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DOWN ON MY KNEES
By VICTOR MCGLOTHIN
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Chapter One Flextime with Tyson
Grace Hilliard sauntered into the lobby of the Hotel Carlyle just as she had done once a month for the past year. Her canary yellow skirt swayed in step with her confident strut. An impish grin danced on her full lips when the doorman stopped dead in his tracks to inventory the most attractive curves he'd seen all day. Upon stepping inside the elevator, Grace turned around slowly, wearing a self-assured smirk befitting a woman who was quite accustomed to drawing attention. She wasn't in the least bit surprised when she noticed that the doorman hadn't moved an inch from the very spot where his curiosity had rendered him defenseless. He had seen Grace on several occasions, gliding past with a patented, carefree ease that accompanied her like a silken shadow. Regardless of how often he'd viewed that perfectly framed picture, the way she moved captivated him every time.
Although Grace was attractive in her own right, including being blessed with radiant skin, the deepest shade of chocolate conceivable, she would have been categorized as overqualified in the assets department compared to America's flawed idea of beauty. Fortunately, she wasn't the kind of woman who wasted her time trying to live up to fashion-industry standards. She was way too busy working her shapely size twelve like a part-time job to give it much thought at all. Grace wore self-confidence as if it were a badge of honor. In fact, she was honored to be a proud black woman, although she'd discovered wearing that particular designer label was at times as much a blessing as it was a curse after having to deal with male business associates, who rarely knew how to manage a working relationship to benefit both parties involved. She had discovered for herself some time ago that manipulating circumstances as a means to an end offered better results when it wasn't personal, but rather for the sake of business. Because of her strong work ethic, Grace didn't allow anyone to confuse one with the other under any circumstances.
Likewise, Grace wasn't the type to become disillusioned immediately following casual, albeit mind-blowing, sexual acrobatics. After experiencing her share of disappointment, she understood the high cost associated with permitting her emotions to climb into the same bed she shared with a man that wasn't hers. "Check your emotions at the door, girl," Grace whispered softly, to remind herself, whenever tempted by the silly notion that casual sex, no matter how physically rewarding, ever resulted in anything other than what it actually was, fun and games.
That's exactly what Grace had in mind with Tyson Sharp, the epitome of fun and games, sensual bliss, and good times, when suddenly, her purse began to vibrate. She slid her hand inside the brown leather tote bag dangling from her manicured fingertips. While fishing around inside it, her heart rate quickened. "Oops, that is not a cell phone," she chuckled quietly, after discovering that it was another battery-operated device vying for her attention instead. She flipped the "off" switch and then wrestled it back to the bottom of the bag. "Got to be more careful. Ain't that right, Big Mike?" she said jokingly. No sooner had she stepped off the elevator onto the ninth floor, than her bag started up again with another chorus of "Good Vibrations." This time, it was the flip phone summoning her.
"Hey you," Grace cooed seductively into the tiny handheld. "I'm running a bit late, so I knew you'd be calling. How did I know? Because you always get impatient when you want some. Yes, I do like that about you. Huh? What else? Oh, don't trip; isn't being my sex slave good enough?" Grace strolled down the long corridor leading to room 921, their favorite pleasure nest, where Tyson was undoubtedly undressed, cocked and ready for her arrival.
"Hey, I'm here. Yeah, right outside," Grace confirmed, anxious and aroused. "What, you want me to knock? All right then, get your naked self out of that bed and open up."
When the door swung slowly from the inside, Grace tilted her head to catch a glimpse of what wasn't concealed behind it. "Ooh, is all that for me?" she asked, knowing that it was.
Tyson's smile widened. "Every inch. Just tell me how you want it," he answered cunningly, with the same dose of spirited verbal foreplay that Grace had initiated. As he hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign outside and locked the door, she leaned against the mahogany armoire to watch him. Tyson's muscles seemed to gather together in all the right places when her eyes traveled his entire body. She studied his dark skin, deep set dark brown eyes, sculptured arms and thighs, washboard abs beneath a developed chest, broad shoulders, and the tightest butt she'd ever seen. And as usual, Grace blushed seductively with her gaze trained on the talent.
Imagining what the opening act would be when the talent show began, Grace became giddy with anticipation, knowing that sooner or later Tyson Sharp always got around to doing what she liked best of all. Today, however, Grace was hardly in the mood for appetizers. She slipped out of the skirt and let it hit the floor, noting how Tyson's eyes narrowed when they landed on her thighs. "What you looking at?" she teased as he took two measured steps toward her.
"Everything I see," he told her convincingly.
"Tyson," Grace whispered urgently, her white silk blouse falling onto the cloth-covered chair near the thick drapery. She fell back on the bed, pulling Tyson down with her. "Mmm, what are you going to do to me?"
