In just 5-days, my 20th release will be available for download! I’m so excited for you to read this story. The feedback from my beta-readers has been so humbling and confirmed all the feelings I had while writing this story. The chances of you forgetting Rylee and Lennox after reading their story is pretty slim based on the reactions. I love giving sneak peeks of the stories I plan to release so here’s the full prologue from Last Comes Love. The prologue is a flashback and sets the foundation for the story…
October 4, 2008
Rylee Daniels’s 21st birthday dinner. The birthday dinner that changed everything and in an unexpected way. A seed sprouted that night – a seed that was planted and later blossomed into something pure and bittersweet.
“Happy birthday to you… Happy birthday to you…”
The table of three loud 21-year-olds sang at the tops of their lungs. They sported smiles so bright, spectators could spot their pearly whites from a skyscraper away. The excitement was all in celebration of Rylee Daniels. She waved her arms in a synchronized fashion in time with her friends’ singing as if she were directing a symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
“Happy birthday to Rylee,” Lennox, her best friend, sang along through his laughs, “happy birthday to you.”
They all cheered.
The party of four gathered in Blyss, a rooftop bar and lounge that offered a scenic view of Manhattan. It was the fourth of October so the weather still had traces of the summer’s heat, making it mild for fall. The comfortable temperature allowed them to enjoy a birthday dinner outside beneath the stars.
Rylee leaned forward in her seat. She pressed her fingers to her temples to keep her waist-length braids out of her face. Positioned over a triple layered dark chocolate cake, she blew out the sparkling candles that poked out from the top and formed the number 21.
“Yassss!” she yelled and clapped along with everyone else as tiny ribbons of smoke swirled above her cake. “Finally twenty-one, ayyeeee!”
Her shimmering long-sleeved all-black sequined midi-dress caught the rooftop’s lights with each sway of her body.
“Welcome to my age box, youngin.” Lennox nudged her on the shoulder.
Rylee turned her lips to one side fighting back her smile.
Rylee and Lennox sat next to one another and across from Rylee’s girlfriends, Parker and Nadia.
They were all friends having known each other since high school, but Rylee and Lennox’s bond ran deeper.
“Thank you so much for hanging out with me tonight y’all,” Rylee gushed, her smile so big her deep dish dimples appeared.
“We got you!” Parker said.
“That’s right,” Nadia added.
“You know I’ll always be here for you.” Lennox smiled. “Even when I’m old, dead, and gone—”
“And here comes the corny ass speech,” Parker interjected.
Rylee and her friends burst into peals of laughter.
“Know that when the clouds part,” Lennox said to Rylee pointing up at the sky, “and the sun’s rays rain down on you, that’s me. Like I told you, just remember to say, what up Lenny?”
“Lenny, you’re drunk, hush.” Rylee fought back her grin and shoved him playfully. “And can we not talk about death on my birthday?! Please and thank you.”
The two had been friends for longer than everyone else at the table. Friends before they were even born. Rylee and Lennox were children of best friends. Their parents, Claudia and Ivy, had been girlfriends for close to forty years, since their early twenties.
“Anyway… now I can cut up my fake ID.” Rylee giggled. “I’m surprised I didn’t get carded at the door. I wanted to whip it out this evening. Be like, BAM!”
“Why aren’t any of Lennox’s fine ass friends or teammates here tonight, yet again?” Nadia asked. “I was hoping to meet a few. They never get invited.”
“Because it’s my birthday and I don’t want y’all focusing on anybody except for me, exactly how I like it.” Rylee sported a wide grin, those dimples dotting her cheeks again.
Nadia, Parker, and Lennox laughed.
“When it’s Lennox’s 22nd birthday in February, you can rub shoulders with all the NBA players you like, Nadia. Okay?”
Rylee palmed the handle of the sterling silver knife and sunk the tip into the cake’s top layer, cutting and dividing slices, placing them on plates to distribute to her friends around her.
This was what she adored. Surrounded by the people she loved all celebrating her. The center of attention. She revered her birthday for that.
“Make sure you cut me a big slice, Ry,” Lennox said beside her, his voice filled with so much bass it rumbled in her chest. “Be generous.”
“Aren’t I always?” she replied.
The two exchanged glances, laugh lines framing their smiles.
