Chasing Cashmere Synopsis and First Chapter


Cashmere Clover is tired of having the middle child blues, and refuses not to make the best of her senior year. Just a few weeks into her last year of high school and things are actually going well – she landed a major contract for her t-shirt line, Cool Cash Tees; she and her best friend, Desiree, have reconnected; and she’s officially D-O-N-E with Robbie. Sure, he’s desperate to win her back, but now she knows he’s not good for her anymore. He never was.

Cashmere’s more focused than ever until she meets Jahlil Wright, a teenage underdog whose two-parent household isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As he navigates the aftermath of events that led to his best friend’s murder, Jahlil welcomes Cashmere into his world in a way that he’s never done with anyone before. By Christmas, their two-month courtship blossomed into an official relationship – they’ve even met each other’s families.

But something is keeping them from really experiencing true love. They go from using each other’s company as their saving grace to running from the one thing keeping them both grounded. Things take a turn for the worse when Cashmere and Jahlil both realize that they can only slay the demons they’re willing to confront.

Will Cashmere learn to face her past so she can walk boldly into her future or will she keep running from the only confrontation that will set her free? And will Jahlil humble himself in time to realize that he first has to change his mindset before he can escape the troubles that surround him?

Find out in this second installment of the bestselling young adult series, The Clover Chronicles. 

Chapter 1


The Meet & Greet

Meeting him when I was supposed to be focused on Him… – CC


His face flew to the left. If I wasn’t witnessing it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. The blood dripping from the boy with the dreads lips definitely made it more real. I’d seen fights before, of course most being in my family’s theater room as we cheered during fight night, but this– this was bad. Yet, no matter how many hits landed on the guy with the dreads, he bounced back up and continued to fight. Like his life depended on it. From the looks of the two guys surrounding his opponent, I’m guessing it did.

I was about to walk away. The energy around the fight was getting more intense and I didn’t get down like this. Seeing young black guys in the street acting a fool burned my soul. That’s what I get for saying ‘yes’ to meeting Robbie down Germantown. We were supposed to meet at the corner of Wayne and Chelten, but he had yet to arrive. I wouldn’t even be seeing this nonsense had I fought the I miss you urges that overpowered my senses whenever I saw a text or call from him. Even after our rash breakup, we both found ourselves still pursuing the dead connection we’d built with one another. Why was I surprised that he’d failed me? Again. I decided not to wait around, especially once I heard the sirens nearing the fight. Stepping a few feet away from the mayhem, I checked my phone. Again.

Nothing. I could feel my blood boiling. I opened my Uber app and requested a ride. Threeminutes away. Perfect. Just as my Uber driver pulled up, the crowd started to disperse. Kids were running left and right, trying to clear the area. I turned my head to look back, just as I opened the door. The guy with the dreads was nowhere to be seen, but there were a few adults talking to the police officers, giving them a description of the perpetrators involved. I didn’t see the guy he was fighting, but the other two guys that were with his opponent stood near the bus stop, nonchalantly, talking as if they had nothing to do with it. I hopped in the car.

“Hey. I’m just going to the regional rail train stop a few blocks down. Near the McDonald’s.”

The driver nodded and pulled off just as the light was about to turn red. I could’ve walked the few blocks to the train station, but with all the chaos that was going on, I didn’t want to get caught up in anything. Even though it was only a few blocks down from Wayne and Chelten, because of the school traffic, the car inched forward slowly. I took in the busy area, notable for its historical train tracks and numerous barbershops and hair salons. Our neighborhood, Lafayette Hill, bordered Chestnut Hill, which bordered Mount Airy, which bordered Germantown.

As the driver pulled over, I watched two little girls chasing a boy around in circles, right by the firehouse. I smiled. I was still young, but to be their age again would help me with a few do-overs I needed. Like Robbie. After handing the driver a five-dollar tip, I hopped out the car. Before I could get my other leg out, someone caught my eye. It’s him. It was the boy that was in the fight. The one with the dreads. He must’ve ran down a few blocks when he was able to get away. Before he could get any further, I yelled out.

“Hey. You okay?”

He kept walking. I turned to the Uber driver. “Please wait.”

I had no idea what made me do this, but I did it. Something I learned about myself over the summer – I was tougher than I gave myself credit for. Once I reached him, I lightly touched his arm.

“Hey. Wait up,” I said, as he finally stopped. “Are you okay?”

He turned around, breathing heavy and looking ready to fight again. He clenched his jaws when he looked at me.

“I’m good.”

He turned back around and kept walking.

“Wait. Please.”

He paused, but didn’t look at me.

“Listen. I saw the fight. I just hopped out of that Uber,” I said, pointing behind me. I caught the driver’s eye. He threw his hands up impatiently. I gave him the one-minute signal. “I’m about to catch a train home, but I’ll pay the driver to get you home.”

He slowly turned around, fury in his eyes. “Why?”

I wanted to yell “because it’s either the back of the Uber or the back of a police car”, but I could sense his fear, even if he was trying to display Mr. Macho.

“Because. I know you didn’t start that fight. Now,” I said, turning back and pointing to the car. “Go. I got five minutes to get to my train and this driver is about to pull off.”

I walked the few feet back to the Uber and handed the driver a $20 bill. “Take him where he needs to go. Is that okay since it won’t be through the app?”

He looked over at the boy. He seemed hesitant. Who could blame him?Here, this kid stood with blood dripping down the side of his lip and a huge gash over his eye. He looked back at me. The breeze moved the twenty. I pulled out another ten and shoved it in the car.

“Please. He’s not dangerous. The guy that hit him is.”

I’m not sure what made me so sure about all of this, but I went with the flow.

He grabbed the money and waved him over. He didn’t move.

“What’s your name?” I asked, walking back over. “I’m Cashmere.”

He smirked. At last, he started walking over to the Uber. “Yeah. The rich chick. I know who you are.”

He got in and rolled down the window. The light was now red. “I guess you’re not so bourgeoisie after all,” he yelled, as he slammed the door shut. “Thanks for the ride. How can I pay you back?”

I don’t know whether I was more stunned that he called me bourgeoisie or the fact that he knew who I was. Yeah, our family was semi-famous, but I never assumed everyoneknew us. “No worries. Just get home safe.”

I turned and started walking away. My phone was ringing. I looked down. Robbie.I hit ignore. I’d had enough drama and excitement for one day.

“Yo. Young jawn.”

I almost ignored him. I wasn’t a jawn. Why is he still sitting here? The cops will be here any second now.

I turned back. “What’s up?”

He smiled. Somehow, behind the blood and the dreads that had been dismantled from their ponytail, I could see his brown eyes and great looks. His face had been easy to miss when he had two fists pounding it in. Our eyes locked. He winked. “Thanks. And just so you know, I didn’t start that fight.”

I smiled. “Yeah. I figured that. Now, go. Now.”

Just then, the light turned green. The driver didn’t move. Neither did the cars behind him. As the sirens grew louder, I realized why traffic on both sides of Chelten Avenue hadn’t moved. My heart started beating faster. It was hard to miss a black guy, with dreads, wearing jeans and a hoodie, even sitting in a car. Not to mention the blood would be a dead giveaway. I turned to walk up the steps. Whatever happened from here was between him and God. I just wanted to be a conduit of His love. I literally had a minute left before the train would come.

Although I tried to resist it, it was like my body had a mind of its own. I quickly turned back around and looked just as three cop cars passed the car I’d just gotten out of. The driver turned right, away from the traffic and away from Chelten Avenue, onto Baynton street and kept going. I watched as my train pulled up, just as I made it to the platform. I checked my phone. It was three minutes late. I knew then, that even though I should’ve said no to Robbie and shouldn’t have met up with him, I had been in the right place at the right time.


It was Saturday morning, just a few days after the fight. The rest of the week flew by. My senior year first week was filled with the same jargon as my junior year – study hard, don’t miss school, pay class dues, create your next business idea and boom – you’re done. I was glad I’d be finished with high school altogether. I didn’t want to rush my last year, because I knew a lot would change. Even the things that I didn’t want to change. Like being able to go down the hall to talk to my baby sister, Brelyn or snuggling up next to Papa while he watched a movie in the family theater. I heard a knock at my door and rolled over to check my clock. 9:30

I knew my parents were away at a business convention, so it had to be one of my siblings. Brelyn would’ve just barged in and smothered me with hugs and kisses. Emé woud’ve barged in as well, but patted me on the butt demanding to know why I was still in bed at 9:30 in the morning when I had a “business to run”. That’s when I realized it was him. My brother. My favorite “him” next to Papa. I stretched as I stood up. I grabbed the first sweatshirt I saw and walked over to the door. As soon as I opened it and saw his open arms, I fell in.

“Cash Money.”


