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Brown Sugar 3: When Opposites Attractby Carol Taylor
The first Brown Sugar anthology and its follow-up, Brown/i>/i>
An instant attraction, a lingering look, the electric touch of skin on skin, moments of passion that are unforgettable....if the first two Brown Sugar collections left you wanting more, then slip into Brown Sugar 3, as 19 of today's top writers reveal what happens when opposites attract.
The first Brown Sugar anthology and its follow-up, Brown Sugar 2, were literary and commercial successes. Brown Sugar won the Gold Pen Award for Best Short Story Collection. Now Brown Sugar 3: When Opposites Attract brings you more original stories about desire -- be it impulsive, forbidden, or simply unexpected. As insightful as they are sexy, these selections range from subtly romantic to raw and raunchy, from conventional to seriously kinky. You'll satisfy your taste for brown sugar in this deliciously naughty collection.
- Washington Square Press
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Read an Excerpt
Scratch the Surface
You never thought it would happen. You knew he wasn't the one. You were complete opposites. He wasn't your type and you weren't his. But it's the next morning and you're watching dawn break across the bed, fingers of light sliding slowly across the rumpled sheets. As you break through the surface of sleep, you become aware of the arm snaked around your waist, the chest pressed against your back, his breath rising and falling rhythmically in your ear. Your hips are nestled into his, your legs parted by his thighs. You feel his lips nuzzling your neck even in sleep. Then a rush of heat infuses you as you remember everything that led up to last night.
You weren't interested in him when you'd been introduced. It was even easier to talk to him because of it. You didn't feel those pinpricks of attraction when you'd met him and felt free to be yourself, unguarded, open, unself-conscious. Derrick was friendly, unassuming, easy to talk to and easy to walk away from, and you'd done it all evening. He was so different from you, his background, education, his ideals, and goals. He was even bittersweet dark to your milk chocolate. Personally, you'd always preferred brothers with a little more cream in their coffee. That café con leche complexion had always been your thing and some light eyes and curly hair would seal the deal. The truth was you preferred men who looked like you, acted like you, did the things you liked to do, and had the same type of background you had.
Derrick was a coal black, bald brother who still lived in the Bronx neighborhood he was born and grew up in. "Not far from my moms in case she needs anything," he'd said with a smile and a shrug. But not only that, as you'd walked around the gallery looking at the sculptures from all over the world he mentioned that he'd never been out of the country. "Why get in a plane for eight hours when I can jump in a car and drive all over America in the same time." He'd shook his head in amazement at the very thought. You'd laughed to yourself. You were already thousands of miles from the island of your birthplace and so was a wanderer by nature. You couldn't comprehend still living in the neighborhood you grew up in and couldn't fathom not ever traveling outside the country, exploring other continents, cultures, and peoples. You couldn't imagine not having met other French, Italian, German, Dutch, and British blacks, seeing how they lived and referencing yourself against them. When he'd said something about driving a bus for the MTA for the last ten years you tuned him out completely and let your eyes crawl over the crowd, already walking away from him in your mind. But he excused himself first, saying you looked preoccupied. Relieved, you watched him walk away, liking the easy strut in his glide, the way his hips and ass moved under his jeans. When he turned and smiled, his teeth white against his deep black skin, you smiled back before you could stop yourself.
Derrick was easygoing, casual. You usually went for intense, have-to-change-the-status-quo radicals, somehow juggling a corporate career and a side gig as a writer, playwright, or producer. You liked brothers who were on the go, who questioned everything, who had too much drive and determination to sit and drive a bus for ten years. You liked brothers who were going places and not as a bus driver who were gonna change the world, light it up like a rocket blazing into the sky. You liked brothers more like you. An overachiever since kindergarten, you rocketed through school so fast you were in college at 15. In your first corporate job at 19, executive assistant to the V.P. at 22, head of the department at 25, and president of your own division at 30. Now at 35 you had everything you'd worked so hard for: a nice brownstone in Harlem's Sugar Hill, a closetful of designer clothes, six weeks' paid vacation to visit your friends in Europe or to chill in the West Indies, piles of invitations every week, and a fat IRA and enough stocks and bonds to feel secure in an insecure market. You had everything you could ever want, but somehow you weren't happy. Before you can wonder why, Derrick is back at your elbow with a big smile and a glass of red wine. Taking it, you wonder what he's doing here. Couldn't possibly be his scene, could it? Shouldn't he be watching a fight at his mom's house with his other bus-driving buddies drinking beers and eating KFC?
