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No Other LOVER Will Do
By CHERIS HODGES
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Cheris Hodges
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSolomon Crawford turned his back to the buxom blond model lying beside him. She was on the cover of Maxim this month and he thought it would've taken him longer to get her in bed. In reality, it had only taken him two hours and a bottle of expensive champagne to get "what's her name" to drop her panties and give him what every man in America wanted. But for all her beauty and silicone, she was a complete bore in bed. The woman lay there just like a sack of flour and Solomon had never been more disappointed. He probably would've had more fun watching paint dry or grass grow.
The red numbers on the alarm clock next to the bed read four-thirty. Hell, the room is paid for, he thought as he rose from the bed. Solomon didn't even try to be gentle or quiet as he reached for his discarded Armani slacks and Italian leather loafers.
"Where are you going?" she asked, her voice deepened by sleep.
"Home," he said.
"But, I thought we could ..."
"Listen, we're done. And honestly, there's nothing you can say or do to make me want to spend another minute with you," Solomon said as he buttoned his shirt. "The room is paid for, but checkout is at noon."
"You're going to leave me here alone?" she asked incredulously. "How can you do this to me? Do you know who I am?"
Solomon shrugged as he picked his jacket up from the armchair near the door. "Just another piece and not a very good one," he said, then walked out the door. Solomon heard a crash as he headed down the hall to the elevator. Maybe if she'd shown that kind of passion in bed he would've stayed until at least five. Solomon chuckled as he stepped onto the elevator and rode to the W Hotel's parking garage. She, like so many before her, would get over it and have a great story to tell about her night in Solomon land.
Solomon Crawford was the kind of man that women couldn't help but get naked for. He had money, power, and model good looks. To the many women he'd bedded, he was an untamable stallion they had to ride at least once. And one ride was all they'd ever gotten. Solomon didn't believe in fidelity, love, or all that other bullshit that sold greeting cards and roses. He wanted sex and it was given to him freely. The only thing he'd ever worked for was building his family's hotel empire. The Crawford chain of hotels and resorts stretched across the United States and Canada.
Three years ago, Solomon had been handed the reins to the business when Cynthia and Elliot Crawford retired from the hospitality business. His older brother, Richmond, was super pissed when he was passed over to run the business. Richmond was forty years old and thought he knew more about running a hotel business than "the little playboy."
But at age thirty-five, Solomon had been more than ready to take charge. Solomon knew the only way to shut Richmond up was to take the business to the next level and that he did with the help of his bright business partner Carmen De La Croix. Carmen talked him into investing in resorts and making the Crawford name synonymous with deluxe vacation resorts. Of course, Richmond thought this was a bad idea until they turned a million-dollar profit in the first quarter. And the money kept rolling in. Solomon knew he'd be lost without Carmen. She was the only woman he was able to talk to and trust. She didn't want anything from him and he liked that. Why couldn't the women he slept with be more like that? Solomon Crawford wasn't going to give anyone a diamond and a happily ever after-that wasn't the Crawford way.
Despite the hour, Solomon picked up his Black-Berry and dialed his business partner and best friend, Carmen De La Croix. She had to hear about his night.
Kandace Davis was tired of waking up in the cramped office of the restaurant she owned with her three best friends, Jade Christian-Goings, Serena Jacobs, and Alicia Michaels. Glancing at the clock on her computer, she saw that it was nearly six A.M. "Damn," she muttered. "I did it again."
Kandace knew she had to get out of the restaurant before Jade came in, because she wasn't in the mood for another lecture. She picked up her leather bag and was about to stand up ... too late.
"Kandace, you'd better not be in this office," Jade said as the door swung open.
"I just got here," Kandace lied.
"Umm-hmm, wearing yesterday's clothes?" Jade shook her head as she looked at her friend.
"I picked up these extra hours because you just had a baby. Why are you here?"
"Because James and Maurice are doing the 'daddy thing' today," she said referring to her husband, James and his brother. Kandace smiled remembering how Jade and James brought their son into the world just a few months after Maurice and his wife Kenya had welcomed their daughter into the family. Kandace was happy that despite the unconventional way Jade and James became husband and wife, hooking up in Las Vegas of all places, they seemed happy.
"So," Kandace asked, "since James and Maurice have the kids, what are you and Kenya going to do with yourselves?"
Jade clasped her hands together. "Kenya and I can actually do something other than lactate for a few hours. I've never worked the breakfast shift and ... wait, this isn't about me. You need a break." Jade perched on the edge of Kandace's desk. "You've been in Charlotte for six months and I know you love Atlanta. I've leaned on you so much, it's surprising that you haven't broken in half. This place is up and running, you've gotten us publicity all over the place. So, the girls and I decided ..."
