Nia Ali is the successful owner of a property management company in New York. While expanding her business and selling her way to the top, she realizes her love life is at an all time low.
She then meets Darion Brown, a handsome contractor and blossoms a romance. But when her business relationships take a dangerous turn, she finds herself unsure if she can maintain the balance, or possibly lose everything.
Greeted by light shining through a set of old white blinds, I slowly opened my eyes while suppressing the urge to yawn. Quietly sitting up, my vision blurred, I began to slowly take a survey of the small, dark room. I took a glance to the right side of the bed, seeing a large body sleeping next to me. The night before seemed a distant memory, and I knew that I needed to get out of his man’s apartment as soon as possible. Turning my attention back to the room, I could barely make out various items of clothing strewn about. Luckily, I was able to make out my bag in the corner, and the dress I wore last night. What time was it?
I tried to get out of bed without waking the man next to me. What was his name? Sean? Steven? As I shifted on the mattress, I was met with a large grinding sound from the mattress, causing me to stop in my tracks and glance over. He didn’t move. I let out a small breath before strategically shifting my weight to avoid large coils that could make noise. When I stood all the way up, I stretched and maneuvered my way around the room, annoyed with all the clutter in this room. How can he find anything in all this mess? Probably even worse when you can actually see it. Note to self, have one-night stands with guys that clean their rooms before having a girl over.
I finally made my way to my bag and dug in it for my phone. The cold metal felt like salvation in my hands as I ran my hand over the home button. I was greeted with a lotus flower background and a time of 3:24 a.m. I suppressed a groan, realizing that I had to be at work in less than three hours, and I know I looked like hell. The soreness in my back brought me back to my current situation. What the hell did he sleep on? A mattress made of bricks. I adjusted my shoulder to alleviate my sore muscles while doing my best to get dressed in his dark room. Flashes of the night before flooded my memory as I shimmied into the tight dress. I had too much champagne after a successful string of high-end home sales, and meeting this guy seemed to be a blur.
I grabbed my bag and opened the door, carefully closing it behind me. Thankfully, the rest of his apartment seems to be decently lit, and I was able to grab my jacket on the couch. As I made my way to towards the exit, I thought about waking him up to lock the door but decided against it. This is a good neighborhood so he should be fine, right? I unlocked the door and walked out, gently closing it to avoid waking him up. I made my way down a dimly lit hallway. I checked my phone again and noticed that I had a missed call and a text message from my assistant Toni, asking about meeting times and when she can go over my schedule for next week. I went to respond but heard a gentle ping and telling sounds of metal doors moving, realizing that I made it to the elevator.
When I pressed the down button to the garage, I was thrilled to see that no one was in the elevator. This was extremely rare in the city that never sleeps. As I made my way to the parking lot, I pressed my key fob and found my matte black Maserati nestled between two trucks. When I got in my car, I turned it on and glanced at myself in the mirror. After adjusting my hazel eyes to the new light, my large, curly black hair was sticking up more on the left side where I slept, and I wiped my eyes to see a little better. My phone instantly connected to Bluetooth and the band introduction to Beyoncé’s Homecoming began exuding from the speakers.
I quickly peeled out of the parking lot. I rolled down the window and felt the cool dusk air refresh my face. When I hit a stop light, I picked up my phone again and responded to Toni, saying we could review everything when I get into the office at six. Before I even put my phone down, I saw the three dots, showing that she was responding, with a good morning and that she will see me in the office. What is she doing up well past 3:30 in the morning? An angry honk brought me back to reality, and I zoomed through the green light.
A few hours later I found myself in the office, glancing at photos of possible competition in the area. The real estate industry reeled me in from a young age, and I was dazzled by the clean lines, modern designs and large wealth factors. After getting my license and starting my company, I quickly climbed the ranks and became one of the top companies in New York.
I continued to scroll and smirked at the home I was looking at, with its old fixtures. The agent, in an attempt to sell this old shack, described the sad building as authentic with its original design.
“Another way of saying I didn’t want to spend the money to replace all of this shit.” I muttered, snickering at the lack of appeal.
“Nia?” I looked up to see Toni’s timid figure standing outside my office. She was a short, chocolate, thin build with tight black natural curls and black rimmed glasses complimenting her light blue dress. I smiled warmly at her, encouraging her to come into my office. I couldn’t help but laugh at her.
