For some, trust, love, and loyalty is a matter of perspective. To others, it’s a way of life…
After a lifelong friendship, Lailani and Simba are finally getting married. They’ve faced many obstacles together, but right when Lailani thinks everything is calm, they’re faced with more problems. A blast from the past threatens to ruin the life they built together and thought they’d always have. Lailani and Simba promised to hold on and never let each other go, but will their loyalty be tested yet again? Exactly how far will they go to protect their peace and their union?
Melanie and Quincy have gone through the storm and rain together, including facing the death of their first child. They were once a couple who had everything and thought they’d be together forever, but trust issues got in the way. Circumstances in life brought them together again, but not as a couple. They seem to have a love-hate thing going on, but is it to only cover the true feelings they still have for each other? Unfortunately, more trust issues arise and it can affect everything, including their ability to be cordial enough to walk in Simba and Lailani’s wedding together.
Lauren has done well getting her life back on track after overcoming a drug addiction and doing a bid in prison. However, one of her weaknesses has always been making hasty decisions involving relationships. She finds herself struggling with her feelings for Darian and not allowing them to put her back at square one. She’s a woman in love, but she also has too much to lose if things go wrong. She’s faced with a decision between letting love win or giving in to other people’s demands on how she should live her life.
Charisma is a single mother who wants three important things: trust, love, and loyalty. While that’s not too much for her to ask, she seems to break the code of all three. She’s fortunate to have Vamp step up and help her raise a child that’s not his, but she still has feelings for him. In an effort to break up his relationship with Keyani, she hooks up with his enemy, thinking that’ll make him come back to her. She has a lot more growing up to do and her friends Lailani, Melanie, and Lauren aren’t afraid to let her know. Will she take heed before she finds herself involved in a dangerous situation?
These four friends have formed an amazing sisterhood, but their drama is thick and their issues with trust, love, and loyalty can impact something they all care about, Simba and Lailani’s wedding.
Chapter 1 Lailani
“Lil’ Simba! Reese! It’s time to come downstairs to eat,” I yelled to the boys from the bottom of the stairs.
I heard their moan and groans, knowing they didn’t want to stop playing their video game, but it was time for dinner. I stood there, waiting for them to come down and started feeling a little impatient. They weren’t moving fast enough and right when I was about to storm up the stairs and snatch their little asses by their collars, they emerged from their room. I smiled and shook my head because, at the end of the day, my boys were my everything.
My fiance Simba and me owned a three-bedroom house in Memphis, Tennessee and the boys could have easily had their own rooms, but they insisted on sharing. They were inseparable and had always been that way. You would think they were twins and not soon to become step-brothers. They were twelve and thirteen-years-old and growing up before me so fast.
Simba, or Sebastian, is my fiance and will be my husband in a few more months. We’ve been engaged for a couple of years, but were so focused on getting ourselves established in Memphis and starting new careers, that we thought it would be best to put the wedding off until we could achieve a few goals. We knew we had a lifetime together ahead of us, so there was no rush to get married. Don’t get me wrong, both of us were excited about it, but the extra time also gave us the chance to plan our dream wedding.
We were getting married in St. Louis, Missouri, where we’re from, with our family and friends present. We made frequent trips back home, which has helped to make things flow smoothly with the arrangements. Besides, my father, Simba’s mother, and Simba’s grandfather, Basilio, were back home. Basilio moved back to Italy temporarily with his mother, but when she passed away last year, he returned to Bonne Terre, Missouri, a few miles south of St. Louis. Yes, my husband was part Italian, but that’s a story for another day.
“What did you cook today mama?” Lil’ Simba asked.
It warmed my heart every time he called me that. I never wanted him to feel forced to, but I guess it must have come naturally to him. Besides his grandmother, I was the only woman who was a part of his life full-time. His mother was never around, although she tried to pull some slick shit and get custody when Simba got out of prison from a five-year bid almost four years ago. Apparently, that didn’t work and she disappeared again like she did the day he was born. Simba had an ex-girlfriend, Emory, who was around for a few months. Although I know Lil’ Simba liked her, I don’t believe he saw her like a mother, the way he viewed me.
“I cooked you two’s favorite,” I told him.
“You made steak burgers!” the boys exclaimed in unison.
“I sure did!” I laughed.
Lil’ Simba was always crazy about eating at Steak ‘n Shake and he somehow rubbed off on Reese. Not that my son was a follower, but I’m assuming since Lil’ Simba had a year over him, it was easy to be influenced by his big brother. Their desire to always want steak burgers prompted me to learn how to make them myself versus always driving to Steak ‘n Shake and spending unnecessary money. The boys knew we were well-off financially, but I still wanted to teach them about good spending habits.
