Read an Excerpt
By Shelia M. Goss
URBAN SOULCopyright © 2007 Shelia M. Goss
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Bachelor
"Paige Christine Webb, will you marry me?"
I was speechless as I eyed the pear-shaped, gold diamond ring sparkling in the black box. Marvin Jenkins was a good catch in most women's eyes, but I didn't know if I wanted to marry him. Just because he gave me good back massages and had a cute baby face didn't mean I wanted a lifetime commitment.
"Marvin ... this is unexpected ... I care about you ... but ... I'm honored ..." I stuttered.
He misunderstood me, and before I could protest, he removed the ring from the box and placed it on my finger. "You've made me the happiest man on earth," he stated.
"I know it's a lot to digest,-" he said.
All I could see was Marvin's mouth moving and, I wondered how in the world I'd gotten myself into this predicament. I couldn't wait to call Dana, my best friend for the past ten years. If Marvin had let me finish my statement, I would have said I needed time to think. Although in my mind, my answer was clearly "no."
I allowed him to tell anyone in the restaurant who would listen that we were engaged. He was so excited I couldn't bear to tell him my true feelings at this point. I allowed him his moments of glory as hewalked me to my car.
"What am I supposed to do? I can't marry him," I repeated over and over as I drove home. I must have had a premonition because I normally don't take Thursday afternoons off.
I didn't chance calling Dana or one of my sisters from my cell phone. Talking on a cell phone and driving under distress would have caused an accident; especially in Dallas traffic.
Marvin called me about five minutes after I made it home. I looked around to see if he had a hidden camera somewhere. I didn't recall telling him I was taking the rest of the day off from work.
"I wanted to make sure my baby got home safely," he said.
"Uh ... I'm fine. I'm tired, so I'm getting ready for bed," I lied.
"Call me when you get up. Love you," he said before hanging up.
I held the phone a second or two longer. I clicked the receiver's button and dialed my older sister's number.
"Marie, I hope I didn't catch you at a bad time," I said as I paced the floor.
Marie blurted, "I heard about Macy's latest fiasco. I'm glad she went to you instead of me, because this well over here is dry, I tell you. It's dry."
I listened to Marie complain about our baby sister Macy for a few more minutes. Macy was always getting herself into situations and calling one of us to bail her out. Tired of listening to Marie's rants, I interrupted her. "Are you sitting down?"
"No. Should I be?" Marie asked.
"Marvin asked me to marry him and he thinks I said yes." I felt relieved. I sat on the edge of the bed waiting on Marie's response.
Silence. I looked at the phone to make sure I still had a signal. "Marie?" I yelled.
She laughed. "You can stop with the jokes."
"I'm not joking."
"What about Mr. Rivera Cleaners ... I mean Alvin ... and what's your attorney friend's name? The one who's always on TV."
"Tyler," I stated.
Marie responded, "Yes, that's the one. And I'm sure you got a few others you haven't told me about."
"They're not the problem. Marvin is," I stated. I explained how Marvin could have misunderstood my intent in answering his proposal. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned the entire thing. Who actually proposes to someone at lunch?
"Tell Marvin you've thought about it and you can't marry him." Marie sounded nonchalant.
"I can't do that. It would break his heart."
"It'll break his heart even more if you stand him up at the altar. Don't be an Antonio."
I was furious. How could she even bring up his name? Antonio was my ex-fiance who conveniently didn't show up for what was supposed to be our wedding. He stood me up in front of our family, friends, and colleagues. I had never been so embarrassed in my life.
"Obviously calling you was a mistake." I tried not to sound angry but was unsuccessful.
"Look, Paige. You can get mad all you want to, but the facts are you don't want to marry Marvin and you need to tell him," Marie said in a stern voice. I hated when she wanted to act more like my mama than my friend.
"Whatever," I snapped and hung up the phone.
Marie was absolutely correct, but I was too emotional to admit it.
Chapter TwoM Equals Annoying
Note to Self: Check caller ID before answering the phone.
After all the excitement with Marvin, I forgot about my dinner date with Tyler until he called to cancel. Under normal circumstances, I would have had an attitude. Instead, I let him slide, because I needed time to think.
"I promise to make up for it on Tuesday," Tyler said in his deep baritone voice. I know why he won a lot of his cases. The female jurors couldn't resist his sexy voice, and if the truth be told, neither could the female judges.
"I'm tired anyway, so it's no big deal," I reassured him.
"I'll see you Tuesday at seven. I'll send a car to pick you up."
We chatted for a few more minutes before we were interrupted by a beep indicating he had an incoming call. I attempted to relax, but it didn't come easy. The long bubble bath I took relaxed my muscles, but the tension in my head didn't go away. Escaping reality for a few hours would do me some good. I fumbled through my bookbag and pulled out several books. I decided to try a light, humorous read by a new author.