He hugged me tight. I could smell his cologne on his shirt. When I pulled away from him, I smiled even bigger. He had on one of my brand t-shirts.

“What’s up, sis? Why are you still in bed?” he asked, sitting down on the love seat in my room.

“Who said I was still in bed?”

“I knocked twice and I can still see the drool on the side of your face, right,” he lifted a finger and pointed toward my lip, “there.”

I slapped his hand away and laughed. “Whatever, chump. How is it being a big college boy?”

He grabbed a pen and notebook off my desk and started scribbling. That was Desmond’s thing. Drawing. And when he was around you, you needed to understand that’s how he operated. He could be in a business meeting, draw a whole picture from a Marvel movie and still tell you what you said, verbatim. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’m sure when he was done, he’d have some masterpiece completed that made no sense to me, but would make Mama hang it up somewhere in her office.

“It’s great. Nothing major has happened yet. Those things that college kids say happen your first few weeks, have yet to happen to me. But, I picked a school I like, so I’m loving it.” He looked up at me. “What about you? How’s the senior year going?”

“It’s good. Same as yours was, I’m sure,” I said, grabbing my phone. I started scrolling through my instagram page, just to see what was going on in the world.

“Been to any fights lately?”

I stopped. What the hell? I slowly looked up at my brother. Jaws clenched, I was ready to be on the defense, but something told me to play this one cool. Clearing my throat, I held up my phone and snapped a quick picture of him, just to buy me a second to answer.

“Nope. Have you?”

“Cashmere, do you really think that because I’m away at school two hours away that I don’t know what’s going on? I have footage,baby girl.”

He pulled his own phone out. After toying around with it, he handed it to me.

Busted.There I was, standing around the fight, just like all the other onlookers. In the video, I was a little bit further away from the crowd, so it must’ve been when I was looking around for Robbie.

“I was waiting for Robbie. I didn’t even know a fight would break out.”


Well, that didn’t help Cashmere.

“Yes. Robbie. My ex. The one you know. The one Papa hates. Him.”

Our eyes locked. I was prepared to go toe-to-toe with him. In the past, my family considered me the over-analyzer, which I can attest to. The strength in me overthinking a lot is that I strategize very quickly in my head. Desmond wasn’t going to bully me. I wouldn’t let him. I’d already shown my family that I was going to live my life.

“You got something to say, Desmond. Say it.”

He jerked his head back. One of uscalling him by his first name was blasphemy. Clearly, I was upset.

“Cash, I’m not here to burn you,” he said, grabbing his phone back from me and patting the seat next to him.

I rolled my eyes in the air, but got up to sit next to him. I rested my head on my hands and was staring straight ahead, refusing to look at him. He grabbed my hand and held it.

“Cash, I’m not here to tell you not to date. I’m not even here to ask you why you still entertain that nut, Robbie. I just want to talk.”

I felt my body relaxing. I slowly turned to him. “Okay. What’s up?”

“Tell me why.”

I frowned. “Why what?”

“Why are you having sex?”

I turned my body so I could look him dead in his face. Was this some kind of a joke? I thought.

“Because it’s what people do,” I responded, sarcastically.

“No. Cashmere. It’s not just what people do andyou’re not even the type to do what everyone else does. So, why are you having sex?”

I’m not sure how much time passed between him asking me that and when I responded, but I knew it was longer than it should’ve been.

“Because I want to. It’s not a big deal.”

“Now, my brilliant little sister can do better than that,” he said, releasing my hand and sitting on the floor in front of me. “I mean, I’m sure you have a reason. Right?”


“That’s what makes me mad, Cash. You’re doing it and you can’t even tell me why. Make it make sense.”

I narrowed my eyes and leaned forward. “It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone but me, because it’s my body.”

He didn’t flinch. “And the person that you had sex with. It belongs to them to. You do know that don’t you?”

I threw my head back and laughed. “Desmond. Please. Are you taking some sort of psychology class that’s teaching you about sex and how people think about it? Do I get an ‘A’ too, for being used like a guinea pig?”

I reached for my phone again. He stopped me. “Cash, you already know I’m not taking a class on this. I don’t need to study health education again, but one thing I do study, is my sisters. I know you more than you think I do.”

He had me there. Desmond knew all of us inside and out. It was why he was able to have a unique bond with each of us. Still, I didn’t like him backing me into a corner like this. I knew he meant well. Hell, he’d had my back on more than one occasion when I snuck out of the house for a date.

“Then tell me something, big brother. Why do you have sex?”

“I don’t.”

I stopped smiling. I kneeled down in front of him. I looked him dead in his eyes. He didn’t move. I sat back up on the love seat.


“Cash, I haven’t had sex since before prom night.”

I threw my hands up and gasped, faking shock. “Not even on the big night? Oh no.”

He cracked a smile. “Not even, then.”

He was serious. “But I know you’re not a virgin. Ebony.”

“Yes. I lost my virginity to Ebony and I can honestly say, that it hurt her more than it did me.”

I sat back. He had my full attention.

“I’m a guy. A young guy in college, so I’m not going to sit up here and tell you that I’ll never have sex again until I’m married, although I’m sure our parents would appreciate that.”

I nodded. “Ya think?”

“But if you can’t even say why you’re doing it, then maybe you shouldn’t be. Ebony made me realize something after our first year of dating. She’s like us Cash – two parent household, well-off, great mindset and pretty sound thinking when it comes to how she views things.” He stood up and came back to sit down next to me. “My leg was falling asleep. Anyway, she made me realize that what she gave me was a piece of her. It wasn’t about a guilt trip, either. She was coming from a viewpoint I’d never considered. She also said that’s why she waited and I was her first. Each person you have sex with, you carry a piece of them with you forever.”

“Soul tie? Yeah. We hear that a lot in church.”

“True. But nobody our age actually gets it.”

Point taken.

“She made me realize that every time I laid down with someone, I was getting back up with more than just myself.”

I sighed. “So, what was her reason for having sex?”

“She loved me and wanted her first time to be with someone that she knew she could trust. That even if we didn’t work out, I wouldn’t go talking about her all over school and she was right. We haven’t been together in a year and I still don’t mention anything that’s happened between us.”

I sighed. It was a cute story, but I’d heard them all before. And by all I meant whatever stories my family felt they needed to share to get me to magically turn back into a virgin.

“Des, I get it,” I said, forcing a smile. “I’ll be careful.”

I stood up. He stood up with me, but placed himself in front of me with his arms crossed, blocking my way. “I’m not leaving here or moving out of your way until you tell me one reason why you have sex. I don’t care what it is. I’m not going to judge you for it.”

I started chewing on the inside of my lip. He was making me angrier by the minute. I threw my hands on my hips and shook my head. “It makes me feel like I matter.”

He dropped his arms slowly. He looked at me, searching my face for understanding. I knew he wouldn’t get it, which is why the conversation didn’t matter. None of my family understood me. They knew me, but they didn’t understand me.

“Cash, you matter. Where did you get that idea from?”

I moved around him to get to my closet. I started to pick out my outfit for the day. “Des, you asked me for a reason. You didn’t say I had to tell you why I feel that way and honestly, I’m over this Iyanla moment. Drop it.”

I kept going through my closet, trying to decide if the skirt I wanted to wear would work with a new pair of boots I bought. I could feel him staring at my back. I stopped moving and turned back around. He lowered his head. Before he did, I saw the look in his eyes. Pain.I saw in his eyes what I was feeling on a daily basis. It was hard to put into words how I was feeling without anyone in my family wondering what weed I had been smoking to think that I didn’t matter. I mean, the perfect Clover family couldn’t have done anything wrong, right?

“Des, look,” I said, walking over to him. I put my hand on his face, like Mama does when she’s being sincere. “Let it go. Just know that I’m fine and I’m going to be careful. I promise. And that’s allI can promise. That I’ll be careful.”

He grabbed my hand and kissed it. “Cash, don’t just be careful. Be wise.”

I nodded. I understood where he was coming from, even if I didn’t want to say it now. I really did. I grabbed his hands.

“You just worry about making all of us super proud with your bomb grades and taking Bricksto another level.” I turned back to the closet, wiping a tear from the corner of my eye. I took a deep breath, then turned back around, holding up some clothes. “You like this with this?”

“I like the shirt. Ditch the skirt. Go for the jeans,” he said, grabbing the notebook and pen and throwing them back on my desk.

I had to smile. This was what made having a brother a year older than me perfect. He helped with everything, even if I didn’t always ask. I took a good look at him as he walked back over to me. He was a duplicate of our father for sure – broad shoulders, medium-size frame and chiseled cheekbones all tucked under smooth, caramel skin.

“Well, whatever you do, stay away from, Jahlil. You don’t need to be watching fights or going anywhere near them. Don’t give me a reason to have to drive home just to knock somebody out.”

