & Suspense novel! Love's Deadly Masquerade! When the man you love turns into the man you fear...







1

The ceiling fan oscillated from high above, blowing a cool breeze meekly about. While the room’s temperature should have felt like a cool, autumn’s day, to Vanessa it felt hot as hell, like the middle of summer.
“Bitch, you must have lost your fucking mind having a man in my house while I’m not here.” Eric barked from the bathroom as he ran the sink water. “I swear, you never learn. You’d think by now you’d be tired of me going upside your muthafucking head. But you must like it. Yeah, I think you like this shit.” He soaked Vanessa’s wash cloth in the cool water before partially wringing it out. He then checked his appearance in the bathroom mirror before heading back to their bedroom. The mere sight of him caused Vanessa to back pedal on the floor towards the corner, positive he was coming to deliver more blows that still had her feeling dizzy. Her ribs ached as well as her back from the rapid kidney punches he gave to her after she tried, to no avail, guarding herself against his assault. She was afraid to look up at him, afraid to speak and even more-so, afraid to breathe, worried that he may have fractured her ribs. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
“Why was that nigga in my house, V-Dot? Huh?” Eric asked as he walked over to her slowly.
Vanessa shook her head getting ready to make her plea for him to spare her anymore punches. “Please Eric, I swear. He was just an insurance salesman doing door to door sales,” she whimpered in a hoarse voice.
“So the fuck what!” Eric bellowed. “You should’ve left that nigga outside. But you brought him in my house!”
“It was raining out, I was just…” Vanessa was cut off by Eric’s strong hand going around her neck.
“I don’t give a fuck if the Bloods and the Crypts were having an all-out gun battle out this muthafucka. You think I worked my ass off all these years to get everything I have just for you to bring some bum-ass nigga in here to take my shit?” Eric spoke through clenched teeth while getting all the way in Vanessa’s face.
“Please…” Vanessa managed to squeal, feeling a bit of darkness begin to take over. “Oh my God, this is it. He’s really going to kill me this time.” Vanessa thought to herself. She didn’t bother fighting him back, knowing that would only make things ten times worse. Eric stared at her a moment longer before shoving her into the wall and standing up. Vanessa let out a dry, ragged cough, trying desperately to get in air to breathe. She wanted to scream, but she knew better with that as well. There was no screaming in his house. No way would she ever raise her voice louder than his.
Eric picked up her dampened wash cloth and threw it at her, hitting her in the face with it. “Clean yourself up and clean up this damn room,” he said calmly before casually walking out of their bedroom as though nothing happened.
Vanessa placed the cold rag on her face and began to sob. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand what she had done in her life that was so horrible that karma was dishing out this kind of wrath on her. At twenty-two years old, she had suffered and endured more than most women who were twice her age. “Why me?” she asked herself before coughing again. She spat in the wash cloth and wasn’t surprised when she saw the red spots of blood.
Vanessa thought back to when she first met Eric two years before while she was in her junior year of college. She was with her best friend Arianna shopping in the King of Prussia Mall when they crossed paths with him inside of Saks Fifth Avenue. Though Vanessa was immediately attracted to him, she was sure that he was going to go for Arianna instead. Eric appeared alluring to Vanessa, standing over six feet tall and having a medium, muscular build. He had a honey brown complexion almost looking as though the sun has placed golden, glowing kisses on his skin. His deep, chocolate brown eyes almost took her breath away when they initially made eye contact, and the dimples in his smile nearly made her melt inside. She noticed that he was coming over to her and Arianna and she pretended to be smitten by a faded pair of 7 for all Mankind jeans
 “How are you ladies doing?” Eric asked in a deep, friendly voice filled with sex appeal. Arianna hadn’t noticed him until he came over to them and gave him the once over before smiling.
“We’re good. How are you?” she asked with a seductive grin, ready to shift into a flirtatious mode.
“I’m good also,” Eric replied. He mostly ignored Arianna as he stared intently at Vanessa. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Vanessa,” she said with a blush as she looked away from him.
Eric studied her as he made small conversation with her, immediately seeing that she was younger than him and quite shy. He watched her as she tentatively picked up different pairs of jeans, checked the price and then placed them back on the rack. He could tell she wanted to shop, but her pockets were holding her back.
“You should get those jeans. Not too many ladies have the right look to pull those off, but I think they would be perfect on you.”
“You think so?” Arianna replied with a slight grin as she looked at her friend, not at all pleased that Eric seemed more interested in Vanessa than in her. “She needs to put some meat on her bones with her little boney ass,” she chuckled at her one woman comedy show. Vanessa shook her head and rolled her eyes, slightly blowing off Arianna’s comment as she prepared to put the jeans back on the rack.
“Not at all,” Eric replied. “Petite, slender women make the best models and I can definitely see you ripping the run-way in a pair of these.”
Vanessa blushed. “I wasn’t going to get them anyway. I was just checking them out real quick.”
Eric picked the jeans up that she had just placed back on the rack and looked at the size. “How about I get them for you?” he offered with a charming smile. Arianna’s eyes bulged knowing that the jeans her best friend was just looking at had to be over $200. Envy boiled inside of her but she clenched her teeth to hold back on another snide remark, not wanting to appear jealous of the offer. Instead she told herself the guy was just bullshitting, expecting Vanessa to turn him down so he could put them back without embarrassing himself.
