The Divas Pen: Author of Sensual and Dark Romance writing as Sienna Mynx and T.A. Ford

Mel and Tia
The Mel and Tia Anthology

Mel and Tia Series, Book 1, 2, 3

Being married has never been sexier…

Tia Jackson Reed is seven months pregnant and madly in love with her husband and the life he’s shown her. She plans to have it all: family, success, and the career she’s work so hard to achieve. That is, until her husband’s desires for domesticated bliss collide with her own. Tia struggles to understand his needs and her own, while dealing with her warring hormones, insatiable appetite, overbearing family and a demanding professional life. As Tia tries to manage the expectations of being married and an expectant mother, life throws her another curve ball.

A close friend from college returns after six years, and what he wants from Tia could ultimately test the bonds of her marriage, faith, and commitment in ways neither she nor Mel can foresee.

Who said being in love and married can’t be the sexiest read! The final installment to the Mel and Tia Trilogy proves that true love can and will always last.

Publisher Warning: Strong language, Sexual Content, Mild Violence, Big Laughs, Some Tears. The Mel and Tia series is told in first person point of view from both Mel and Tia’s perspective. This introspective style of writing is unique to this series. It is suggested that you read all previous books to enjoy their tale from the beginning.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I could blame it on the heat.

It’s unusually hot this evening. The sun went down over an hour ago. And it’s a damn shame to have my yard withered and brown like this. I make a living off the earth: plants, flowers. All the greenery in between and my mom’s garden looks like a crime scene. A bug-infested mound of dirt and dying vines. I can smell the decay in the air. The flowers I used to tend to have been strangled to death by weeds. When you’re a man who spends twelve hours a day in horticulture, raised on your knees with your hands in soil by the most loving gardener this planet ever known, you oughta know better. Just more proof that my game is raggedy.

Maybe it’s the heat.

The beer in my hand is the last. A warm bottle, half empty, that does nothing to cool me off. Not that the temperature of my brew on a summer night can fix this. Nah, the fire in my gut is my anger once again getting the best of me. You’d think I’d know better by now.

I should know better by now.

What time is it? Nine? Ten? Doesn’t matter. The best part of the night is ruined. Dinner spoiled and Princess mad, giving me the silent treatment. Plus the damn tears. When she started crying, I walked outside. Seeing her cry always screws with my head. A man can’t think straight when his woman is crying over him—a real man that is. Who the hell wants to cause their lady pain?

Princess knows how I feel about the waterworks, too. When I push and she doesn’t want to push back, she cries. When I’m right and she’s wrong, she starts to cry. When I just want to get my damn point across and she’s done listening, here come the fucking tears. It’s been going down like this since we got past the first trimester. Ain’t a damn thing I can do about it but deal.

I think I got it figured out, though. God’s a woman. The Supreme Almighty knew what was up when she gave my lady the power to cry anytime she chooses. Trust me, Adam never stood a chance with Eve. It’s cruel, unjust irony.

The chair, once comfortable, is sticking to my back. I’d be more relaxed in my spot under a slow-moving ceiling fan, rubbing her feet. Too late, blew my chance at that. Stuck out here instead, on the porch, waiting for the argument to blow over.

The night smells of muggy air and pending rain. Ali’s barking German shepherds ruin the neighborhood peace. Ain’t it funny how the exact moment a man craves quiet, everything gets amped? Especially your woman’s voice? The only good thing about prison was lockdown. Lights out and every mean motherfucker in a cage gave respect. It was our time. To be honest, the days that come and go when you’re caged aren’t about silence. It’s the night. That’s when you feel human.

Sure, that kind of quiet made some men hog-shit crazy. But not me. I can think when it’s quiet. Get my head in it—whatever it is. Now I’m married, a man can only get silence when his wife wants it. Lucky for me, Princess’s voice—because she loves to talk—makes me want to fall in line. Everything about my princess makes me want to be a better man. She’s smart, too. You should hear her throw down on politics. I love to debate her conservative views. Keeps me on my toes.

Tonight I did the right thing. Kicking back out here, that is. Even if my T-shirt is sticking to my chest and I can feel the sweat on my brow running streams down the side of my face. The kitchen window is open so she can let me know how pissed she is. She’s slamming pots and cabinets, all worked up. I don’t like it when she’s stressed, so the cool-down period is mandatory. I drain the warm beer from the bottle and toss it. Slam-dunk to the outside can. It’s hard for me to ignore that itch to go for another.

Shadows move over my outside deck, drawing my gaze from the garden to the cloudy sky. Moon’s gone. I can smell the rain. The muggy air is charged with warnings of a nasty storm. It’s been threatening to rain all day and tonight I can feel it. Best thing to do when it’s storming is throw open the windows and get between your woman’s thighs. No chance of that tonight.

With my legs stretched out, I’m slumped down even lower cause that’s my mood. Been in this funk for a few weeks now, ever since she made it clear that she’d work her final trimester. What I asked for wasn’t unreasonable. She’s constantly complaining about her feet, her back, about stuff I can’t help with if she’s downtown in that fucking office sixty hours a week, working.

I just need to let it go. If it wasn’t so damn hot maybe I could. Now I’ll just sit here. Pissed.

* * * * *

Jehovah, give me strength. I’m so tired of this. He’s out there drinking his beer and sulking. I’m in here by myself and dinner is ruined. It started out fine. I even found the opportunity to rub my feet over his under the table. We talked like we usually do. He was eating and laughing about something that happened on The Avenue or in the store. Mel gets really animated when he’s telling a story, and I love his stories.

I’m so proud of him. The Avenue is thriving now, lots of businesses reopening, thanks to him. Mel is a good businessman. Especially when he’s not questioning himself and trusting his instincts. He’s started managing a few lease deals that he worked out without me. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.

Then the phone rang.

I’m going to kill Corrine for calling the house instead of sending a text to my Blackberry. She knows better. All I wanted to know was if we made the content changes I requested on the ad campaign before the client’s new launch. I have to know what I’m walking into in the morning.

I should’ve known he’d lose it.

Mel gets uptight when I leave the table, especially for work. Twenty minutes on the phone going over the release plans—a verbal check-up on things I told her had to be done—was twenty minutes too long. That was it. I knew it the minute I hung up I’d blown it. I could feel the tension between us before my hands left the phone. I saw it when I turned to face the icy stare he gives me when he’s suppressing his anger.

So now you can’t have dinner without working? he says.

I tried to shrug it off. Make light of it. But he’s like a dog with a bone on this one. He won’t let it go.

It was something that couldn’t be helped sweetie. Forget about it.

Then I go over to him and reach to touch his jaw and he dodges my hand and walks out. Because this is the one fight he wants to have, and every time work is an issue, he goes for it. I’m just tired of him not understanding my feelings about this. He gives me so much. But this, he just won’t give. So from there the argument brews. I swear, I tried to avoid it. Who wants to fight on a night like tonight? I’m so hormonal I could start humping his legs. When I followed him out into the living room, guess what I found? The beginning of the end of our sweet dinner and conversation. I found him pacing. Pacing is never good with Mel. He takes these short back-and-forth walks and I know its ’cause he’s talking himself down.

