Three ladies… Three stories… Three losses… Three loves…
Raven is the agent to the stars. Her company Paper Dolls represents some of the top talent in R&B, Rock, and Hip-Hop. She has the life she worked hard for minus the love she’s always wanted. But that is soon about to change. Her ex-husband has returned. He gave her up once because of a terrible mistake. He wants his wife back and will fight to the bitter end to win her love again. Can the man capable of inflicting the greatest heartache be redeemed? Raven must answer the question while struggling to navigate the celebrity scene of junkie pop-stars and egomaniac starlets. What her husband wants and her heart decides will collide in the most unexpected way.
Valentina Diamond was once the lead singer of the Black Diamonds. Now she’s a songbird without a band. Jaded over her ejection from the band she decides to makeover her life and her music. And she’s found the perfect producer to do it. Unexpected is the journey new friendship and fresh beginnings can take. And what consequences will her evolution bring to the loving relationship she has the world’s most notorious hip-hop artist? Valentina finds herself caught between two men who will do anything to have her. Can she correct the mistakes of the past and do the selfless thing? Or will her heart overrule her senses and make the choice for her.
Zephyr is in love. The problem is her baseball star boyfriend doesn’t understand the true meaning of the word. His wandering eye and never-ending betrayals have pushed her to the end. She’s forced to deal with her own insecurities that have allowed her to have such unworthy lovers. The unexpected friendship between her pet and the dog next doors brings her face to face with a very handsome neighbor. He’s different, attentive, and very interested in showing her good side of man’s heart. But will he be enough to free her from the turbulent passionate history she shared with her ex?
* The Beginning *
May 15, 2008 – Miami Florida
Raven tried to appear unaffected. The piercing stare of Alexander Katz made it nearly impossibl¬e. He was watching her again. She stepped closer to the end of the outside terrace. In defense of her warring emotions she drew her focus upwards to the sky. The moon did something to the Miami night. Beyond them the black sea was calm and glistening as if sprinkled in moon dust. Below them the usually congested traffic streets were calmly flowing with some of the world’s most luxurious vehicles.
This city was where dreams came true. She knew it. And for one of her friends the biggest dream between them all was now their reality.
Valentina screamed! The cork popped and shot several feet into the sky. Raven turned in time to be sprayed by the bubbling champagne. She laughed. Zephyr jumped up and down in her stilettos and screamed even louder.
“We did it! Oh my we did it!” Valentina shouted to the sky. “At last!”
“No, you did it! We’re so proud of you, Vee!” Zephyr hugged Valentina and the girls both stretched their arms out to Raven. She joined them. The three best friends embraced and laughed. When Raven stepped back she noticed Alexander Katz had come out of the shadows. Their eyes met. She froze.
“I want to thank, uh, everybody, I mean, all of you. Thank you for seeing my vision, and respecting my talent. For believing in me. God is great! Valentina Diamond is going to change the world one song at a time baby!” Valentina raised the near empty champagne bottle in salute. Raven realized she didn’t have a glass of champagne, though her dress was soaked and sticking to her skin.
A hand extended and a glass was offered to her. She looked up into Alexander’s eyes.
“Thank you,” she said.
He didn’t speak. He only gave her the same sly smile she’d seen him offer his team of lawyers and agents from the record label.
“Cheers!” Valentina said.
“Cheers!” cried the crowd.
Raven raised her glass in celebration and saluted her friend.
Katz Records recently acquired the eighth tallest building in Miami, known as the Centrust Tower. And at the very top on the outside marble floored terrace three best friends gathered for the signing of a multi-million dollar record deal. For the first time in their lives and friendship Raven believed in their talents. And now she knew someone else did.
“Come work for me?” a voice whispered.
Raven sipped her champagne and tried to appear unaffected. “Work? Uhm, for you?”
He chuckled. “You played it well. You’re her manager right?”