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that,” Vanessa said quickly. “Oh, I know I don’t have to. But I want to. How about this?” Eric said quickly. “You letting me take you out to dinner can be your way of saying thank you for buying these jeans for you.”
Arianna was now standing behind Eric and looked at Vanessa wide eyed. She quietly stomped her feet and mouthed dramatically, “Bitch, you better say yes! I swear to God, if you say no, I’ma punch you in the throat. Tell the man yes!” Vanessa peered at Arianna and then smiled nervously at Eric unsure of what she should say. Eric sensed Arianna’s influence behind him and turned to her. She quickly rubbed her hand across her neck as though she was doing and saying nothing and gave him a friendly smile. When he turned his attention back to Vanessa, Arianna gave her an evil eye and mouthed again, “You better take them damn jeans!”
“You’re really serious?” Vanessa looked at him suspiciously.
“I’m really serious. I want to get to know you better and though this is one of my favorite stores, this isn’t exactly my idea of a first date, you know what I mean?”
Vanessa took a deep breath and thought to herself, “Screw it, how often will something like this happen to me?” “Okay…” she replied hesitantly. She retrieved the jeans from the rack and was about to place them over her arm when Eric stopped her.
“I’ll carry those for you,” he said with another charismatic smile that almost made her heart stop.
“Thank you,” Vanessa said shyly as she smiled as well.
“You’re going to need a shirt to go with that as well as a pair of shoes…”
Before Vanessa knew it, Eric was paying for her a Dolce & Gabbana blouse along with a Chanel hand bag and a pair of Chanel low heel stilettos. Vanessa thought she was in a dream by the way he helped her try the shoe on and didn’t seem the least bit impatient as she made up her mind about what she wanted. Arianna tagged along enviously feeling like the third wheel, not understanding for the life of her what Eric saw in Vanessa that he did not see in her. Though they were best friends, Arianna always felt a need to compete with Vanessa. They were equally beautiful young ladies who had both grown up in the “Brickyard” section of Germantown. “Cradle to the Grave” is how they always said they would be, meeting when they were in the second grade. They were enemies at first, getting into a small fist fight in the school yard of Kelly’s elementary school over a double-dutch game. They would later become the best of friends after Arianna saw a few girls from Morton Homes trying to jump Vanessa one day and she jumped a fence to intervene. Ever since then, they were thick as thieves and inseparable. Arianna was a “red-boned” female mixed with Italian and Black. Her great-grandfather was a full blooded Italian who shunned his daughter when she got pregnant by a “Black Mooly”. Practically her entire family disowned her in her Chicago home-town. When she was asked for her hand in marriage, Inga quickly accepted and moved with Barry to Philadelphia. Tragically during the race riots near Girard College in the late 1960’s Barry was killed while Inga was pregnant with Arianna’s mother, Josephine. “Josie” wasn’t exactly mother material. She was more attracted to running the streets and bar hopping than raising Arianna, so Inga took care of her and raised her as though she were her own. And while Arianna was indeed intelligent, she used her strikingly beautiful appearance to get most of what she wanted in life. She stood at 5’8 and had a soft, creamy complexion like a cup of coffee that had been heavily diluted with milk. Her hair was naturally thick and curly, but she kept it bone straight and wore it just past her shoulder blades. She was curvy and slightly bow-legged with dimples and dark seductive eyes. In her mind, any man who was not attracted to her was either dumb as hell, or gay. Vanessa on the other hand, was shorter than Arianna and petite. She was barely 5’6 but had an athletic body from playing sports all through grade school and even in college. She played badminton, volley ball and ran track. She was the color of a coconut shell with smooth skin and dark shoulder length hair. And though she was twenty years old, Arianna often joked that if she were to put on a school uniform and pull her hair back into a pony-tail, she could pass for a high-school freshman.
Arianna sat on a bench and began playing with her cell phone while pretending not to be jealous of the mini shopping spree Vanessa was getting from Eric. “I hope his card declines,” she thought to herself as an evil grin crept across her face. But when Vanessa and Eric were walking over to her carrying shopping bags while grinning and giggling like the pair had been dating for months, she knew that wasn’t the case.
“So what time can I pick you up tonight?” Eric asked Vanessa as they slowly walked through King of Prussia.
“I guess 8 o’ clock sounds good.”
“Alright, I’ll make dinner reservations for us and I’ll see you at 8pm.” They exchanged phone numbers and then Vanessa texted him her address. “Would you ladies like a ride home?”
“No thanks,” Arianna said quickly. “We have some other stops to make, right Vanna?”
Vanessa cut her eyes at her best friend. She hated when Arianna called her that and Arianna knew it. “Yes, we have a few more stops to make. Call me later when you are on your way.” Eric smiled and gave her a warm embrace. Vanessa thought she was going to melt when she smelled his Izzy Miyake cologne. Arianna rolled her eyes again and looked at her non-existent watch on her wrist to drive the point home that she had run out of patience. Eric parted ways with Vanessa and she walked away with Arianna with a bit of a bounce in her step.
“You are such a cocky bitch,” Arianna said with a smirk.
“And you are a hater,” Vanessa smiled.
“I can’t believe he bought all that for you and didn’t know you from Adam. You better watch it, that fucking credit card is probably stolen,” Arianna said.
“Ugh, you are such a hater, shut up!”