“Toni you don’t have to knock, it’s all glass and I can see you coming,” I teased at her blushing face. My office was all glass with a red couch, and a large mahogany desk with my laptop. Behind me I had a beautiful fiftieth-floor view of New York City.
“I’m very sorry Nia I just feel that its rude not to knock and I see that you were really busy and—” she stammered, and I resisted the urge to sigh.
“Toni, Toni, its fine I was just kidding,” I interrupted softly, calming her. She took a deep breath. This girl was so high strung, I swear. “What is it you needed to tell me?” I asked. I rested my chin in my right hand and closed my laptop with my left.
“I just wanted to remind you of your meeting with Mr. Nickels at Pinnacle Property Constructions is in an hour. It’s a bit away with traffic.” She read on her phone. “Would you like me to grab lunch to have it delivered for your return?” I thought for a moment as she placed the printed copy of a large contract on top of my laptop.
“No thanks, I’ll just grab something on the way home. This should go for a while so once you finish my schedule you can leave for the day and work from home if needed,” I offered, placing my laptop and printed contract in a large red Anne Klein bag. Toni nodded. I grabbed my belongings and stood up.
“Also, Toni,” I started, and she looked at me. “You look beautiful today.” She smiled timidly, thanked me and held the door open for me as I walked out.
“Have a great day Ms. Ali.” I winced at the formal greeting and turned around to face her again, a hand on my hip.
“Toni, how many times have I told you to just call me Nia? I know I’m your boss but were practically the same age.” She stiffened, looking a little frightened.
“I am so sorry Ms.- I mean Nia, I will remember next time, I promise,” she panicked. I internally sighed but smiled as I slid on my sunglasses to head outside.
This building contract with Pinnacle Properties Construction had taken longer than I would have liked it to, as they are a newer company and needed to do many of these formalities manually, like the paper contract. However, because they came in much less expensive than the competition, I have decided to overlook the extra steps necessary.
As I slid into the elevator, my phone buzzed loudly with text messages from a group chat. I pulled out my phone and hit the down button on the elevator, my phone continued to buzz as I was assaulted with multiple messages from my childhood best friend Alicia.
Hey girl, I know you are busy, but you owe me that sample of short stories.
I groaned at the reminder, trying to think of an excuse to give myself more time. Alicia owns her own editing and publishing company, and when she was up and coming, she constantly complained about the lack of talent and needed a well written genre to jumpstart her brand. I had initially joked over a few glasses of wine to start in romantic novels and enticing erotic short stories, and that I had written a few samples as a hobby. When Alicia read them, she practically jumped at the opportunity to edit and show them to her stakeholders, who initially hesitated about associating the brand with adult books. However, after witnessing the stocks skyrocket with over a half a million dollars in sales, they pushed Alicia to scour for the necessary talent to for her company to trailblaze the market. After hundreds of applications and writing samples, she set her sights on three authors that she calls, “mediocre, but malleable”. She begged me for more samples, insisting that I have some type of gift for writing. I wrote back,
Sorry, I’ve been slammed at work, will start on a new short story later.
As soon as I hit send, the elevator dinged and I walked through the lobby, and out the front door where I was greeted by Carlos, my usual valet. He was a tall, curly haired medium build in all black uniform, employed by the building. His acne and fluctuating tone in his voice solidifying his juvenile age.
“Good Morning Nia.” He smiled politely. “I will get your car for you, just a moment please.” I smiled back, handing him my keys.
I took a deep sigh to prepare myself for the long day ahead. Glancing around, I noticed many vendors selling roses, chocolate, candy and teddy bears galore. The advertisements on the billboards for dating websites made me realize that tomorrow was Valentine’s Day. I internally sighed, a stinging reminder that I am not in a relationship.
This was not for the lack of trying, as I have been on so many terrible dates in the past few weeks that I had decided to take a break. I shuddered at the last one that continued to talk about himself the entire night, and then slid me the check without a second thought, claiming that I seemed like the type of feminist who wouldn’t want a man to pay for dinner. He didn’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes. I rolled my eyes at the memory. Maybe I’ll just spend the night at home watching whatever new home flipping show comes on HGTV.
I saw my black Granturismo pull up in front of me, purring as it was shifted into park. The shiny strip on the hood of the car glistened in the sun. Carlos came out of the car and whistled as he handed me the keys.