I looked at the clock on the kitchen wall and knew Simba would walk through the door any second. I fixed his plate and put it in the microwave in case he needed me to warm his food for him. Sometimes I liked us to wait so we could eat together, but I was starving and figured the boys were too after a long day at school, so I didn’t wait this time. It’s not like Simba would mind because he told us several times we didn’t have to wait for him. However, I wanted us to practice eating as a family as much as possible to instill good values.
“I wish you and my daddy would hurry up and get married so Reese and me can officially be brothers,” Lil’ Simba said in between bites, catching me off guard.
“I know, right. They’re taking way too long,” Reese chimed in.
“Soon boys. I promise. We’ve been over this almost every week. You two are brothers though,” I told them.
“I just want it to be official.” Lil’ Simba shrugged.
“I know. I do too,” I replied softly. “I love the both of you so much.”
“We love you too,” they replied simultaneously.
We continued eating and making small talk about their day at school. Reese wanted to try out for basketball and Lil’ Simba was interested in joining the chess club. That shit was boring as hell to me, but he was kind of a nerd and was stimulated by intellectual things like that. I knew it took discipline and concentration, and he was pretty good at it. That was the one thing that Reese refused to follow in Lil’ Simba’s footsteps about. He said that wasn’t his cup of tea.
Once we finished dinner, the boys cleaned the kitchen while I went to take a shower. I text messaged Simba to see if was close, but he didn’t respond. I was going to call him, but I didn’t want to bother him, because he was probably in the middle of finishing up a job. He recently started a landscaping company. I was proud of him for leaving the drug game behind, going to school to get an associate’s degree in business management, and going into business for himself. It had always been a dream of his and he finally stepped out on it. I was able to keep my job at Discovery Car Rental Company transferred me to Memphis. I was a branch manager and was planning on applying for an opening to be a district manager.
When I got out of the shower, I noticed Simba still hadn’t returned my call. I was a little annoyed by his lack in response because even if he was busy he would normally reply, but this time he didn’t. I was trying to get used to him not being available to me twenty-four-seven. I knew he recently signed a contract with an office building and it was currently only him and two employees who had to foot the entire workload. I didn’t have a choice but to be patient, so I figured I might as well catch up with my girls.
I decided to do a video chat using Google Duo to talk to Melanie, Charisma, and Lauren all at once. When everyone was on the call, we all began talking a mile a minute, making it difficult to figure out who was talking and understand each other. We all burst out laughing before we realized we needed to take turns.
“How are you love?” Melanie asked, directing her question at me.
“I’m good. Waiting on Simba to get in from work,” I replied.
“He’s one hard-working man,” Charisma stated.
“That he is.” I laughed.
“When will you be back in town?” Lauren inquired.
“About three weeks from now. It’s Patrice’s birthday and I want to take her out. I figured we all might as well get together around then to do some wedding stuff too.”
Patrice was my long-lost sister I found out about three years ago after my mother died. Technically, she was our mother, but it’s been hard to refer to her that way because Patrice never got to know her. She was my mother’s love-child and her parents weren’t too fond of her having a baby at seventeen while trying to finish high school. They wanted her to abort Patrice, but Patrice’s other grandparents weren’t having it and chose to raise her instead. That was a very well kept secret all these years.
We chatted some more, catching up on everything that’s been going on with us. I promised I loved these girls like they were my sisters. Melanie and Lauren have known each other since high school. They had two other best friends who, unfortunately, were murdered. I heard both of them were shady as hell anyway, but I didn’t want to disrespect the dead so I kept my mouth closed about that. Charisma became their friend through Lucille, a mutual friend of all of ours. Lucille was an FBI agent and Basilio’s god-daughter. She is how I also became friends with these beautiful women and I was grateful to her for helping us form a sisterhood. After a few more minutes, we were ready to end our phone call. Right as I was hanging up, Simba beeped in. I told the ladies I’d chat with them again soon before I took his call.
“Hey, bae. Why didn’t you answer your phone earlier? Will you be home soon?” I answered his call, immediately firing questions at him.
“Baby, I don’t have time to explain. Take the boys and leave right away! Don’t try to grab clothes or anything. Just get them and go now!” he yelled into the phone.
“What the hell is going on? Go where Simba?” I began panicking.
“Drive toward St. Louis! Just go! NOW!” he continued to yell before hanging up.
I tried to call him back, but he wouldn’t answer. Something didn’t sound right, but I also knew to follow his instructions and did as he said. I grabbed the biggest purse I could find and went to the safe to start grabbing money. Simba didn’t have to tell me to do that because I knew that was automatic. I made sure to get my wallet from my other purse, grabbed my phone, and car keys. I yelled for the boys to put on their shoes and jackets and we needed to leave right away. They began asking questions and I yelled at them to just follow instructions. They looked afraid and little did they know, I was too. I kept trying to call Simba, but now his phone was going to voicemail. I wanted to drive by his office, but I didn’t know if that would be a good idea. For now, I understood that I needed to do as he said. I made it to Interstate 55 in no time and drove north toward home.