“You think I’m joking. What man does that? Just walks up to a strange girl that he doesn’t know shit about and spends over a stack on her in Saks? This ain’t Pretty Woman and you are not Julia Roberts.”
“Hay-ter,” Vanessa said again in a sing song manner.
“Yeah, whatever. Watch he tries to fuck you in the ass tonight,” Arianna said before laughing loudly.
Vanessa burst out laughing with her. “You are a horrible, HORRIBLE person, girl. Just horrible! You wouldn’t be saying that if he had bought this stuff for you.”
“Nah, but you probably would.”
“No I wouldn’t because unlike you, I’m not a hater,” Vanessa replied as she continued to smile.
“Yeah well, you better take your mace with you because ol’ boy definitely finna steal your virginity tonight.” The two of them laughed together as they took the escalator down to the food court. “You’re laughing like I’m joking. But you gon’ learn tonight. You gon’ learn about that long dick,” Arianna mimicked Kevin Hart.
“Alright, alright, alriiiiight!” They both said at the same time before leaning into each other and laughing. They went over to Chick-Fil-A to grab something to eat before heading home.
Later on that night, Vanessa nervously got dressed for her first date with Eric. She obsessed over how she should wear her hair, her accessories; hoop earrings or diamond studs, lip-gloss or lip-stick.
Arianna sighed and shook her head before propping herself up on her pillows. “You need to get a damn grip girl, shit. It’s not that deep!”
“It is that deep. I’m not like you, going out on dates with different guys every other day,” Vanessa replied as she checked herself out in the mirror.
“Well maybe if you did, you wouldn’t be tripping.”
Vanessa turned around. “How do I look?”
Arianna looked her over. “Your outfit is cute but honestly, you look like a kid playing dress up in her big sister’s cool wardrobe. Take that pony-tail out of your hair and put some make-up on.”
“I don’t like make-up,” Vanessa frowned.
“Well, you’re going to like it tonight. You’re rocking a Chanel bag and Chanel shoes. Bitch, if you don’t at least put some eye-liner on and some mascara and make your lips look kissable,” Arianna suggested as she pushed her friend down in the chair.
“He liked me without make-up, though!” Vanessa whined.
“Vanna baby, I love you to death. But trust me when I tell you, he may have been attracted to you in Saks today, but he also dropped over a stack on one outfit to take you out. He wants to show off his lady not his little sister. Now hold still so I don’t poke you in the eye with this pencil.” They both giggled before Arianna started fixing Vanessa’s face. She quickly undid her ponytail and ran her fingers through hair before parting it on the side and re-styling it. “Hot-damn, girl! Eric is gonna be on that ass tonight!” Arianna grinned as she admired her handy work. Vanessa smiled as she looked at herself in the mirror. She hadn’t been done up like this since her senior prom.
They heard a knock at the door and Vanessa jumped up. “Oh my God, that’s him. I’m nervous.”
“Girl, have a seat in here while I get the door. You want to wow him when you make your grand entrance,” Arianna said before leaving the room so she could answer their door. The two of them shared an apartment in a duplex near La Salle University where they went to school. It was their way of being adults and not having to stay in their parents’ homes while completing their education. It was more of a benefit for Arianna than Vanessa since it kept her from having to deal with the unbearably strict rules her grandmother set for her in hopes that it would keep her from traveling down the same path as her mother, Josie.
“Hey Eric!” Arianna said with a smile after opening the door for him. She gave him the once over just as she had done at Saks Fifth Avenue earlier and thought to herself that he looked good enough to eat. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans with a pair of Prada sneakers, a white Polo shirt and a blazer. He even smelled better than he did earlier.
“How are you…?” he winced not remembering her name.
“Arianna…” she replied with a frown. “I’ma let you slide on that one, home-boy. Just don’t let it happen again,” she joked in a flirty manner. She called for Vanessa to come out of the room for her date. Eric smiled at her but turned his attention to Vanessa. His smile widened as he gave her the once over.
“You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Vanessa blushed. He took her by the hand tenderly and kissed her on the cheek making her blush some more.
“What time should I expect you?” Arianna asked.
Vanessa looked at Eric and then looked at Arianna. “Um, I don’t know. Are we just doing dinner tonight?” she asked Eric.
“Whatever you want to do afterwards is fine with me as long as I get to spend as much time with you as the night allows me to.”
Vanessa blushed again. “You don’t have to wait up, I’m a big girl,” she said to Arianna.
“Yeah, uh huh. Okay,” Arianna replied as she walked them to the door. She watched from the window and her mouth damn near hit the floor when she saw Eric open the car door to what she estimated to be a 2012 Infiniti. Vanessa sat inside and he closed her door before jogging around to the other side and getting in. Arianna watched the car until it disappeared down the street.
“He’s probably a drug dealer. Yup, that nigga’s a trap king,” she smirked before closing the blinds and going to pop some popcorn for her mini marathon of Law & Order SVU.
