All About Evaby Deidre Berry
"A hilarious riches-to-rags-and-redemption saga." --Publishers Weekly
When You've Had Everything, What's Next?
A wealthy boyfriend, designer clothes, exotic vacations, and a Central Park penthouse--these are a few of Eva Cantrell's favorite things. But when her boyfriend turns out to be an investment swindler and goes on the run, he leaves an/b>/i>… See more details below
"A hilarious riches-to-rags-and-redemption saga." --Publishers Weekly
When You've Had Everything, What's Next?
A wealthy boyfriend, designer clothes, exotic vacations, and a Central Park penthouse--these are a few of Eva Cantrell's favorite things. But when her boyfriend turns out to be an investment swindler and goes on the run, he leaves an unsuspecting Eva without a couture bag to her name.
With the gravy train permanently derailed, suddenly nobody is who Eva thought they were. Her socialite best friend has become her worst enemy, and her new attorney is an all-out hunk who makes it difficult to keep their relationship strictly professional. And with her return to her old south side Chicago neighborhood, Eva's also got her hands full dealing with her always out-there family of dreamers, divas, and straight-up scammers. Now, Eva has to face the past, get a life that's truly hers, and find out if the best things in life really are free. . . .
Praise For The Next Best Thing
"Delightful. . .a clever and refreshing mix of zany characters, humor, and heart." --Lutishia Lovely, author of Taking Care of Business
"With a strong, powerful female lead and feisty, tough women as her support, Berry's first novel is a fresh, vivid portrait. . .." --Booklist
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ALL ABOUT EVA
By Deidre Berry
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Deidre Berry
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWho Wants to Date a Millionaire?
It started like most things do in this town: at a party. To be more precise, it was one of those mixers that Gotham Magazine throws every other week to celebrate the fabulous and accomplished. That particular soiree was in honor of the city's fifty most eligible bachelors. Kyle, who does double duty as my gay husband and oldest and dearest friend, invited me to the event, which I quite frankly could not have cared less about attending.
"Come on, Eva, it'll be fun!" Kyle had said. "And I need you there as my wing-woman, because you know more than likely that half of those so-called eligible bachelors are on the down low."
"Believe it or not, some of us have to actually work for a living," I'd said. At the time, I was beauty editor at Flirt, a glossy women's magazine, and was on a tight deadline to edit several articles from in-house writers, and make sure that they were ready in time for the next issue. "Besides, why are you on the prowl for a man? What happened to Jonathan?"
"Chile, I had to cut that loose, 'cause ain't nothing worse than closeted trade!" Kyle had said. "And what about you? You look like you could definitely use some pickle in your love life."
He knew me sowell. It was sickening sometimes.
It had been a while since anyone had floated my boat. Reason being, I had just gotten a huge promotion at work and was so focused on showing and proving that I rarely had the extra time or energy to give to mixing and mingling.
But, persistent bugger that he is, Kyle wouldn't take no for an answer, so that evening after work, the two of us arrived at the Grand in midtown, where along with the fifty-dollar price of admission, we received catalogs that had alphabetical listings of each of the fifty eligible bachelors, including their headshots and business profiles.
"Eva, girl, we both are gonna find a man up in here, up in here!" Kyle said excitedly.
I surveyed the scene, which was typical of what could be expected at those sort of things: Each one of the fifty bachelors were respectively holding court for a flock of shameless and desperate women who were all vying to be the chosen one. I wasn't impressed. I can't stand those types of parties where there's nothing but a bunch of egomaniacs taking full advantage of the fact that the ratio of single men to single women is 1 to 80 in New York City.
That means you take eighty single women, put them all in one room, and there is only one eligible man available, with "eligible" meaning that he is breathing.
Yeah, 1 to 80. Daunting statistics, right? And that is without taking into account the man's personality, looks, education, sexual preferences, personal hygiene, financial status, mental health, and credit rating.
If you want to figure all those things into the equation, then the statistic goes from 1 to 80 to around 1 in a million.
Since we can't all be lesbians, what usually happens is that discernment goes out the window, giving rise to the phenomenon known as "interfacial dating."
You've seen them-they're everywhere. A gorgeous woman with a less than attractive man, and she's trying to pass him off like he's Boris Kodjoe instead of the Elephant Man.
"Eva," she says, "meet my new boyfriend John. Isn't he handsome?"
"Umm, what's wrong with his head?"
"Oh, that's just a little swelling. It'll go down.... He's eligible, you know."
Yeah, believe me, I know!
Daniel was the last "eligible" guy I dated. We met at a cocktail party in Chelsea and got along fine for a few months until it started to dawn on me that he was a compulsive and habitual liar. One day he was 007, and the next day he was the Crocodile Hunter. Daniel claimed to be an international operative for the CIA and had all these fantastic, swashbuckling tales of being on safari in Botswana and being attacked by a pack of rabid hyenas.
And Dexter, the one before Daniel? Oh, he was real "eligible." He also had the distinction of being the brokest real estate agent I had ever met. Every time I turned around he was always hitting me up for money and expecting me to pay for everything whenever we went out. Then the break-ins started. At the time, I lived in Fort Greene in what I thought was a safe neighborhood.