I tried not to show any reaction on my face, but hearing a name had my undivided attention. “Who’s Jahlil?”

He kissed my cheek. “The guy who was fighting. Dreads. Jahlil’s actually a good kid. Just got caught up in some trouble.” He walked to the door to leave, but turned back. “I’m headed to meet, Emé. You coming?”

“What kind of trouble?” I asked, still curious about Jahlil.

“Mind yours. Just stay away from him. And Robbie too. I’m sure Robbie knew something would be going down there. He hangs with one of the guys Jahlil was fighting. Think about it, Cash. What kind of guy would have you meet him somewhere that he knows there’s always something popping off?”

I had no idea what he knew about Robbie and his friends, but I’d never seen Robbie with any of those guys, which I’m sure, was my brother’s point. However, that wasn’t my concern. I wanted to know more about Jahlil, but I remained silent. At least for now.

“You coming or not?” he asked again.

“Yeah. Give me thirty to get ready. Where we going?”

“You never know with, Emé. I’ll hit her and tell her you’re coming,” he said, texting. “We’ll make it a family day. Where’s Bre?”

“I’m sure she’s in her room. Probably on the phone with Saith.”

Desmond clutched his chest jokingly. “My little sisters. Can you guys just give me and Dad a break? Just for a week?”

I had to laugh at that one. “That would be too much like right,” I said, pushing him out of the room. “Go. Ask her to come. It’ll be good hanging out with the sibs this weekend. Now, let me get ready.”

I slammed the door. Leaning my head against it, I paused and thought about what I had possession of before heading to the shower. All I needed was a name. And I had gotten it.

Jaded Hearts Part 2

Chapter 3


I was standing there looking at my father, wishing he didn’t pick now to have a family reunion. We hadn’t spoken in three years, since I’d graduated from college, and he chose today to show up.

“Jade,” I said again, waiting for her to answer. “How do you know my father?”

She responded, but never took her eyes off my father. “You didn’t tell me your father was a police officer. You said…you said…” she stuttered. She finally looked at me.

By now, I knew what her mad looked like. But I could also see fear in her eyes. She was pleading with me in a silent way.

“I said he was a cop, but that I didn’t want to talk about him,” I said, trying to reason with the idea that we both had obviously hidden something from each other. “That part is true. I thought you were an interior designer.”

I prayed that she wasn’t doing some kind of undercover work. But what would she have had to go undercover for in reference to me? I wanted to know that she hadn’t blatantly lied to me.

“I am. I was a cop.”

She kept looking at her friend Melissa, like she was waiting for her to come to her rescue. But I knew Jade would eventually square her shoulders back and take whatever was about to come. Jade had my full attention at this point. I knew the kind of man my father was. I knew the kind of man he was with my mother, so I could only imagine how he and Jade had crossed paths. I was determined not to get annoyed before hearing the details, but the next comment my father made didn’t make that easy.

“So you traded in those shiny shoes for some sneakers I see?” he said.

“Dad,” I said with an icy tone. “Chill.”

He stepped closer to me. “I see you still haven’t learned a lot of respect.”

Jade came up on my other side. “Can we talk? Please.”

I gently snatched my hand away from hers.

“I have a speech to make,” I said, walking off. I walked toward the center of my store where Jade had gotten a small stage put in. It could lower into the floor when it wasn’t being used. I swallowed the lump that was lodged in my throat and grabbed the microphone from the DJ.

“What’s up good people?” I said. “I really had no idea what I was doing when I opened this store a year ago. In fact, up until six months ago, I thought I had made a big mistake.”

I watched as my father walked closer to the stage. I wasn’t sure why he was coming this way, but as long as he stayed quiet, I didn’t care.

“I’m excited that Sneaker Nation has become what it is, excited for what’s next and looking forward to serving my community. I want to help a college student who may be going through some of the same things I went through during my early years.” I paused. I tried not to look at my father. “Please see my assistant, Sheree, to inquire about the program we’re looking to set up in the next few months.”

I looked for Jade. I didn’t want to switch up the program. This was the part where she was supposed to speak. When I didn’t see her in the crowd, I looked over to my side and realized she’d come up on stage from behind me. I shouldn’t have expected anything less than for her to be on point. After this, I’m still done. A lie is a lie.

“Now, I want to introduce everyone to the person who gave this store a much needed makeover,” I started.

“Much needed,” Ron quipped from the side. The crowd laughed.

“She worked effortlessly to make sure that it would not only be ready in time, but that it would fulfill the vision I needed,” I continued. I gently wrapped my arm around her waist. I hated what was happening right now. And I hated the way I was feeling. “You saw what I didn’t and brought it to life. Thanks, J.”

I kissed her cheek, whispering in her ear at the same time, “We need to talk in the back after your speech.”

“Thanks, Corey,” she said. She didn’t reply to my comment, but I knew she heard me. I also knew we needed to make sure nobody could hear us when we went back there to talk. Between my anger level and her fire attitude, I knew there’d be a yelling match.

“So, I just want to say thanks to the man that gave me an extra push to fulfill a passion I’ve been focusing on for the last nine months,” she started, holding her champagne glass up. I saw a tear inch out the corner of her eye. She coughed and straightened her back. “All the jobs I had previous were spaces similar to this – businesses. I wanted to focus on homes. But every time the phone rang, it was a business owner looking for my expertise,” she paused to sip her champagne. “Now, this store was true grunt work. Last minute grunt work also.”

She looked over at me with an accusing eye. I forced a smile.

“Nonetheless, we did it and we did it together. I’m proud of that and everything that’s to come for the store.” She looked at me. “More important, for everything that’s to come for us.”

She signaled for Melissa to come on stage. I watched as Melissa brought a box with her. I frowned. Her eyes darted between me and Melissa. I saw Melissa give her an encouraging smile. I looked down at the box that was now lying at Jade’s feet. She signaled for me to come to her.

“So I had this crazy idea that I wanted to put a smile on this man’s face in front of a room full of people I don’t know,” she joked. “Silly me, right?”

There were a few chuckles. I rubbed the back of my neck and looked down.

“I got this right after I started working on the store,” she continued. I saw her look over at my father and I squinted, trying to make out their silent communication. Nothing.

“Drum roll, please.”

The room filled with people making drum roll noises. Jade handed me the box. I slowly grabbed it. Even if though I didn’t want to in that moment, I smiled. It was hard to turn off the way I felt. It was going to be even harder to break it off with her.

“Thanks, babe,” I said. I slowly unwrapped the bow, almost dropping the box. More chuckles came from the crowd. I sighed and opened the box. I looked at Jade for what felt like an eternity before looking at the crowd again. I slowly grabbed the mic from her.

“So, this gift is very personal and special,” I said, fighting back emotion. “I know you guys are curious, but I’m going to keep this one to myself.”

Everyone groaned. I handed the mic to Melissa while checking the audience for my father again. I didn’t see him. I grabbed Jade’s hand and headed to my back office with her. When we got there, I locked the door.

“What the hell is going on, Jade?”

“Can we pray first?” she asked. I noticed her voice was even. Didn’t she care that she could possibly lose me? “Please?”

I sighed, but grabbed her hands.

“Father, I know that I was wrong for not telling Corey about my past as an officer. I know I was wrong to start what we have without telling him everything, but I felt like I did what was right.”

I tightened my hands around hers. Was this really a prayer? Is she justifying her actions?

“I’m asking you to help me tell Corey what I need without leaving out any details. I need his support. I need your help and I need your protection. Please God. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Protection? “Amen.”

“Jade –”

“Corey. Listen. Please.”

Her voice was quivering a little. I sat on the edge of my desk. This was a part of her I had yet to see. She was vulnerable. As much as I wanted to scream, I didn’t want to jump knowing she was about to open up to me. I needed to hear her out.

“I joined the force almost three years ago. I just did it, without a second thought. The economy made me rush into something that I honestly had no idea would end up scarring my life forever.”

She paused and looked at me. The tears streaming down her face were pulling at my heartstrings. I inched off the desk, but still couldn’t move.

“What I’m about to tell you can never, ever leave this room. I don’t care if you never speak to me again,” she said, sputtering. “Corey, you can’t say a word.”

I nodded. I grabbed one of her hands. “I promise. Just tell me everything. And I mean everything.” I forced a smile. “That’s the only way I’ll know if this is worth fighting for.”

She nodded in understanding. I wiped her face. “Come on, snotty nose. Out with it.” I said half joking.

“First, with all due respect, I hate your father. To be honest, we both have hesitations about continuing on.”

I frowned. “I’m nothing like him.”

“Which is probably why I’m still finding it hard to believe. But…” she shrugged. “Whatever. When I first joined, I was happy. Everything was the way it was supposed to be. A year in, and things started to change. Or maybe they were always there and I just chose to ignore them. Either way, I feel cheated. Corey…”

She hesitated. I grabbed her other hand for reassurance. Just when she was about to continue, there was a knock on the door. She turned her head, but I put my hand up before she could say anything. I walked to the door and peeked out. Ron stuck his head in.

