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By Brenda Jackson
Kimani PressCopyright © 2006 Brenda Jackson
All right reserved.
Kylie Hagan regarded with keen interest the handsome specimen of a man dressed in a dark business suit, who had just walked into her florist shop. That was so unlike her. She couldn't recall the last time a member of the male species had grabbed her attention. Denzel Washington didn't count, since each and every time she saw him on the movie screen it was an automatic drool.
She continued watering her plants, thinking that the woman he was about to buy flowers for was indeed very lucky. The good news was that he had selected her florist shop — she was the newbie in town, and Kylie needed all the business she could get, since she'd only been open for a couple of months. Business was good but she needed to come up with ways to make it even better.
Her heart jumped nervously when, instead of looking around at her vast selection of green plants and floral arrangements, he headed straight for the counter. Evidently he was a man who knew what he wanted and what he needed to woo his woman.
"May I help you?" she asked, thinking that with a face and physique like his, he probably didn't need much help at all. He stood tall, six-three at least, with a muscular build, a clean-shaven head, chocolate-brown eyes and skin tone of the richest cocoa, altogether a striking combination. The drool she usuallyreserved only for Denzel was beginning to make her mouth feel wet. As she continued to look at him, waiting for his response, she suddenly noticed that he wasn't smiling. In fact, he appeared downright annoyed.
"I'm here to see Kylie Hagan."
Kylie lifted her eyebrows and the smile on her face began fading at his rough and irritated tone of voice. What business did this man have with her? All her bills were current, which meant he couldn't be there to collect anything. And if he was a salesman, with his less than desirable attitude, she wouldn't be buying what-ever it was he was selling.
"I'm Kylie Hagan."
Surprise flickered in his drop-dead gorgeous eyes.
"You're Kylie Hagan?"
"That's right and who are you?"
The name didn't ring a bell, but then she had only recently moved to the area. "And what can I do for you, Mr. Steele?"
He stared at her for a moment, and then he said, "The only thing you can do for me, Ms. Hagan, is keep your daughter away from my son."
Kylie froze. The man's words were not what she had expected. For a long moment she stared back at him, wondering if she had misunderstood. But all it took was the deep scowl on his face to let her know she had not.
"Keep my daughter away from your son?" she repeated when she finally found her voice.
"Yes. I found this note yesterday that evidently dropped out of Marcus's backpack. They were planning on cutting school together on Friday," he said as he pulled a piece of paper out of the pocket of his jacket.
"What!" Kylie shrieked, grabbing the paper out of his hand.
"You heard me and you can read it for yourself," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Kylie read, then after the first few lines she wished she hadn't. Three emotions enveloped her: hurt, betrayal and anger. Tiffany had always promised that if she ever got serious about a boy that she would tell her. Granted, she and Tiffany hadn't been that close lately, but a promise was a promise.
"Now can you see why I want your daughter kept away from my son?"
Chance Steele's question sliced through Kylie's tormented mind and grated on her last nerve, deepening her anger. She came from behind the counter to stand directly in front of him. "Don't you dare place all the blame on Tiffany, Mr. Steele. If I read this note correctly, she was merely responding to a note your son had sent asking her to cut school. The nerve of him doing such a thing!"
"Look, Ms. Hagan, we can stand here all day and we won't agree who's to blame. But I think we will agree on the fact that your daughter and my son shouldn't even be thinking about cutting school. I have big plans for my son's future that include him attending college."
Kylie glared at him. "And you don't think I have those same plans for my daughter?" she snapped. "Tiffany is a good kid."
"So is Marcus," he snapped back.
Kylie breathed in deeply and closed her eyes in a concerted effort to calm down before a blood vessel burst in her head. They weren't getting anywhere biting each other's heads off.
"Ms. Hagan, are you all right?"
She slowly opened her eyes to focus on the man looming over her. Concern was evident in his gaze.
"Yes, I'm fine."
"Look, I'm sorry I came barging in here like this," he said, the tone of his voice calmer, apologetic.
"But after reading that note I got upset."
She nodded. "I can understand why. I'm pretty upset myself."
"Did you know our kids were hung up on each other?" he asked. She could tell that he was trying to maintain a composed demeanor.
"Mr. Steele, until you walked into my shop and dropped your son's name, I had no idea he even existed. Tiffany and I moved here a few months ago from New York State, right before the start of the new school year. I knew she had made some new friends but she's never mentioned anyone's name in particular."
"Okay, so as parents, what do you think we should do?" he asked.
His voice was drenched in wariness and Kylie could tell he was deeply bothered by all of this, but then he wasn't the only one. "The one thing we shouldn't do is demand that they not see each other. Telling them to stay away from each other will only make them want to see each other more. Teenagers will always deliberately do the opposite of what their parents want them to do. And once they start rebelling, it will be almost impossible to do anything."
She didn't have to tell him that she knew firsthand how that worked. Her parents had tried to keep her and Sam apart, which only made her want him more. The more she and Sam had sneaked around, the more risks they had taken until she had eventually gotten pregnant at sixteen...the same age Tiffany would be in about ten months.
"We have to do something. In confronting Marcus about that letter, I've thrown a monkey wrench into their plans for Friday. But how can we be sure this won't happen again?"
At the sound of Chance's voice, Kylie dragged her thoughts back to the present. "I'll talk to Tiffany and, like I said, she's a good kid."
"Yes, but it appears that my son and your daughter are at the age where overactive hormones cancel out good sense. We need to do what we can to make sure those hormones stay under control."
"I fully agree."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. "This is how to reach me if you need me to do anything further on my end. I talked to Marcus but things didn't go well. I did the one thing you indicated I should not have done, which was demand that he stay away from Tiffany. I don't think I've ever seen him that angry or rebellious."
Kylie nodded as she took the card from him. She didn't want to think about her upcoming talk with Tiffany. "I appreciate you dropping by and bringing this to my attention."
"Like I said earlier, I apologize that my approach wasn't more subtle. But Marcus's last words to me this morning were that nobody would stop him from seeing Tiffany. I was furious and still riled up when I decided to come over here."
He sighed deeply and then added, "It's not easy raising a teenager these days."
"Don't I know it," Kylie said softly, feeling terribly drained but knowing she would need all her strength when she confronted Tiffany after school.
"Well, I'd better be going."
"Again, thanks for coming by and letting me know what's going on."
He nodded. "There was no way I could not let you know, considering what they'd planned to do. Have a good day, Ms. Hagan."
As Kylie watched him walk out of her shop, she knew that as much as she wished it to be so, there was no way that this would be a good day.
Excerpted from Solid Soul by Brenda Jackson Copyright © 2006 by Brenda Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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