I had never had any problems before, but within three months of meeting Dexter, my apartment had been burglarized on four separate occasions. Now, I may not be a member of Mensa, but I put two and two together very well. "It's your own fault," Kyle had told me. "This is New York City, girl. You can't just be picking up strangers all willy-nilly. I thought I taught you better than that!"
So yeah, the vibe that night at the Gotham party was all wrong. Ten minutes into it, like Wanda from In Living Color, I was ret-ta-go.
"About face!" I said to Kyle, looking for the nearest trash can to throw my catalog into.
"Uhn-uh, I paid too much money to get up in here and I'm not leaving until I find out which one of these guys isn't playing it straight."
"There you go again, searching for the gay needles in the haystack," I said. "Believe it or not, Kyle, every other man you see is not gay."
"Humph! Honey, you don't know what I know...." Kyle said as he gazed around the room, sizing up the other men with his queer eye.
I sighed. Since Kyle was my ride, and he was hell-bent on staying, I figured I might as well look around too. It didn't take long before my eyes settled on one of the few black bachelors in attendance.
He had virile good looks that reminded me of a young Harry Belafonte, even down to the tall, slender build. Unlike some of the other bachelors in the room, he did not appear to be trying too hard to be suave and cool. Instead, there was an expensive gentleman vibe about him, which he exuded effortlessly. In other words, the man had swagger for days!
Kyle spotted the guy at the same time I did.
"Hottie at six o'clock!" Kyle said, frantically flipping through his catalog in search of the man's photo and profile. Once Kyle found what he was looking for, we both inhaled sharply at the same time. In the picture as in real life, the man was insanely handsome and meticulously well groomed.
"What's his name?" I asked.
"Donovan J. Dorsey ..." Kyle said dreamily. "It says here that he graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse, and received a business degree from Columbia-come on, let's go make his acquaintance." Kyle grabbed my hand and led the way through the crowd of women that surrounded Donovan J. Dorsey. As it turned out, Donovan Dorsey was straight as Indian hair. Kyle was disappointed when Donovan failed to set off his gaydar, but was gracious enough to introduce me and Donovan without missing a beat.
I had never believed in love at first sight before meeting Donovan. Lust, certainly. However, when Donovan and I shook hands, sparks flew, and there was a current of chemistry between us that was so strong, it felt like I had been struck by a lightning bolt.
A few nights later we had our first date at Da Silvano, an intimate Italian restaurant in the West Village, where we shared a bottle of crisp pink wine and a four-course dinner for two that started with a hot antipasto and ended with tiramisu.
Over candlelight, we filled each other in on our life stories and plans for the future. He told me how rough he'd had it growing up in Queens with just his younger sister and hardworking single mother. And I told him about being abandoned by both parents and then raised by my God-fearing maternal grandmother, Juanita Cantrell, who I affectionately called Mama Nita.
We were so relaxed with each other that our conversation flowed as easily as if it were our one hundredth date instead of our first. We were on the same page when it came to ideals and sensibilities, which is why I was completely open and vulnerable with Donovan as I gave him all the details of how I put myself through college and, soon after graduation, packed up and moved to NYC, where I moved in with Kyle and subsequently landed the job as beauty editor at Flirt.
"And here you are." He smiled, reaching across the table to caress my hand. "Lucky me."
Donovan and I were so fascinated with each other that three hours had passed before either of us realized it. And even then, we only noticed the time because the server had delivered the check without being asked for it, which was another way of saying, "Come on, I'm working for tips here! Go get a room already, so I can seat another party!"
After that first date, we went out almost every night.
Seven years my senior, Donovan was the worldliest man I had ever met. He lived an extraordinary lifestyle and was a connoisseur of all things luxurious. As I would come to find out, he especially had an insatiable taste for fine art, and we began frequenting auctions together, where more often than not, he walked away the highest bidder.
For me, Donovan's discriminating tastes were a huge part of his charm. It is also what made me feel so privileged just to be around him. Here was this man who expected and demanded the best of everything; he could have any woman in the world, but yet he chose me.
Prior to meeting me, Donovan had been a notorious playboy. I mean, after all, he was one of the city's most eligible bachelors, so my sudden appearance in his life did not automatically stop other women from coming at him. But as our relationship deepened, all of the other women fell to the wayside, one by one, and before either of us knew it, I was the last woman standing.
And just like that-*finger snap*-I entered into a platinum-dipped VIP lifestyle that took me to hot spots around the world, including Dubai and St. Tropez, and most of the faraway places I had fantasized about when I was a little girl. Nothing I wanted was off-limits, and when Flirt folded overnight without a word of warning, Donovan insisted that it was the perfect time for me to give up the lease on my Fort Greene apartment and move in with him. And the real kicker was that as far as he was concerned, I didn't have to work.
Wait a minute, WHAT!!?
I don't care how much of a feminist you are, I don't believe that there are too many women out there who don't want to hear those words, or who would turn a man down when he said them. Consciously or subconsciously, aren't we all searching for a man who has the ways and the means to swoop in and save us? Whether you call him a sugar daddy, a sponsor, a knight in shining armor, your husband, or Captain Save a Ho, it is all one in the same.