“So… since you’re twenty-one and all,” Parker, Rylee’s closest girlfriend, announced over the rim of her glass. “Are the two of you going to stop frontin’ and finally make this thing between y’all official?”
Parker’s eyes were glassy like all the rest of them who’d emptied three bottles of champagne collectively within an hour’s time. They were drunk. Though Parker along with Rylee, Lennox, and Nadia drank beyond their limits, Parker’s intoxicated question was everyone’s sober thoughts.
Rylee grimaced. “Hell no!” She placed her hand on Lennox’s shoulder blade and added, “Lennox is just the homie. Always has been always will be.”
“I don’t know Rylee,” Nadia proclaimed, “Lennox renewed his contract with the Bronx Ballers recently for… what was it again?” she slurred, pointing at him. “Twenty-two million? You sure you don’t want to lock this man down, Rylee?”
Lennox perked up in his seat and pointed in Nadia’s direction. “You keep getting the numbers wrong, Nadia. It was twenty-five million, not twenty-two. I’m getting tired of correcting you.” He cockily adjusted the collar of his crisp black button-down shirt. “If you’re gonna be over there counting my zeros, make sure you count ’em all, aight?”
They all laughed in response including Rylee.
“First, I’m about to get my own money, thank you,” Rylee spoke next. “And I’m on track to make plenty. I’m close to earning my state licensure as soon as I pass my series 7 and series 63 exams so that I can get my badge to broker on the New York Stock Exchange. Add some much needed flavor on that trading floor.” She flipped her braids over her shoulder and made a popping sound with her lips.
They all snickered to themselves.
“It ain’t no multi-million dollar contract,” she continued, “but y’all better give me my props too. I’m working hard out here. Sheesh.”
“Promise me you won’t switch up on us.” Nadia said.
“Of course I won’t!” Rylee replied. “Why would I?”
Nadia pursed her lips. “Girl you about to be the only black girl in a room full of white people. If you’re not careful, black and stuck up is only a stock away.”
Rylee kissed her teeth while waving her hand in the air. “My mama was raised in southern Louisiana and used to freshwater fish in the bayous. She married a doctor, my daddy, who grew up in a project in Newark, New Jersey, who also, by the way, hopped the turnstiles to the Bronx only to jump off the train platform and onto the tracks to spray-paint graffiti on passing trains. Stuck up is the last thing my parents will allow me to be at their dinner table, okay?”
“I know how to talk the talk when on the clock but Rylee Daniels will not be pressured into conforming.” Rylee snapped her fingers. “They will love me, my Brooklyn accent, and these bountiful braids in all their ethnic glory, period.”
“That’s right.” Lennox clapped. “Drop the mic on them, stunner.”
She laughed. “They’re lucky I don’t roll through with my door knocker earrings. That’s the only thing I’m willing to compromise on.”
“All right, all right boss lady. We see you. We feel you!” Nadia said.
“Back on topic,” Parker spoke again. “You can’t deny it, Lennox. Rylee is wifey material. You need something solid. I’ve heard about those basketball groupies. They be on this website talking about how they like to show up in hotel lobbies because it’s easy to…”
“Parker hush,” Rylee interjected. “Always ready to share gossip.”
This discussion regarding Rylee and Lennox’s friendship has come up more times than the two could count, beginning in high school. Friends asked so often that it no longer rubbed them the wrong way. It was comical at this point and to them meant nothing anymore.
“And y’all need to stop it,” Rylee continued. “For one, I am not Lennox’s type. He’s always been into those Sade-looking girls. Super light with hair damn near sweeping the floor as they walk. You know… girls who look like Parker.”
Lennox held a finger in the air and said, “Parker, you fine and all… but no.”
“Oh whatever, you know you want this.” Parker flipped her shoulder-length black hair over her shoulder and shimmied in her seat making everyone laugh.
“Not to mention, he wouldn’t know what to do with all this chocolate, anyway,” Rylee added. “I’m way too sweet for the average brother. Might give the man a toothache. I love him too much to do that to him. He ain’t ready.”
“Oowww!” Nadia shouted, leaning forward in her seat to high-five Rylee. Nadia’s black curls bounced around her round umber face.
“And for the record…” Lennox held his hands up, palms facing the group. “My type is beautiful.”
“Mm-hmm, yeah right.” Rylee nudged him and giggled. “But above all that, Lennox and I are only friends, just friends. Nothing in between.”