“Your car is as smooth as butter. I love driving it.”
“So do I,” I agreed, as I slipped into the driver’s seat, Carlos closed the door for me and nodded curtly.
“Have a nice day.”
The engine purred as I pulled off into the streets, heading towards the Brooklyn bridge. As I zoomed through the traffic, I wondered how the hell I was going to write an erotic novel when I clearly lacked any inspiration for any decent sex. My mind flashed me with series of sexual experiences, most of them consisting of awkward positions, lack of rhythm and lackluster performances by inexperienced men. I sighed at the only salvation and release that I could think of was from writing. Yearning for those mind-blowing orgasms that my characters would experience. Delving into that world of intense pleasure without experiencing it caused me to focus more on the carnal needs of desire in every woman. Determined to seek out and satisfy that burning hunger within to be ravished with every session.
I blinked, sighing at the lack of intensity in my routine. Most of the women in my novels would receive mostly satisfactory sex from their partners, but I wanted to take that to the next level. The kind of panting, ear-ringing, passionate love making that is so highly sought after, but rarely found. The only appeal I had was purely imaginary, and I desired much more.
I pulled into the parking garage and rolled down my window to scan a key fob that cleared the gate. I parked into the private parking space and grabbed my bag as I headed out the garage onto the street front. Pinnacle Properties and Construction was ironically, under construction with a large white sign out front. They began making improvements after my initial suggestions to the owner.
As I walked in, I noticed piles of material everywhere, from wood to metal, and exposed piping in the ceilings. Large men were yelling at one another, and the miscellaneous sounds of welding and hammering could be heard in the distance. I began exploring the building, my three-inch pumps clicked against the exposed paneling, which caused many guys to stop in their tracks and look back at me.
I ignored some catcalls and looked three stories up in the back corner, and I could see through a glass wall, a man on the phone behind a large desk. Penn Nickels was a short, deep throated native new yorker, with a stern voice and blunt honesty that I have become accustomed to appreciating. His work ethic forged the foundation for our business relationship. He created well-built homes in record time without costing a fortune and was a rare family owned business heir that was a master of all thing’s real estate. I now needed to figure out how to get to him, since everything looked to be under construction.
“Excuse me, Miss. May I help you?” a deep, polite voice asked behind me. I turned to face the source of the voice and immediately felt all the oxygen leave my body. I was met with a very handsome, tall male, with green eyes and a deep, rich skin tone, complimented with dark hair and a full black beard. He wore a neon vest with a red shirt and jeans, and his badge was placed on the left side of his vest. His eyebrow was raised, and he was carrying a box with various tools inside.
I blinked as I slightly composed myself and refocused on his concerned face, probably wondering why a woman was here.
I smiled at him. “Yes actually, I was trying to find a way up there.” I motioned towards the seemingly floating third floor office. “There used to be an elevator but that doesn’t look like an option at the moment.”
He nodded his head and smiled back. My began to beat faster and my knees began to feel a little weak. This man was doing something to me that I have never experienced before. His presence seemed to instantly spark a reaction out of me, but I couldn’t completely understand why.
“There is an elevator that the boss uses on the side of the building. I can show you the way if you like,” he offered. The bass in his voice sent signals up and down my body. I slightly inhaled and responded.
“That would be great, thank you.” He stepped in front of me and warned of paneling as we made our way through all the construction. I tried to focus on the back of his head but found myself wondering down his frame. He seemed to be a large build, and his red shirt hugging him gently. We turned a corner and I saw the elevator on the left side. He stopped in front of the buttons and pressed up, before turning back towards me.
“Hopefully moving through all that wasn’t too much trouble. We should be finished renovating in the next few weeks,” he explained. I nodded and pulled a few strands behind my left ear.
“It wasn’t too bad. I appreciate you walking me through.” I smiled again at him, turning to face him. He paused for a moment, before smiling back.
“Not a problem. Miss…” he trailed off.
“Ali, Nia Ali,” I answered. “And you are?” I returned the question.
“Darion Brown.” The elevator dinged and the doors opened. “Ladies first,” he initiated. I purposely brushed past him and got into the elevator, Darion following behind, and pressed the buttons to go up. As the doors closed, I heard one of the employees passing by mention Valentine’s Day. I sighed, resisting the urge to check my phone for date requests. A small chuckle brought me out of my thoughts.