For me, the very thought of being taken care of was in itself a page out of a fairy tale, but at the same time, I was anything but a lazy woman. Ever since I was fourteen years old, I had always kept some type of employment, no matter how menial the labor or how small the pay.
I wasn't 100 percent comfortable with the thought of being dependent on Donovan for financial security, so I took up freelancing, even though the jobs were few and far between.
In the meantime, I found other ways to fill my days, like workouts with a personal trainer, lunch dates with the girls, beauty maintenance appointments, committee meetings, and galas for some foundation or another.
Oh, and shopping.
For the first time in my life, price tags became a nonissue, and I began shopping so hard that it became a sport for me.
It was a wonderful life. One I could get used to, and most certainly did.
Allabouteva.org (It's So Official!)
The city was New York. The month was October, and the day was so damn special that it should have been a national holiday-at least as far as I was concerned.
"Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday, dear Eva, happy birthday to me!"
I lay in the massive sleigh bed covered with luxurious linen sheets, and stretched, a big ole smile on my face. However, that smile quickly turned into a scowl when I remembered that I was now the big two five.
"Damn, I'm getting old...." I grumbled as I sat up in bed and stretched some more.
It was time to add another candle to the birthday cake, and what did I have to show for it?
Oh, just a sprawling 5,200-square-foot, nine-room penthouse apartment on Central Park West and Seventy-seventh Street that was in a word exquisite.
It had been two years since Donovan had swept me off my feet and brought me to Funderburk Towers, a sleek, futuristic-looking glass structure that was so high up in the sky that we had a full, unobstructed view of Central Park, and on a clear day I could see the White House. Well, okay, that's a wee bit of an exaggeration, but one I'm sure Sarah Palin would totally understand, seeing how she can see Russia from her backyard in Alaska and all. The point is, it was one helluva view! One that both literally and figuratively gave the feeling of being on top of the world.
Located on the fifty-fourth floor of one of the most exclusive co-ops in the city, the penthouse had a terraced master bedroom suite, complete with a dressing room and two walk-in closets; a library; formal dining room; private movie theater; eat-in kitchen; and private elevator.
Not bad for a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago, where infants were born with plastic spoons in their mouths instead of silver, if in fact you were given any spoon at all, and where despite the fact that my grandmother worked like a rented mule every day of her life, the household seldom had two of anything.
There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't count my blessings and recognize the fact that I was one lucky girl.
It was a little after eleven AM and I felt refreshed and energized despite the fact that I hadn't made it home from a night of partying until well after the sun had come up.
Getting in at that time of the day wasn't all that unusual for me, which is why I guess more than a few people liked to throw the term "party girl" my way.
I hated that, because it couldn't have been further from the truth.
Yes, I had been known to shut down a club or two in my day. And yes, I could be seen shaking my thang at least three nights a week until the wee hours. However, this is New York we're talking about, not Idaho. What was I supposed to do instead? Take up needlepoint and gardening?
Truthfully speaking, I was practically a homebody compared to most of the people in my social circle who went out every single night of the week.
When I first hooked up with Donovan, he introduced me to his friends and colleagues, who in turn introduced me to their wives and girlfriends, which is how I met and became best friends with Zoë Everett. She happened to have been dating one of Donovan's colleagues at the time, and we hit it off immediately, even though we had vastly different backgrounds.
Now, if you want to see the true definition of a party girl, then you need look no further than Zoë. She was out on the scene 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and was only at home long enough to shit, shave, and bathe. After changing clothes, she was right back out on the scene again, drifting from one club or social function to the next.
The Energizer Bunny couldn't even compete with Zoë, and I can't say for sure how she was able to carry on like that, although I have heard the rumors. I'm not one to gossip, but let's just say that Red Bull and methamphetamines aren't exactly sleep inducers. Okay? In fact, it was Zoë who just the evening before had insisted on treating me to an all-expenses-paid night out on the town in honor of my birthday.
She had arrived in front of the Funderburk in a rented hot-pink Hummer limousine, filled with ten of our mutual friends. Among them had been Sandra Morgan, whose claim to fame was being Kanye's ex.
Sadie Cohen, daughter of the legendary rocker Ben.
Giselle Joyner, season 12 winner of Who Wants to Be a Supermodel?
And Pilar Daniels, the telecommunications heiress slash wannabe fashion designer.
Last, and certainly least, there was Bianca Benson, incorrigible instigator slash incorrigible bitch. She and Zoë had grown up together and their mothers were close, lifelong friends, which is why I guess Bianca was so protective and possessive of Zoë that she came off as if she were her lover or something. My nickname for Bianca was Skeletor. She was all cheekbones and forehead, and had these crazy overarched eyebrows along with a really strong Arnold Schwarzenegger jawline.
Very rarely do I meet someone who I dislike on the spot, but Bianca was this grumpy, humorless thing who was always glaring suspiciously at anyone who even dared breathe in Zoë's direction.
Excerpted from ALL ABOUT EVA by Deidre Berry Copyright © 2010 by Deidre Berry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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