"Now you guys are making decisions about my life?" Kandace asked with a terse laugh.
"Yeah, because you won't," Jade shot back. "We're voting you off the island for two weeks. Go on vacation. You've got to relax. Everybody around here has noticed how tense you are. If you're trying to prove to Devon Harris that you're a capable businesswoman who no longer wants his cheating butt, mission accomplished."
Kandace stifled a yawn. "Since you chicks are making decisions, are y'all paying?"
Jade folded her arms underneath her full breasts. "Now you're just being ridiculous," she said. "I don't care where you go, but I don't want to see you for two weeks!"
Kandace knew Jade meant well and she rose to her feet and gave her friend a kiss on the cheek. "All right," she said. "But you guys are going to miss me. I'm leaving my cell phone, laptop, and everything right here."
"Good," Jade said. "Maybe while you're on vacation you'll have a little fun and get your feet wet."
"Whatever. All of us don't find Mr. Right on vacation like you did," Kandace said as she gathered her things.
Jade smiled and glanced down at her wedding band. "Yes, I was lucky in vacation love. I just hope you get lucky."
"I think I'm going to go somewhere and be pampered for two weeks. Then you all can eat your hearts out while you're here slaving away. And I don't need to get lucky, thank you very much."
Jade waved to her friend, "Kick rocks, chick," she joked.
As Kandace headed to her car, she thought about what Jade had said. Over the last six months, she had poured herself into her work because she had nothing else. Her life was all work because at home, Kandace had a big empty bed waiting for her and she was tired of it. Kandace hadn't been with a man in a year. Her last relationship ended when she decided that she'd wanted something serious. Robert Harrington was happy with the sex, the nice things that Kandace did for him, but he wasn't willing to take their relationship to the next level. After watching Jade get married, Kandace wanted her own marriage but Robert wanted no part of it.
"What's wrong with the way we are?" he'd asked when she'd broached the subject of marriage before she moved to Charlotte.
"I want to know that we're moving toward a future," she'd said. "Is that too much to ask?"
"This is just like a woman. Your girl gets married and then you think it's your turn to walk down the aisle. I don't want to get married."
"All right," Kandace had calmly replied. "If you don't want to get married, then I don't want to have sex with you. I don't want to do your damned laundry and I don't want to waste any more of my time."
Robert had promptly walked out of her penthouse. Kandace had packed for Charlotte and never looked back. If she'd been honest with herself, she would've admitted that Robert wasn't the man she needed to marry. He was selfish, he tried to be controlling, and he lacked passion in bed and in life. Of course Robert hadn't wanted things to change. He liked being in a rut, but Kandace had grown tired of it.
She knew for a while that her relationship had been a dead end, had actually realized it over a year ago. But because she had been comfortable with him, she stuck around until she saw what a real and passionate relationship looked like. Jade and James had inspired her to seek something better and real in her relationships. Maybe pressing Robert about marriage had been her way of ending the relationship.
Yeah, she needed a vacation. But more than anything else, she needed some sleep. Kandace drove to her uptown townhouse and for once, she was happy her bed was empty.
Chapter TwoSolomon woke up on Carmen's sofa to the smell of bacon, cheese eggs, and grits. When he'd called her the night before and started telling her about the boring model, Carmen invited him over for breakfast.
"Have you ever stayed with a woman and watched the sun rise?" she'd asked when he walked in the door before dawn.
"Nope. It gives y'all romantic notions," he said before plopping down on her plush sofa and kicking his feet up on the coffee table. "What are you doing up?"
"About to go for a run," she'd replied. "Got to keep the blood flowing. The renovations in Sugar Mountain are complete today and the Weather Channel is calling for three to four feet of snow this weekend."
"Maybe I should go to North Carolina and check on the latest resort," he'd said as he yawned. "And you shouldn't go jogging in Central Park while it's still kind of dark out there."
Carmen, who'd been dressed in an NYU sweatshirt and a pair of skin-tight yoga pants that accented her ample curves, sauntered over to Solomon and tweaked his nose. "Be careful, you're going to make me think you care," she'd said.
Solomon was already asleep by the time Carmen had pulled her sweatshirt off.
"You sure know how to wake a brother up," Solomon said as he walked to the doorway of Carmen's kitchen. "What's cooking?"
"Since you're going to go to North Carolina, I pulled out some southern breakfast food," she said with a smile plastered on her comely face.
Solomon nodded at her. "That's what's up," he said. "I'm probably going to gain fifteen pounds down there. They say southern cooks are the best."
