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"You've gotta be kidding me!" Vivian Desmond bellowed as she glared into her rearview mirror. The huge, imposing black SUV was practically on top of the sleek, burgundy sports car she drove. Blinding dust flew on either side of the car as she accelerated down the long, curving driveway. The faster she drove, the closer the massive vehicle came to her car's rear bumper.
Finally the impolite driver tired of tailgating and passed her. Pounding bass from the Expedition's impressive sound system drowned everything in the vicinity.
"Jackass!" she called, her lovely dark eyes narrowing as she watched the truck zoom up the road.
The SUV parked at an angle before the wide stone porch, which led to a set of double-glass encased brass doors. The driver remained inside, shielded from view by tinted windows.
Of course Vivian knew exactly who it was. She parked her car a few feet from the SUV. After snatching the black cat-eyed spectacles from her face, she jumped out of the car and stormed across the driveway.
"You stupid jerk! What the hell are you tryin' to do? Caesar? I know you hear me!"
No response rose from behind the tinted glass.
She kicked one of the shiny, silver rims. "Caesar Morrison, you idiot! Answer me, dammit!" she ordered, slamming her fist against the driver's side window. After a few minutes, the window rolled down and she took a step back.
Caesar Morrison's light brown gaze raked over Viv's body slowly. He started at her feet, loving the way the strappy black sandals flattered her polished toes. The knowing gaze traveled upward over the form-flattering gray jumpsuit she wore. He traced the outline of her full breasts straining against the outfit's snugbodice.
Viv rolled her eyes and propped her hands on her hips. She cleared her throat, hoping to gain eye contact with Caesar. Of course, he was more interested with the present view.
Propping his elbow on the armrest, Caesar placed his index finger against his temple and smiled. There was no other woman he loved to watch more than Vivian Desmond. Her black bob of thick, bouncy curls, the luscious, dark chocolate complexion and almond-shaped, coal-black eyes, always gave him cause to stare. She never failed to captivate him in humor or anger. Of course, the fact that she was perhaps the only woman he knew who hated him passionately only attracted him more.
"Were you intentionally tryin' to run me off the damn road?" Viv cried, her narrowed gaze practically spewing daggers.
Caesar pretended to be offended. "Now why would you think that, Plum?"
Viv rolled her eyes toward the sky and groaned at the sound of the dreaded nickname. Unfortunately, the handle had endured since childhood and she knew there was no way he'd ever stop using it. "Don't you sit there and play innocent with me. You need to watch this big hog if you're gonna fly around in it!"
"I'm very sorry, Plum. I guess I didn't see you," he whispered, a tiny smile tugging at the sexy curve of his mouth.
Vivian's smile was purely wicked. "You didn't see me?" she asked, folding her arms over her chest. "And what is it you do for a living?"
The cool expression on Caesar's handsome face disappeared. "Cool it, Viv," he warned, catching her little dig at his career.
"What's wrong?" Viv whispered, leaning against the driver's side of the massive black vehicle. Her wicked juices were flowing abundantly. Caesar hated it when she made fun of the football profession. "Don't get mad at me because you can't see right in front of your face."
"Of course, that would explain why you got cut from the team." She shrieked when he opened the door against her hip. When he stepped out of the truck, Viv pressed her lips together to keep from smiling.
Caesar's six-foot-eight-inch frame towered over Vivian's slender form. "For the hundredth time," he growled, "I was not cut from the team." His wide chest heaved. "My contract was up and I opted for a change. If you knew anything about the game, you'd know this expansion team has gotten a lot of positive press its first season. A lot of that has had to do with yours truly. We were in the playoffs and are expected to go even farther this year."
Vivian was quiet while Caesar made his speech. As he talked, she couldn't help but let her eyes trace his face; an incredibly gorgeous one at that. Caesar Morrison was known for his skill and savvy on the football field and loved for his entrancing looks. Everything about him was coolly sexual. Broad shoulders, a wide chest and back, and an impressive array of abs contributed to the almost chiseled appearance of his physique. His complexion was a flawless honey-tone, complimented by exquisite slanting light brown eyes and full wide mouth, complete with mustache and double dimples. However, his most unique trait was the headful of curly blondish-brown hair. He wore the healthy crop in a neat afro with sideburns trimmed evenly at his cheekbones. Vivian often wondered what it would feel like to run her fingers through the bright, silky curls. Uttering a silent curse, she ordered her dislike of him to shuffle to the back of her mind.