“You guys okay?” he asked.

“We’re good. Do me a favor? Don’t let anybody else knock on this door. Give us about twenty minutes,” I said. I looked back at her. “Maybe more.”

He nodded and closed the door, no questions. I turned back to Jade. “Go ahead.”

“Corey, can we go somewhere else?”


“Okay, okay,” she said, throwing her hands up in surrender. She rolled her neck side to side and pulled on her hands. “Okay.”

I walked her over to the two large chairs in my office near the window. I sat her down and sat right in front of her, still holding her hands. She smiled and wiped her eyes again, which now had fresh tears in them.

“I can’t say anything…you have no idea what this could cost me,” she whispered. “My life included.”

“That’s why you prayed that God would protect you?”

She nodded. “Your father knows.”

“I’m going to tell you this,” I said. “You didn’t buy me that gift because you think I’m somebody you can trust. You bought it because in just three months, we know we can trust each other.”

I grabbed the box and pulled out the small painting. My mother had the same one on her wall, just in a larger size. There was a picture of it saved on my phone. It was a Marl Jackson painting. I’d told Jade what the painting meant to me, but the artist had passed away back in the sixties and all his paintings had been sold by his family. It was the perfect example of a family that took over an estate and didn’t know what to do with it. It was rare to even get ahold of one of his paintings, but my mother had won hers at an auction. The little boy in the picture holding his mother’s hand had resonated with me since I was twelve.

Jade had been listening to more than my voice when we met. She was listening to my heart. Even at twenty-four I could honestly say if it hadn’t been for my mother’s love and support, I wouldn’t even know if what I felt for Jade was love. How she got her hands on the painting wasn’t even my concern. The fact that I knew she went through hell to get her hands on it was what mattered. My father couldn’t tell you what my favorite color was, let alone a painting. For that, I had to listen and I would do my best to help her. She just had to let me. I grabbed her face in between my hands and kissed her.

“Jade, you are the first woman I’ve actually agreed to wait to have sex with. I need to know. You owe me that much,” I joked.

She laughed, causing more snot to shoot out of her nose. “Ewww, this is so gross.”

I handed her some tissues and watched her as she cleaned up her face. Sighing, she clenched the tissue tight and continued.

“Something changed with the one-year anniversary date of me being an officer. Not just in me, but at the precinct. It’s like they were waiting for me to be initiated.”

“The first year is always a hazing process,” I said. She flinched. “Just being honest.”

“Let me finish before I lose the guts to tell you again,” she said, pinching my arm. “Lacey Givens. She was my partner. We both graduated from the academy on the same day. I had no idea we’d end up at the same precinct, but we did. When we became partners, I was happy. My first year partner was kind of crazy.”

“Most cops are,” I said.

“Your father took me under his wing. He made it seem like it was so innocent. Lacey had a bad feeling about him, but she didn’t speak on it much. She just wanted to be committed to the job,” she said sarcastically. “The job is what killed her. It almost killed me.”

I waited. I rubbed the back of her hand.

“We went to a house call one night. It was about two months after Lacey came and it was her first domestic situation. When we got there, another unit had already responded. We saw the car, but we assumed the officers were inside. Somehow, wires got crossed and they had no idea we were coming. There should’ve been a dispatch, something. But,” she swallowed, “nothing. When we entered the house, Lacey ran upstairs, I covered her and we stopped at the middle room. There was a low noise coming from inside.”

She slowly stood up and walked around me. She stopped and turned around. “I saw the gun on the stand, but I didn’t see anything else. Lacey signaled to me to keep going and that’s when I saw the woman lying on her back behind the dresser. She was moving, so I checked for a pulse.”

She put her head down. I walked over to her and gave her hand another reassuring squeeze. “Babe, it’s okay.”

I watched the tears continue to stream down her face as she started talking again.

“Lacey moved around to see if anybody else was in the room. There wasn’t. But then, I heard a noise coming from the bathroom a few feet away. That’s when I saw the badge on the other nightstand. I froze. The bathroom door flung open and before anybody could move or say anything, his gun was raised. It was a .22. He aimed it at me, then at Lacey. His wife started groaning and moving again, so I walked over to her. I took my eyes off of him for a split second. I heard the first shot fired.”

She broke down and slid slowly to the floor. “I turned to see him stumbling back against the wall. Everything happened in slow motion. Lacey stood there, shocked. I could see the smoke coming from her gun. The other officers burst in. Five minutes later your father and my captain came in. All everyone saw was Lacey standing there with a gun and a dead police officer.”

“Baby, she was doing her job. She protected you and that woman,” I said, trying to understand.

She glared at me. “If life were that easy, Lacey would never have killed herself three months later.”


Chapter 4

I didn’t move or say another word. Why would Lacey kill herself? There were pieces missing. I waited.

“They were protecting him. The whole time. His guys knew he was beating his wife. They knew what he had been doing night after night after night and nobody stopped him. Because of his badge?!”

She was raising her voice. I put my hands on her shoulders so she could calm down.

“Baby, relax. We don’t want anyone to hear you right?”

She slowly nodded. “After everything settled down that night, Captain Lansky asked me what I saw. I gave him my version. Internal Affairs showed up and everybody gave their version. But when they got to the officers who were first on the scene, they told a different story. They said that she’d been drinking and hit her husband with a baseball bat.”

“Was there a bat near her?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t see one, but it could’ve been. We were just trying to save her. That’s the job. Victims first. Suspects second.”

I nodded. “Okay. You did your job.” I knew I sounded redundant, but I was trying to keep it positive. It was clear she was beating herself up about something.

“It was our word against theirs. And because there was no real paper trail, who do you think they believed?”

“The wife never pressed charges?”

She nodded, her face now dry. Her nostrils were flaring. “She did. They were just never filed. How do you press charges when the person you live with is the law? You go to any precinct in the city and give his badge number and he wins. It doesn’t matter if he’s black, white or yellow, they protect their own. Lacey and I soon learned that it was the men against the women. Unless…”


“Unless we went with the flow. We had to tell the same lie. The same story. Lacey didn’t want to, but she was new. I felt I had…like I had no choice.”

I walked her back over to the chair so she could sit down. “They used their trump card. Loyalty.”

“That I owed it to them to stand on my precincts side. This guy had been with the force for fifteen years. His seniority meant more than protecting a citizen? Even with all the things this world is going through in regards to law enforcement and society, the last thing we need to be worried about is the people who go home to live with the officers.”

I nodded. “I know babe. But, the system is jacked up on all sides. The sad part is, she probably wanted to leave, but she knew he would just find her and –”

“Kill her. Exactly. The worse part? She pulled through. During the trial, she barely had a bruise.”

“They had to have believed her.”

Jade laughed. It was chilling because I could hear the mockery. “Not if she wanted to get his pension? Why would she turn on him now when it could benefit her the most?”

“That has no bearings on someone getting their spouse’s pension.”

“She was stupid. She stayed with an abusive cop whose whole team manipulated her for years. They could tell her that her hair was red and even though it was black, she’d believe them.”

“They’d brainwashed her by then.” I shuddered at how well versed I was in putting the pieces together.

“Extremely. I just thank God there were no children involved.”

I wiped the corner of her eyes. I didn’t want to tell here to stop crying. She needed to let it out. If she’d been holding onto all that for nine months, it was a wonder she was able to smile the day I’d met her. All I remember is how her smile lit up the entire sneaker store. It definitely hadn’t been the smile of a woman who was carrying a heavy load. Then again, that’s why I loved black women. They could have a whole war going on in their lives and still smile.

“Because Lacey had no idea what she’d gotten herself into, she filed a complaint with Captain Lansky.”

“And he had to take it to the top.”

“Exactly. Truth is, he knew. He tried to protect me to an extent.”

“Babe, I don’t understand. If you were willing to go with the flow but not Lacey, how does that affect you?”

There was a knock at the door. I looked at my watch and realized we’d been in there for close to forty-five minutes. I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck, hanging my head. She put her arms around my neck and pulled my face up.

“Babe, it’s okay. Tonight is your night. I didn’t mean to get you off your game.”

I shook my head. “That’s not what I’m mad about. I just wish you would’ve told me.”

She leaned back in the chair. “Let’s say I would’ve told you and we ended up realizing that your father and my arch nemesis is the same person. We wouldn’t be here right now.”

I frowned. “On whose part? Remember, I hadn’t talked to the man in three years.”

She stared at me. “Three straight years?”

“We had four exchanges, all courtesy of my mother. Who by the way, divorced him, in case you forgot.”

“You guys have different last names.”