Our argument replays itself in my head, over and over.

You work too hard, Tia, he said and then went right on. For what? I take care of us. Fuck, baby, what did the doctor say? Huh?

He said I was fine, I interjected.

He said that before he told you that you need to slow down. That your pressure is up. After we had that scare!

That wasn’t a scare. That was a false alarm, Mel. It happens in pregnancies. Margie said—

I don’t give a fuck! he shouted, and it was too hard of a push. I had no choice but to push back. Seriously how many times was he going to throw that one false alarm up in my face?

Right. I don’t need stress, so you gone curse at me now? That’s a sure way to keep my pressure down.

His nostrils flared. He was mad then. I hate to admit this, I really do, but there’s something sexy about him when he’s mad, overprotective of me. Okay. There, I said it. No, I don’t purposefully push his buttons to get him worked up. Trust me, I’m really tired of the tension between us. I hate fighting with him, because I can never win. He always has a comeback. I can only shut him up with tears or by going silent. But when he’s worked up, his chest bulks and he gets this look in his eye. Mercy! Anyways, I was mad, too. It was just a phone call. So a few tears and it was over. Both of us retreating to our corners, and I can’t reason why my night got ruined in the first place. Now I want to make up. He’s out there and I’m in here. It’s stupid.

Is that thunder I hear in the distance? When I lean over the sink and look up and out I can see the lightning flashing deep inside dark cloudy sky.

“This is ridiculous. He needs to come back in,” I mumble.

Sometimes he sits out there and stares at his mother’s overgrown garden for hours. Well, not tonight. I want to make up. It’s been long enough. He usually comes in by now and apologizes. He’s taking forever.

* * * * *

Maybe I should talk to her sisters about it, get their advice? I blew this one out of proportion. That fucking phone, man, she has no idea how sometimes I want to rip it out of the wall and flush that Blackberry of hers. I’ll keep those urges to myself.

Truth is, it ain’t just the job. Though right now a good-ole-fashion layoff would do a man some good. Ain’t the economy all jacked up? Didn’t her company get the memo?

Like I said, it ain’t the job. I actually can tell you the minute I reached my limit. I’m at the flower shop working on Mother’s Day, of all holidays. A day I want to be with her, got big plans for her, too, but we have to do the family thing. So she’s with her folks while I’m forced into working cause my crew got all the deliveries screwed up. I’m at the shop dealing and I get the call.

* * * * *

Two months earlier—

“Mel, its Chuck.”

“’Sup brother?“

“Don’t panic.”

My hand stops mid-clip. “What is it?”

“It’s Tia. Margie ran her to the hospital. She ain’t feeling well.”

The kind of fear that went through me can’t be explained. I’m racing through every light and nearly running motherfuckers down to get there. That call was the only thing to put fear in my heart since the day she told me I’d be a dad. That dreaded moment I just knew would come. When God shows up and says: Hold it brother, you got in the wrong line. Wife, baby, family…yeah that ain’t for you. Fall back, partner, time for you to pay your due.

So I’m damn near hyperventilating when I get there. And the whole family is there, from her sisters, Jackson, my brother in-laws. How the hell’d they get there before me, is what I want to know.

“Tia? Where she at?”

“Hey man, it’s cool.” Big Chuck speaks first, stepping to me. Jackson approaches as well. But I see worry in Pam and Alicia’s eyes. So I’m losing it.

“Where is she?”

Then Margie comes out and she’s all smiles. “Mel, come here.”

I’m walking toward her fast but I don’t feel it. It’s like my legs are on autopilot cause my heart is going into arrest. Margie takes my hand and pulls me behind a curtain. Tia’s sitting there, smiling. The doctor is on his stool, smiling. Margie is standing at my side, smiling. You know me: what the fuck is everybody smiling at?

“Hey, baby,” she says. “Doctor, this here is my wonderful hubby. Hey, baby.” She repeats it again with a big grin.

“What’s going on?”

“False alarm.” The doctor rises and offers his hand. I shake it, looking like a schmuck. I don’t have a clue why my lady being up on a doctor’s table is funny.

“False alarm? What was it?” I feel like a parrot, the way I keep repeating myself. And I’m telling you, my heart still is lodged in my throat.

“Gas.” Tia laughs.

Margie nods, laughing, and I want to fucking explode. Do they know how scared I was? But yeah, in that moment relief was even bigger. Even greater. So I can’t help but smile, too.

“Baby, you needed to fart?”

“Mel!” She gasps.

The doctor chuckles, and then I can ease into some sense of sanity. It’s truly a false alarm. But it’s cold-blooded to scare a man like that. I can only take so much.

“Actually it wasn’t gas, but more like heartburn, indigestion. It happens at this stage in the pregnancy. You’re in your last trimester. The baby is growing. Your body is changing, too.”

“I don’t get it. Indigestion can get her to the point she feels sick enough to come here?”

“It can. The muscle that separates your stomach from your esophagus loosens and those bitter, harsh juices in your stomach can back up.”

“No shit?” I mumble and Tia again gives me that please-behave-while-we-out-in-public look. “So how you feeling now, Princess?”

“She was in a lot of pain, Mel. Tia told me they were contractions.” Margie cuts her a look. “And I believed her.”

Tia shrugs, with her hand to her stomach, giving us both that innocent, pampered look that has me and Margie jumping through hoops to take care of her. Every time my Princess feels the slightest thing, she says it’s contractions. It makes me crazy.

“What should she do for this doctor?” I ask, winking at her. Touching her always calms me. As soon as I hold her hand, I can breathe steady. The doctor writes something on a file and then peeks up from behind his glasses. He narrows his eyes on Tia to make sure he is heard.

“Make sure to sit upright while eating, Mrs. Reed. And stay that way for a couple of hours after you eat. Lying down, slouching, slumping, and stooping will do you in. And when you have to bend, do it with your knees instead of at your waist.”

“Okay, doctor.”

She flashes that sweet smile of hers and presses my hand to her belly to feel my son. Yeah, I still say it’s a boy. Even though she won’t let me confirm it. To soothe her, and me, I kiss her between her brows and then on the cheek and neck. Her hand is rubbing my back when she speaks for me.

“Mel and I will do everything by the book, going forward.”

“There is, however, the other matter.”

My head lifts and I’m looking between her and the doctor. “What other matter?” I ask.

“It’s nothing, Mel. I…”

“What other matter?” Stepping back from her I’m eye-to-eye with the doctor. He gives me an unsure look, as if he shouldn’t speak. Don’t clam up now, motherfucker, I want to shout. He nods to Tia.