Caesar had finished the fierce defense of his profession and waited for Viv's apology. When she only yawned in response, he rolled his eyes and headed toward the porch.
Vivian followed. "I wonder why your grandmother wants to see both of us?" she asked as they approached the grand mansion in Forest Hills, New York.
Caesar studied the heavy key ring he carried for the key to his grandmother's front door. "Maybe she's itchin' to see a good fight," he mumbled.
"More lemonade, Carly?" Francine Morrison asked the lovely, dark-complexioned woman who occupied the lounge next to her.
Carlotta Desmond waved her hand and smiled. "No, thanks Frankie, I'm fine," she assured her friend, enjoying the shade of the huge pecan tree.
Francine poured herself another glass of the refreshing drink and took a long swallow. "That Gretchen outdoes herself every time," she said, referring to her housekeeper.
"Frankie?" Carlotta called, turning on the lounge to give her best friend a concerned look. "Do you think this is a good idea?"
Francine shook her thick, blondish-brown tresses across her shoulder and shrugged. "It better be a good idea, those kids will be here any minute."
"I just hope this doesn't blow up in our faces," Carlotta sighed, propping her cheek against her fist.
"Honey, we've been trying to get our grandkids together for years. This might be our last shot."
Carlotta pulled a black straw hat from her head and ran her fingers through the silky gray strands of her stylish short cut. "I agree." She set the hat aside. "I still can't help but wonder if it's a good idea to force them together like this."
"Well, I think this is the perfect setup. I mean, it's time they put those business degrees to good use. Besides, it won't be forever and it won't interfere with Caesar's football or Viv's singing."
Carlotta nodded, turning to relax against the lounge once more. "I hope it's long enough."
Francine shrugged. "It'll be rough for a while," she predicted.
"They'll act like kids for a while. Humph, I believe that office of ours will be in need of some heavy remodeling by the time they're done with it. Still, I've got faith." She sighed, drawing a long sip from her glass. "Those two have a lot of desire beneath all that dislike. They've just never had the opportunity or prox-imity to let it flourish."
Carlotta rolled her eyes over the suggestive tinge to Francine's words. "Love and desire are two different things, Frankie. How long can one survive without the other?"
"Who says they're without it?" Francine challenged.
Vivian and Caesar walked out onto the patio to find their respective grandmothers lounging under one of the many towering trees that filled the spacious back lawn.
"What's my grandmother doing here?" Viv whispered.
Caesar was suspicious, as well, and sent her a confused look before they headed down the wide brick steps leading from the patio.
Francine and Carlotta were so relaxed they didn't notice their approach. Caesar pressed both hands against his grandmother's shoulders and planted a kiss to her cheek. Meanwhile, Viv ran her fingers through Carlotta's hair and kissed her forehead.
"So, what's going on?" Caesar asked after he had kissed and hugged Carlotta.
"We want to take you kids out to lunch," Francine announced.
"Lunch?" Viv exchanged glances with Caesar.
Carlotta pushed herself off the lounge and grabbed her hat. "Lunch," she confirmed, patting her granddaughter on the head.
"What for?" Caesar asked, helping his grandmother to her feet when she offered him her hand.
Francine kissed his smooth cheek. "Guess you'll have to come to lunch to find out."
Caesar and Vivian shrugged, knowing they'd get nowhere standing around asking questions.
Francine and Carlotta nodded their approval and headed back to the house.
"Caesar will drive!" Francine decided.
"Oh, Lord," Viv sighed.
* * *
"All right, you two, that's enough!" Carlotta snapped. "I can't believe this, we bring you out here to have an adult conversation and you act like this."
"We just don't understand why it has to be this way," Caesar replied, glancing at his grandmother who glared at him murderously.
"Well, we've made up our minds and that's that," Francine retorted.
Viv massaged her temples before turning pleading eyes to her grandmother. "Grammy, you can't do this to me."
A humorous smile crossed Caesar's handsome face. "Your grandmother can do whatever she wants."
"Oh shut up!" Viv snapped as she pounded her fist against the pristine, white tablecloth. She was about to stand when Carlotta pointed a finger in her direction.
"Vivian Monet Desmond, sit!"
"And you hush up, Caesar," Francine warned her grandson when he began to chuckle.
Vivian's soft mouth curved down into a pout. "Who do you think you are?" she asked Caesar.
He leaned forward and pointed his index finger on the table. "I'm the one who should be running this company."
"Ha!" Viv blurted, her dark eyes sparkling. "Our grandmothers didn't come to own a successful company by allowing dumb jocks at the helm."