You're a snob, so you surprise yourself when you accept his offer for a lift home. The opening was over, all the hors d'oeuvres gone and the crowd thinning in search of other pursuits that might involve free wine. Most guys you dated didn't own cars. They lived centrally or were away on business trips too often to deal with one. I guess driving a bus has its perks, you think bitchily. When you say yes, Derrick takes your glass and puts it on a table, then he settles you into your coat. Picking up your briefcase, he takes your arm and leads you through the crowd and out the door.
You talk all the way to Harlem as he expertly maneuvers the SUV through Friday night traffic. His patience as other drivers cut him off amazes you. You also couldn't believe he knew who Machiavelli was, but when you'd been talking about corporate politics you quoted him and he'd nodded and smiled.
"So you read The Prince. It's my favorite book, next to The Art of War. I don't know which I like more. That's what kept me out of corporate America. If the business world was anything like the court Machiavelli described with all its backstabbing and machinations "
Did he just say machinations? you wonder.
" then I was gonna stay out of it," he finished. "So I drive a bus. I'm good at it. I'm a simple man with simple needs. I make good money. I have job security. I own my own car and my own place. I work a shift and I'm done. It doesn't stress me and I don't take my work home with me. I've got plenty of time to do what I like, seeing my moms, and taking road trips with my buddies. I'm happy."
He was full of surprises, you thought, but at the end of the day he was still a bus driver and not really interested in being anything else. Meanwhile, for you, the sky was always the limit.
After he watched you let yourself in he drove off honking once in good-bye. He hadn't asked to come in or tried to kiss you, hadn't even asked for your number. You watched him smile one last time before driving away. When he was gone you stood there strangely missing him, amazed at what you could find when you scratched the surface.
You're not sure why but two weeks later you get Derrick's number out of the phone book. When he chuckles his pleasure down the phone line at hearing your voice, you like that you can hear a growl underneath it. When you invite him to dinner he accepts but only if he can pick the place. Then you end up gabbing with him for hours. You were surprised how well you got along. It didn't matter that you were so different; you had many things in common. You both shared a penchant for junk food, bad sci-fi, and Marvel comics. He was the youngest of four children and so were you. When you hung up the phone you had a smile on your face. It was still there when you woke the next morning.
When he picked you up two days later you still had no idea where you were going, but you were glad to see him. He belted you in and headed for the West Side Highway, heading downtown. He slipped in a CD and slid down the window as you leaned back in your seat breathing in the salty, early spring air. As D'Angelo crooned softly, Lemme tell you bought the girl, maybe I shouldn't, met her in Philly and her name was Brown Sugar...you realized you'd missed him: his steadfastness, forthrightness, and his easygoing attitude. You liked his calm way of taking control of situations. How he'd patiently let you talk that first night you'd met, how attentively he listened, not trying to rush in to finish your sentences for you, or discreetly checking out the crowd for someone to network with.
Respecting the music, neither of you speak a word the entire drive, sinking instead into a comfortable silence. Thirty minutes later when he pulls into the South Street Seaport, you look over at the inky water twinkling under the city lights and this time it's your turn to smile. You think back to the first night in the gallery you'd told him how much you liked eating on the balcony of the ship permanently docked there. How you used to love walking around the seaport in the summertime with your friends, shopping and eating seafood, killing time watching the sunset. How you hadn't been there in years as busy as you were and how hard it was to get there without a car.