“Valentine’s day is tomorrow? I completely forgot.” Darion shook his head and crossed his arms. I couldn’t help but notice his bulging muscles and large hands. I turned slightly towards him and smirked.
“Oh really? You should be careful forgetting holidays like this,” I joked. “I don’t think your wife or girlfriend would be very happy with you if you forgot.” He turned his body towards me, smiling coyly.
“Normally, I am pretty good about remembering dates, but since I’m not seeing anyone, I guess it slipped my mind.” He shrugged. My brain struggled with a response, as I couldn’t believe this gorgeous man was single.
“What about you? I am sure that your boyfriend would be excited to have someone as beautiful as you on his arm.” My heart began to beat faster at the compliment, and I felt my face get a little hot.
“I am not seeing anyone either, actually.” I shook my head slowly. Darion opened his mouth to respond when the elevator doors dinged and opened, and he stepped out before turning around and holding his hand out. I instantly took it as he guided me off the elevator. His hand felt warm and strong, as he effortlessly pulled me off the elevator. I was baffled by the strong emotions I felt around Darion, but I couldn't help it.
Darion pointed a few feet down to some chairs in front of the glass office.
“You can sit and wait there if you like.” I inwardly frowned, realizing that my exchange with Darion was concluding. I turned to face him fully, placing some strands behind my right ear while I looked up at him, flashing a flirty smile.
“Thank you, Darion. I appreciate you helping me up here.” He paused for a moment again, and we locked eyes.
“Miss Ali, thank you for coming down to meet with me.” Penn opened the door and loudly interrupted. I turned to and curly nodded towards Penn, he motioned inside his office. “Please come in.” I smiled and turned back to Darion.
“Thank you again, have a nice day.” I winked and turned around to walk inside Penn’s office. Penn paused at the doorway, before closing the door and offering the office chair in front of his desk.
“Please sit, I am looking forward to working through the last of these details.”
“I agree.” I inhaled as my body calmed from Darion’s strong presence. I placed my bag behind me and pulled the contract out of my bag. I summarized the small detailed changes throughout the contract, so Penn knew what to expect. Penn nodded curtly and signed when needed. Throughout the conversation, I couldn’t help but think about Darion. His deep voice sent sensual vibrations all over me, and I kept reliving how good his hands felt against mine.
It made me wonder how good his hands would feel other places. I re-adjusted myself in my chair, creating some slight friction to ease the dull ache between my legs. I noticed that Penn was still signing the first page, of a nearly forty-page agreement form. I forced myself to focus on the task at hand, to secure my deal.
About an hour later, Penn signed the final page. He grunted as I thanked him when he handed the contract back to me.
“Everything looks good, send me a copy and I will have it processed by the end of the day. We are looking forward to working with you, Ms. Ali.” Penn extended his hand, and I shook it firmly. He then got up to open the door for me.
“Likewise. My assistant Toni will send over the blueprints for the renovations,” I assured and placed my business card on the corner of his desk, grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder.
Penn nodded curtly as I walked past and made my way to the elevator. When the doors closed, I sighed and relaxed my body for a moment before grabbing my phone and reading my text messages from Alicia.
I need those samples ASAP! You know these people can’t write and I need something steamy for Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day was a huge launch pad for adult romances, and I was very late getting that over to her. The elevator opened and I strode back onto the floor, I stealthily peeked around for Darion, but he was nowhere to be found. As I made my way to the front of the building, I took one last look before turning and walking out the front, sighing disappointingly. Had it have not been for Penn I would have easily asked for his number. I figured it was the universe’s way of telling me it was for the best, as it would be a bad first impression if Penn found out I was seeing one his employees before the ink dried on our contract.
I stepped outside and was greeted with a refreshing breeze, which I stood and savored for a moment, before heading towards the parking lot. I dug into my bag for my keys and unlocked my Maserati. I tossed my bag into the passenger seat when I heard my name behind me.
I turned to see Darion walking towards me. His smile immediately took me breathe away, and I felt the increasing pressure of arousal against my bra. I managed a smile and returned the greeting. He stopped in front of me, grinning seductively.
“I’m glad I caught up to you, I was afraid I missed you.” My heart skipped a beat, excited that he was looking for me. He continued. “I was hoping to have an opportunity to ask you to dinner tomorrow evening.” He smoothly inclined, gauging my reaction. I couldn’t hide my approval, nodding my head. Finding words around this man seemed to elude me, so I handed him my phone with a smile. He took it and entered his number, before slipping it back to me and opening my car door wider for me. I slipped in and he closed the door behind me.