She looked up at Alexander Katz. Getting the hugest label in the business to sign Vee was no easy feat. Especially since they mostly sold her talent through iTunes downloads and YouTube clicks. But she did it. Alexander Katz had flown in personally to accept her terms.
“I am. And I’m not looking for a job. Thanks to you I have a big one,” she nodded toward Valentina who was now before a cake with enough candles to burn down the building.
“How old are you?” he asked.
She turned her gaze back to him. “Old enough?” she said and tensed. Insulted by the insinuation that her youth mattered.
“Then you are old enough to know that Valentina Diamond is only the beginning in your career. I think you’re talented, beautiful, and useful,” he said.
“So? Why should I take my talents to Katz Records?” Raven asked.
“You know who I am. You brought me to the States to sign her personally. You did that because you knew at my record label I’ll make her bigger than her dreams.” He leaned in and whispered in her ear. “What I can offer you will make you bigger than the stars.”
May 15, 2015 – Miami Florida
The dinner invite
“Oy ye mami chonga! Wsup, baby! I see you lookin’ sexy right there, girl, in that yellow bikini!” The crowd of dancing, half naked bodies, glistened with sweat. Tanned, toned, beautiful bodies gyrated to the tiki-tiki techno beat under the blazing Miami sun. A young woman in a very tiny bikini is lifted in the air and passed around. “Yo I love my city! Yeah! Yeah baby!” The DJ laughed. “It’s your favorite man on the mic once again, DJ Black & Tan known to most as B&T, and it’s going down, here in South Beach! You heard me! You heard me! South Beach is hotter than the sun! Fiyah right now! I’m up here on stage and all I see is the Miami heat yo, and it ain’t just coming from Dwayne Wade’s jump shot! It’s Calle Ochoooooooooooo!” DJ Black & Tan howled like a wolf into the microphone. “Party people! Yo! Yo! Yo! Where you at?”
“Pero! Pero like they ain’t ready, DJ B&T! They ain’t ready!” Lady Charmaine, his sidekick, laughed and pointed to the crowd. “Look at them ova there! Too cute to dance! Standing under the umbrellas!”
“Yo! Either you down with the party or take that sightseeing to Eighth Street!” DJ B&T shouted. “Who’s ready?”
The crowd cheered.
“Then say it loud! We ready! We ready! We ready!” Lady Charmaine chanted.
The crowd began to chant “We ready!” Over and over again. Before the DJ blasted them with even louder music and they exploded in cheering. The volume cranked down.
“Party people! You hear that? We out here right now at Nikki Beach getting turned up yo!” He laughed heartily. “I got some of everybody in my city tonight! If you haven’t heard, then where the hell you been? Liza-Rayne will be on stage in just two hours!” The music turned down a notch as B&T’s voice echoed above all other sounds. “But that ain’t it! Black Diamond will be performing. That’s right! Those fine honeys are coming to the b-e-a-c-h, baby! And in two days they kick off their tour in the Arena, with our very own Reggaeton Baby Rasta and Gringo.”
“Let’s get it!” Lady Charmaine piped up. “Yawl hear dat? That’s me poppin’ bottles right now! Black Diamond! Black Diamond! Black Diamond!”
The crowd began to chant with the mistress of DJs, and then everyone screamed with unrestrained excitement.
“Let’s take a call. See what’s poppin’. Every street is Eighth Street today, baby! Yo! Hold up. Hold up! I got an idea. Time to play paparazzi. Listen up peeps. I don’t care if you a waiter, a limo driver, or the maid, I’m giving ten thousand to the first one to call in and tell me if you’ve seen one of the fine ass honeys from Black Diamond.”
“Whoa, B&T You gon’ have every loon in town chasing them!” Charmaine laughed.
“And text the station with a picture for confirmation. How’s that sound?”
“Oh yeah! Hell yeah!” Lady Charmaine laughed. “That’s what’s up!”
“Alright, paparazzi, where they at?” The DJ asked.
DJ Black & Tan: “Hello caller, speak.”
Caller: “I saw them! Ay dios mio! I saw them, I just saw them!”