“I told your wife I was concerned. Her pressure was extremely high when she arrived. It could be from the excitement of the day, but we need to be careful. At her age, we don’t want to risk her going into preeclampsia.”

“Pre what?”

“Ah, doctor, it’s okay.”

Margie tries to stop him. Now it’s Margie trying to keep things from me. I swear, these women and their damn secrets.

“Nah, Margie, let my man talk. What this pre-stuff? What does that mean?”

“Preeclampsia brought on by high blood pressure can send her and this baby into pre-term labor, or worse.”

My ears are burning now, but I play it cool. Until I look over to Princess and she’s cast her eyes to her lap as if caught. Was she going to keep this risk from me? Why hadn’t I heard it before?

“So my wife has this?”

“No!” Margie says, waving her hands like a traffic cop. “No, Mel, it’s all good. That is something they look for in all pregnancies. Right, doctor?”

“That’s right, Mr. Reed. I just only—”

“You’ve said enough,” Margie snaps. She hooks her arm around the doctor’s and pulls him toward the curtain. “Come with me. Let’s let them talk. We’ll wait out in the hall for you, sweetie.”

The doctor says something else before Margie yanks him out. I’m not hearing that dude anyway. My focus is on Sweetness and her trying to play me.

“Princess, you holding back on me?”

“No, Mel, I don’t have high blood pressure. Geez, I told them not to call you until we were sure.”

“You said what?”

She blinks, thinking over her words. “I mean, I told them it was probably gas.”

“Margie said you thought it was contractions. You telling the family not to call me when you think you’re having contractions? I was the last one here, Tia.”

“That’s not my fault. I was the one in pain. I told them to call you. I did.”

“Damn, baby.” I turn from her wiping my hand down my face. Trying to rub out my anger. She don’t need stress and I’m a walking knot of it.

“Mel, don’t be mad. You know me better than that. You just so paranoid. I hate when you get so worked up. I bet you thought I already lost the baby and God was punishing you or something, didn’t you?”

She had me by the balls on that one. But fuck that. She still had to give a man a chance to be a man and take care of her. She takes my hand and presses it to her belly.

“Feel that?”

“I do.” I touch her, and I feel my soldier in there, boxing like he does when he hears my voice.

“Ow!” She winces. “I don’t know it might be a boy…did you feel that?”

“Yeah. C’mere, Princess.”

When I get her in my arms again and hold on to those curves that are all mine, I can’t help but feel better. I hope she keeps some of this extra poundage, especially the ass. Though Tia always had a nice ass, this one makes a man weak when she switches by.

“I’ma take care of you, baby. You hear me? Lean on me. I can take it.”

She nods. “I feel kind-of tired. Can we go home and you give me a massage?”

I couldn’t help but smile. She was going to put her man to work. Probably have my ass up and down all night. But it’s all good. It’s the way I love her most. “You know, it baby. Let’s go.”

I caved that moment, so damn happy she was okay and that we were okay. I love this woman crazy, ya know?

* * * * *


It went down okay then, but still that preeclampsia stuff stayed to the back of my mind, like a nervous tic. Every time she gets all worked up over that damn job, I can’t control it. Dinner time is our time. I’m working hard to get the shop running and sustaining on its own so I can kick back when the baby comes. So I’m home later and later. And I suspect when I’m not here, she’s working, too.

I should go in and apologize.


“Yeah. I’m coming in. Give me a few.”

“It’s about to rain. It’s lightning too.”

“I’m cool.”

“I’m not,” she says.

Closing my eyes, I can’t help but groan to the sound of that little quiver in her voice then count back from five. Got to, if I don’t want to mention it again tonight. It’s that Irish blood in my veins. I’m gonna have to be careful to teach little man how to control it when he gets here.

My hands grip the arms of the lawn chair and I push up. My lower back muscles crunch and snap when I rise. She’s standing at the patio door, barefoot in a nightdress I bought her on my splurge for Mother’s Day. I’ve been shopping for her lately; I like putting her in pretty things that I bought. It’s crazy how often women think it’s a time to flirt when they see you up in the department store buying something for your lady. That clerk first had me emptying my pockets, then after ringing up my things, tried to slip me her number. I made sure to drop it in the trash. Can you imagine the drama if Tia would have found some woman’s number on me?

I’ve learned a lot, too. I never knew they made stuff to flatter a pregnant lady’s curves. The designer had my Princess in mind with this one. Under the patio light it’s all there for me to see, and she does nothing to cover herself. Princess ain’t wearing nothing underneath. See, this is why dinner was so good before I blew it.

Sheer black, the top part that snares her breasts is nothing but lace, and the rest drops from underneath, stopping at her ankles. She keeps her body nice for me, too. Rubs cocoa butter all over that cinnamon-brown skin and shaves her pussy hairs to a neat strip. I’m shaking my head, looking upon what’s mine and wondering if I’ll get near it tonight.

“Sorry about earlier, Tia. I shouldn’t have cursed at you.”

Those words are the key to forgiveness. She immediately drifts straight into my arms, wrapping hers around me. Thunder clashes, announcing the downpour to follow.

“I don’t want to fight, Mel.”

“Hey, we won’t. It’s good. We’re good.”

She looks doubtful. I can’t say that I blame her.


The rain is coming now, a drizzle that gets hard then starts to pummel over the paved terrace. The lights are off in the house and I place her up under my arm leading her to the back room.

“Father’s Day is coming. You know that we do that big dinner at the restaurant for Jackson, but I want to do something special for you. Mother’s Day was a bust. Let’s celebrate big, okay?” She sniffles.

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

Together we go through our house hand in hand. I stop to turn off the few lights left, and then let her lead me to our bedroom. That’s when she drops my hand and goes to the bed. I’m watching her turn down the sheets and toss the long pillows she uses to help her sleep.


“Yes?” she asks, her ass facing me as she works.

“A compromise, Princess? Can I get one?”

“Okay. I can compromise.” She drops her hands to her sexy hips.

“That stuff about working up to the day you deliver? Not going to happen.” I press my hand to my heart. “I won’t be able to take it. Give me a little here.”

She smiles and I smile.

“Sorry, Mel. I didn’t mean to stress you out. I thought I could do it. But you’re right. I don’t have to. I could definitely cut back soon. Maybe even work from home.”

She’s missing the point.

“Yeah. Okay, work from home.”

She comes over, taking my hands and pulling me to the bed.

“I need to shower. Sweaty and—”

“I like your sweat,” she says, pulling on my T-shirt to lift it up and over. I help her, of course. Then she flicks her tongue at my nipple. “Mmm, tastes like Guinness.” She smirks. Now she has me laughing. So I relax and let her undress me then push me on the bed.

“Promise me we won’t be one of those couples that fight over silly things and let it get in between them,” she says, shedding her sheer gown. I have to sit up and help her onto the bed. Simple stuff, like holding her hand as she comes over to me on her knees, but I’m careful with my Princess.