I swallowed. “Ellis is my middle name. I’ve always gone by that instead of McLaurin.”

“And you left that out because?”

“I hated the association.” At this point, she had one up on me. Everything says Ellis except my driver’s license. But I should’ve told her.

She cut her eyes at me. “Either way, can you honestly say you would’ve still dated me had you known?”

“I can’t say. You never gave me the option,” I said. She gasped. “Wait. I’m not saying you didn’t tell me on purpose. But from what I’ve heard so far and the fear in your eyes when you saw my father, I can imagine what happened next. So, I get why you tried to bury that part of your life.”

“I’m not staying for the rest of the event.”

I stood up in such a hurry, I almost knocked her down. “What? Why?”
She stood up. “I’m done with the drama. Whenever he’s around, there’s drama. Come by when it’s over and I promise I’ll finish telling you.”

“No. No way. I won’t let you leave like that,” I pleaded.

She put her hands on her hips and sighed. “Let me say it differently. As long as he’s in this room, I refuse to stay. Period. Nothing against you.”

Her nostrils were flaring again and she was squinting at me.

“Jade, I’ll protect you. You can trust me.”

She turned and started toward the door. She opened it slowly and looked out, then closed it again.

“You know where I grew up?”

“Yes. Twenty-ninth and Diamond.”

“Do you know that I’ve been in all of four fights in my entire life and only one was with a girl?”

I chuckled. “I can believe it. It’s probably why the force was so attractive to you.”

“Your father would be my fifth fight if he pushed the right buttons tonight.”

I stood there, not sure whether to be angry that she was threatening my father, or turned on that she was so damn feisty and even thought she could take him.

“The fear you saw in my eyes was fear of what I would do to him. Not the other way around.”

She walked back over to me, holding me around the waist. “The truth is: I fear him and I fear being around him. But it’s not a punk fear. It’s an alarming fear. Danger.”

She stopped talking and shook her head. “What am I doing? He’s your father. No matter what you say, you will support him. Flesh and blood.”

“I’ll be honest with you. If you went out there and jumped on him, I’d stop you,” I said. She threw her hands up. I grabbed them mid-air. “But, I believe you. I believe that something went on that night that nobody knows but you and your team. I also know what went on plenty of nights in my own home.”

She stared at me for a long time. Sighing, she grabbed my face in her hands and leaned against me. “I have to go.”

I wanted to pull her back toward me. But I knew she had to leave. She’d already made her speech and fulfilled her obligation. I didn’t want to make the rest of the night hard on her. I felt my knees growing weak. Swallowing hard, I cleared my throat and straightened up to head back to the crowd. Leaving your own party for almost an hour was at minimum, rude. That’s how I knew that I was falling for Jade. I walked back out and looked for Ron. I don’t know when he walked away from the door, but I didn’t see him anywhere in sight. After a few minutes of skimming the crowd and shaking a few hands with people I passed, my eyes locked with my father’s.

The smirk on his face made me narrow my eyes and glare back at him. When I was twelve, I was intimidated by that look. It wasn’t a regular smirk – it had his signature stoned face attached to it, which made ninety percent of the people he came across cringe. It was hard enough growing up as a black man in a society that marked us as being animals. My father found it a pleasure to prove them right, even as an authority figure. I don’t know when he started walking over towards me, but the moment I felt his hand on my shoulder, I blinked and came to.

“So, what do you think? Have I made you proud yet?” I asked. The sarcasm dripping from my voice could be heard a mile away.

“Son, I’ve always been proud of you. You have my blood running through your veins,” he said. “I just think you could make wiser choices. The fact that you keep company with Jade Robinson tells me you still don’t.” He patted my back.

I felt a throbbing in my head. I knew he wanted me to react. I wouldn’t give him the pleasure. He started smiling and he leaned in closer to me.

“I spoke with mom the other day. She seems to be doing quite well,” he said, more relaxed.

The change in my father’s tone made me shudder on the inside.

“She’s doing great. Still pursuing her degree. Going after her dreams,” I said.

“As she should. I’m really proud of her. Seriously.”

I smiled at someone behind him and waved. The party would be ending soon. Everyone was still dancing and having a good time. I finally saw Ron dancing with a woman.

“Dad, why did you come here tonight? You’ve never supported my dream of opening up a store like this.”

“Son, that’s not fair. I don’t agree with the choice and I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just enter the force after college, but either way, you are my son.”

I looked into his eyes. Is that sincerity?

“Walk with me.”

We headed toward the door. I stopped.

“Dad, the party is about to end. Can we just wait until then?”

He looked around. “Of course. Finish up.”

An hour later, I finished with my guests. Ron helped me clear everyone out and Sheree handed out gift bags. A part of me wanted to lag behind and help with the cleanup, but whatever my dad had to say must’ve been important for him to wait around, especially since being downtown at this time of night was a magnet for trouble – the kind of trouble he liked. I was more concerned about anyone he could have an encounter with than him being out there alone. After a few more goodbyes, I made my way outside to him.

“Did you buy any sneakers?” I joked.

He chuckled. “A few pairs.”

I stood there silent. He grabbed the back of my neck gently as we continued on.

“So, son. How long have you been seeing Jade?”

“About three months. How long did you guys work together?” I asked, keeping in mind what Jade told me.

“Two years. She left us almost a year ago.”

Okay. So far he’s telling the truth. “Why did she leave?”

“Something between her and Lansky,” he continued. “You know how he can be.”

“Yeah. I remember the stories you used to tell.”

“To be honest, I was surprised she left.”

I slowed down my walk. “Really?”

We nodded at two police officers passing us by. My father shook one of their hands.

“Yeah. She didn’t tell you?”

I swallowed. “Tell me what. She said she was on the force with you for two years. What more is there to tell?”

I was fishing, but I wanted to see if their stories matched up.

“It was a lot deeper than that son,” he said. “A lot. Jade wasn’t the most stable. Did she tell you about Lacey?”

I started to relax a little. Honesty?

“It depends.” I felt my shoulders tightening.

“Son, let me say this. I love you. Despite our differences, I have always loved you.” He stopped walking and dropped his eyes. He looked back up at me. Is that fear? “Even though things were rough between your mama and I, I would never let anyone hurt either of you. Ever. I’m only going to say this one time. Stay away from Jade Robinson.”

I didn’t respond for a few minutes. He couldn’t be serious. We hadn’t talked in three years and he wanted to give me a demand the first time we had a real talk?


He put his finger up to shush me. “No, son. Listen to me.” I thought I was daydreaming, but the tears in his eyes were real. “She is not good news. There was a lot going on the last year she was with us. It was some stuff that I’d never experienced in my twenty plus years on the force. I promise you, I’m not playing. Trust me, son.”

His placed his hand on my shoulder. I looked at it. It was shaking violently. Then it hit me.

“You just said you were surprised she left and it was Lansky that wanted her to leave?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. He didn’t budge.

“I said I was surprised she left and that she wasn’t the most stable. That part is true. She had a strong case though. Because of her instability, I thought she would win.”

I was very confused. “Win what? There was a case?”

He shook his head. “Not a legal case. You know, the regular internal affairs stuff.”

My phone started to vibrate from inside my pocket. I pulled it out slowly. It was a test from Jade.

You okay honey?

I looked back up at my father.

“That her?”

I nodded. “Dad, I know you’re concerned, but I promise you I can run my own life.”

“Son, listen to me. Do what you want. But don’t get serious about her. And don’t let her tell you anything bad about your old man. You know me.”

He was breathing heavy and sweating a little. It was the norm for when he didn’t get his way. I’d seen that look a thousand times over throughout my twenty-four years on earth.

“I know, dad. And that’s what scares me.”




Jaded Hearts Part 1

Chapter 1


 “You’re leaving by choice, Officer Robinson?”

“Yes. Do I have one?” I asked.

Without turning around, I knew that Officer McLaurin was behind me. As he walked around to stand next to Captain Lansky, he smirked. There was a huge part of me that wanted to grab his face and smash it into the desk. But that would only make matters worse in my case. After all, turning in my badge and gun was a big step. I would no longer be Officer Jade Robinson after today. After just two years, I’d had enough. What I’d learned in the time I’d been taking down criminals and helping rid the streets of Philadelphia from the infestation of drugs, sex trafficking and prostitution was that nothing beat what went on in the inside. The inside was filled with more criminals than the streets and I wanted no parts of it.

“Lacey’s death has had a huge effect on you. I can see that,” McLaurin said.

“Steve, were you invited into this conversation?” I asked him, completing dismissing his authority. He’d only been on the force two years longer than me. His jaw flexed. I raised my eyebrow. Try me.

“Jade, there’s no need for the attitude. I’m on your side.”

I stared at his badge and laughed. “No. You’re on their side.”