Though Vanessa was nervous, she hit it off very well with Eric during their drive to Chima’s Brazilian Steakhouse for their dinner date. Eric made her feel at ease as they both talked of their child-hoods. While he didn’t look it, Eric was 25 years old and worked as a partner with one of the top Financial Brokerage Firms in the Tri-State area. He had no children, had never been married and for the last five years, he had been more focused on establishing a career and a good life than starting a family and settling down. He told Vanessa that he dated off and on but hadn’t met a young lady he could see himself with for a long time. Vanessa thought that he was too good to be true. Most of the guys that she knew who were his age had done at least one bid in jail, were barely making above minimum wage at a mediocre job with hardly any aspirations for anything better than the next get rich quick scheme; a party promotor or an “up & coming” rap star from Philly with a mix-tape always coming soon but never arriving. And then there were the DJ’s hustling at hole in the wall bars and clubs or alley-way block parties, guys with multiple children by multiple women who still lived at home with their mothers; back bedroom or basement dwellers who only left home when their chick of the moment let them stay with them. Because of the same scenarios she constantly ran into, she gave up on dating and focused more on school, hoping to enroll into law school after she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in criminology. Eric was impressed with her aspirations as well as they sat in Chima’s talking some more while waiting for their dinner.
At first, Vanessa was afraid to order after she had seen the prices. Not wanting to over step her boundaries, she asked him to recommend a dish stating that she had never been to the restaurant before. Eric ordered the Picanha-top sirloin for Vanessa and a salmon steak for himself with a bottle of Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon- 2010 wine and two salads.
“I’m only twenty,” Vanessa whispered to him after the waiter poured both of them a glass and walked away.
“It’s okay, I won’t tell if you won’t tell,” Eric smiled. “You’ve never had wine before?”
“I’ve never drank, smoked, nothing,” Vanessa said bashfully.
“Well, first things first: sip, don’t gulp. But when you sip it, don’t swallow it right away. Close your eyes and let the flavor dance around your mouth for a moment. Let it play a sweet melody on your tongue almost as though it’s singing to your taste buds,” Eric said softly. He watched her intently. “Now swallow it.” Vanessa did as he said and then slowly opened her eyes. Looking into his eyes, she felt hot, and aroused. She felt his seduction wash over her body and felt as though she was getting to know him intimately without having him touch her physically.
“Was it good?” he asked her in the same soft voice, snapping her out of her trance.
“Yes,” she replied trying hard not to bite down on her lip and trying even harder not to stare at his. Eric sat back and smiled as though he read her thoughts and could sense what she was feeling. He took a sip from his glass and then swirled it slightly before sitting it down and looking back at her.
“When do you turn 21?” he asked.
“In June. My friends want to throw me a big party, but nah. I’m just not into that.”
“Well, how about I take you to one of my favorite vineyards and we can go wine tasting together. You’ll love it. That’s normally around the time that I grab a few bottles for the winter and the fall anyway, so if things work out for us, we can make it a date.”
Vanessa smiled. She was liking Eric more and more even though she had just met him. “Maybe we can.”
They ate their dinner and desert continuing their conversation, sharing stories, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company as they got to know one another. After Eric paid the bill, he drove them over to Warm Daddy’s where they listened to the live band and had a few more drinks. Eric then noticed that it was almost 1am and decided to bring the evening to a close. He pulled up in front of her residence and got out of the car so he could open her door. He walked her to the front door and she turned to face him.
“I had a wonderful time tonight. I honestly can’t think of any other time I went out on a date and had this much fun with a guy who genuinely seemed interested in me and was such a gentleman. Thank you,” Vanessa said with a smile.
“You don’t have to thank me, Vanessa. That’s what a man is supposed to do, and if a man isn’t doing those things for you, he isn’t a man.”
Vanessa blushed and looked away from him for a moment. Before she realized it, Eric leaned in and kissed her softly. She hesitated momentarily, but then kissed him back. He pulled away before giving her another peck on the lips and then brushed her hair behind her ear.
“I’ll call you when I get in, okay.”
Vanessa nodded unable to speak, feeling like her breath had been taken away. Eric waited for her to go inside before getting into his car and driving away. Vanessa floated to the bedroom that she and Arianna shared and plopped down on her bed grinning from ear to ear. She replayed the night over in her head mainly focusing on their kiss as she continued to smile. She was snapped out of her daydream by Arianna’s groggy voice.
“GTD or naw?” Arianna asked in a husky voice.
“GTD?” Vanessa asked confused.
Arianna clicked the lamp on by her dresser. “Got the drawls, dawg!” She burst out laughing, imitating Tommy from the T.V show “Martin” and Vanessa laughed with her.
“You’re so goofy! No he didn’t get the drawls, girl shut up!” Vanessa went into the bathroom and changed into her night clothes before crawling into bed and dishing the details of her date with Eric. That night, Vanessa was positive she had found the man she was looking for; charismatic, smart, funny, and ambitious, good looking, kind and gentle. She was positive Eric was the man of her dreams. Little did she know he would turn out to be nothing more than a hellish nightmare from which she could not escape…

2

Eric had gone out for the night like he normally does after he and Vanessa get into a physical altercation. Once before, Vanessa had tried to leave him and because of that, he put locks on the door that could only be unlocked from the inside as well as the outside with a key. And of course, he was the only one who had the key. So Vanessa literally was a prisoner in her own home. As punishment once, Eric locked her in the house with only one bottle of water and a half of a can of plain Pringles. He also took her cell phone so she couldn’t call anyone and disconnected the internet so she couldn’t get on any of her social media pages, send emails or anything. For two days she practically starved as she tried to ration out the chips, choosing to sleep off the hunger so she didn’t suffer too much. On the eve of the second day, Eric came home as though nothing had happened, with her favorite Beef with Garlic Sauce Chinese food, a shrimp roll and a mango Nantucket. He purposely opened the food to let the aroma fill the air, teasing her senses and awakening her hunger even more. But before he allowed her to eat, he demanded she performed oral sex on him. Eric forced his throbbing member in and out of her mouth with such vigor, becoming more and more aggressive each time she gagged and sounded as though she would vomit on him. Seeing her eyes getting teary and hearing the gagging noises she made turned him on even more. Without warning, he ejaculated in her mouth and on her face. He then laid her on her back and pushed her knees to her chest before entering her hard and deeply. She clawed the sheets, grimacing against his strong thrusts knowing better than to scratch his back because that would result in a hard slap to the face or him possibly choking her as he fucked her harder and deeper. He seemed to enjoy seeing her face covered in his cum and that made him pound her even harder. Not being able to take the look on his face any longer, she closed her eyes trying hard to separate herself from that experience. After he ejaculated the second time, Eric flung her legs off of him as though she was just a whore whom he had picked up off the street, and walked out of the room not saying a word. Vanessa never felt so degraded and humiliated. It wasn’t until almost two hours later that the sexual escapade came to an end. But by then, her food was already cold. Vanessa had lost her appetite and just wanted to take a shower.