“We don’t fight over silly things. We don’t fight at all. It’s just this one thing.”

“And when the baby comes, at last we can have some peace.” She smiles wide, straddling my lap.

“Peace with a newborn?”

She chuckles. “Yeah, you’re right. Hey?” She faces me and I place my hands to her belly, massaging softly. “I’m taking an extra four weeks maternity leave. I forgot to tell you that. And with no pay, too. Already put it in.”

Now she’s talking. “That’s cool, Princess.”

“See? I can compromise,” she says, putting my hands to her breasts.

“Yes, you can.” I breathe, but soon my breathing stalls in my throat as she begins to move. Rubbing her sex up and down my dick, she has no idea the amount of tension building in me. It’s like a coiling knot around my cock from this stroking. My eyes are barely open, because I don’t have enough strength to withstand. I want to flip her over and slam every inch inside what’s mine. I need to hit it from every angle so bad it’s making me weak. It’s hard for me to be weak.

“That’s right honey, relax. I’m yours,” she whispers.

The words are so soft it’s as if she’s speaking from within my mind. Her hand goes over my chest, the heat in her palms giving me the shivers. Lightning flashes but no thunder. It’s bright, though. White-hot light bathes over her and our bed so I can see her dark eyes under those long, thick lashes as she moves on top of me. There’s no penetration, so why am I about to bust and cream us both?

It’s hard, but I try to take her at her word and relax. Putting my arms behind my head is a start. “Okay girl, do what you do.” I smirk. “You know I love this…love you.”

“Mmmm,” she nods, rocking her hips front to back, her breasts bouncing. The heat at her core is bearing down on me. “Then show me.”

“You sure? Because, yeah, um…I want all of you tonight.”

Her nails scrape down my chest and my jaw locks tight. Oh yes, it feels good. Tia rises on her knees and the head of my cock instantly springs up to make contact with her opening. The warmth covering my cockhead goes to my toes and it gets them to curling. My eyelids flutter, then shut.

It’s torture and she’s not ready for me yet. Tia has my cock upright and the pressure that’s lodged in my shaft makes it throb so badly, hot moisture begins to form behind my closed lids. Damn she’s good at this. My lady is made for me, got me coming apart and I’m not in her yet.

“Mmmm,“ she moans.

There are only a few ways I can love her now. And I’m always worried about what my kid must think I’m doing to his mommy. However, when it’s like this, when she’s teasing me? All bets are off. Fuck! The way she lets me get in an inch in and then she pulls up is so jarring I can’t stand it. “Tia, baby cut it out.”


She presses her finger to my lips to silence me. I draw that finger in my mouth and suck it like a pacifier for comfort. Mmm, I need pussy bad now. I need skin on skin, the friction of her tight walls on my dick. Our joining is the only ease to this burn.

She lifts again to grip my shaft and guide me to her, bracing her weight with one hand pressed against my chest. I got to let her do it the way that’s most comfortable for her but I’m so fucking impatient. Nah, it’s not impatience, I’m trapped with no options. If I had options, patience wouldn’t be an issue.

This time, thunder did hit. The rain is coming in strong. I wish I had opened the windows to let that charge inside. I need something to match the turbulence building around my chest and heart. I feel like I’m going to implode, I need her so bad.

My Princess eases down on me. My shaft is fitted with the tightness of her pussy. I can hear the rain hitting the windows hard, as hard as my pulse. My heart is full-throttle pumping all the blood to my dick. And she takes me inch by inch, painfully slow. My stomach, my thighs, even my ass and all the muscles in my lower back, clench down then release when she sets the pace. That’s my Princess. When she gets to riding and the rocking, it knocks me down a peg or two and I’m a whimpering, begging fool. I can give a damn about my pride or ego. My lady is my match in every way. She pushes me down hard into the pillows as I arch into her movements—it’s so damn good.

Princess has me moaning from some place so deep in my chest. It’s a hard grunt when it escapes my mouth, searing the inside of my throat. And she’s soft, all of her. Her skin, oh damn, her skin is like butter and cream. I’m always feeling on these thick thighs and any part of her I can touch. Now I’m rubbing up over her belly, feeling her breasts, running my hand around to her back then down the curve of her spine to that sweet ass. She lets me hit it from the back some times and it’s my favorite. Yes, the feel of the soft globe of her ass pressed into me as my balls slap her pussy is a taste of heaven.

Now she’s getting down to it.

She’s bouncing so hard on my dick, my eyes are crossed under closed lids and I can’t tell if it’s the thunder or me hollering, its so damn good. I can handle it. No, no, I can’t take it! The mattress squeaks the headboard bangs and my jaw clenches. Finally, she drops down hard with her belly pressed against my chest. Her hips move and she squeezes the life of my cock with her tight, wet heat.

“Jesus baby…what are you doing?”

“Making up,” she says, in the sexiest voice.

Yeah, man, my baby has skills. And to think this is all mine. No man ever touched my lady. Can’t tell you how good it is.

“Slow down…you need to slow down.” Her libido is un-frick-in-belivable. She put more moves on me, got me drumming the heels of my feet into the mattress. Cancel that. I need more of what she’s giving. Fuck, she can take me out right here and now and I’d die happy.

Joining her, I’m pumping wildly up at her, striking back, gripping her hips too tight. I’m so damn close to flipping her and going in the wrong way. I’m trying hard to summon control, let her do what she does, but Princess is taking me to the vanishing point.

“Yes, yes, yes, sweetie, like that,” she says, holding on to my arms as I hold on to her hips. I want to suck on her swollen nipples so bad my mouth is watering. But it’s awkward and if I get up, then I block her ability to love on me her way. Damn, it’s frustrating.

She’s moving, I’m moving, more like convulsing and she’s winding her ass. I swear she’s punishing me for earlier. I’m about to blubber a vow to behave. I’m so damn close. “Ugh…Tia…wait,” I beg, but Princess shows no mercy. She’s found her groove and she’s groaning low in her throat. I see those chocolate pointed nipples hovering above me. One suck and I’d be complete. Instead, I lick my dry lips and close my eyes and submit.

I come so hard, so fast, it feels like my testicles are being sucked up into my abdomen with every spasmodic convulsion. My breath is trapped in my chest after a sharp gasp and every muscle, every tendon in my body locks up. I’m shooting off stream after stream of molten pleasure from my cock as it jerks along with my hips, getting drained by the vice grip she put down on it.

Mmm yeah, it’s the best loving in the world. I crash hard like a junkie after his first, hit unsure if he’ll ever know that kind of pleasure again. How can it be this good with my wife? My pregnant wife, no less.

I’m covered in sweat. It’s dripping from my lashes when at last I open my eyes. “You, you okay?”

She giggles. “Feel.”

We’re panting, the both of us. She puts my hand to her stomach. It’s a ball of tightness. “What’s going on?”