Two weeks after that, when Derrick drops you home, this time from dancing all night at Sticky Mike's in Chelsea, you ask him to park and come up. It's early enough for a faint rosy light to start to brighten the eastern sky. You'd both danced till you were drenched in sweat and funky. The packed first floor of the club had pressed you up tight against each other until you'd thought the deep red of your shirt would bleed onto his white one. The sweat and humidity had frizzed your hair into a halo of kinky curls and you hadn't cared. You both danced like there was no tomorrow, like it was the end of the world. When you stumbled out the door at 4 A.M. Sunday morning drenched in sweat, the cold air making you shiver as you walk to his car, he wrapped his big dark arms around you and matched his stride to yours.
"Not bad for a bus driver," you cracked. "All that sitting must build up your energy for dancing."
He shot back, "And you sure can get down for an uptight corporate sister. I'd never have guessed it, getting all hot and funky, you surprise me, girl. I like it."
And he'd surprised you, too, being more than what you'd thought but always just what you needed.
As you stand in your living room drying off with a towel, the shower steaming up the bathroom, you watch Derrick slowly stripping off his rugby jersey to his wifebeater undershirt. He has nice shoulders and a great back and his oversized shirt had been hiding big strong arms and a really nice ass in jeans barely held up by a thick leather belt. He was honey-dipped, his skin a smooth dark chocolate. His nicely shaped bald head perfectly suits his strong nose, round dark eyes, and full lips. He's good-looking, if you look hard enough. Normally you go for drop-dead gorgeous, but the more clothes Derrick took off, the more he became your type.
Naked, his legs are thick and strong; he has big feet and slightly splayed toes. His legs are sweetly bowed. His chest is wide and curly dark hairs barely discernible against his skin taper down to his stomach and then disappear into his groin. He takes your towel and drops it to the floor, then he pulls you toward him and slips his fingers under your shirt, pulling it slowly over your head. Beads of sweat still glisten on your skin. He licks a trail moist and hot down from your neck to your navel, stopping at the waistband of your skirt. He hooks his fingers into the elastic and slips it down and eases you out of the drenched jersey fabric. Your panties are next and you step out of them. He then stands and looks at you, his hands shaping your shoulders, then your arms and your hips. His skin blue-black in the candlelight appears like velvet. He turns you around, then fits himself against you. Snuggled in tightly he wraps his arms around you and licks another salty trail from the tip of your shoulder up across your neck. He breathes his moist breath against your ear, his teeth nibble chocolate kisses on your lobe. When he hears you moan he picks you up and takes you into the bathroom, shutting the door behind you.
More Courageous Contrasts
Forget everything you think you know about attraction. Forget about your type, about what you are looking for, or what you think you want or don't want. The rules are changing. These days the definition of a "type" are expanding and growing as our world becomes smaller and more global. It's time to forget what you think you know about types of people and character based on looks, status, socioeconomics, religion, color, class, education, and background. These days that's all changed. We no longer wear ourselves on our sleeves. Character is as deeply imbedded in our psyche as our culture, our origins, and our backgrounds. There are as many different types of black people as there are shades among us. It's taken White America decades to figure this out, and many are still unconvinced. Now blacks are coming to the same realization about each other.
Our clothes don't make us who we are; neither do our jobs, our family history, our friends, our salary, our neighborhood, our color, or our class. The only thing that makes us who we are is who we are. And you'll never get that from someone in an instant or even a day. It takes a while to get to know the person behind the facade, the man behind the image, or the woman behind the trappings. There really is no such thing as a type. We are as complex as the world we are raised in among the many different types of people who made us who we are. So to think you have a type and are attracted only to that type is not only shortsighted, it's also self-defeating.