Vanessa laid in the bed as that memory danced around in her head. Her constant thoughts and questions of “why” were endless and always resulted in no answers. She stopped believing she was a good person and began to tell herself this is what she deserved. The best way she knew to comfort herself was to tell herself that it could always be worst. She could be dead.
“But is death really worse than what’s happening now?” a voice said inside of her head. She ignored it and rolled over in the bed before closing her eyes and thinking back to when times were happier between her and Eric…
They had been dating for six months and Vanessa couldn’t be happier. And though she had spent nights at his place, they still had not had sex. Eric was well aware that she was a virgin and did not pressure her into being with him intimately. Sometimes Vanessa thought that he was tempting her with the coconut oil body massages he would give to her, the way he would walk around his house with no shirt on looking as though he had just stepped out of a Melanin Adonis God Catalogue. But at night when they would go to bed, he would only wrap his arms around her and sleep. While Vanessa had never experienced sex, she was indeed feeling sexually frustrated.
“Why don’t you just tell him you want to fuck for goodness sakes?! Sheesh!” Arianna asked one day when they were in their apartment.
“Oh my God, Ari! Do you have to put it that way?” Vanessa shook her head as she folded her clothes.
“I’m just saying! This man got you all horny and shit, damn near leaving a trail of pussy juice behind you as you move about, complaining about the lack of dick action you’re getting. Say something! Shit, closed mouths don’t get fed, and closed legs don’t get fucked.”
Vanessa shook her head at her friend. “You’re a whole mess.”
“Yeah well, at least my coochie ain’t dying from dick deprivation,” they both laughed at her comment. “Aw shit, what if he has a little dick and he’s scared you might laugh at him.” Arianna roared with laughter. “I bet that’s it! He’s a little midget, limp-dick, leprechaun mofo!”
“Nah, that’s not it. I felt it up against me when we were sleep and it definitely wasn’t little,” Vanessa replied with a mischievous grin.
“Oooh, girl! How big was it, could you tell? Was it on some Idris Elba shit from the movie “Takers” when he got out the bed and you could see that big Black Mandingo Warrior dick behind his drawls! That print was like POW!”
“God help this girl,” Vanessa chuckled. “I’m not telling you! All I’ma say is he definitely ain’t small.”
“Then he’s probably a two pump chump… shit, you better hope his ass ain’t gay.”
“Here you go! He’s definitely not gay.”
“Shit, you don’t know. Niggas hide that shit too well these days. And it don’t even be the obvious fagalicious fairies you gotta worry about. Those the ones who are cool with me because they accept their gayness, they ain’t trying to hide it. It be those fine niggas with the deep-ass Barry White voices, talking about just cause they let a bitch eat they ass or stick a finger up they ass, that don’t mean they’re gay, knowing muthafucking well they’re a jail sentence away from getting butt-fucked like Bubba’s bitch. You better watch that nigga,” Arianna warned.
“If you don’t shut up, Arianna I swear on my life, I’ma punch you in the throat. Eric is not gay.” Vanessa rolled her eyes starting to become annoyed.
“Alright, if you say so. But if his dick ain’t little and he’s not a two-pump chump or gay, you got another problem.”
“And what’s that, Ms. Know-It-All?” Vanessa retorted.
“He might be fucking somebody else. And this ain’t me on some hating shit either, Vanna. I’m dead up. When a nigga ain’t worried about getting pussy from the chick he’s with, it’s because he’s getting pussy from somewhere else. Don’t believe me if you want to. All jokes aside, that’s some real shit. Any nigga on the street will tell you that. All that I’ll wait for you shit, it’s no rush, or whenever you’re ready, is a bunch of bullshit. One thing a nigga not gonna go without is some pussy. He might go without food, a haircut, hell a nigga will even go without washing his fucking drawls. But he for damn sure ain’t gonna go without getting any pussy from somewhere. So remember this, if I ain’t teach you nothing, I taught you this; what you won’t do, there’s twenty thousand bitches lined up waiting to do that and more. Eric is young, fine as hell, has his own place, his own car, don’t have a bunch of ratchet kids by a bunch of different ratchet-ass baby-moms running around. He has good credit, never been to jail and got money. What bitch wouldn’t be throwing the pussy his way?” Arianna looked at Vanessa with the screw face as though she should know better.