“Your baby. Poor sweetie’s all balled up, probably doesn’t understand what daddy’s doing to mommy. I think we really did it this time.”

“Ah, damn…I’m sorry, babe.”

“Stop apologizing. It happens sometimes when we get out of hand.”

“It does? You never told me.”

“’Cause I don’t want you over-thinking it, Mel. Sweetie, please. Let’s just relax and enjoy this pregnancy. I’m okay. So is the baby. We’re okay.”

“Yeah…yeah…I just, um…okay.”

“What?” she asks, lifting. Of course I help her get off but the separation makes me want to weep. Focused, I ease her into position on her side. “What were you going to say?” she breathes out in exhaustion.

“I just can’t wait to be a daddy.”

“Awww, that’s cute. I can’t wait for you to be a daddy, too.” Her eyes close.

“Want a back rub?” I whisper.

“And a foot rub, too?” She half-turns her head to look back over her shoulder at me.

“After that loving, girl, I’m a suck a couple of toes, too.”

She laughs.

“I love you, Tia.”

“I love you too, Mel. We both do.”

Chapter Two

It’s a spiral wheel of yum-yum! Sliced celery sticks, carrots, cut broccoli, and ruby-red tomato balls, evenly dispersed. In the center of the sterling silver tray is a saucer of Margie’s homemade ranch dressing. We bottle it and sell it at the restaurant because people request it so much. Let me tell you, it’s just that good! It has a signature taste. More like a buttermilk-sour-cream bite to it with a touch of peppercorn that kind of explodes on your tongue. Even the rich, creamy smell of it sets your mouth to water. Especially mine. Especially now. When I dip the celery and bite through that watery crunch while sucking down tangy juices, I almost climax. And believe it or not, I used to hate this stuff. Now I don’t discriminate, honey. Bring it on!

Mmm it’s good. I got this tray covered.

Family is everywhere, as it would be on game-day. It’s the NBA play-offs. I hate it. Hate sports—well not all sports. Back at Yale, I did like tennis. My best friend Dean was top of his game and I never missed it. But basketball and football I just don’t get.

Mel loves anything with a ball in it. I’m thinking of investing in Sports Center futures since it plays all day, every day, in our home.

Gives me a headache, too!

My only reprieve is the ‘finals’ or whatever they’re called. It’s always a family event. My sisters and I spend it in the kitchen cooking and laughing. Jackson and our husbands drink and use foul language. Good times.

Today, especially. Considering we’d been tense, lately. It’s time things get back on track with us, and I plan to keep it that way. Mel loves family events. So it works out perfectly. I was kind of looking forward to it, too. I’m even making an effort. Picked my sweetheart’s team, the Miami Heat. When we get here, I’m nodding and talking trash with him as we walk through the door. Trust me, I have no idea what I’m saying.

The payoff is big. For starters, I don’t have to suffer at home with him hollering, whooping, pumping his fist, growling, snarling, cussing, kicking at my furniture over those silly men in long shorts running after some ball.

The worst part of it all is when he ignores me. It’s not a good feeling when my hubby doesn’t notice I’m in the room. I’m not the easiest to live with lately, let me tell you, but I get his attention one hundred percent. Our routine is usually the same. When he comes home, first thing he asks me is how was my day. And then he sits back, as I get his beer or fix his plate, and listens. I think he listens. Feels like he listens, anyway. I talk so much, there’s little room for him to respond, so who knows.

But during the ‘finals,’ I could be naked on all fours—and nothing. My wonderful sex-craved husband will look through me to the television, hand raised for another beer, or to signal I gotta move out of his way. Ugh! “What’chu mean you don’t like the Lakers?” Margie asks. She wipes at her brow with the back of her hand. “Walking up in here talking all that smack with Mel. I heard you, girl.”

I shrug.

Margie’s back is to me. Her thick dark locks are a frizzy mess of curls thanks to slaving in this 90-degree kitchen. Somehow Margie manages to look most beautiful when she’s cooking, possibly because cooking for the family is all love for her. Every meal for Jackson and his clan is handled with Margie’s care. She shells boiled eggs at the sink for the salad and tosses me a smart look from over her shoulder.

“You a Heat fan now?” Alicia asks.

“Huh?” My answer is muffled thanks to the chewed-up wad of carrot sticks I’m munching on.

“You said you don’t like Kobe?” Margie reminds me. Oh, did I add that my sisters are also fans of the sport, so I gotta tread careful on my hate? I don’t have Mel to come in and defend me. Anything I say can and will be used to show how much of a poser I am.

Pam walks back into the kitchen. “You don’t? Girl, Jackson is a Lakers man. You know that. But I feel you. Clarence is all over the Heat, as if they really got a shot. Careful on the Kobe-hate today.” Pam chuckles.

“Whatever, I hate Kobe. He sucks,” I say, shrugging again, hoping to leave it at that. My sisters cut each other a look and shake their heads. The evening is like any other for us. Margie is talking, cooking, fussing, laughing, and entertaining us all. And me? All I can do is catch everything falling off the stove or counters and shove it into my mouth. Ugh, I’m swollen. Each body part weighs nearly double than it did before. Even my neck is thick. And I noticed the other day how much my nose has spread.

I can’t wear my wedding ring now. It’s true. Mel was going to get it adjusted, but I refused. This ring is the Holy Grail for me. Custom made, cut from a classic…his mother’s. I have no intention of messing with perfection. He gets weird about me not having it on, though—like it’s his brand or something. When I told him no, he caught such a major attitude about it. I went to JC Penney, bought a fake one in a bigger size and showed him. It settled things down. The things that work his nerves, let me tell you. Ridiculous.

“So I told that B. I. T. C. H. that if she—”

“Margie! Don’t start cursing.” Pam says, pointing at the twins following their aunt Margie around for something to eat from her pot.

“I spelled it, didn’t I?” Margie gives an irritated sigh. Pam rolls her eyes to the ceiling.

“Like I was saying, I told that hoe that if she brings her narra ass up in my restaurant one mo’ time, I’ma break this size ten off in it and then go for the Vaseline. Talking about taking it back old school!”

“That’s crazy, Margie. You can’t threaten those inspectors. We could get fined,” Alicia warns.

Margie ignores her, pouring thick yellow batter for the cornbread into greased cake pans. I’m sitting at the kitchen island, watching, listening, eating. My eyes follow Alicia to the oven to put in a cake pan and when she flips up the stove door, I catch a glimpse of my reflection. My cheeks are so fat I look like a squirrel holding nuts for winter.

Margie shrugs. “Bitch had it coming.”

“Margie!” Pam slams the rice container down on the counter.

“What I miss?” Sherry breezes in. She has KJ on her hip. Today, the youngest of the Jackson women is wearing a pair of tight-fitted jeans and a summer top. The only evidence that she had a baby just under a year ago is her oversized boobs. Sherry always had the slim, trim figure. I stare at every inch of her imagining—nope, actually praying—for my figure to return when the baby is out.

