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By Robyn Amos
KimaniCopyright © 2007 Robyn Amos
All right reserved.
Melody Rush tossed her waist-length ponytail over her shoulder as she squinted at the drawing board.
"That's not quite what I'm looking for, Bass," she told her friend, a hulking goth with bloodred streaks in his black hair. "Can you arch your back a little more?"
"If I arch it any more, I'm going to fall on my head. I'm defying gravity as it is," he moaned. Arms outstretched, head thrown back, Bass struggled to contort his spine as though reeling from a powerful blow.
Melody tried to sketch faster, realizing she was wearing out her modelwhich is why she didn't typically rely on them to develop her comic-book characters. "I'm sorry, dude, but this was your idea, remember?"
For years, Bass had been begging to be the inspiration for a character in one of her graphic novels. Finally, Delilah, her flashyAfrican-American heroinesupermodel by day, electricallycharged crime fighter by nighthad beaten up all the local villains and was in need of a fresh archenemy.
"I remember," he paused to groan. "But, I thought I'd at least get in a few good licks. So far, in all these poses Delilah is kicking my"
"Bass, I've already told you, the Ambassador's power is primarily cerebral. After this colossal butt-kicking he concocts a mind-control spell to take over the world."
"Yeah, whatever. Can't Ihit her just once?" Melody shot him a look, pointedly ignoring the question. "Okay, you can relax. I think I've got what I need." Her pencil flew over the sketch pad in rapid strokes that finally ended in a flourish.
The chains looped through his wide-leg jeans rattled as he straightened. "You ever notice that Delilah's enemies are always men?" he asked, cracking his neck. "If you're not careful, your fans will start to think you're a man-hater."
"Hah, I'm far from a man-hater," she said, waving him off.
"I don't know, you're much nicer now that we're not dating. But, I still think you're using Delilah to express your pent-up aggression toward men." Bass was forced to take a hasty step back as Melody surged to her feet.
"I do not have pent-up aggression." Sticking one hand on her hip, she waved the index finger of her other hand in the air. "First, I've always been niceyou just didn't know how to stand up to me. Second, Delilah is not an extension of me. In fact, she's my polar opposite."
"Opposite?" Bass snorted. "Come on, she has the same brown skin tone as you, the same unbelievably long hair, and she's tall and curvy, just like you."
She answered the lascivious arching of his brow with a hard glare. "Physical similarities mean nothing. Delilah's a girly-girl. I'm a tomboy. She wears Prada suits and Jimmy Choo shoes. I wear cargo pants and army boots. I'm sick of people trying to draw a connection between Delilah and me. She's completely fabricated."
Except, maybe, for her hair. It was Melody's only true vanity. She'd given Delilah her trademark waist-length hair because she was so proud of it. Though she most often kept it in a braid or ponytail streaming down her back, she was meticulous when it came to grooming it.
"Fine, don't blame me just because you're bound by the dark chains of denial."
She rolled her eyes, sitting back down at her desk. "Don't be so melodramatic."
He took a step toward her. "Never mind. Can I see how I turned out?"
"Not yet," she said, covering the drawing. "I need to play with it a bit more."
"Fine, but, for all my effort, you've got to give me something." Bass, topping six feet with the build of a heavyweight wrestler, rubbed his hands together like an eager little boy. "How about giving the Ambassador X-ray vision? I'm dying to see what Delilah wears under that catsuit."
Melody started to quip that he wouldn't be able to handle it, but was interrupted by the telephone.
She crossed the room and glanced at the caller IDit was her sister.
As much as she loved her younger sibling, she wasn't in the mood to discuss fabric samples or cake flavors for Stephanie's upcoming wedding.
After the fourth ring, she answered the line. "What's up, Steph?"
"Get ready to buzz me in, I'm a block away from your apartment, and I've got a present for you."
Melody sighed, hanging up the phone. These days that could mean a lot of things, and none of them good.
"My sister's on her way up here, Bass. You may want to hit the road." Her sister and her best friend detested each other.
Bass rolled his eyes and grabbed his skateboard. "I'm outta here. Have fun drinking tea with the diva."
The doorbell rang and Mel buzzed her sister through the security doors in the lobby. Moments later, Stephanie breezed into the apartment, filling it with expensive perfume. Casual only by design, she wore denim capri pants with a short denim jacket as a top. She'd completed her outfit with high-heeled sandals and pearls.
Stephanie Rush had retired from runway modeling to plan her New York wedding full-time. If it weren't for the fact that they lived on opposite sides of the city, Melody would've had to tolerate these pop-ins once a day.
As it was, they came at least once a week every time Stephanie changed her wedding theme, colors or guest list.
"Hey, girl." Stephanie leaned in to kiss Melody on the cheek before sitting next to the large portfolio she'd propped against the couch. "I just passed Flounder in the lobby."
"Right, I knew it was a fish. How is it that a thirty-year-old man still rides a skateboard?"
"Don't knock it." Melody had learned to ignore her sister's none-too-subtle digs at her friends.
"Skateboards are fuel-efficient, environmentallyfriendly and good exercise."
"Whatever. Guess what? I have a surprise for you," Stephanie said in a singsong voice.
Mel braced herself. "Okay?"
Stephanie reached into her Louis Vuitton bag and handed Melody a white envelope. Mel took it and pulled out what looked like a gift certificate.
"This coupon entitles you to six ballroom-dancing lessons from the Moonlight Dance Studio."
Mel looked from her sister to the coupon then back to her sister. "What fresh hell is this?"
"Now hear me out, Mel. When you agreed to be maid of honor in my wedding you knew there would be certain expectations."
Melody stuck her hand on her hip. "Yes, wearing an ugly dress, throwing you a couple of parties and buying you a ridiculously-expensive gift. Those are the duties I've agreed to fulfill."
"A Keenan Okofi original is hardly ugly," Stephanie said with a huff.
Mel rolled her eyes, knowing better than to insult the designs of her sister's husband-to-be. He was swiftly becoming one of the hottest new names in fashion, or so Stephanie claimed.
"I'm sorry, but you know what I mean. I don't see where dance lessons fit into this whole deal."
"Mel, it's a formal candlelight wedding with a twelve-piece orchestra. There will be a lot of dancing, including the bridal party dance."
"I don't need lessons to rock and sway around the floor a few times with Keenan's sixteen-yearold brother."
"I'll have you know that Samir goes to boarding school in London where ballroom dance is a part of the daily curriculum." "Poor kid," she scoffed.
"Mel, there will be a lot of important people there. Don't you want to make a good impression?"
Melody felt an icy tingle of suspicion at those words. They were all too familiar. "Did Mother put you up to this?"
Stephanie winced, dropping her gaze to the floor.
There wasn't any use in denying it, Melody thought. Their mother had never given up trying to mold her eldest daughter into the perfect image of African-American high societyno matter how futile the effort.
Excerpted from Enchanting Melody by Robyn Amos Copyright © 2007 by Robyn Amos. Excerpted by permission.
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