“So he’s like your brother?” Parker quizzed.
“No, no, not like my brother. Just the homie,” Rylee answered. “My very best friend.”
Lennox looked over at her and smiled before pulling her into a side hug.
While the two embraced, Parker pointed at them. “See? Right there. That thing y’all do. It’s too cute to limit it to only a platonic relationship. All that potential—”
“Parker stop,” Rylee insisted.
“So there’s no exception to the rule?” Nadia stared ahead at Rylee. “There’s no way on this earth that your friendship could be something more?”
“It’s like we told y’all the second week of freshman year in high school,” Rylee replied, “We are only friends. What we have is platonic. Hella platonic. So platonic we probably invented the true meaning of platonic. I got love for Lennox and I’m sure he does for me too but that’s it.”
Parker folded her arms and glanced over at Lennox. “I don’t know, Rylee. You seem to do most of the convincing concerning this and not so much Nox over here per usual. The cat always has his tongue whenever we talk about your relationship or lack thereof.”
“You’re aware that Lennox is the quiet type so please. He feels the same way I do, right?” Rylee turned to face Lennox, feigning agreement.
The buzz of chatter around them closed in. The music in Blyss seemed to increase in volume as the sounds of patrons talking and silverware scraping against ceramic plates from other tables permeated the sound space.
Lennox drew a slow breath in and on his exhale said, “Yup.”
Rylee turned in her seat to face him more, leaning forward in her chair to make eye contact with him and when she locked eyes with him, they both laughed.
“See?” Rylee gestured at Lennox. “There y’all go.”
Parker rolled her eyes.
Rylee leaned back in her chair, lifted her glass of champagne to her lips, and finished the last of it.
“I mean,” she continued, “the only way I think I would ever reconsider us being anything more is if we were both thirty with no spouses and no kids.”
“Why thirty?” Nadia asked.
Rylee lifted then dropped her shoulders. “By that time, if I were still dating, which I doubt I will be, I would have had my share of it and reviewed my options. There are so many men in New York, I know I won’t have that problem. There’s no way I would pick through all of them and literally see that there is no one left to be with. Lennox would have done the same with all the women who throw themselves at him. He would have to find at least one to settle down with at that point. But if not, then…” She shrugged again. “I need to have kids at a certain age, my doc says ideally before thirty. And… I mean… look, Lennox and I getting together would be a last resort kind of thing. Super last resort. Like, last man and woman on earth sort of scenario. Y’all know I got this retroverted uterus thing.”
“Ugh,” Parker grumbled. “We’ve heard about this tilted uterus since we were nineteen like it’s some type of disability.”
“Well I do.” Rylee threw her hands up. “My doctor told me that having a baby before thirty, if I wanted to, would be best. I haven’t decided if I really want that but if I wasn’t pregnant by thirty, then yes… maybe, and that’s an exaggerated maybe, I’d look Lennox’s way by then. Only then. And only to have a baby. Not even a relationship. Just a baby.”
“Damn Rylee.” Nadia cackled. “User much?”
Rylee turned her palms right side up as if asking what.
They all remained quiet for a few seconds.
“I mean…” Lennox voiced out loud. “I kind of like that idea.”
All eyes shifted on him, including Rylee’s.
“You do?” Rylee questioned.
Lennox bobbled his head. “Realistically, this will never ever happen in this lifetime, let’s be real here. You’ll without a doubt be married and have a gang of kids by the time you’re twenty-five the way you love them and I definitely don’t have plans to be single my entire life. So yeah, if our situations remain the same way it is right now… I’m with that fall-back plan. Why not? It’s like insurance neither of us will ever need.”
Parker and Nadia sat across from Lennox and Rylee, their eyes moving back and forth between the two, shocked at what was being discussed.
After only a few seconds of contemplation, Rylee nodded with a smile.
“Okay, okay!” Rylee drummed a quick rhythm on the table with her hands. “So it’s a deal.”
She extended her palm in his direction. The two shook hands in agreement of the pact before bursting into a fit of laughter.
Was it silly? Yes. A little funny? Perhaps. But Lennox and Rylee were too drunk to realize they’d finally sealed their fates.
END OF SNEAK PEEK.
Last Comes Love drops Friday, October 4th. Want another sneak peek? Check out this sample.