DJ Black & Tan: “Calm down, mami! Saw who?”
Caller: “I work in the Grove, it’s in the… I mean I work in the Blue Flamingo Resort, de band just checked in! They’re here!”
“Shit! Shit!” Raven’s car swerved out of her lane to avoid slamming on her breaks and crashing into the car in front of her. A vehicle in oncoming traffic blared its horn and she was quick to correct her mistake. She reached for her purse on the passenger seat and fumbled clumsily to find her iPhone. She was so frazzled she forgot she could just punch the number into her touchscreen dashboard.
“Shit!” she groaned through clenched teeth. The steering wheel remained tightly gripped with her left hand as panic erased all rational thought.
“No! No! No!” She punched in Kevin’s number. Raven cut the wheel sharp to the left, then shot past a slow moving Dodge. She gunned her white on white convertible Maserati along the two-lane road. Her hair tossed in her eyes from the wind. She fought the harsh glare of the sun with the aid of her large designer sunglasses. Kevin, known in the industry as ‘Ace’, picked up the phone on the first ring.
“Ace speaking,” his deep voice came over on her internal car audio system. She could see him in his office. A six-foot two, dark chocolate male specimen with a trimmed mustache to his chin, and a thousand watt smile that made her clients from all persuasions swoon.
“Are you listening to HOT 105?” Raven asked.
“No, but apparently you are,” he replied.
“Turn it on. Now! Damn it!” she said.
“I’m serious, Ace. I’m going to sue that damn station. What the hell is wrong with Black & Tan? He’s encouraging his batshit crazy listeners to chase after my clients now? Rewarding them? It’s ridiculous! It’s dangerous! I’ve got the fucking paparazzi camped out at the office, stalking the airports, and now I’ve got to deal with this shit too!”
“Would you calm down? If you’d check your voicemail you’d know—”
“Know what?” Raven bit back.
“I’m the one that put B&T on it. Hold on.” Kevin covered the phone. She could hear him give off a list of orders to his assistant before a door closed to what she assumed was his office. “I had Marcia dial in to the station. She was the caller that fired B&T up.”
“You know better!” Raven said.
“The Diamonds are staying on the island. The band will be at the Blue Flamingo. This way we can keep our camera shy ladies free of the hassle. Let the paparazzi camp out and harass the band instead of the ladies. It’s a perfect diversion. And here’s the cherry topping, Raven.”
“I’m listening,” she said.
“We can keep the Diamonds out of Valentina’s sight. I know you want that.”
“I guess I do. But for how long?” she grumbled.
“Ms. Katz, have I ever failed you?” Kevin asked in a deep whisper.
The tension in her chest released. Raven could do nothing but smile. Of course he had never failed her. Kevin was her right and left hand. Her agency, Paper Dolls, wouldn’t have been able to weather the past stormy year since her divorce from Alexander Katz without his help. She released a deep sigh of appreciation for a man who knew how to be what she needed without being asked. She turned off to the next street; she rounded the swank sky rise buildings that led to Miami Beach. Raven eased on the gas and coasted for several miles. She dropped her head back against the leather headrest, and let the sun warm her cheeks.
“You there?” Kevin asked.
“You’re so devious,” Raven sighed.
“Say it again,” he chuckled.
“You’re devious,” she chuckled.
“Aah, the woman speaks to my heart.”
Raven laughed. The laughter soon faded. Today wasn’t the day to laugh. Not after the phone call she had this morning. “I’m on edge. You won’t believe… never mind,” she said.
“What time are you coming back to the office?” Kevin asked.
Raven’s eyes went to the digital display on her dash. “You know I meet the girls, it’s Wednesday. I guess I’ll be done in two hours.”
“Two hours. I can handle two hours. I’ll be here. We can debate strategy later. Tell Zephyr and Valentina I said hi.”
The call ended. She let go a deep breath. The radio came back on full blast. The sound of the DJ’s voice grated her nerves. She hit the button and switched it to a classical jazz station.