“Does that include you?” Vanessa asked her best friend seriously.
Arianna stared at Vanessa for a moment before smiling. “I’ll tell it to you like this, if you wasn’t my home-girl and I didn’t love you like a sister, I would have fucked that nigga months ago and had a toothbrush, a drawer and closet space in his house. I’d have the keys to his car, know when he gets paid and what percentage is going to be mine.” And with those words, Arianna went into the kitchen to get her a bowl of ice-cream.
Vanessa thought on Arianna’s words. She began to wonder if what she said was true. What if Eric wasn’t worried about having sex with her because he was getting taken care of by someone else? What if holding onto her virginity left her inexperienced and unable to satisfy her man, which would ultimately cause him to look for sexual satisfaction from another woman. She was falling in love with Eric and didn’t want to lose him over sex. She sat down on the bed and began to devise a plan to seduce him for her 21st birthday that was coming up in a week.
The night of her birthday, she pretended she had a serious craving for some cookie dough ice-cream and begged Eric to get her a half-gallon from the market. While he was gone, she quickly showered again and put on the sexy lingerie that she purchased from Victoria’s Secret earlier that day. It was a black, lacey bodysuit that accentuated her cleavage and was see-through in the midsection as well as in the crotch area. She made sure the day before she got herself a Brazilian bikini wax and waxed her legs as well. She was just placing the bow on her tummy when she heard Eric’s car pull up in the drive-way. She hurried to put the six inch heels on and ran into the kitchen almost stumbling and falling twice. She posted up on the kitchen counter in a sexy pose and waited for Eric to come into the kitchen. Vanessa could hear that he was talking on the phone and began to get nervous as he got closer to the kitchen. When Eric saw her, he stopped in mid-sentence.
“Yo, I’m going to have to call you back…” he said as he peered at Vanessa. He disconnected the call and sat the phone and the bag on the kitchen table before looking Vanessa over, immediately becoming erect as he gazed at her body. “Damn baby, is it my birthday or yours?” he asked as he walked over to her.
Vanessa giggled nervously. “Mine,” she replied as Eric kissed her neck. “But I don’t mind sharing.”
They kissed each other but Eric pulled away from her. “Are you sure about this? I don’t want to rush you into anything.”
Vanessa nodded. “I’m sure.”
Eric kissed her again before picking her up and carrying her to his bedroom. Vanessa thought she would be terrified but she felt completely safe with him at that moment and wanted to be with him intimately more than anything in the world. She watched Eric as he undressed like a wide-eyed toddler seeing an amusement park for the first time. The only thing she could think of was how absolutely amazing his body was. She marveled over every inch of him feeling like she would lose her breath. She wanted to take in every second, every minute; memorize every detail, scent and taste so she could play it again and again in her mind and never forget. Eric was gentle and passionate with her so much so that Vanessa thought she would cry. She had never felt such ecstasy before in her life. When it was over, she clung to him shaking as they looked at each other. If she had not been sure before that night, she was absolutely positive at that moment that she was in love with him and there was no doubting it. Eric kissed her again as he looked in her eyes. “I love you, V-Dot.” He laid next to her, pulling her close as he wrapped his arms around her. “I love you, too,” Vanessa replied as she snuggled close to him before falling asleep.

3

Vanessa wiped her eyes as she reminisced on the night her and Eric first made love. And as usual, she couldn’t help but to wonder how someone who had been so tender, loving and kind to her, could turn into such a monster. She slowly got up and winced before grabbing her side. She took a slow, deep breath, praying that her ribs weren’t fractured again. The excuses of falling down the steps were getting tired and she had already used that excuse twice at Einstein Hospital, Chestnut Hill Hospital, Abington Memorial Hospital and Temple University. They were eventually going to either figure she was very clumsy or was lying her ass off. After a moment or so, Vanessa slowly made her way downstairs to the kitchen and put the tea kettle on the stove to make herself some chamomile tea. She sat down at the counter and laid her head down, closing her eyes. She felt weak physically and mentally, though she was positive that was not always the case with her. Vanessa could recall conversations that she had in her high-school classes with other students about domestic violence and the stance that she took on it. She believed a woman who stayed with a man who beat her was dumb as hell and no amount of fear in this world would cause her to stay in a situation that was harmful to her. And now look at the irony. She couldn’t help but wonder if God was punishing her or making her see first-hand that her viewpoint on domestic violence was incorrect. Fear can be overpowering, and sometimes no amount of strength can get a woman to see the light when she is in this kind of trouble. It’s easy to say what you’ll do in a situation when you’re not actually in that situation. And now Vanessa found herself in this situation and didn’t know what to do to get herself out of it. That passing thought made her reflect on the day that Eric hit her for the first time.
The brokerage firm that he worked for was having a Black Tie party and Eric wanted to take her with him so she could meet some of his partners and friends. He convinced her to wear a black Diane Von Furstenburg dress that was form fitting and low-cut in the back. The dress was long with a slight flare at the bottom. She wore a pair of open toe, strappy four inch heels, and carried a clutch handbag. Eric walked into the gala like a proud man with his beautiful woman on his arm. But they hardly spent any of the evening together. Eric was mostly with his partners talking business and left Vanessa alone for primarily the entire night. After feeling stupid while standing in a corner watching everyone mingle, and losing sight of which way Eric went, she went over to the bar and ordered herself a glass of champagne. She was sipping it and casually bopping her head to an old P. Diddy song playing when a gentleman sat down next to her and ordered himself a drink as well. Vanessa vaguely paid him any mind as she wished Eric would come back from wherever he was so they could either dance together or go home.