I don't recall falling asleep. I woke up a few hours later with slobber running down the side of my mouth and the book halfway out of the bed. As I got under the covers, my thoughts focused on Marcus and his proposal. Needless to say, I was in for a long night.
The next morning, the sound of the phone woke me. "Hello," I answered in a dry tone.
"Babe, it's me," Marvin's voice rang from the other end.
My droopy eyes glanced at the clock. In big red lights, the screen read seven-thirty. I jumped out of bed. "Oh no, I overslept," I blurted. I continued to say, "I'll call you when I get in the car." I don't know what Marvin's response was because I hung up.
I hate rushing, but I had several meetings later, and being late was not an option. I showered and grabbed the first suit I could find. It happened to be a navy-blue, pinstriped skirt suit. I thumbed through my closet and found a white silk shirt to go under it and grabbed a pair of matching pumps. I dress to impress, and today would be no different.
"Good morning," Jan, my personal assistant, said as I entered the office.
"Good morning, Ms. Washington," I replied.
Everyone appeared to be in a cheerful mood as I walked through the hallway headed to my office. Webb Enterprises was my pride and joy. I've been doing event planning for ten years, and when my last company decided to downsize, I'd gone into business for myself.
I was only in the office a short period of time. I found our new company promotional kits with the company name and slogan ("Webb Enterprises-for all your planning needs") written across the center, placed them in my briefcase, and headed to my destination.
Traffic on Central Expressway was bumper to bumper. It was after ten, and there was no way it should have been gridlocked. I for one couldn't wait for them to finish the construction.
While I was enjoying Beyoncé's latest song, my cell phone rang. "Hey, babe. I thought you were going to call me."
Marvin was getting to be a nuisance. I liked it better when he was just a dude I was hanging out with. "Move, dammit," I yelled.
"Paige, calm down," he said.
I responded, "Oh, sorry. I almost ran into the median trying to keep from hitting this jerk that cut me off."
"You need me to meet you for one of my neck massages?" he asked.
Marvin was the last person I wanted to see. Imitating his voice, I replied, "No, babe."
"I'm rubbing off on you. You're using my words." He sounded amused.
"Uh, how sweet," I mumbled.
"I didn't hear you," Marvin responded.
"I said, 'You're so sweet,'" I lied.
"Seriously, I can sneak off and meet you at your office." The excitement in his voice irritated me to no end.
In between dodging cars, I was finally near the Greenville exit. "That won't be necessary. I'm only minutes away from a client's location," I said.
"Call me later. I love you," Marvin said before ending our call.
I released a scream. I must have been loud, because while sitting at the light, the woman in the car next to mine gave me a weird look.
The next few hours flew by. By the time I got back to the office, I had gained two new customers. Word had gotten out about me being handpicked by the mayor to do a major event for the city of Dallas. Business couldn't be better.
I rushed back to the office for our staff meeting. A hush came over the conference room when I entered. I eyed the beautiful bouquet of red roses. Seated around the table were staff members Jan, Carla Chantily, my computer expert-slash-marketing-guru, Matthew Alexandria, who we affectionately called Matt, and mini-me: Samantha Lair was twenty-one and reminded me so much of myself when I was her age. Both Samantha and Matt were college interns who worked around their class schedules.
"Either I walked into the wrong room, or this is the Twilight Zone," I commented as I sat some folders down.
"We were waiting on you," Jan stated. She held up the flowers and handed them to me.
"You could have put them on my desk," I said. I was curious to see who they were from, but instead of looking at the card, I placed them on another table.
"Aren't you going to read the card?" Jan asked.
"Yes, but now is not the time."
All eyes were on me.
"You all are not going to let this go, are you?" I asked.
In unison, they responded, "No."
I walked to the table and removed the card from the vase. I silently read the inscription.
Sorry about last night. I promise to make it up to you tomorrow. Until then, I hope you enjoy the roses. Tyler.
I placed the card back in the holder and turned around to four sets of eyes. "I read it. Satisfied?"
Jan was the first to speak. "I would be if you told us who they were from."
We all laughed. I took a seat and pulled out my Palm Pilot. They knew it was time to get back to business.
"As you know, we have been tasked to work on the mayor's event. It's going to be a lot of work and will mean more hours over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, the dates are coming up fast, so I'm going to need everybody's input to make it a success. Any questions?" I asked.
I answered a few questions and adjourned the meeting. The aroma of the roses filled the air as I walked to my office. I couldn't help but lean down and sniff them before placing them on the corner of my desk. I e-mailed Tyler to thank him for the roses. He must have already been online, because a minute or so later, he responded.