The car phone system chimed. Raven’s gaze dropped to the dashboard. She didn’t immediately recognize the number. She pressed the button and opened the line.
“Hi, Raven, this is Simone,” answered a voice.
Raven gripped the steering wheel so tight her fingers ached. It had been over a year since her ex-husband’s assistant had called her.
“Simone, I told you this morning that I…”
“I understand Raven but Mr. Katz will only be in the States for a few days. Can I pencil you in for this evening? He’d really like to meet with you,” the woman asked.
“If he really wanted to see me he’d call himself, and not his damn answering service. Tell me him no!” she disconnected the line. And then from nowhere an old wound was slashed open. The pain was back. And there was little she could do to suppress it.
July 12, 2009 —
“Ms. Andrews?” A woman spoke from the open door of her office. Raven glanced up at the call of her name. “Mr. Katz has asked to see you.”
“He’s here? Now?”
She smiled and turned, and left. Raven sucked down a deep breath. She chewed on her pen and stared at the door. She’d joined Katz Records soon after Valentina was signed. Since then she’d brought in two new clients and neither proved to be the chart-climbing successes she’d predicted. In several meetings with the label executives it was noticed that Raven’s only true contribution to the bottom-line was her temperamental best friend, who had now turned full diva on the record company.
Last night Alexander had called her directly. He told her to expect to see him as soon as he returned. There was something in his voice she didn’t understand. A demand as opposed to a request. Could this be it? Would he fire her? If she were let go from Katz Records she would lose her position as manager for Valentina. Her friends warned her not to sign the deal. But the way Alexander recruited her, it was aggressive, and also flattering. She bought into the long stares he’d often give her from across the room. The whispered compliments when Valentina climbed the charts. The calla lilies he often had delivered to her as a reward. The man was charming, powerful, and hard to say no to.
Raven pushed back from her desk. She walked out of her office. Several other backstabbing agents cast her sly smiles. Word had spread through the office. Alexander’s first meeting would be with her. The walk to her fate was the hardest one she’d ever taken.
Alexander turned from the window when she walked in. His diamond caterpillar, who had convinced him to sign an unknown talent, and then in under a year helped develop her into the hottest R&B star in over a decade, was now a beautiful butterfly. She wore a white button up shirt with black cuffs and collar. The shirt was tucked conservatively into a black slim-fitted pencil skirt. The skirt told the story of her natural curves. Her heart shaped hips tapered down to slender legs. Her jutting breasts and narrow waist made a very conservative outfit sexy.
“Mr. Katz, welcome back,” Raven said.
“Close the door,” he said.
She did as he asked. He walked over to his desk and sat on the front of it. Raven clasped her hands before him. “I wanted to see you because—”
“I know my last two accounts haven’t performed as expected, but I’m in talks with ABC for a pilot series they are doing. It’s like a musical. I think if I can get Daniel in on his acting and singing skills…”
“Raven, slow down.”
She nodded and exhaled slow. Alexander studied her. It took him forever to work up the courage to ask her one simple request. Her seductive body and wholesome good looks weren’t the reason. Her race and his didn’t matter. Raven was special. He knew it the first day she stormed into Katz Records and demanded they play her client’s record. He knew it when she looked him directly in the eye and negotiated a contract that no new artist could gain in the industry.
“Sir? Is there something you want to say to me?” she asked.
Alexander put his pride aside. He was in his late thirties. Tired from all the empty relationships and lonely nights. Was there something he wished to say to her? Damn right. He cleared his throat. “Each year I take ten of my best performers sailing with me. A personal invite. I wanted to ask you to join us this year?” he asked.
“Me? Why?” she frowned.
“Because you have the hottest account on the charts. Because I think you have been working hard to prove yourself to everyone, and you already have. It’s my way of welcoming you to the Katz family.”
“Really? Okay. I’d love to. Thank you, Mr. Katz,” she said.
“I look forward to it, Raven,” he said.