Read an Excerpt
Kenton Reese slowly eased off his silk necktie after a long day at the office. A preoccupied valet attendant waved him forward after ogling a fetching entourage of high-spirited females who had exited the luxury sedan idling behind him. The waiting list for a dinner table at Café Bleu, a trendy eatery known for its legendary happy hour consortium, began to swell and it was only seven o'clock. By nine, a younger and quite a bit more anxious multitude was sure to be spilling out into the cobblestoned courtyard, replacing the easygoing upscale corporate crowd that fit Kenton like an Armani suit. At age thirty-five, wealth and fine women inspired him, both equally so and not necessarily in that order. A dollar was a dollar every day of the week, but having his choice of beautiful women wrapped in chic designer fashions made Friday nights at the Café a holiday every time.
A brilliant smile lit up Kenton's flawless, clean-shaven, Harlem-brown complexion after the valet booth attendant caught the car keys he'd tossed with one hand and held the other one out for a gratuitous tip to ensure that his European trophy would be parked up front and raring to go the moment he was. All eyes landed on Kenton as soon as he stepped away from the sandstone-hued, chrome-wheeled S-series Mercedes he'd purchased on a whim a few months ago but had already grown tired of. Fancy cars weren't the only trophies that bored him after he'd gotten accustomed to taming their powerful motors while pleasuring himself with all the accompanying overpriced accessories. He also changed women like he changed his clothes, and on a good night he changed his clothes two or three times before the sun came up. KentonReese was not like most men, he was what most men aspired to bea dyed-in-the-wool, true to the game player with all the right moves and aptly trained to use every single one of them.
Oozing confidence, Kenton entered the bustling hot spot while adrenaline coursed through his veins. He tossed a cordial wink and nod to an attractive woman loitering just inside the restaurant. She seemed out of place standing there for no apparent reason. But her full heart-shaped lips and high cheekbones, framed with thick, black, shoulder-length hair, warranted additional attention. The woman's business suit, a stylish charcoal gray number, had sustained its firm creases late into the evening. Kenton always did recognize quality, in women and wardrobe alike.
The loiterer, in the smartly tailored suit, had accepted Kenton's silken salutation as gracefully as the valet attendant had one-handed his car keys, but her stock dropped dramatically when she couldn't muster the strength to turn away from Kenton's haunting gaze. She was hypnotized and too curious to downplay her obvious and immediate interest. She couldn't help the fact that tall, dark, handsome, and fine caused her to stare longer than what proved to be prudent. Kenton shouldn't have held it against her, but he did. As he glided past her, the loiterer sighed deeply, offered a promising smile and an innocent compliment. "Blue looks good on you," she said casually. "Regal."
It wasn't until he'd found himself in the midst of other women vying for his attention that the woman's words sunk in. He circled back to thank her for the favorable opinion regarding his swanky three-button Kenneth Cole suitan opinion he also sharedbut she was gone.
Back to the hunt.
As Kenton was poised to order a drink at the atrium bar, his eyes drifted up to rest on a black satiny size-eight cocktail dress clinging tightly to a size-ten behind. His mouth watered when the lady wearing the short dress turned in his direction to retrieve her small leather handbag from atop a nearby bar stool. Her skin tone was in the semblance of a hot buttered biscuit and was just as tempting. With her hair swept away from her face, she reminded Kenton of a wonderfully overgrown Halle Berry, a hot buttered biscuit with extra syrup, and he could see nothing past a fun-filled night of biscuit sopping and lip smacking.
When it was apparent that she was seeing the same vision as Kenton, it occurred to him that she had been hooked after having been lured too easily. The woman appeared to be healthy and able-bodied enough to keep up with his high-wired sexual acrobatics, but he was on the prowl for something rare. With a bit of luck, he'd catch something wild and exotic in his snare, not someone so easily lured. The excitement was, after all, in the hunt. If worse came to worse, easily lured served him just as well if she happened to be double-jointed, ultrakinky, or knew how to get her kicks while enjoying the ride. Otherwise, Kenton Reese wasn't in the mood to spend his time giving easily lured what she'd undoubtedly be recounting, stroke-for-stroke, with her girlfriends later.