His nostrils flared. The sweat beads were increasing on his forehead. Whatever nerves I could hit as I walked out the door would be all the more victorious. Leaving this hell hole and doing what I’ve always wanted to do is just the beginning.

“So, what now Jade? You gonna go back to school?” Captain Lansky asked.

“No. I don’t feel I need to. I do know that whatever I do next won’t have anything to do with law enforcement.”

He looked down. I hated pushing him out like this. But the powers that be had made him turn his head and tell me “no” when he should’ve said “yes”. He’d honestly had my back from the day I came to work at his precinct. I’d never had a problem. The first year had been everything a new police officer should expect. But my last year had been one of pure hell. I had never prayed so much for God to get me out of a situation. When I got the call from a friend to do the interior designing for her new salon last month and then got four referrals after, I knew God was giving me a way out. And I was taking it with no second thoughts about a pension, retirement plan or anything.

“You know you will only get a small package,” Lansky continued. He looked down again.
I leaned down on the desk. “Is that dirty money?”

He flinched. McLaurin chuckled.

“Let her go, Captain. We have no room for her wet behind the ears tactics.”

I walked over to stand in front of McLaurin.

“Jade,” Captain Lansky called out. I didn’t move. I was nose to nose with this ingrate and I wanted him to say another word. I was itching to see how Captain Lansky would explain to IA how everything really had gone down over the last few months. Maybe if I hit McLaurin, Lansky will grow a pair. But he didn’t move. Before I could blink again, my hands were around McLaurin’s neck.

“Jade, Jade, stop it,” Lansky screamed. He walked over and pulled me off of him. McLaurin had a few drops of blood coming from his nose, but the smile never left his face.

“I like my woman rough he said,” licking the dripping blood from his nose and wiping it off with the back of his hand.

“Get out of here, McLaurin. Now!”

I wrestled myself out of Lansky’s grip. “Don’t stand up for me now.”

“I had no choice, Jade.”

I grabbed the paper he was waiting for me to sign off his desk and signed it, slamming the pen down with a bang that shook the box I’d placed on the edge of his desk right onto the floor. As I bent to pick up the contents that had fallen out, I brushed my hand over the nameplate. Officer Jade Robinson. I slowly stood up, box in hand and looked at Lansky one last time.

“I’m sorry, Jade. I really am. But my hands are tied.”

I could feel my blood getting hot. I looked down at the picture of me and Lacey that sat on top of everything else in the box. I fought back tears. With one last look at Lansky, I turned and walked out of the office. As I neared the precinct doors, I could feel eyes boring holes in my back. Besides the intense stares from the men and women who also chose to turn a blind eye to what had happened, I knew the ones that were tearing into my back right now were McLaurin’s. I just knew. Grabbing the handle of the door that led to the streets, I turned around one last time and flipped him the bird.

Six Months Later

“The layout is exactly what I’m looking for, but I need different colors for my client. Can you send me over another sample?”

I placed my personal cell back down, ignoring the text that had just come through. My mother was concerned about my sudden change of career and she’d been sure to let me know every moment she got. But I was on an important call – one that would make everyone who doubted my change of career shut up. For my mother, be quiet.

“Yes. Okay, okay. That’s fine. I have my laptop right in front of me so as soon as I get the layout I’ll let you know. Thanks, Bobby.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. Having someone trust me with both their homes was a huge task. This was one of my biggest projects and I didn’t even have to struggle to get it. When God shut the door on my career as an officer, I made a promise to Him to stop fighting the passions that were hidden inside me. I’d hidden them by choice. My father retired as a police officer with the NYPD. Growing up in Philadelphia had made me make some decisions that I hadn’t really wanted to. But all in all, I knew following in his footsteps was ideal. It made him proud. And my mother through it would bring him home.

But nothing ever went the way we planned it in life. In fact, most things turned out the complete opposite. I had wanted my niche to be home interior design only. This would be, my third home project. After doing my childhood best friend’s salon, there were people calling asking me décor questions that I had no idea I even had the answer to. It flowed naturally. My mother had recognized the talent when I was fourteen. My father came home for six months when I was fifteen and all he talked about was having his only child become a police officer.

And that’s what was drilled into my head throughout high school. Even though he was no longer there with us, my mother convinced me that it was my duty to make him proud. I picked up my personal cell again. I looked at the screen. I looked back at my laptop. The email just came through. I looked at the cell again and decided to just call. It wouldn’t last long anyway.

“Baby girl,” my father’s voice came booming through the phone. “What’s good kiddo?”

“Hey dad,” I said, my voice slightly cracking. “Everything’s great. Have you talked to mom?”

“Yes. She’s been calling me every day since you left the force.”

I swallowed. A part of me just had to know. “Dad. Are you mad at me?”

He had no idea what had led up to my decision to leave and I probably would never tell him. Although he’d been a police officer for twenty-five years, my dad was a stand-up guy all around. There is no way he would even allow the precinct to get away with what happened without some kind of legal action. And just for the sake of being true to where we came from, a little street action as well. I chuckled at the thought.

“For following your dreams?”

I sat straight up. Dreams? What?

“Baby, I want you to hear me and hear me very clearly. There is nothing you can ever do to make me mad at you when it comes to doing something you believe in.”

Tears sprung to my eyes and I started breathing heavy. “I thought you wanted me to be a cop.”

“I did. And honestly, I still do. It’s the blue in me,” he said, laughing. “I also know what happens when a woman doesn’t get her way.”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “Dad.”

“I was a little down about it for a while, but I saw the salon. Perry asked me to stop by.”

Perry was my best friend’s father. Robin and I grew up together just like our father’s had. We’d been inseparable since the fifth grade. We couldn’t stand each other in the beginning. Now, I was convinced our cycles came on at the same time. Weird, but true. I realized I was holding my breath and I let it out. My father had just told me he saw my first real big job and he sounded extremely proud. It was familiar pride – like the day I graduated the academy.

“I appreciate you, old man,” I teased. “Give it to me straight, though.”

“Jade, I couldn’t tell you a cool color from a hot color or what colors are in season. All I know is the before and after pictures speak for themselves.”

I smiled. “Thanks, pop.”

“I gotta take this call coming in. We’ll talk more about it. I’ll be coming to Philly in another week or so. You can hang out with your old man then.”

“Or, I’ll come to New York tomorrow to check on you.”

I heard my father talking to someone in the background. Then, I heard a door slam.

“You know what, baby?” he asked. “You should do that. I actually have someone who may need your help. He’s here in New York but the store he’s opening is in Philly. I’ll send you the information tonight.”

I could tell by my father’s rushed voice he was preoccupied. “Okay. Love you, daddy.”

“I love you, too. Call me tomorrow morning.”

I looked back at my laptop as I ended the call. I sat back in my chair and opened the email that was waiting. There was another email that I hadn’t been expecting. I smiled when I saw the request. This should be interesting.


Chapter 2

I walked into a downtown sneaker store, ready to buy the first pair of sneakers I saw. My feet were on a ten when it came to the pain level. The dumbest idea I’d had all year – wearing four inch heels downtown while running in and out of meetings – had me wishing that I’d just gone with my flats. I would have to find another way to present myself professionally when showing corporate executives my portfolio. On a normal day, sneakers and sweatpants with a cute tank was my thing. Being a cop in uniform had transformed me into someone who needed to be able to move without a second thought.

“How can I help you miss?”

“Whatever you have in a size seven in. Comfortable.”

“Did you see any pair that you liked?”

I cut my eyes at him. I looked him over, smiling at how innocent he looked. Poor baby. I chuckled. I definitely had my father’s sarcasm and assertiveness.

“Whatever you have in a size seven. I don’t care. I just need a pair of sneakers.”

“It should be the best kind of sneakers, though.”

I looked back up at the sales assistant. But his lips weren’t moving. I slowly turned around to see the culprit who would feel my wrath next. I stopped myself before I could say anything. Whatever words were about to escape my lips were now lodged in my throat. He stuck his hand out for me to shake. I took it slowly. As soon as his fingers touched mine, I got my confidence back. Cute. Very.

“Hi. I just wanted a pair of sneakers,” I said, through a tight smile. “Nothing special. I have on four inch heels and I’m travelling through the streets of center city limping like I have some kind of basketball injury. Sneakers. It’s not hard.”

He looked at me. “Not at all. But Carson is just doing his job. It’s what he was trained to do. How about I help you?”

“Help me into a pair of sneakers. Size seven. Yes.”

He smirked. “I’m Corey.”

“Jade. Nice to meet you.”

He turned and walked in the opposite direction. I looked at Carson, who now has his cell phone in his hand. I looked back toward the direction Corey had walked in. He was staring at me.

“Size seven. This way.”