“How are you doing?” the man asked her in a friendly voice.
“Oh, hello,” Vanessa smiled.
“I’m doing pretty good tonight, and yourself?”
“I’m well, thank you. Nice party. Could have done better with the DJ, though,” the friendly man chuckled.
Vanessa swallowed her drink back almost choking on it as she tried to suppress her giggle.
“I’m Antoine, by the way,” the friendly man said as he extended his hand to shake hers. “
Vanessa,” she replied with a smile and shaking his hand.
“So Vanessa, are you with one of the firms here?”
“Oh, no. I’m just a guest. I’m here with my boyfriend, but he seems to have disappeared on me. I guess he’s drumming up some more business so I’m not too upset.”
“Ahh… the beautiful ones are always taken. What a shame,” Antoine said before drinking from his wine glass. “Well, shame on him for leaving a pretty lady alone in a room where the wolves could descend at any moment.”
Vanessa chuckled. “I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.”
Antoine smiled. “I don’t doubt that for one second.” He finished his drink and extended his hand to be shaken again. When Vanessa went to shake it, he brought it up to his lips and kissed it briefly. “It was a pleasure meeting you Ms. Vanessa. Enjoy the rest of the party.”
“The pleasure’s all mine,” Vanessa smiled. She was still smiling as Antoine walked away. She checked him out a little longer before turning back to the bar to finish her drink. She never saw Eric approaching from the direction Antoine was headed in.
“See something you liked?” Eric asked from behind her.
Vanessa turned towards him and smiled. “Hey, babe.” She stood up to kiss him on the cheek but the look in his eyes made her feel as though something was wrong. “Did everything go okay with your co-workers?”
“Everything was fine. Are you ready to go?” Eric asked flatly.
“Yes, sure if you’re ready, I’m ready.” Vanessa stood up and Eric sat a twenty on the bar for the bartender. He instructed him to keep the change and he and Vanessa waited for the valet to bring his car around. The silence felt awkward to Vanessa so she cleared her throat. “Is everything okay?” she asked.
“I don’t know, you tell me,” Eric replied as he looked at her.
“What’s do you mean?”
“Who was the dude at the bar?”
“Oh, Antoine? He was just a guy that was buying a drink and he asked if I was enjoying the party. I told him I was here with my boyfriend and was having a pretty good time. He cracked a joke about how they could have hired a better DJ and when he finished his drink, he told me to enjoy the party and left,” Vanessa explained wondering why Eric would let that bother him.
Eric laughed sarcastically as the valet handed him the keys to his Infiniti. “Antoine. You on a first name basis with these niggas now?”
“Eric, why are you getting bent out of shape over a friendly guy who was buying a drink near me and was just being cordial.”
“I ain’t bent out of shape over no nigga being cordial. That nigga wasn’t being cordial. He kissing your hand and you smiling at him, checking the nigga out while he’s damn near across the fucking room. I’m not bent out of shape, try fucking annoyed,” Eric snapped.
“First off, you need to stop cursing at me, Eric. I’m not talking to you like that so don’t talk to me like that,” Vanessa replied becoming upset.
“What? I’ll talk to you any fucking way I want. Fuck wrong with you.”
“Whatever, Eric. I don’t know what your problem is tonight but like I said, don’t talk to me like that. Getting mad over a guy kissing my hand is so petty. It’s not even that deep.”
 “I’m petty? I’m being petty, now? You’re calling me petty? I leave you alone for five minutes and you in the party acting like a hoe.”
“Acting like a what?!” Vanessa repeated looking at Eric as though he had lost his mind. When Eric stopped at a light, she opened the car door to get out. Eric snatched her by her arm and pulled her back to her seat
 “Get off of me!” Vanessa yelled at him as she yanked away.
“Close the damn door, where the hell do you think you’re going and I’m talking to you? Close the fucking door, NOW!” The look on Eric’s face slightly frightened Vanessa. The light turned from red to green and the cars behind them began to honk. Vanessa slammed the car door shut and folded her arms across her chest. “I know you better not slam my fucking door again,” Eric practically growled. He continued to snap at her about Antoine from the party for the duration of the ride home. When he parked in the driveway, Vanessa got out of the car and slammed the door again. She marched over to the front door and used her key to unlock it. No sooner than she made it to the living room, Eric snatched her by her arm and spun her around before slapping her in her face. Vanessa cried out and stumbled back in her heels almost falling. She put a hand to her face feeling the sting from his slap and looked at him with tears in her eyes. When she got over the shock of him slapping her, she cocked her fist back and swung back at him but Eric blocked it.
