January 1, 2009
read an excerpt
Dark and delicious
Charlie Masters, playa extraordinaire, has no plans to change his heartbreaker ways. Then some bad news from his doctor gives him pause for regret...and six months to make things right with all the women he's wronged. Most don't believe him; a few are cooking up revenge; and one has a knockout sister offering him a taste of heaven.
Gisella Jacobs is busy launching her new shop, Sinful Chocolate, when delectable Charlie knocks at her door. Her friends warns that he's trouble, but his kiss is richer than her finest Belgian cocoa, his touch as velvety smooth as her lightest truffle. And when something so wrong feels so right...how can a woman resist?
Charlie Masters clutched a hand over his heart and jumped back from his front door. Before his mind could register what was happening, the large crowd of people crammed into his Buckhead high-rise broke out in song.
“Happy birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!”
At last a smile broke wide across his full lips as he finally crossed the threshold into his apartment where black and gold balloons showered down on his head. “You guys shouldn’t have,” he said in the middle of their song.
His smiling and jubilant friends parted like the red sea to allow a magnificent four tier, circular chocolate cake to be rolled out to the center of living room.
Charlie moved forward, taken aback by decorative dessert. Each layer showcased multiple ribbons of dark and white chocolate. On top, the ribbons looked more like a gigantic Christmas bow with the number 34 sparkling in the center.
Impressed and touched by the gesture, Charlie blushed like a prepubescent teenager until his friends finally ended their song and erupted into a thunderous applause.
“Thank you, guys. Thanks. You’re the best.”
“Are you just going to stare at it all night or are you going to make a wish and blow out the candles?”
Charlie turned to his right and beamed a smile toward his best friend and fraternity brother Derrick Knight and his wife Isabella. “Hold your horses, man. Can’t a brother just enjoy the moment?”
The guests laughed heartedly.
Derrick rolled his eyes but his smile remained as wide as Charlie’s.
To his left, his other three Kappa Psi Kappa brothers cut in, “C’mon man. Make a wish.”
“Yeah. You’re holding up the music,” Taariq added.
Make a wish. Wouldn’t it be great if he could fix his mounting problems by simply making a wish? Feeling the weight of everyone’s stare, Charlie played the good sport by closing his eyes, leaning forward and finally blowing out the candles.
Another round of thunderous applause ensued and a second later, Rick Ross poured out his surround speakers and most of the crowd paired off to get their grooves on. The rest of them crowded around and pounded his back in congratulations. It felt like most of the guys were trying to break his spine in half.
Before Charlie could ask his Kappa brothers how they’d managed to plan this whole thing without him catching wind of it, Hylan moved up behind him and jammed him into a head lock and razed the top of his head with his knuckles.
“Hey, old man. What did ya wish for?”
Charlie chuckled despite his inability to breathe.
“He can’t tell you that,” Isabella said, coming to his defense. “If he tells then it won’t come true.”
Hylan grunted, but released Charlie before he passed out.
In retaliation, Charlie popped Hylan on the back of the head and then the two raised their dukes as if they were really considering squaring off for a fight.
Taariq rolled his eyes and sucked his teeth. “You two cut it out.”
Still smiling, Hylan and Charlie dropped their fists and instead gave each other a shoulder bump.
“Happy birthday, man,” Hylan said, “You’re…” Their conversation trailed off when a Halle Berry look-alike strolled past laughing and shaking her romp to the hard bass pounding all around them. “Excuse me fellahs,” Hylan said, adjusting an invisible tie. “But booty calls.”
Charlie and the gang laughed as Hylan strolled off in a George Jefferson imitation strut.
“Steak dinner he’ll strike out,” Charlie said, sliding a hand into his pocket and rocking back on his heels.
Taariq frowned. “You know her?”
Charlie nodded. “Yvette. I tried to hook up with her a couple of years ago, but her girlfriend, if you know what I mean, nearly took me out.”
The fraternity brothers chuckled then swung their heads back in Hylan’s direction to watch in giddy anticipation for his crash and burn.
Yvette beamed a beautiful smile at Hylan and even fluttered a hand across her heart.
Taariq leaned toward Charlie when Hylan’s mack game seemed to be working. “Maybe she’s swung back to our side of the fence,” he whispered.
“Oh ye of little faith.” Charlie smirked. “3-2-1.”