I slowly headed in the direction he was in. If I didn’t come out of these shoes now, I would have a corn salad on my feet for the rest of my life. I could already feel the first corn popping up. As I got closer, he pulled a pair of socks out of his pocket.

“Here. Put these on.”

They were black ankle socks. I didn’t care what they were, I sat down on one of the leather benches and kicked my shoes off.

“I appreciate that,” I said, pulling the socks on. “And thank you for being patient with me.”

I had to regain cool points. Not because this man had my heart fluttering thirty miles per minute, but so that the “all black women have attitudes” stereotype wouldn’t manifest itself in our first encounter. My mother had drilled that into my head as well. “Be delicately strong. Men want to know he’s with a woman.” One lesson I would appreciate for an eternity.

“No worries. I understand. I have a sister.”

“And a mother I’m sure,” I joked.

He looked at me. “It didn’t matter anyway. The minute I saw that gorgeous curly hair, I was on my way to the front. But now, I don’t know if I like you mean girl.”

He playfully stuck his tongue out at me as my mouth fell open. I relaxed as he reached and grabbed three pairs of sneakers off the wall we were standing in front of. I had to laugh.

“Funny. I’m not mean unless I’m in pain.”

“How often is that?”

I looked down at my portfolio bag and then back up at his face. Six months ago, it was every day. “Depends on what pair of shoes I’m wearing.”

Sitting back down, I grabbed the sneakers that were in his hand and looked them over. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter.”

I threw on a white pair of Nike’s. They fit. I tried the black Reebok Classics. Perfect.

“I’ll take them both.”

I stood up and looked at the top of the wall where he’d gotten the sneakers from. “Wait. These are all a size seven?”

There had to be about twenty pairs where I was standing. Each sneaker display told a little story about the sneaker it was holding up. Definitely something I’d never seen before.

“I think I said that already,” he joked. “I keep them this way so it’s easier on the customer. They know before the salesperson goes back what shoes we have in their size.”

I turned back to him. “That would mean you have every shoe out on the floor.”

“Except the exclusives, yes.”

I stepped around him and took in the whole store. I had been in such a rush I hadn’t realized how nice it was. Especially for a sneaker store. The decorum was all blue and beige. So were the displays. Consistent.

“I like this,” I said, moving my hand around. “Not your average sneaker store set up.”

“Nothing I do is average. Nothing.”

I cocked my head at him, not hiding my smile. His vibe was refreshing – not too pushy, but confident.

“I believe you. Now can I get the left shoe so I can get out of here?”

“Only if you promise to come to the party.”

I opened up my blazer. The spring air was quickly turning into summer. Even with his open doors, I was starting to sweat. “Party?”

“My one-year anniversary party is coming up. For the store.”

Carson came to the back. “She needs the other shoe for these?”

Corey nodded. “Thanks, Carson.” Once he was gone, he turned his attention back to me. “I think you’ll have fun. You might even meet some people you can connect with. Not sure what you do, but you never know.”

“I’m an interior designer.”

“So you were judging my store, huh?”

“I was not,” I said, faking innocence. “Stop acting like you know me.”

He laughed. “You were tearing apart my store, passing judgment before Carson even said hello. I can tell.”

“The sad part is, you’re so, so right.”

Carson came back with my sneakers. “Here you go.”

Corey cleared his throat.

Carson looked at me with a boyish grin. “Sorry. Here you go, ma’am.”

“Jade is fine.”

“He has no choice, Miss Jade. It’s just the way I run my store.”

I laughed. “You could use an upgrade to your store.”

It was a joke, but I could tell by the expression on Corey’s face that I’d said something of interest.

“Funny you mentioned that. I wanted something refreshing for the anniversary party. Is three months enough time for you?”

We walked up to the front so Carson could cash me out. “I honestly was just teasing. And my schedule is full for the next few months. There’s no way I could give you what you need in that short amount of time.”

Carson handed me my card back and I grabbed a pair of the sneakers and threw them on. “You can throw all this in the bag.” He nodded.

“I’ll pay you double.”

I turned back to Corey. “It’s not about the money. I just know I don’t have time.” I walked toward the door. “But, here’s my card. Let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll see if I can refer someone.”

He looked down at the card. “Great. A website. I get to see the work you’ve done before we get started.”

I smiled. “Too smart for your own good. Thanks again.” I stepped outside, then turned back. “Oh. Happy anniversary.”

The two block walk to my car would be more bearable now. Something about Corey’s presence had left me speechless. Growing up in Philly had enough challenges. As I got older, I realized the dating scene had a level of challenges that my father couldn’t have even prepared me for. A part of me was looking forward to the anniversary party. I hadn’t told him I was going, but I was sure I would.  But the next time we saw each other again, wouldn’t have anything to do with a consultation. When I was a cop, I had very little time to date. Being a full time entrepreneur left me with even less time. I was ready to get back out there on the scene. If it meant attending a sneaker store party, then so be it.


“You okay, babe?” Corey asked me, as I looked around the restaurant.

I sipped my wine. “Tell me a restaurant in Philly you don’t know. I thought I knew every last one of them.”

“There’s always those golden gems that everyone forgets,” he said, feeding me some of his salad. “Those side streets that you can’t park on because PPA will be all over it, but you just gotta get to that spot.”

I laughed. “Listen. I’ve been in the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s system only once. I learned my lesson the hard way. There’s no restaurant worth going through that again.”

I turned my cell phone over. I had meant to turn it off, but I had a very important call coming in. “You like your appetizer?”

He nodded. “I do. What about you?”

I shrugged. “It’s okay. Nothing fancy.”

“Jade, have you given any more thought to doing the store changes. I just need the lower level done. And I’ve seen your work. It wouldn’t take more than a few weeks.”

“Yeah. If I pushed back all my other projects and only focused on yours,” I said, biting into my bread. “No way.”

“What’s your rush fee?”
“You can’t afford me,” I quipped.

He finished his water in one gulp. “Try me.”

“If I stalled my other projects and only focused on yours…” I paused. “$5,000. That’s just the rush fee. I’d have to explain this to my other clients. They could end up hating me, which means, I would just have to get no sleep.”

“I’ll give you eight.”
I stopped chewing. “Corey, what are you trying to do here? Woo me and screw me?”

He sat back. I don’t think he blinked for a whole five minutes. I stared into his brown eyes waiting for some kind of response. I knew I’d hit a nerve. His broad shoulders were pressed into the chair. The platinum cross chain he was wearing was moving up and down with every slow breath he took.

“I’m a businessman before anything. You can just say no.”

“I thought I made it clear last night on the phone. I don’t want to mix business with pleasure.”

“You did. And I thought I made it clear that I was willing to have you upgrade the store, then get back to getting to know you on a personal level. We never have to do business again.”

I chuckled. “You did say that. I have to be honest.”

“What’s up?” he said, sitting back up. He lightly grabbed my hand.

“Your proposal was one of the best I’ve seen since I started doing this full time. The absolute best.”

“That U. Penn degree comes in handy.”

I almost spit out my water. “You didn’t tell me you went to U. Penn?”

“I didn’t tell you a lot of things. Do you know how many women make assumptions about a guy like me? Because I came from West Philly, I let people think what they want. I like surprises.”

“First, I didn’t think anything. We’re both from this city. Don’t you think I’ve gotten stereotyped walking into some of these corporate office buildings?”

He wiped his hand. “The water you just spit on my hand says otherwise.”

I threw a balled up napkin at him. “Whatever. I was shocked because you said in a previous conversation, and I quote ‘College isn’t for everybody. Some of the best businessmen never stepped foot on a campus’. Did you not?”

“I did. I did. But to be honest, that’s the way I felt. I went to college because my father said I had to. And it was cool, I just didn’t need to spend all the money to do what I’m doing. That’s all I’m saying.”

I nodded. “I can agree with you there.”

We ate in silence, stealing occasional glances at each other. He winked at me every so often and I gave him the cutest girly smile I could. I was going to take the project. Corey called me the next day after we met. That was two months ago. We talked every night on the phone and facetimed twice as much, but neither of us had missed a beat in our business dealings. That was what we talked about forty percent of the time. The other sixty was about God, life and the future. He’d quickly become a friend. Wherever else this led would be all up to “the flow”.

I adopted “the flow” concept two years ago, learning to just flow with God. There was no point in me trying to figure out every step in life or planning every moment. Despite their differences, my parents had ingrained that in me as well. Just flow with God. Corey believed the same, which is why we clicked so quickly. My guard wasn’t up as much with him. I had even surprised myself on that note, since it usually was. Once, I felt a vibration on the table, I grabbed the phone.

“I have to take this,” I said, excusing myself from the table. He nodded at me. When I got to the restaurants foyer, I placed the phone back on my ear. “Hey. So?”

“Lacey’s parents don’t want to talk to you yet, Jade.”

I sighed. It had been three months. “Are they saying anything?”