Caesar's easy expression turned murderous. "Watch it, Viv."
"Or I'll forget you're supposed to be a woman." He sneered, his stare cold as ice.
Of course, Vivian wasn't about to let him have the last word. She stood, her eyes narrowed at Caesar. "Who the hell are you to threaten me?" she raged, storming around the square table.
Caesar stood, as well, but he was far calmer than Viv. As far as he was concerned, she could yell at him for as long as she liked. It was a treat watching her bat the long lashes that fringed her lovely dark eyes and toss her bouncy hair in his face. If she wasn't such a thorn in his side, he'd
"Dumb beast, you don't even have the brain power to run this company!" Viv noted, one finger poised in the air.
"What the hell did you say to me?" Caesar roared, finally losing his temper.
Vivian remained undaunted. "You heard me. I can't believe you're even considering this. If the company needs to be looked after, I'm the person to do it!"
"That would be so true if we were being asked to keep the trash from pilin' up! Unfortunately, this requires some skill."
"And you think you have it? That's a joke!"
Caesar stepped closer and brought his face to within inches of hers. "The joke would be you, Plum," he whispered.
"Jackass," she breathed.
"Witch," he replied.
Everyone in the restaurant caught wind of the heated conversation between the two well-known diners. Every guest at Alindo's considered themselves privileged to be witnessing a shouting match between one of the nation's hottest pro ballers and a sultry member of one of the country's most popular R&B groups.
Unfortunately, management was far from happy. Vivian's and Caesar's voices echoed throughout the now silent dining room. Soon, Sherman Joyce, the restaurant manager, approached the table.
"Excuse me, ladies," the manager whispered to Francine and Carlotta, who held their foreheads in their hands. The two women looked down at him as he knelt between their chairs. "Is everything all right over here?"
Carlotta bent close to whisper into the manager's ear. "I think the answer is pretty obvious, don't you?"
He cleared his throat. "If they don't keep it down, I'll have to ask them to leave."
Francine and Carlotta exchanged glances before turning back to Sherman.
"Do it," they simultaneously requested, nodding when Sherman gave them a shocked look. Carlotta waved her hand to urge him to handle it.
Vivian and Caesar were still arguing full-steam. Insults flew back and fortheach one more harsh than the last. When Sherman approached them, he covered his ears and joined in.
"I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you two to leave!"
Caesar and Viv ended their squabbling amid Sherman's shouting. When they heard the word "leave," they watched him for a moment. Then they turned to their grandmothers.
"You heard him," Francine replied, her arched brows rising toward her grandson and Viv.
"You're just gonna let him throw us out?" Viv asked, disbelief clear on her face.
"That's right," Carlotta sang, turning her attention to the delicious-looking salad that had arrived before the fight.
Vivian and Caesar watched in utter amazement as their grandmothers enjoyed their food. The manager, who stood behind them, cleared his throat softly. With the grace of a queen, Viv retrieved her purse from the table and headed for the nearest exit. Caesar followed.
"I can't believe you got us thrown out of here," Viv muttered as they walked through the maze of whispering diners.
Caesar was silent as he strolled through the dining room, as though he were completely untouched by the scene. When the double wooden doors swung shut behind them, he caught Viv's upper arm and made her face him.
"This is exactly why you shouldn't even consider doing this."
Viv propped her hands on her hips as her onyx stare narrowed. "Why shouldn't I consider doing this?"
Caesar stood back and pushed his hands into the deep pockets of his sagging khakis. "You're too high-strung."
"Too high-strung!" Vivian cried, her lashes fluttering as she struggled to calm herself. "How can I be too high-strung when you play football for a living? It's just like I said, you don't have the brain power to run a business!"
Caesar knew most people thought jocks were dumb, but hearing it from Viv never failed to get a rise out of him. He hated to lose his temper, but feared it could not be helped. Luckily, the grandmothers arrived in the parking lot before anything more could be said.
Dark scowls clouded Francine and Carlotta's faces as they glared at their grandchildren. Francine propped her hands on her hips and stepped between Caesar and Viv.
"I suggest you two get your acts together by tonight," Francine scolded.
Vivian bit the bullet and dared to ask a question. "What happens tonight?"
"We want the two of you back at Francine's house by eight. We'll finish our conversation then," Carlotta explained, the tone of her voice brooking no argument.
Caesar nodded, shooting Viv a cool glance.
"We'll be there," Viv replied.