Right on time, a 3’11 woman rushed onto the scene and managed to work her way in between Hylan and Yvette.
Isabella gasped. “That’s her girlfriend?”
Hylan stared down at the small woman in open confusion…right up until the time the woman dealt a deadly left hook into the family jewels.
“Ooooh.” Charlie and the Kappa boys cringed and covered their own packages in union as they watched their brother double over in pain.
The angry little woman snatched her girlfriend’s hand and, together, marched off into the dancing crowd.
Isabella couldn’t help but join in. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in my entire life.”
“Been there, done that.” Charlie shook his head. “I wore a cup to the clubs for a full year after mighty mouse dealt me the same blow.”
Taariq, Derrick and Isabella laughed.
A crouched Hylan returned to their intimate circle in defeat.
“So how did it go?” Derrick bated, wrapping an arm around his wife. “Get the digits?”
“I don’t think she’s my type,” Hylan croaked. “Damn. Is it just me or is the room spinning?”
“It’s just you,” the gang responded and then burst out laughing again.
Still chuckling, Charlie gave a quick scan of the room to see the selection of beauties his buddies rounded up for the evening. If anyone knew his type if would be his Kappa brothers.
After a week of battling to keep his company, Masters’ Holdings, from plunging into bankruptcy Charlie needed a distraction and burying himself into something along the lines of 5’9 with a lot of curves was right up his ally. The thicker the better.
Judging by the number of female gazes that drifted his way, Charlie was going to have a good night. A very good night.
Taariq threw the best damn parties in Atlanta and it was clear he’d spared no expense for Charlie’s thirty-third birthday bash. Actually calling them merely women were doing them a serious disservice. They were more like works of art.
“I know that look.” Taariq laughed, swinging another hard pound against Charlie’s back. “I guess that means we can give you our gifts early.”
Frowning, Charlie faced the group again. In sync, they each rolled out a sleeve of gold packaged condoms.
Isabella couldn’t stop herself from giggling.
“Try not to use them all in one night,” Derrick chuckled.
“Funny.” Charlie rolled his eyes when the gang draped the condoms around his neck like Mardi Gras beads.
“You know I’ve been waiting hours so I can have a slice of this cake,” Isabella said, drawing his attention from his female search.
Charlie’s took another look at the elaborate cake-once again impressed with the intricate details. “Chocolate. My favorite.” He picked up the knife but hesitated slicing the beautiful dessert.
“Derrick told me you loved chocolate. So I got you something a little different: Molten Chocolate cake. The center is filled with raspberry jelly.” Isabella beamed and clutched her hands together. “I found this wonderful new shop downtown. The owner is a master.” She glanced around. “Where is she?” Isabella grabbed his hand. “I can’t wait for you to meet her.”
Charlie selected a corner and gently cut a piece. “Here you go,” he said, grabbing a paper plate and serving her. After handing it over, he noticed a small smug of frosting on his finger and licked it off.
“Hmmm.” His eyes bulged in shock at the sinfully delicious chocolate as it melted in his mouth.
Isabella lit up. “Wonderful, isn’t it?” She grabbed a fork and the held out a piece of the cake for him to taste. “Here try it.”
“Heeey!” Derrick stepped forward and draped a possessive arm around his wife’s waist. “I’m the only man you’re supposed to be feeding cake to.” He even managed to look wounded.
Charlie ignored Derrick’s fake jealousy act and took a bite of the offered cake. “Hmmmm. Damn!” Hands down, it was the best cake he’d ever tasted. He better not tell his mother that.
Isabella’s excitement grew. “Fantastic, isn’t it. I swear this woman is going to be the next big thing,” Isabella praised and then turned toward her husband. “I’m telling you we need to invest in her shop.”
Derrick sighed dramatically, but he wasn’t fooling anyone. Where Isabella was concerned, his best friend would deny her nothing. After a year of marriage, the couple still behaved as though they were coasting on an extended honeymoon-probably to the dismay of Isabella’s father-who had his mind and heart set on his only daughter marrying a prominent political alley and another Kappa Psi Kappa brother Randall Jarrett.
No one ever mentioned how Isabella was once, technically, engaged to two men at once or how her father arranged to have Derrick held hostage while trying to force her to marry someone she didn’t love. But they did talked and laughed at every chance they could about Derrick, Randall and Reverend Williams falling head first into a Lady Justice water fountain and duking it out before Washington’s political elite moments before Isabella was to walk down the aisle.