Margie comes over to kiss up KJ, and slip a pinch of something from my tray into his mouth. He whines and reaches for her but she sashays away. I pop another carrot stick in my mouth, licking my fingers. “Margie wants to fight the inspector,” I say between chews.

Sherry laughs. “Again? They just doing their job, Margie.”

“I don’t care!” Margie whirls with a shelled egg in her hand. “I run a clean kitchen, get A+ every year and that…that woman came up in there turning her nose up to us like we some ghetto joint. It’s racial.”

“Here we go,” I moan.

“Ain’t nobody talking against white people, Tia, just that particular fake-blonde-highlighted bitch!”

“Come on, boys. Get out of the kitchen,” Pam says after the last b-bomb drops.

Damage done. The twins snicker, nibbling the shared halves of a boiled egg. KJ responds as he always does, clapping and grinning at his auntie, wanting more of her fire. Margie blows him a kiss.

“You hear her?” Alicia asks me, of all people. “Talk to her. Those people can shut us down for the smallest infraction.”

I swallow my last bite. “Calm down, Margie. Work with the people. I’ll call downtown and make sure we’re okay.”

That seemed to satisfy everyone. I’m the one to always straighten things out. My sorority sister is now the mayor. We go back all the way to high school. I got all kinds of friends in the City. And trust me, I need it with Margie’s hot-tempered self.

The cooking continues. In our family home, the largest room is the kitchen. It has four ovens. Four! And let me tell you, at any given moment, all of them are on. It’s like a sauna in here. I can feel the sweat under my breasts and armpits. That’s another thing about being swollen now. The sweating. I can’t stop it. I was in a meeting at work with a stain under the crease of my breasts. I was so embarrassed, I ran for the bathroom, shoving my boobs up into the hand dryer. Eventually, I shed my shirt and tried to cool off while women that worked for me came in and out. One look at my pregnant belly and everybody’s got advice.

A roar of loud warring voices rises from the living room. I don’t even bother to look back. I can hear Clarence yelling and Chuckie and Mason yelling back. That Kobe guy did something again.

Leaning back on my stool, I discreetly careen my neck in search of my hubby. He’s sitting back with his beer. On instinct he looks up and locks eyes with me. The wink he sends me puts a grin on my face.

“Tia! We in here slaving over dinner and you eating? Anybody else see something wrong with this picture? You too, Sherry. Put KJ down and get busy,” Alicia snaps.

Sherry fires back a litany of excuses about the baby. Me? I look down and realize I’ve cleared off half the tray. I cover my mouth in shame. When did that happen? The burp I swallow tastes as good going down as it did coming up. Oh God, did I actually think that? I’m losing it.

“Sorry. I’m hungry.”

“Tia’s pregnant, that’s why. Leave her alone, Alicia. I made that tray for her. Got another one in the fridge.” Margie winks at me. She sashays over with house slippers on to bring me more damn food. “Here, try some of this. I’m thinking of adding sautéed, grilled zucchini to the menu.”

Now I really feel bad. Mel won’t be able to get me in the car if I continue.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you. You married now; do you know how many women will be after your man, girl? Gotta keep it right, especially during those fat months.” Sherry says, plucking a zucchini stick and dropping it because it’s hot. “Ouch!” she says sucking her sore fingertips.

“Please, Mel can’t see anybody but Tia,” Pam chides, as she returns to the kitchen having deposited her twin boys out of earshot. She stops to hug Margie from behind and plant a kiss on her cheek before coming over to rejoin us.

“Hmpf. I didn’t want to say anything.”

Now she has my attention. That’s code for ‘Sherry has a secret.’ Fine. The thing is, nobody up in here should have a secret about my husband.

“Then don’t!” Margie warns, catching on to the uncomfortable pause. Just then, her son comes in and asks to speak to her. It’s important. Margie points a warning finger at Sherry to be quiet, then follows him out.

“Say anything about what?” I ask when she’s gone.

“It’s nothing. Actually, it’s a good thing. But you prego and stuff so I know you’re sensitive. Probably take it all wrong.”

“Take what wrong?”

“Leave it alone, Sherry.” Alicia cuts her a look. Margie is half out the kitchen arguing with her middle child, who’s trying to get around Chuckie and convince her to agree to turn over the keys to her car.

“Well, couple of weeks back my friend Adeline saw him in the mall. She spoke to him. He was shopping for you. Lingerie.” Sherry’s eyes flip up. There was a smirk on her lips. I nearly choke on the zucchini. I’m coughing and hacking, Sherry pats my back. Alicia chuckles, shaking her head. “Yawl still getting freaky huh? Me and Mason had some of the best sex when I was pregnant.”

“Please, no details. I don’t want to hear it.” Pam says.

“Girl, they married, can’t we ‘married’ folks,” Sherry gives air quotes around the word married, “get our groove on and dish?”

“You just like gossiping. Margie already told you to keep that story to yourself,” Pam warns.

“So all of you know about this?”

Pam and Alicia, who are avoiding my eyes, confirm it. “What’s the big deal? So he buys me stuff. So what?”

“Adeline said Angie Sanders was helping him shop. She works at Macy’s now.”


“You know her, Tia. She was two grades below you, in my class. That redhead freckle-faced ho—ah, I mean tart.” Sherry giggles at Pam’s eye roll. “The one who was on the squad with me. Had those big boobs. Remember?”

“Oh, yeah, I remember Angela. She was quite popular and pretty. Black and white boys all chased after her.” Maybe Mel knew her from his old stomping grounds. “So?”

Sherry looks at Pam, who shakes her head no. She looks to Alicia who is smirking but not saying anything. She shifts KJ on her hip and licks her lips, like what she says is just that tasty. “Angie was all over him. Gushing and stuff. Taking him by the hand and showing him stuff, joking about being able to model for him, but she wasn’t BIG like his pregnant wife.”

“Big!” I snap.

Sherry laughs out loud.

“I’m not big, am I big? I’m not big, am I?” I ask the room.

“Of course not. You’re just fat.” Alicia laughs.

Pam smacks Alicia hard on the arm. “Of course you’re not fat. You’re pregnant.”

“I wasn’t that big when I was pregnant,” Sherry notes.

“That’s cause you eat grass,” Alicia says, shaking her head.

“I’m vegan.”

“Whatever. You health nuts die just like the rest of us. It’s stupid to cut out foods and nutrients that your body needs. Your body needs meat.”

“My body needs protein, not meat. I eat protein.”

“Like I said…”

And they go on and on, but I’m stuck on Melvin letting some woman call me fat and laughing at it. “Shut up!” I yell and they all look to me. “What happened with Adeline? Finish.”

Sherry shrugs. “Adeline said Mel was buying whatever she wanted him to. Arms loaded.”