Jan knocked at my open door, didn't wait for me to respond, sat down in the chair in front of me, and asked, "When were you going to tell us?"
I frowned. "Excuse me?"
"Marvin called and said you two were engaged. I played along with him, but I had no idea."
My mouth opened to say something, but at first nothing came out. I cleared my throat. "Jan, there's nothing to tell. We're not getting married." My face turned beet red.
"I'll let you get back to whatever you were doing," she said as she stood and walked towards the door.
She turned around and said, "Yes?"
"Please keep this conversation between us," I said.
"I was excited for you. I didn't mean anything," Jan stammered. She closed the door when she walked out. She knew me well enough to know I needed a cooling-off period before facing anyone else.
Marvin had to be dealt with. There was no telling how many folks he'd told about a wedding that would never be. I needed to nip things in the bud with Marvin quick. But I needed to find a way to do it tactfully. I picked up the phone and dialed his number. He answered on the second ring. "We need to talk."
"Hey, babe. I've been missing you. Jan said you were out of the office."
"I do work," I snapped. "And another thing. I don't need you discussing my personal life with my employees."
"Why don't you call me when you're in a better mood?"
Marvin hung up. I held the phone. He was irritated now too, so why didn't I feel better? He must have had second thoughts, because he called me right back. I didn't answer, because no one hangs up on Paige C. Webb. I had a business to run and stressing over a man wasn't going to help. I pushed all thoughts of Marvin and everyone else out of the way.
By the time I left the office, I was exhausted and had to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic. I turned off my cell phone and popped in a Best of Sade CD. The next forty-five minutes went by peacefully.
Before I could get through the door of my townhouse, my phone was ringing. I rushed to answer.
"Can we talk?" Marvin asked from the other end.
Darn, I should have checked caller ID. "Give me a minute. I just walked through the door."
"I'll hold," he said.
He was getting on my nerves. If he got me too upset, I wouldn't have a problem telling him what to do with his proposal and his ring.
I hit the hold button on the phone and took my time getting situated. Five minutes later, I picked up the bedroom cordless phone and hit the on button. Marvin was still on the line.
Acting like nothing happened, I said, "I'm back."
"It's about time," he retorted.
"Well, you wanted to wait," I snapped. I pulled a jogging suit from my dresser drawer and began to get undressed as best as I could while holding the cordless phone.
"Is there something you want to tell me? Did you change your mind?" Marvin asked in a hushed voice.
That was my chance to get out of it. Why didn't my mouth open to say, "No, I really don't want to marry you"? Instead, I said, "I'm under enough stress, and maybe the timing isn't right."
Marvin responded, "There's no pressure on this end. We don't have to set a wedding date now."
That's not what I was getting at. I wanted to scream. Normally, I had no problem speaking my mind. But Marvin had me beating around more bushes than fire ants. "Thanks, Marv, for understanding," I said and quickly hung up the phone.
Chapter ThreeBachelor Number Two
Note to Self: Never eat again.
Marvin and I talked a few times the next day. I guess we were back to being on good terms. As far as Marvin was concerned, I was his happy fiancée and I didn't tell him anything different. Thoughts of Marvin soon faded as I tried to reach Tyler.
Tyler avoided all of my calls and had yet to respond to any of my e-mails. I was curious to find out what was so special about tonight that he had to send a car over for me. Normally, he would swing by and pick me up, or I would meet him out.
I was deep into my work when my cell phone alerted me I had a text message. A smile swept across my face when I saw it was from Tyler. He confirmed our seven o'clock dinner date at Tei Tei, my favorite Japanese restaurant, located on Greenville Road.
The rest of the day went by uneventfully. My staff made it a point to stay clear of my path. Jan must have informed them I wasn't in the best of moods. But I wasn't upset at her. I just don't like people all up in my business. Jan and Marvin had met when Marvin was hired to set up our computer system, in our pre-Carla days. It still gave him no right to divulge personal information. Marvin was wrecking my nerves. I made a mental note to apologize to Jan, but for the time being, I would let her nosy behind suffer.
Juggling three men was becoming more of a hassle than it was worth. Granted up until this point I didn't have any real commitments with any of them. We all got along great, and I cared about each man I dated, some more than others. Alvin, my third beau, had been missing in action for a few days. Being the owner of Rivera Cleaners kept him busy, and judging from our last conversation, he was looking to expand statewide and eventually nationwide. His parents came from Mexico, but he and his siblings were born at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. I admired the fact that his father came from humble beginnings but was now an astute businessman in the community.
Excerpted from Paige's Web by Shelia M. Goss Copyright © 2007 by Shelia M. Goss. Excerpted by permission.
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