See, Kenton prided himself on two things: an unrivaled bedroom aptitude worth paying for and an overwhelming desire to become the ultimate catchwithout ever getting caught. An ever-increasing trail of satisfied but stranded sistas with hapless hopes, dreams deferred, and broken hearts continually affirmed that he had achieved both goals simultaneously.
All accolades aside, the woman's eyes quickly intercepted his transfixed leer, anchored on her wiggle box. Busted! Kenton chuckled awkwardly. "Oh, excuse me. You saw that?"
"Some things are hard to miss," she answered, smiling back at him. "Very hard," she added in a sultry voice just this side of seduction.
"Who you tellin'," Kenton joked, noting her sculptured features. "By the way, I'm Kenton. Kenton Reese." When he extended his hand to complete the formal introduction, the bling didn't go unnoticed.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Kim Gallagher." She accepted his hand, appraised the diamond-studded Rolex and gold mono-grammed cuff links. She smiled again, this time brighter than before, considering he not only had good taste, but also the money to go with it.
"Can I order something for you to" he paused to repeat the introduction. "Did you say your name was Kim?"
"Uh-huh. Why, did you have a thing go bad with some other Kim? Or something else you'd rather forget?"
Suddenly, Kenton's smile dissipated into a faint distant memory. "What a shame." Kenton reeled off a twenty from his money clip and laid it on the bar top as if it didn't belong to him. "It seems that I've overcommitted myself. Please have a drink on me. You're a beautiful woman, but I'll have to move around." The lady wrinkled her nose, wondering what had just happened to a previously promising meet and mate. "Sorry" was the word that trailed off into the noisy barroom chatter as he made his getaway.
Kenton contemplated an entertaining buttered-biscuit booty bounce, but there was no way he'd get involved with another Kim while already having two of them on speed dial at the time. And, as much as he wanted to add a third, it didn't conform to the Reese Rules of Romance, prohibiting him from delving into potentially unfavorable situations that he couldn't readily control. Once, his housekeeper took the liberty to return a call from Kim 1, thinking she was Kim 2, to inform her about having found the electronic organizer she'd lost the night before. Kim 1 was quick to argue that she'd never owned an electronic organizer and then began to argue on general principle that she was out of town on business the night before. Luckily, Kenton overheard the conversation, told Kim 1 that the housekeeper had a drinking problem, promptly ended the call, explained to the housekeeper his fondness for both Kims, then immediately put her in check to ensure that it never happened again. Kim 3 was not a practical option. Not then, not now, not ever.
Conflicted feelings zigzagged through Kenton as he walked away from the atrium bar and a possible disastrous situation with Kim 3. He glanced down at his extravagant timepiece, then at the sprawling swarm of mingling men and women flirting with the chance of meeting someone new, someone nice. Through the valley of dolls and dudes, he caught sight of the fellas, his partners in crime, Ran Sanders and Ellis Robinson, posted up at the island bar on the opposite side of the restaurant. Glimmers of recognition spread across his face when it occurred to him that the fellas were looking to get in way over their heads, if they were lucky.
Maneuvering through a winding path of commingling cologne and casual courting, Kenton literally bumped into someone he used to know, Challis Fields-Rea. She was fairer than what generally struck his fancy and still thin for her age. Although barely one hundred and twenty pounds at five-seven, her lengthy study of Kama Sutra techniques more than made up for what she lacked in the back. It had been nearly a year since he'd laid eyes on her, and hands, too, for that matter. However, by the way she looked him over, twice, it appeared that his fingerprints had made an indelible impression. There was no denying it, she was still up for grabs, regardless of how long it had been since Kenton had her speaking in tongues, screaming his name and loving every minute of it.
"Heyyyy Keeenton." Challis giggled while balancing her third cosmopolitan with all ten fingers. "Been a long time."
"Yeah, it's been a minute, Challis." Searching for a wedding band that was nowhere to be found, Kenton leaned in for a pleasant embrace. After pecking her cheek softly, he figured it might be worth investigating what was with the absentee platinum that ushered her right off the market once she realized that Kenton wasn't interested in anything more serious than what they'd shared for months on end, playtime. "So, Tolliver Rea still taking good care of things? I saw his last game. The brotha's got mad handles on the court."