Carmen cocked her head to the side. "You know we have a state of the art workout facility at Carolina Serenity," she said. "The last thing you want to do is ruin that body."
Solomon flexed his sculpted muscles. "You're right. Can't bag models with flab."
Carmen laughed. "I'll fix your plate and you turn on the news. Maybe there's some good news about the stock market this morning."
"Carmen, you're the greatest," he said. "But I don't think any miracles happened overnight."
As Solomon headed back into the den, she beamed brightly.
Moments later, Carmen walked into the den with Solomon's plate and hers balanced on her arms. "Here you go."
Solomon took both plates and set them on the table, then he pointed at the television. NY1 was reporting on President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. "They broke the mold when that woman was created," he said before digging into his breakfast.
"I'm sure there are other women out there like her," Carmen said.
Solomon shook his head as he shoveled in a mouthful of grits. After swallowing, he said, "Nope. Most women don't have an identity of their own and don't know how to support a man. She could've easily told him, 'Hell no, I'm doing my thing and you run for president later.' Instead, she stood by him without losing herself in his dream."
"I would stand by my man, just like Michelle."
"I bet you would," he said. "You're going to make someone lucky one day." Solomon looked down at his watch. "Damn, I got to get into the office. Richmond wants an update on the resorts." And I got to get some real food, because, Carmen, you are no southern cook.
"Don't you want to finish your breakfast first?" she asked.
"Wish I could, but you know Richie Boy. He wants you when he wants you. Thanks for taking me in and for this," he said, pointing at the plate.
"Anytime. I have to keep my business partner happy," she said with a sweet smile.
When Solomon hit the street, he thought about calling a car. The winter air was biting, but he didn't mind walking. He wasn't exactly looking forward to sparring with Richmond this morning and Carmen lived only three blocks from the office. Leaving his car parked in the garage at Carmen's place would be one less headache for him to deal with when he reached headquarters. Richmond made a point of parking in Solomon's spot when he came to the office. It was his way of saying he should've been running the company. Solomon smiled sardonically as he turned down Fifth Avenue. It made sense that Solomon's headquarters would be located in the center of the city. He wasn't one to shy away from the spotlight, and everything he did, including business, was done for maximum attention.
Solomon entered the building, nodding to the security guard as he headed up to the top floor. Looking down at his watch, he realized that he wouldn't have much time to shower and change before his brother arrived.
When he got into his office, Solomon turned on the television and saw his bedmate from the previous night being led away from the W Hotel by police. Solomon turned the volume up.
"Model Kinsley Monroe may be one of Maxim's hottest women, but the staff at the trendy W Hotel saw what else is hot about the sexy model-her temper. Monroe was arrested early this morning after trashing a suite at the boutique hotel. Sources at the Times Square hotel say Monroe entered the hotel after the Maxim party with hotel mogul Solomon Crawford. Crawford was not at the scene when the trouble started. Crawford's company is about to open a luxury resort in North Carolina, despite the troubling economic times. The Crawford chain of hotels has remained profitable this quarter, but insiders in the industry wonder if Solomon Crawford is stretching his company too thin by venturing into resorts when people are opting to stay at home rather than spending money for luxury vacations."
Solomon snapped the TV off and plopped down in his desk chair. Getting linked to Miss-Model-Gone-Wild wasn't the way he needed to launch the opening of the resort in the Carolinas. As he rose from his seat to take a shower, his office door burst open.
"Thanks for knocking, Richmond," he said, without looking at his brother.
"This is how you kick off the resort opening, by getting caught up in yet another scandal?" Richmond raged.
"What scandal?" Solomon asked flippantly. "There are no pictures and I didn't destroy a room. Whatever Ms. Monroe did is her sin, not mine."
Richmond shook his head. "When are you going to settle down and stop with the conquests of women? This is why Mom and Dad should've trusted me to run this company."
"Why, because Vivvy has your balls in her purse? Say what you want about what I do after-hours, but you would never have been able to expand this business the way I have. The only bad publicity is no publicity," he snapped.
Richmond shook his head. "My marriage has nothing to do with this. If I were the one sitting in that chair, I would've known better than to undertake a resort expansion in this economy. And the mountains down south? How profitable do you think this is going to be?"
Solomon reached into his desk and pulled out the research he and Carmen had done prior to purchasing the resort. "If you would stop reading Page Six and read the reports I send you, you'd know all of this."
Richmond flipped through the thick folder, not reading the research. "So, this was Carmen's idea? What do you really know about this woman?"
"That she's a hell of a business partner who has vision-something you lack."
Excerpted from No Other LOVER Will Do by CHERIS HODGES Copyright © 2010 by Cheris Hodges. Excerpted by permission.
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