"That thing you like," he answered softly, tracing her body with his soft lips and fingertips. "That thing that keeps you running back to me."
Grace caressed his bald head gently until the irresistible urge to guide it between her legs refused to be denied. "Ooh, yeah, that's it," she moaned passionately. "That's it. That's what I want."
Of course, Tyson knew exactly what Grace wanted, as well as how she wanted it. He'd made time in his busy schedule to get away from a thriving financial services business to do just that, before she returned the favor with unrivaled proficiency. While Tyson was a brilliant money manager, drop-dead gorgeous, and generous to a fault, at age thirty-five, he had yet to grow into the kind of man who possessed the maturity required to look past his own accomplishments in order to applaud someone else's. He wore shallowness like the impeccable designer suit tailored to perfection that hung in the hotel-room closet. Other than that, Tyson Sharp was a single woman's dream, and a married woman's fantasy.
Hours after receiving more of what she wanted, Grace was staring at her own reflection in the large rectangular bathroom mirror, once she'd wiped the steam away with a bath towel. She opened the miniature makeup kit she'd brought along, then paused to get a glimpse at what a single and satisfied woman looked like after an afternoon rendezvous with one of Dallas's finest bachelors. Grace ran her fingers along the ridges on her supple breasts, admiring how they were still holding their shape and fullness after thirty-six years. Then she giggled quietly when she noticed her hair sticking up in a hideous telltale just-got-laid fashion. She quickly made herself presentable, collected her clothing, and exited the lavish den of sin, with Tyson sleeping off the after-effects of Grace's naughty nimbleness. The thought of snuggling up next to him zigzagged through her mind, but she chased it away before it caused her to do something stupid, something emotional, something she would have regretted. Grace had to remember that flextime with Tyson was simply an exercise in futility, nothing more. Besides, she was already up against Friday evening traffic. She was forced to hurry to make it home in time for dinner with the one true love of her life, her thirteen-year-old son, André.
It was half past five when Grace zoomed out of the hotel parking garage. During the thirty-five-minute drive home, she grew increasingly uneasy. Having feelings of culpability and exhilaration, an edgy twinge gnawed in the pit of her stomach. As she pulled into the driveway of her two-story buff-colored brick home in a well-to-do subdivision, it occurred to her that she had forgotten to pack a spare pair of panties. In such a hurry to make her scheduled appointment, it didn't cross her mind until then.
Grace parked her Volvo SUV in the garage and entered through the laundry room, with intentions of slinking past André undetected. She tiptoed around the cherrywood dinner table and eased into the mouth of the hallway leading to the master bedroom. When it appeared the coast was clear, Grace quickly realized that the jig was up.
"Hey, Ma," André said loudly, with his hands fastened to the controls of a PlayStation video game, his elbows resting on his bony knees.
Grace smiled awkwardly as she entered into the den. Deliberately, she moved directly behind the evenly brown-hued teenager when she answered his standard salutation. "Hey, yourself," she replied pleasantly to the gangly boy evolving into a young man before her eyes. "And what did I tell you about that 'Hey, Ma' stuff?"
André continued wrestling with the video-game controls until he realized what she'd said. After placing the joystick on the coffee table, he climbed off the walnut-colored sofa. Grace panicked when he approached her from the opposite side of the broad sectional. "Where are you going?" she stammered, fearing the inevitable.
"To say hello proper, like my mother taught me."
Grace wanted to back away as he reached out for her, but she couldn't think of an acceptable excuse for doing so. "You didn't have to get up," she said, in an exasperated tone. "All I expected was a sensible acknowledgment."
"I know. That's what I got up to do," André told her, with a warm embrace. "How's that?"
"Uhh, very refreshing actually," she answered, then immediately changed the subject before her peculiar behavior was called into question. "So would you like to go out later, or should I whip up something for dinner?" Suddenly, André leaned away from his mother, wrinkled his nose, then sniffed the air.
Oh my Lord, Grace thought to herself, hoping to high heaven that her child didn't recognize the remnants of grown folks' business or have a clue what she'd been up to on the other side of town.
"Mom, you smell kinda funny," he said as he continued sniffing around her. "Kinda like those stinky little soap bars from that hotel on the San Antonio Riverwalk that gave me a rash."
Frozen in her humiliation, Grace played it off as best she could. "Don't be silly, Dré. I haven't been anywhere near San Antonio." She was thoroughly relieved that he hadn't learned enough about life to ask whether she'd been anywhere near a hotel. Immediately following a narrow escape, Grace snatched up the telephone and hit "2" on the speed dial to order a pizza. Then she slid into the shower again to rinse away the incriminating evidence. While languishing in her solitude, a single tear streaked down her cheek. It occurred to her that André was no longer the boy she'd said good-bye to that morning before heading off to work. His senses were sharpening, and there wouldn't be many years left to offer motherly advice or see to it that his homework was completed to her strict specifications. She wasn't prepared for André's ascension into manhood or having to increase her level of cleverness to get around his impending understanding regarding her indiscretions with men. Grace remained in the shower for quite some time to conceal her sadness and troubled soul with undeniable traces of gratuitous sex hiding just beneath it.