Every day there is a new type of black man or woman maturing and coming into their own, who is completely different from what you think you know and like. And although this new guy looks just like the old guy, get ready, he is absolutely nothing like him and you should be glad. Our world is bigger than where we live, the town, city, country, or the part of the world we live in. If we learn to be accepting and to not discriminate, to choose rather than to merely accept what we are used to, then all the different types of black people around us can be remarkable and fascinating. At best eye-opening, astounding, life changing, at least simply extraordinary. We will then no longer be bound by old rules that don't work, but we will not have lost the flavor of our taste. It's time to move forward, away from the tried and not always true, from childhood familiarities toward more courageous contrasts.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Brown Sugar 3 explores what happens when opposites attract, because being involved with our opposite allows us to see ourselves more clearly than when we are with someone with whom we share many similarities. It also allows us to see different aspects of ourselves and our world through their eyes.
The relationships I've found alternately most satisfying and most frustrating are the ones where we've been complete opposites: socioeconomically, philosophically, physically, mentally, in our background or our families. That's when I really had to make the effort to understand that person, and for them to understand me. Subsequently I was able to experience things I might not have: other types of music, literature, cultures, backgrounds, points of view.
As I become more involved with men who are very different from me, I find that it is our differences that make our interactions stimulating and interesting. That variety is truly the spice of life. To a southerner, my northern sensibilities were as fascinating to them as their southern traits were to me. How an American finds my West Indian characteristics alternately intriguing and confounding. Or how an African's mannerisms illuminate parts of my own African background though we come from completely different cultures. Who we are goes farther back than our color, shade, nationality, background, beliefs, income, friends, or our circumstances. Just because someone is different from you or from anyone else you know doesn't mean that you don't have many things in common.
The stories in Brown Sugar 3 celebrate many different strokes, for many different folks. Here you'll find stories of opposites attracting with passionate results. Black, white, Asian, Latin American, African, and African American. The lawyer is drawn to the gangster, the old to the young, the mother to the convict, the rich to the poor, the ethereal to the corporeal, the gay to the straight, the professor to the student, the saint to the sinner, and the intellectual to the street smart. These stories are told by best-selling authors and award-winning literary writers and performance poets whom you already know and love, writing outside of their genre but in their own particular style about characters you'll recognize in places you'll know: Patricia Elam, Denene Millner and Nick Chiles, Trisha R. Thomas, Michael Datcher, Lolita Files, Karen E. Quinones Miller, Lori Bryant-Woolridge, Wanda Coleman, E. Ethelbert Miller, Leone Ross, Tracy Price-Thompson, Michael A. Gonzales, Lisa Teasley, Preston L. Allen, Sharrif Simmons, John Keene, Raquel Cepeda, and Miles Marshall Lewis. What their stories give you are different glimpses into the many different worlds that make up Black America, and each truly represents what makes us tick sexually and emotionally.
The Choices Are Endless
These days I know there's no one type of person who is right for me. I may have preferences, likes and dislikes, that certain something that just drops my drawers. For me it was arty intellectuals; we all have our cross to bear. But I now embrace the many different types of men out there, the gorgeous go-getters, the bookish academics, the B-Boys, the sporty guys, the shy introverts, and the outspoken activists. The movers and the shakers and the solitary writers, changing the world one page at a time.
I'm finding that these men can teach me about their world and show me different parts of my world through their eyes. They allow me to appreciate how different we all are from each other and help me to learn about myself through those differences. The choices are endless for exploration of yourself and your world and the people in it. In Brown Sugar 3 you will find characters pulled in many different directions toward people they never dreamt they'd be attracted to, with passionate and surprising results. Their stories celebrate brothers and sisters in every size, color, shade, tone, and hue, and they take place all over America and the world. In the gritty city streets and the rural towns of Middle America; in the academic enclaves of the Midwest and the L.A. party scene; in the hip New York spots and the downtown Brooklyn hangouts; on the East Coast and the West, the North to the dirty South, uptown and downtown.
It's Time to Come Correct
Writing about sex has always been an honorable tradition. Many of our best authors have explored the depths of passion and pathos in their writing: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, Ntozake Shange, John A. Williams, Audre Lord, Chester Himes, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Frank Lamont Phillips, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Opal Palmer Adisa, E. Ethelbert Miller, among them.