Now that hurt. Half the fun of getting something from your husband is thinking he saw it and bought it because he wanted it for you. Not because some bimbo flirted and pushed product on him.

Mel always makes me number one. ALWAYS. Sure I’m spoiled, but he spoiled me, so it’s not my fault. My stomach starts to sour. The veggies and the ranch dipping are churning. A jealous hurt settles in. I feel sick. Sherry nods and her voice drops to a whisper.

“She said that Angie cut her one nasty look when she went over and spoke to him. And…well this part you won’t like.”

“I don’t like any of it,” I mumble.

“Leave it alone, Sherry. Just drop it,” Pam says.

“It’s bullshit, sis. You know Sherry exaggerates, and her friends are gossip hounds,” Alicia cuts in.

“Adeline ain’t got no reason to lie! I do not exaggerate.” Sherry said. She turns on me, shifting KJ to the other hip. “She said that she saw her slip him her number, too, when she was coming back through the aisles.”

“I know damn well you ain’t in here running yo’ mouth, after I told you not to!” Margie yells.

All heads turn to the sound of her voice. She’d entered the kitchen and caught the tail end of the story. Her hands to her hips, her lips pressed into a thin angry line. We all could see the steam rising up off her shoulders, she so mad.

“Didn’t I tell you to keep that gossip out my house? I warned you not to say anything!”

“Mel was flirting with her?” I repeat, more to myself than them.

“Girl, no. You know Mel wasn’t paying her no mind,” Alicia hurried to add. “Adeline is as bad as this one here. I’m telling you, ignore it.”

Too late for reasoning, the tears start forming, gathering at the corners of my eyes. It’s like a reflex reaction. Sherry fusses with KJ, trying to avoid the heat in Margie’s glare. “Alicia’s right.” Sherry shrugs. “Adeline said he was just asking questions about what you wanted. He asked her, too, for her opinion.”

“But you said he took her number?”

Sherry shakes her head hard, cause a quiet Margie is even worse. Margie is standing there glaring so hard, that even Pam and Alicia start working a little faster on dinner.

“Oh girl, I’m just messing with you.”

And that’s it. The tears flow, shocking everyone in the kitchen. I’m blubbering, crying all over the place. It’s hot, I’m fat, my back hurts. I have gas at the most inappropriate moments, and my face is breaking out. I hate myself.

Everybody freezes at first. Except Margie, she’s approaching us with her hands on her hips. Sherry panics, rubbing my back, shaking her head at Margie that she didn’t mean it. “Tia, seriously I was teasing. You know me and my big mouth.”

“I oughta put a muzzle on you,” Margie seethes. She walks around my sisters to me. “You stop it right now, Tia.” She gives me paper towels. She cuts my baby sister a threatening look.

“Everybody is being sensitive to you about Kelvin gone to Iraq and you come in here and do this?” Pam says, shaking her head.

“Not cool, little sis. Never tell a fat pregnant woman that her husband had boobs in his face when he bought her fat-girl lingerie.” Alicia shrugs.

“I’m fat!” I wail.

“Everybody shut the hell up!” Margie yells.

I’m crying my eyes out. Margie’s hugging on me, trying to calm me.

“I’m sorry, Tia. I am,” Sherry mumbles.

I got to get it under control. I can feel Margie huffing and puffing as she holds me. She’s real close to exploding. Pushing free, I take the paper towels and wipe my face clean of sweat and tears. “It’s okay. I do feel fat and ugly. That’s not your fault. Women will flirt with him. I’ve seen it before. Besides, I don’t need to eat so much.”

“That’s horseshit!” Margie snatches my chin up. “Mel’s a man, honey. Not some damn boy, he wants a real woman. That’s why he picked you. Pounds and all, he wants it. You eat what you want and stop with all that damn crying. You hear?”

I nod.

“And you.” Margie points a finger. “You think it cute to pick on someone? What about Kelvin over there, bunking with those hot-in-the-tail military gals?”

“Margie, stop,” Pam says.

“Out there in the desert with nothing to do but be pushed up in some sand hole with some young tender-roni for all them long hours, probably getting blow jobs to pass the time!”

Sherry lowers her eyes.

“Margie, that’s enough!” Alicia snaps.

“Don’t feel good, does it baby-girl? Don’t bring no shit in my kitchen. You know I’ll finish it.”

“Okay, everybody calm down.” I say. “I’m okay. I’m okay.”

Sherry wipes at a few tears that fall. “Kelvin isn’t cheating on me,” she mumbles.

“This is just crazy. I’ma pray for all of you.” Pam says, throwing up her hands.

“Oh shut up and pray Clarence get a job and off the damn sofa,” Margie huffs, walking back over to her food.

We all fall silent. It’s best to do that when Margie is worked up. Let it blow over. KJ is the only one giggling and cooing. His chubby fingers reach for the tray. I give him a carrot stick.

“Sherry, you okay?” I whisper.

“Yeah.” She tries to smile. “I’m cool.”

Pam pulls a tray of braised chicken wings out of the oven and places them on the kitchen island before me. The sweet smell of the crisping baked chicken grips me by the gut. Suddenly I want a taste.

“So have you decided if you going to do it natural?” Pam asks, trying to cut through the tension and change the subject.

“Birth?” I ask, looking away from the chicken. Margie is still slamming pots and cabinets, cursing under her breath. “Yeah, I’m going to do it natural. Mel wants to be there to catch his soldier, literally.” I’m so mad at him right now that even mentioning his name makes me tense. He got some real explaining to do.

“You crazy.” Alicia cuts through my thoughts. “Chrissy was seven pounds and I had to be cut.”

My eyes pop. “Ka-ka-ka-cut?”

“Yeah, you remember, she had to get stitches,” Pam reminds me.

“Stitches on your…um, vagina?”

“I ripped with KJ, but I had an epidural.” Sherry says. “Healing was a bitch.” Pam frowns. “Sorry, but it was. I was afraid to poop, it hurt so bad.”

“Ripped?” My throat goes dry.

“Mine all came out just fine. And I got the most kids out of all of yawl, so it doesn’t happen like that for everybody.”

My eyes go to my stomach. “Does it hurt? I mean the contractions? Are they as bad as in the movies?”

“Worse. The kind of pain that you forget, though. All I remember is wanting to cut Mason’s dick off and beat him to death with it.” Alicia licks her fingers.

“Oh, give me a break!” Pam says putting her hands to her ears. She and I laugh.

“And another thing…” Margie whirls on us. “We family. I don’t like gossip. I sure as hell ain’t gone have any of you gossiping about this family with other people. I told your narra ass that when you came in here with that stupid story.” Margie comes back to us, knife in hand, pointing it at each of us. She goes off on this long tirade about being family and how we done made her come out her bag when she just wanted to cook for her family. We have to listen and again wait it out while I ignore that tray of braised chicken in front of me.

* * * * *

“In yo face!” Chuckie yells. “In yo face!”