"Well, we'll just have to see how his skills match up in divorce court," she answered, staring deeply into Kenton's dark brown eyes. "Seems that he couldn't handle this too well." Challis took Kenton's wrist, turned it to her waist, then ran his open palm across her narrow white linen slacks. "At least, not like someone else I know." The seductive manner in which she offered sex on a platter spoke of a hunger that needed to be fed, and Challis had the type of appetite that Kenton treasured above all others. Unfortunately, the Reese Rules of Romance also prohibited explicit physical contact with married women, legal separations included.
"Sorry to hear about the breakup," he replied eventually. "You never know, maybe he'll come around and"
"Kenton Reese, don't play with me," she interrupted, while turning to face him. "I'm not trying to hear about my soon-to-be ex-husband coming around or coming anywhere else. I want what I used to have on the regular, the only man who knows how to push all the buttons in my cockpit. I'm a big girl now, and I'm ready to accept a however limited role in your life. I knew about all the other women, and I'm sorry but I just got greedy." She made no bones about her desire to get back into his life, even at the bottom of the rotation. "I'll be good and I'll behave, just the way you like. I still remember how to do those things you taught me; you know, with that tiny box of mirrors. What do you say to every other Monday night?"
"Challis, look, I would love to pick up where we left off. What we had was cool and all, but I don't get into married women's business, and I don't let my business get into married women." He removed his hand from her waist finally and winked his good-byes. "Holla at me after you've dropped the hyphen and the brotha's last name you're trying to shake. We'll talk then."
"This ain't right, Kenton," she pouted as he backed away. "We can talk right now. Kenton! Kenton!" She was still calling his name when he approached the fellas, who were nursing bottles of light beer. Neither of whom could manage to take their eyes off a round table stacked with luscious ladies on a girls-night-out excursion.
Ran Sanders, all five feet eight inches of him, was the darkest shade of reddish brown imaginable. His idea of a good woman was any woman on her back, and by the way he was licking his chops, he thought he'd found at least five potential good women to choose from. If it were up to him, two good women would do just fine. Even though the one time he did convince two good women to show up at his place at the same time, they were so intrigued with the notion that all he got to do was watch. Ellis Robinson was something different all together. He was an eternal optimist, if whatever he was being optimistic about didn't require too much work. A slender build that never did fill out accentuated a Soul Curl kit that never would take. His beige complexion gave him constant hope that the once irrepressible predilection for light-skinned black men would someday make a smashing comeback. He just didn't think it would take so long.
"What's up, Ran? Ellis?" When Kenton's hellos went unanswered, his head swiveled to get a look at what had his closest friends entranced. "Oh, I see, quite a talented bunch, if I do say so myself."
"Uh-huh, that's why we're on lock," Ellis agreed, his voice muted in an overtly secretive tone. "This is the best spot in the joint."
Kenton counted five sistas sophisticate, but there was a vacant spot at the table. There was a telltale half-full wineglass and an empty chair. He shrugged off observations, then offered halfhearted congratulations to Ran and Ellis. "Yes, very nice. You boys have done a great job of locating the talent. Now what?"
"Oh. What up, Kenton?" Ellis muttered, his eyes locked on the ladies. "When'd you get here? I thought I heard somebody calling your name."
Although the fellas had more than their fair share of playmates, neither of them had consumed the necessary amount of liquid courage to attack such an impressive pack of lionesses, where the risk of rejection was astronomical.
"Now what?" Ran repeated. "I 'on't rightly know but I was thinking about waiting it out until a few of them leave, then slip in and ambush the stragglers. Yeah, just chill in the cut, let 'em get good and liquored up, then hit 'em up when they're drunk and stumbling."
"Drunk is good. That's one way to go about it," Kenton asserted. "But, if you let that many women get good and lifted, they're bound to start discussing how men ain't nothing but dogs. You know, cussing, crying, and more cussing. It won't be pretty."
Ran broke the gaze he'd previously held on the talent to reflect on Kenton's timely analysis. "As usual, you got a point. I'm feeling you; it could get out of hand."