“Yes. To leave them alone.”

Silence. “I understand.”

There was a noise on the other end of the phone. I could tell he’d taken it off speaker. “You may need to do that whole flow thing you’re always talking about with this situation here. The Givens are adamant in not speaking to you.”

I fought back tears. “Yusef, you know I had nothing to do with Lacey’s death.”

“Truth be told, nobody did, Jade. Nobody at the precinct held that gun to her head. She did that herself. But her parents feel it was the events that led up to her suicide that could’ve been prevented. And you were her partner.”

“Did you remember I still have a gun?” I threatened. His comment was out of line.

Yusef laughed. “I’m not saying I agree. I’m telling you how they feel. That’s how they view it. That you spent every day with her for the last two years and you did nothing.”

I peeked around the foyer wall. Corey was on the phone. I smiled when he looked up at me. He winked. I turned my attention back to the call.

“Okay. I get it. But I won’t give up.”

“Don’t I know it.”

I ended the call. I needed to get myself together before I headed back to Corey. Although Yusef had made an indirect comment, I knew that Lacey’s death was on everybody’s hands. Everybody’s.


“You sure you okay?” Corey asked me for the tenth time since we’d been back in the car. We were approaching my house and I had only said ten words to him since we left the restaurant. I shouldn’t have taken the call. No part of my past needs to enter my future.

“I’m okay. Just some bad news,” I said, giving him a reassuring smile. “Nothing to concern yourself about.”

“Anything I can do to help?”


He continued driving, staring straight ahead. I could sense the agitation just by the way he said ‘no’. “Corey, it’s not that big of a deal. I promise.”

“I believe you.”

I lightly touched the hand that was holding the shift gear. “You promised we would take it slow. Even the friendship part. Every part of my life isn’t going to be exposed to you immediately.”

I was a straight shooter. He stopped at a light and turned to me. He grabbed the hand that was touching his and kissed it softly.

“A woman who holds me to my word,” he said, grinning. “I like it.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell him. I couldn’t. There was no part of my life as a police officer that mattered now. It had all died the day I left the precinct. It had to. It was the only way I could save my own life.

“Thanks for tonight. My treat next time,” I said as he pulled in front of my house. He got out and opened my door.

“You know I’m going to walk you right up to your front door.”

“Yes, sir.”

We stepped onto my porch and the light came on. I turned around to face him. He wrapped me in a hug and kissed my cheek. I wanted a real kiss, but I refrained. Entrepreneurship was sexy to me and one kiss could lead to other places. ‘She’ hadn’t been touched in six months and I wanted to keep it that way until I was sure. More importantly, there was that promise to God I’d made. That I would wait as long as I could. It was a real promise. I didn’t want to say I would wait until marriage. Baby steps.

“I’ll call you tomorrow after my meeting. I’ll have some ideas ready to go,” I said, giving in to the request to work on the store. “But you have to promise me you’ll close for two days. I need to finish this and I can’t have any distractions.”

He stopped moving. “Two days, Jade? I don’t know about that hon.”

“Then, I can’t help you. I know it’s how you do business, but you can make it happen.”

He sighed. “What if I open from noon until six on the days you need. And give you a key to open as early as you want and stay after hours for as late as you want.”

I pouted. “I usually don’t like people to see what I’m working on until it’s completed.”

He stepped closer to me. “I’ll close one day. The other days we have to do it my way.”

I grinned and saluted him. “Aye, aye, captain.”

Laughing, he grabbed me into his arms for another hug. “Don’t tease me about my two days in ROTC.”

“I think it’s cute you tried.”

“Call you when I get in,” he said, walking back to his car. As I stepped into my vestibule, I kicked off my shoes. I had a good feeling about this. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed some ice water. I was past his handsome looks and his bold business mind. I always watched how a man treated and talked to other people. In the two months we’d been getting to know each other, Corey had shown me the true meaning of the quote, “True leaders always practice the three R’s: respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all their actions.” I just prayed it was really him, and not an impostor.


I looked around the sneaker store and if I wasn’t so confident already in my skills, what I’d done to Sneaker Nation would’ve had me feeling myself for sure. I looked around at the guests enjoying their champagne and the food that had been catered by Dyson’s Seafood and smiled. The magnitude of the project and what it took out of me all fell to the wayside as I watched the DJ lights hitting the ceiling. The job honestly had been easier than I anticipated. Corey’s vision matched with my precision had turned a two week around the clock job into a one-week adventure. He’d closed the store for a whole day, as promised and I’d found a way to make it work with my other schedule.

“This is the woman who made this store look like it should be in an ESPN footwear magazine,” I heard his voice say. I turned around.

“What do you want?” I teased. He wrapped his arm around my waist and I kissed his cheek.

“Just you, Miss Jade,” he teased back. “Let me introduce you to my man, Ron. He’s been a pain in my ass since we were ten.” He grabbed Ron playfully around the neck. “It’s no wonder he’s a doctor.”

I shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Ron. You know you don’t have to take that right?”

“No worries. We’ll see if he can take this butt whipping I’m about to put on him.”

As we shared a laughed, I looked at the register and waved to Carson. Corey originally had only wanted to sell at the end of the night, but I told him some people may not stay the whole night. Selling sneakers throughout the whole night would help him capitalize better. Needless to say, my idea worked. Carson hadn’t come from behind the register once since the party started two hours ago.

“I can’t believe the mayor came through,” I said. “Did you get a chance to talk to him before he left?”

“Yeah. I did. He bought a pair of Jordan’s.”

I looked around for my friend Melissa who had somehow gotten lost in the crowd. I was about to introduce her to Ron, when he leaned over and whispered something in Corey’s ear. Corey’s smile faded from his face and he turned to walk away.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, quickly kissing my hand. Before I could respond, he was gone. I finished my champagne and decided to head over to where Corey went. I could see him talking to somebody at the front door. Whoever he was standing in front of was the exact same height as him, because all I could see was his arms. Ron was talking to the person, too. I hated to break up the reunion, but Corey was supposed to make an announcement in a few minutes and I had a gift for him I knew he would love.

“You think he’s nervous about his speech?” Melissa asked, stepping beside me.

“Girl, I was just looking for you. Where’d you go that quick?”

“That line for the bathroom was long earlier. It finally went down.” She handed me another glass of champagne. “For the speech.”

I grabbed one off the table. “He’ll need one too. Can you grab one for his friend Ron?”

We continued walking toward the door. Ron pointed at me and Corey stepped to the side, turning around to face me. I smiled and reached my hand out to hand him the glass. My eyes traced his and he winked at me. But his smile was gone. Something was wrong.

“What’s up?” I asked, grabbing his hand.

“Officer Robinson?”

The glasses I had been holding fell and shattered to the floor. My veins iced up. I’d loathed that voice for two years so I knew exactly who it was. I smiled weakly at Corey before turning around.

“McLaurin. What are you doing here?” I said through clenched teeth.

“Jade,” Corey said, looking between me and McLaurin. “How do you know my father?”

I stood there frozen in fear. There’s no way. No way this man is his father. What have I gotten myself into?

Stay tuned for Part 2 next Wednesday…

Battling Brelyn Synopsis and Cover Reveal

Series Logline: In The Clover Chronicles, the four Clover siblings and their parents conquer fame and betrayal and fight to keep family bonds strong in this new young adult series where every Clover has a secret.

Battling Brelyn Logline: In Battling Brelyn, love, self-acceptance and family expectations collide when 15-year-old Brelyn Clover, who suffers from Lupus, and her new neighbor, Saith Richards, a paralytic athlete, follow their hearts against opposition and the physical challenges of their conditions.

I had to understand one thing. My body was now in charge of my destiny. Period!

This is exactly how high school sophomore Brelyn Clover feels after she is diagnosed with lupus six months past her fifteenth birthday. The attacks on her body come without warning, forcing her to step down as a fitness trainer. Her siblings are the only ones keeping her sane during the hiatus from fitness.

Then, Brelyn meets Saith Richards, her new neighbor. His is a paralyzed former basketball player who may never be able to take another jump shot in his life. Saith teaches Brelyn the true meaning of appreciating life. As the two grow closer Brelyn feels like things aren’t so bad after all. Even her online fitness business starts to take off, as she virtually trains her first client, Paris Rivers, a teen girl she connected with via Twitter.

Just when things are going well, Brelyn’s health takes a turn for the worse. This leads her siblings and parents to band together to figure out what caused her crisis. Only Saith holds the answers that everyone desperately needs. Will the Clovers be able to put their pride  aside and trust the one person who may be able to keep Brelyn alive or r will Brelyn’s growing love for Saith cause her parents to resent them having ever met?

The Clover Chronicles: Battling Brelyn, is the first book in this new young adult family saga where 7th Heaven meets Empire.