Chapter Two Beautiful Words
Saturday morning at eleven sharp, Grace scurried around inside the ladies' powder room just off the main chapel of church as she mixed in Golden Glimmer eye shadow with a delicate brushstroke of Mocha Madness foundation to even out the hue. Chandelle was a blushing bride-to-be, but her skin tone was much too rich to apply the makeup directly from the small container, as intended by the manufacturer.
"I don't know what that cosmetics company was thinking when they marketed this precious-metal line to sistahs without adding a touch of bronze," Grace grumbled while dabbling her own mixture of ingenuity and good old-fashioned know-how underneath Chandelle's eyebrows. "Someone ought to crash their next sales meeting with some of this here to set them straight."
"I know you're going to make me so beautiful, Grace," Chandelle whispered, holding her eyes closed. "I saw the photos from Maryland's wedding, when she was shoving them in everybody's face at the job. The way you put her face together like a movie star sent me running to your office. I wasn't too proud to beg, either."
Grace tilted her head to the side as she thought back to the memorable scene that had happened two years earlier. "Yeah, I do recall a skinny little college grad fresh off the bus traipsing into my office and interrupting my conference call." She laughed when the memory came back crystal clear, as if it had happened yesterday. "Miss Hilliard, Miss Hilliard!" Grace mocked, while trying to imitate Chandelle's excited voice. "I know you don't know me, but I just peeped Maryland's wedding album, and her makeup was so tight that no one even noticed her ugly dress." Other women in the busy room snickered.
Chandelle chuckled lightly herself as she reminisced. "How was I to know you were a corporate big shot? All I knew was that you had a rep for being nice to everyone, and that you'd worked magic on Maryland. You probably won't admit it, but that chick needed it more than most. That's when I figured there was hope for me. After you said yes, all I needed then was a man."
"Be nice, now," Grace warned. "Maryland has already taken the plunge, and now has an adorable set of twins and a backyard. You still need the minister to ink your deal, so lighten up. Not everyone is a natural beauty like you, Chandelle, with a line of men beating her door down for the honor of sharing their last name."
Chandelle blushed, casting her eyes away. Grace had helped her to realize how insensitive she had been to Maryland and other women who couldn't pass for a Fashion Fair model with a shake dancer's behind. Suddenly Chandelle reached across the small vanity to hug Grace. "You're right, but then, you always are," she said. "I had no business putting anybody down that way. I should be happy that Maryland's happy. There are way too many black women who never get the chance to wear these white satin shoes or sit here and have friends and family fussing over their special day. My bad."
"Uh-huh, now close your eyes again so I can finish what I showed up early for," Grace advised, "to help you look your very best on your special day. Besides, I'm sure there's a young man waiting to get all this fluff out of the way so he can get on with the honeymoon."
"Who you telling?" Chandelle huffed. "We've put all that on hold a few months ago, so I'm praying that I don't pop when the preacher says, now he can kiss the bride." She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and then stared at herself in the mirror. "Ohhh, Grace. It's, I'm so ..."
"Get a hold of yourself, girl," Grace demanded. "If you cry on me and have my masterpiece running down your face before all those people get to be blown away, you'll be assigned to the copying machine for a month."
"I won't cry," Chandelle whimpered. "I won't. I'm just so nervous and so glad that I have a friend like you."
"Good, then straighten up and get ready for the biggest event of your life next to pushing your way into this world." Grace brushed a few renegade strands of hair away from the younger woman's face. "Now, that's more like it. There's nothing to be nervous about. Just think of all the joys to come after the ceremony, and you'll be fine. I've seen enough wedding ceremonies, up close too, so I know what I'm talking about. Been a bridesmaid nearly twenty times." Without giving it much thought, Grace smiled brilliantly as she gave her work a final once-over. "Chandelle, all these people came to see your blessing, live and in Technicolor, so enjoy it."
"Thanks so much, for everything," Chandelle replied, before her curious gaze and statement spun Grace's world in a whole other direction. "All those times, Grace, leading someone else down the aisle, you've never once thought about jumping the broom yourself?" If Grace had seen it coming, she might've ducked. "Well I'm sure that you'll settle down when you get tired of running men, on your terms," Chandelle concluded. "Not many women get the chance to walk in Grace Hilliard's shoes, either."
Excerpted from DOWN ON MY KNEES by VICTOR MCGLOTHIN Copyright © 2006 by Victor McGlothin. Excerpted by permission.
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