“Drive safely, Nia.” He tapped the door to my car and winked, before turning towards the parking lot. When he was a few feet away, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I turned the engine and my car roared to life, before allowing my head to hit the headrest. My smile widened as I realized my dating life might be turning around after all.
I was interrupted by my stomach growling loudly. Which prompted me to pull out of the parking lot and brace myself for the heavy New York City traffic.
An hour and a burger king whopper later, I stumbled into my loft, kicking off my pumps at the door, and huffing at the relief. The bamboo flooring felt like heaven against my flat foot. I strolled towards the stairs and headed up towards my bedroom, throwing my bag on the bed, and placing my phone on the nightstand. As I began to prepare for bed, I heard my phone vibrate and light up. Curious, I picked it up.
Hope you made it home safely. – Darion
I stared at my phone in disbelief. I guess chivalry wasn’t dead after all. I went to text him back and my thumbs hovered over the touchscreen keypad, and I groaned. I hated this part of getting to know someone, what is the perfect response? Thank you? Appreciate it? I can’t wait to see you. No, that must sound desperate, right? I glanced at the clock before deciding to call an expert.
“Hey bitch!” Alicia yelled into the phone; I could hear horns honking in the background.
“Hey.” I did my best to sound nonchalant. “You on your way home?”
“Hell, yeah I am, this traffic is a bitch.” Alicia sighed. “I am stuck near Chinatown right now,” I winced.
“Ouch, why you are way over there?”
“We had an interview, there's this scandal about a shop owner was putting opium in his food to get people to keep coming back, and I had to go with the newbs to make sure they didn’t screw it up.” Alicia sighed, “I swear they are like new baby deer and don’t know how to push to ask the important questions in life.”
“Meaning, they don’t know how to pressure someone into answering probing questions?” I teased.
“Yup, you know scandal and sex sells girl, I’m trying to make this paper. Hurry the hell up!” she yelled, honking her horn. “Speaking of sex, did you finish that sample? My stakeholders are breathing down my neck in time to release for the weekend.”
“Well I was about to work on it tomorrow night,” I lied, “But I got a little distracted after I met this guy on my way to finalize my contract today!” Alicia screamed.
“Yes! Is he yummy? Tell me everything!” I described my encounter with Darion and opened my question about how to respond back.
“Aww he’s a nice gentleman, isn’t he?” Alicia mused. “I would keep it simple, say that you appreciate it and that you can’t wait to see him tomorrow.” I frowned.
“That doesn’t sound to desperate?” I asked. Alicia dramatically sighed.
“Nia, stop over thinking everything! It’s a curse. You got to dangle a bone in front of their faces, guys don’t read between the lines. They are like dogs, straightforward visual creatures that get excited over the small things. They also don’t pick up on hints,” she advised. “He seems like an old school guy that doesn’t like to play games like these other idiots.” I nodded.
“I know.” She snickered. “Now text him back and send my sample before I kick your ass.” I snorted.
“Bye, Alicia.” She kissed into the phone before the line disconnected. I smiled and immediately opened the message from Darion.
Thank you, Darion, I appreciate it. Looking forward to seeing you again.
I paused, panicking about sending the message. I deleted the second half of the text and added a smiley face at the end. I read it over once more, took a breather and hit send, before placing my phone back on the nightstand, over the wireless charger. Stripping down, I got in the covers and laid in bed, grabbing my laptop to answer some emails before bed.
About thirty minutes later, I heard my phone vibrate and I excitedly grabbed my phone but frowned when the text wasn’t from Darion.
Did he write back?
I responded with a no to Alicia and placed my phone back on the charger, before closing my laptop and falling back, hitting my head hard on the pillow. Dating is the worst. I shuddered at how many times I had the “tell me about yourself” conversation and ending the nights with various spectrums of spineless mommas’ boys to over masculine ego maniacs. I found myself really hoping that tomorrow will be different. Worst case scenario, I get a free meal, right?
I turned over to face my nightstand and turned out the light before snuggling up against my pillow. I closed my eyes and replayed my interaction with Darion, remembering his beautiful smile, deep voice and large hands. I smirked. I should be able to get through at least one date, right?