“Where’s Stanley?” Charlie asked.
The group looked around.
“He’s gotta be around here some where,” Taariq said frowning. “He better not bother the DJ. I keep telling that boy that white men can’t rap and I better not catch him on the mic. I have a rep, you know.”
“What about Eminem?” Charlie asked.
“I reserve judgment until I see the man’s daddy. You know what I mean?”
“All right, all right.” Charlie popped his collar. “I know you have some Cristal floating around here.”
Taariq reached out and grabbed two flutes from a passing server. “Yo, here you go, bro.” He handed a glass to Charlie. “Cheers!”
“Check it. One, two. One, two,” Stanley rapped into the microphone. “I’m a white boy and a frat boy--”
“All, hell naw,” Taariq cursed. “They gave Stanley the mic. “Charlie--”
“Yeah, I’m cool. Handle your business.” Charlie chuckled and waved him off.
People in the crowd started booing.
Charlie sliced himself a piece of cake. As he chewed he couldn’t stop moaning. He tried to stop, but damn. What exactly is in this stuff?
“Oh, there she is,” Isabella said, glancing over Charlie’s shoulder and waving.
Turning, Charlie froze as a stunning cinnamon brown sister navigated her way through a throng of dancing people. Her long brown hair fell in loose curls across her shoulders while her deep sable eyes twinkled with excitement and two raisin sized dimples grooved into her apple cheeks. Entranced by the angelic vision, it took Charlie longer than normal to take notice of her statuesque curves.
He smacked his lips, but it had nothing to with the lingering taste of chocolate in his mouth and everything to do with a sudden longing to taste her strawberry colored lips. Absently, Charlie pulled at his collar and wondered who in the hell turned up the heat.
In Charlie’s mind, the woman was moving in slow motion-like a classier version of Bo Derek in the movie 10. The beauty’s breasts had a slight jiggle as she walked and her hips swayed in a strange, but hypnotic rhythm.
“Happy birthday to me,” Charlie mumbled under his breath while his erection pressed hard against the in-seam of his pants.
Isabella looped an arm around the mysterious woman’s and then led her to their small circle. “Gisella, I’d like for you meet the man of the hour, Charles Masters-but everyone calls him Charlie. Charlie, this is Gisella Jacobs, the owner of Sinful Chocolate. She made your cake.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Charlie said, offering to take her hand. “The cake is delicious.”
“Likewise,” Gisella’s accented voice was musical yet husky, a heady combination. “You have a lot of friends,” she added, glancing around. “I hope you don’t mind my crashing and networking for new business. Isabella assured me that you wouldn’t mind.”
Charlie cocked his head while the corners of his lips curled with open pleasure. “You’re French,” he announced, moving closer. “How erotic.”
Gisella’s arched brows rose in amusement. “Erotic?”
Even the way she said the word sent pleasure rippling down his spine and added a sweet ache to his throbbing hard on. “Come on now,” Charlie said, erasing the last remaining inches between them. “Surely I’m not only red-blooded American male who’s been enslaved by your…” His eyes roamed yet again. “Accent.”
“Oh he is good,” Isabella whispered, turning toward her husband.
Charlie had forgotten about their audience.
Derrick nodded and proceeded to pull his wife away. “Let me get you out of here before you fall under his spell and I have to fight for you all over again.”
Taariq and Hylan also didn’t linger for a brick wall to fall on their heads and quickly turned their attention to a couple of other chicks floating by.
Gisella looked stunned at how fast everyone disappeared and left her alone with a man with predatory eyes and a wolfish smile. Maybe she should grab one of the white napkins from the table and wave it as a flag of surrender.
“I’m glad Isabella told you to come. I like making new friends.” Charlie couldn’t stop his gaze from roaming again. By his shrewd calculations, her measurements were a perfect 36-24-36. Lord, this was shaping up to be one hell of a birthday.
“Interesting party favors.”
“Huh?” Charlie followed her line of vision to the condoms draped around his neck. “Oh. Well. You want one?”
Gisella blinked and took a step back.
“Okay. That didn’t come out right.” He laughed.
Gisella took another precautionary step back. The man looked as if was going to devourer her right there in front of everyone. “Well, like I said. I’m just trying to drum up new business,” she said, trying to swallow her nervous tremor.