“Bitch!” Eric barked. He punched Vanessa in her face, knocking her to the floor. Before Vanessa had a chance to brace herself, he was on top of her. “Bitch, I will break your fucking neck in here, swinging on me like you’re tough!” Vanessa struggled to fight back, screaming for him to get off of her, but that only infuriated him some more. He put his hand around her throat and squeezed. Her legs kicked beneath him trying desperately to kick him in the groin. “Oh bitch, I see you have to learn the hard-way,” Eric said as he snatched Vanessa by her hair and dragged her from the living room to the stairs. Her arms and legs flared as she screamed and begged for him to stop, but her cries fell on deaf ears. As Eric tried to drag her up the stairs, she clung to the banister. He used his fist to beat on her knuckles to make her let go. He then yanked her away, and dragged her up the stairs. He stopped momentarily between steps to slap her in the face again. When they got to the bedroom, Vanessa tried to scramble to her feet but Eric punched her in her back and in her ribs, knocking the wind out of her. He then grabbed her by the neck again, lifting her in the air and throwing her to the floor.
“You better not ever fucking disrespect me like that again! Ever! You hear me!” he yelled before kicking her like a dog.
Vanessa curled up in a ball with her arms covering her head and her face to protect herself from any other punches or slaps he may have delivered. She cried and sobbed as she peeked from behind her arms to see where he was.
“Shut the fuck up,” Eric said calmly before walking out of the room.
Vanessa listened for his footsteps and heard him when he walked down to the kitchen. She laid on the floor a little longer, struggling to catch her breath while wondering what the hell had just happened. Who was the monster impersonating the man she slept with almost every night and had loved more than anything in the world? When she felt like she could move, she sat up slowly and placed her hands to her head as she felt dizzy and nauseous. She crawled hurriedly to the bathroom and lift the toilet seat up, vomiting everything she ate and drank that evening. She rest her head against the cold porcelain bowl and began to sob. Vanessa stopped when she thought she heard Eric coming back upstairs. She quickly shut the bathroom door and locked it.
“V-dot, open the door,” Eric said as he twisted the door knob. His voice sounded much calmer than it did five minutes before.
“No!” Vanessa said back as she choked on her sobs.
“Vanessa, please. Let me in. I just want to talk, babe.”
“Talk? With what, your fists? I think you’ve said enough.”
Eric placed his hand on the door and leaned on it. “I’m sorry, babe. I don’t know what came over me. Just please, let me in so I can make sure you’re okay. Let me make this right, please. I never meant to hurt you, I swear. I’ll never put my hands on you again, I promise. Please, open the door so we can fix this. Please, Vanessa. I love you.”
Vanessa closed her eyes and listened to him. Though she loved him, she was terrified of him at that moment. She began to think that maybe she did gawk at Antoine as he walked away a little longer than she should have. She knew she wouldn’t have appreciated it if she caught Eric kissing another woman’s hand and then gazing at her body as she walked away. “But he still shouldn’t have hit me,” she thought to herself. She then thought that maybe she should hear him out.
“If you listen to the bullshit he’s about to spew when you open that door, you are a fool. Once a beater, always a beater! Trust me.” a little voice said in her head. She silenced it as she slowly unlocked the door and opened it. She was shocked to see Eric with tears cascading down his face. He looked at her and winced.
“Aw damn baby… I…” he shook his head unable to find the words. “I can’t believe I did this to you. I swear, I’ve never done anything like this before. I swear, I’ve never, ever hit a woman before. My mother raised me better than this. I have sisters and would break a muthafucka up if I ever heard they had done something like this to them.” He reached his hand out to her face to wipe her tears away and Vanessa flinched and moved away from his hand.
“How could you do this to me, Eric? I didn’t do anything! I thought you loved me,” Vanessa cried.
“Vanessa, I do love you. I guess I was more stressed over the party tonight than anything else. Not with you or Antoine, just some things that happened with the discussion I was having with some of the guys we were trying to do business with. Some of the senior partners were spitting my ideas like they were their own and was shutting me outta things. I took it out on you. I shouldn’t have done that.” Eric hung his head in shame and put his hands to his face. “I fucked up, babe. I fucked up bad and if you wanna leave, I guess I don’t have a choice but to respect that and let you go…”
Vanessa stared at him for a moment, her heart aching. The better part of her knew she should run and never look back. But too much of her loved him. Vanessa loved him hard. He was her first love and the only man she had ever loved or been in love with. She understood that no relationship is perfect and felt that they could get through this with a little counseling and maybe even praying together. She reached for his hand and held onto it. Eric grabbed it and fell to his knees in front of her. He buried his face in her abdomen and cried like a baby.
“I promise we’ll fix this. I love you more than anything, Vanessa. I’ve never loved a woman the way I love you. You mean everything to me and I swear I’ll never fuck up like that again. I promise you.” Vanessa was speechless as she stroked the back of his head. She promised herself at that moment that if he was willing to work with her, she was willing to forgive him and try to fix their relationship so they could be stronger together.
“I love you too, baby. But this can’t ever happen again, Eric. I mean it. If it does, I’m gone. Do you understand me?” Vanessa said sternly,
“It won’t happen again. I swear. It won’t.” Eric stood up and kissed her gently. He then sat her down on the toilet and left the bathroom before returning with her bathrobe and a towel. He turned the tub water on and poured some melon scented bubble bath in the water, running her a hot bubble bath. He then undressed her gently and helped her step into the bathtub. He took his time washing her body, squirting the hot, bubbly water down her back and over her chest, soothing her. Afterwards, he helped her from the tub and gently dried her off before placing her robe on her and carrying her to their bedroom. They made love that night as they did on her birthday just two months before. And he held her in his arms like he had held her the very first time and Vanessa began to relax, foolishly believing that things were going to be like they were before that dreadful evening.

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