Jackson’s sitting in the chair that is his, and his alone. He rocks, chuckling. Man has on his Lakers shirt, hat, and even sweatbands around his wrists. All that ugly purple makes him look like Barney.

Fuck, I hate the Lakers.

“That’s my boy.” Jackson nods, his big grin splitting his face. He tokes on his cigar that Margie grants him on special occasions. He’s talking about Kobe’s slam on my man D and I have to admit it was cold-blooded. Even worthy of being Top Ten on Sports Center. It’s that good. Still, to hell with the Lakers.

“My man Dwight got his ass working for it. They need to put LeBron back in the game. Ya’ll know Kobe ain’t got the steam,” Clarence says.

“Kobe runs the ball.” Mason dismisses him. “He’s got the heart. That’s all heart right there.”

Chuckie cuts in with stats and I’m peeping my Princess. Something’s up with her. Call it a second sense, but I got it. That and two eyes. I see a gathering around her in the kitchen, which means Tia’s crying. No telling what set her off this time.

“Kobe was Shaq’s bitch. Shaq got a ring with D-Wade. Kobe won’t be getting a damn thing this season with LeBron and D-Wade side by side.” Clarence, Pam’s husband comes back. He and I are in a losing battle. Mason, Jackson, and Chuckie holding it down for the Lakers and there’s nothing we can do about it. Fucking LeBron is the one losing steam this quarter, not Kobe.

Jackson chuckled, rocking in his recliner, puffing his cigar. “That may be, but he about to make Dwight his punk…like he did James…right now…watch this.”

Our eyes return to the screen.

“UGH!” Chuckie yelps. He’s on his feet, dapping up Mason and causing his sons to run in and catch the replay.

“Mel, bro, I’m dying here,” Clarence mumbles to me.

Commentators come on, damn near giddy over Dwight getting knocked on his ass. I’m mad this cut-down will be all over ESPN all night and tomorrow. No foul called. Of course, they baby Kobe and let him run the court. My boys D and LB get no respect.

I heave a deep sigh. “It’s all good.”

“What?” Clarence frowns as if I just flipped. Truth is truth.

I lean forward; my eyes are back to the kitchen looking for my lady. I can’t make sense of Margie pacing around her. Something is definitely up with that. When I drop back on the sofa, everyone is looking to me for a deeper explanation. Even Jackson has a brow quirked. “Point is, this game ain’t the game. My boy LeBron—”

“Oh here we go!” Chuckie and Mason say at the same time.

To this I shake my head. “Yawl know that LeBron would spank that ass if he weren’t put on the bench. He was supposed to be out there giving lessons to your boy right now.”

Jackson chuckles. “LeBron where he supposed to be. On his ass like you, watching the game from the sidelines.”

Everybody laughs. Hell, I laugh too. I can’t really say anything to that. “Alright, Pops. Alright.” Then I look up. Princess is on the move, walking out of the kitchen, heading for the hall.

“Mel, where you going?”

Reaching deep in my pockets, I pull out my money and toss it on the table. “I got Lakers over the spread, partner. They cover and win it in overtime. Fucking game over. Now excuse me, fellas,” I say. Chuckie and Mason give each other a fist pound in agreement, but my boy Clarence shuts down on my word LeBron might take it in the end. To hell with it. Game over.

When I turn the corner, I see her waddling over to the bathroom door. She wears these summer dresses that smooth over her curves and tie around her neck. This one is a tangerine-orange that’s a sweet contrast to her dark caramel skin. Today her hair is up in a messy stack of loose curls, and she’s got on small diamond hoops that hang from her lobes and catch the bathroom light as she goes in. I can’t see her face but I swear she glows now. Gets even more beautiful to me, if that’s possible. I tell her that all the time. Women don’t want to hear that you want to keep them pregnant always. Mine doesn’t. But I’m already working on the conversation to ask for baby number two.

She closes the door. I know I shouldn’t, but I follow. I check behind me to see if anyone notices. It’s cool. We’re the only ones to the back of the house.

The door isn’t locked. So I take liberties I shouldn’t and open it. Princess gasps. She’s just sitting down on the toilet.

“Mel, get out!” she shouts.

“Aw baby, I’ve seen you in the bathroom.”

“Not funny! Get out!” she says, and there’s something tense in her voice. No matter. I drop back on the door and cross my arms watching her. She seethes. Princess has no choice but to ‘tinkle,’ as she says, wipe and flush. She shoots me a withering glare, then goes to the sink.

Ouch! What did I do to deserve that?

While her back is turned I reach behind me and secure the lock. “So what’s wrong? How you feeling?” Baby doesn’t respond. She’s washing the hell out of her hands, though. That can only mean one thing. Princess is pissed. Yep, those tears I peeped in the kitchen are going to give me the blues real soon. What the hell have I done now? Fuck!

Moving up behind her, I press up into her softness.

“Stop, Mel.”

“What’s the matter?” I whisper brushing my lips over the soft puff of her cheek.

“Move! Now!” she grumbles.

I put up my hands but I ain’t backing away. Not when my lady is this upset. Sure as hell won’t let her go out there and give me attitude the rest of the day. Whatever this is, we’ll talk about it. Now. “Tia, w’sup? Seriously.”

She dries her hands in the limited space I allow. Her belly pressed against me, she’s looking down, around, lots of attitude, man. I don’t like it.


Finally those thick lashes lift, weighed down with tears. Oh hell, she’s going to start to cry again. And here it comes. She’s bawling. I shake my head. “What’s wrong, baby?” I say, trying to kiss her, but she leans out of it. She presses a hand to my chest and holds me off. Most times, her tears require my kisses to make it better. Now she’s pushing back? How’s a man supposed to make sense of the hot and cold like this? Don’t get me wrong. I do try, but damn.

“You gone tell me, or do I have to get out there and put Margie on it?”

She sniffles. I’m wiping at her tears, touching her face. Here she goes knocking my hands off again and it’s really beginning to tick me off.

“Move, Melvin. I’m tired.”

“Yeah, I get that. But tell me why you’re crying.”

Her weepy gaze lifts again and hell, I catch a cold from the frostbite. She narrows those brown babies on me and here it comes.

“So you made a new friend, huh?”

I’m listening but I’m not hearing. A friend? What the fuck does that mean? I made a new friend? “Talk to me.”

“You told me that you bought me that lingerie because you wanted to see me in it. That you was thinking of me!”

“Lingerie? What lingerie?”

“What I got for Mother’s Day! You said I didn’t look fat. That you liked me in it. Had me walking around the house in it…and you said it was sexy.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

She pushes me off and this time I do step back because I’m so damn confused. Lingerie? Fat? What the fuck is this? So her sisters in there calling her fat? Placing the towel on the sink, I sigh. “So you mad because of what I bought for Mother’s Day? Fuck baby, that ain’t shit to cry over.”