“You’re not going to have a problem with that once everyone tastes this wonderful creation. How long have you’ve been baking?”
Her smile brightened again. “All my life. My mere and grand mere still run a shop in Paris.”
Gisella’s accent charmed Charlie.
A woman to their right released a low moan of orgasmic pleasure. “Oh my god this cake is off the chain,” the woman turned to her companion. “Here taste this.”
Gisella’s brown cheeks blushed a rich sienna. “I love baking and cooking. Food is life, no?”
Charlie just smiled. “Have you ever heard that the quickest way to a man heart is through his stomach?”
Eyes twinkling, Gisella’s lips turned up into a sly smile. “If I wanted your heart, I would just take it.”
Charlie cocked his head with a bemused grin, but when open his mouth for a quick retort, a pair of hands slipped over the front of his eyes.
“Guess who,” a high pitch feminine voice floated over the shell of Charlie’s ear while a small set of breasts pressed into his back.
Not now. He controlled his irritation while he forced on a smile. “Let me see now,” he said, wondering how to get out a potentially sticky situation. “Could this possibly be my favorite woman in the whole wide world?”
“And who would that be,” the woman asked with attitude edging her voice.
Charlie reached to uncover his eyes. “Dear ole mom, of course,” he answered, pulling away the small hands and turning around with his ready-made smile still hugging his lips.
“Hey, you.” He still didn’t know the name of the smiling beauty, with a short spike cut and with eyes the color of maple, but he was determined not to go down in flames. “You came!”
The woman’s face lit up with pleasure. “I wouldn’t have missed your birthday for the world.” She inched closer and lowered her voice into a conspiratorial whisper. “Especially after that wonderful weekend last month.”
Charlie was still clueless to the woman’s identity. After all, there was four weekends in a month and he was never without company on a single one.
“Well, I’m glad you made it,” he whispered, his mind scrambled for a way to get rid of her so he can get back to Gisella.
“I hope you’re saving one of those for me,” she cooed, pulling one sleeve of condoms from around his neck. “In fact,” she leaned in close. “Why don’t we slip away upstairs and I give you your birthday gift?” She grinded her hips against his to ensure he caught her meaning.
Charlie’s brows jumped at the suggestion. “Why don’t you meet me up there in about twenty minutes? I gotta say ‘hi’ to a few more people first.”
The beauty sucked in her bottom lip and gave him a wink. “Don’t leave me waiting too long.” Still holding the sleeve of condoms, she turned and switched her hips as she moved through the crowd.
Charlie sighed and then turned back to address Gisella.
She was gone.
Glancing around the perimeter, Charlie’s heart pounded in double time. He moved through the crowd, searching.
“How about a dance?” A new woman asked, looping her arms around Charlie’s neck.
“Not right now.” He tried to pry the woman’s arms away but she locked her hands together and kept him ensnared between her arms. “I’m looking for someone,” he confessed.
“Another woman?” she asked, hitching up an eyebrow.
Charlie glanced down and recognized Lexi-another fling from last month. “Oh, hey.” He changed up his program. “How are you? I’ve been meaning to call.”
“I just bet you have,” she said, smiling though her tone held a lethal edge. “I should have listened to my girlfriends and stayed away from you.”
Charlie’s lips curled wickedly. “Then why didn’t you?”
Lexi hesitated and then allowed her eyes to roam down the front of his body. “Because I wanted to see whether you’d live up to your reputation.”
He hitched up a brow; his ego expanding. “How did I do?”
She flashed him an incredibly white smile. “You’re a cocky sonofabitch.”
“That is what makes me so adorable.”
“One of these days…”
From the corner of Charlie’s eyes he caught sight of Gisella heading toward the door. He finally pulled Lexi’s hands from around his neck and winked at her. “Hold on a second.”
“Yeah. Right. I won’t hold my breath.”
Charlie plowed back into the crowd and tried to maneuver his way to the door. But every few steps another woman would grab him by the arm, the neck and even his crotch to ask why he hadn’t called them in such a long time.
At the door, Gisella stopped and kissed Isabella on each cheek and then waved goodbye to her.
“No. Wait,” he called after her, but the loud music swallowed his voice and a throng of women kept pulling at him. By the time he made it to the door and then glanced down the hallway of his Buckhead high-rise, Gisella was long gone.
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