The stories you are about to read set the stage for seduction with a distinctly new flavor and they are as insightful as they are sexy. Let Wanda Coleman's poetic prose transport you behind prison walls into a strange and tender relationship in "Harold and Popcorn." Preston L. Allen is back with his gritty and sexy "Who I Choose to Love." If you liked his stories in Brown Sugar and Brown Sugar 2, then you're going to love Nadine and Johnny's continuing drama. This time, though, you'll start at the very beginning. Then let husband-and-wife writing team Denene Millner and Nick Chiles take you underground in "Play It Again." Their story of seduction is played out in alternating male and female perspectives when an upwardly mobile sister finds herself under the spell of a subway musician whose musical prowess transports her to a place outside of social class. Then follow performance poet Sharrif Simmons's sexy urban romance as his characters, one a lawyer the other lawless, get caught up in "Love and the Game." If you're looking for a Hollywood ending, you won't find it there. In Lori Bryant-Woolridge's otherworldly "Close Encounters," a single mom takes a break from her day-to-day and winds up in a place where nothing is what it seems. In Leone Ross's ethereal "The Contract," we feel the pull between a young man yearning to lose his "virginity" and the "older" woman who grants him his wish; but get ready, this story has a twist. In Trisha R. Thomas's sad and deeply affecting "So Much to Learn," a woman reflects back to her first love, her college professor twenty years her senior, and how it changed her life. Michael Datcher's "Happiest Butterfly in the World" will surprise you. It is a wild ride that ends with a bang as a petite and outwardly proper librarian is drawn to a huge, streetwise young buck barely out of high school. In Lisa Teasley's sexy and sorrowful "Center for Affections," her heroine, a former model du jour put out to pasture once her "African" look passes out of favor, must reassess herself and her sexuality, slowly finding the lost pieces of herself along the way. Miles Marshall Lewis's "Diva Moves" is a quietly sexy morality tale that cautions us to be ourselves, because there is someone out there who will love us exactly the way we are if we'd let them. Raquel Cepeda's spiritual fairy tale "God Bodies and Nag Champa" teaches us that we can have a second chance at first love. Patricia Elam's unflinching "Scenes from a Marriage" will make you think twice about the bonds of marriage, sacrifice, and fidelity when a new husband, who's given up his bisexual life to start a family, starts to regret his decision. You're gonna laugh when you read Karen E. Quinones Miller's funny and insightful "Auld Lang Syne," which perfectly illustrates how karma is a boomerang. If you like to watch, then go straight to John Keene's hot and surprising story "Sums," as two wildly different men find themselves pulled into the same fantasy. Then make sure you're sitting when you read Lolita Files's shockingly raunchy "Standing Room Only," where an ordinary night in L.A. takes on a whole new meaning when a sister gets more than she bargained for but exactly what she needed. All you big, bold, and beautiful honeys are finally gonna exhale after reading Michael A. Gonzales's "Crazy Love," wherein a rail-thin brother "finds solace in the exhilarating arms of full-figured strangers." "The African in the American" is Tracy Price-Thompson's perceptive and illuminating story about a young warrior fresh from the shores of Africa who almost gives up trying to find the African in the Americans he comes across, until he finds a woman who embodies the finest qualities of both. Last but certainly not least, journey with poet and writer E. Ethelbert Miller in his introspective and deeply affecting story "Korea," where a man is pulled to a Korean woman and back to a place he though he'd left forever.
You won't close this book unaffected. These stories go beyond erotica, beyond sex, to a place you will find more familiar than not, no matter how far from your own experiences they may be. These are the things that make us who we are in Black America. These are the real souls of black folks and they will take you there in many more ways than one.
So come with me now, 'cause it's time again to come correct.
Introduction copyright © 2004 by Carol Taylor
Meet the Author
Carol Taylor, a former Random House book editor, is now a freelance editor, writer, and editorial consultant. She is the editor of the bestselling Brown Sugar series, the first of which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and Gold Pen Award winner. Taylor is the “Off the Hook” relationship columnist for Flirt.com. She lives in New York City.
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