Five sisters are determined to stay close no matter what—even as secrets, scandals and betrayals threaten their family bonds in this dramatic novel.
After a shattering revelation, youngest sister Elyse struggles to overcome the sexual abuse that nearly destroyed her. Between her tough eldest sister, Alita, and a promising fresh start with a new man, she’s finding the strength to make the most of her fierce intelligence. But Elyse still has a score to settle with the perfect sister she feels betrayed by—and she’s going after everything Burgundy can’t afford to lose . . .Coco thinks her useless baby daddy is finally ready to commit—until she catches him with a woman who’s everything she’s not. As she tries to move on with her life, she can’t resist carrying out the ultimate revenge. But when she inadvertently gets caught up in Elyse’s plan, she must confront an unforgivable truth that could crush any chance these sisters have to make things right.
About the Author
Born and raised in Detroit, Cydney graduated from Cass Technical High School and earned an undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University. She resides in Houston. Visit her online via Facebook, www.cydneyrax.com, or email her at email@example.com.
Read an Excerpt
It was the early part of January. Gamba Okorie and Elyse Reeves were in the parking lot of an AutoZone on the west side of Houston. Elyse was quietly stationed in front of Gamba's Chevy pickup. She peered through the lightly tinted windshield and watched as Gamba pulled on a handle underneath the dashboard. Then he exited his truck and stood beside her.
After months of running into each other while she was working at her sister's restaurant, the two had become close. Gamba had become someone Elyse could rely on as she dealt with the mess of her family.
"Go ahead, Elyse," he said.
"Reach down over here. And when you feel underneath it, you will come across a skinny metal part. Push it to the right, then lift it up. Do it." He patiently waited.
Elyse hesitated but desperately wanted to follow Gamba's precise instructions. However, compared to her petite frame, the steel hood appeared enormous. What if it she wasn't strong enough to lift the hood and it slammed on her delicate hand? She knew it would hurt and she'd look like a fool. But she nodded at Gamba and struggled to do as he said. Gamba smiled at her effort and meekly assisted her till the hood was all the way up and secured.
"Great job," he said with an encouraging wink. Elyse's knees felt like a bowl full of jelly.
Twenty-six-year-old Gamba was tall and dark with thick, purplish lips topped by a mustache. His wide nostrils hinted of his Zimbabwean roots, with broad shoulders that swelled with thick muscles that warned his enemies to never ignite his fury.
"Now tell me, Elyse. Do you know what you're looking at?"
She stared at her mentor with lustful eyes. Do you know how perfect you are, she asked on the inside. But she pulled herself together and tried her best to appear as if she were deeply interested in an assortment of engine parts.
"Nah," she finally admitted. "Not really."
"No problem," he told her. "I will teach you. I'd be happy to do it."
The second that Gamba began to talk and point, an erotic sizzle swirled around in Elyse's belly. Elyse simply wanted to close her eyes and fully enjoy listening to the authority and strength that he always conveyed.
"No problem. You won't ever have to worry about that as long as I'm around, but just in case I'm not here, you ought to know these things."
"Mmm hmmm." Elyse would turn twenty years old in April. And up until that point, she hadn't experienced a romantic relationship with a man. She'd never known how it felt to make love. She'd only known brutality and coldness. Sex that was never consensual. She remembered how horrible it felt to be violated by Nathaniel Taylor, her older sister Burgundy's husband. The abusive experience she endured at the hands of Nate nearly caused her to lose her mind.
She stared at Gamba, hoping that if they ever got together, he'd be different from her brother-in-law — prayed that he'd never hurt her.
When Elyse realized that Gamba could quiz her at any moment, she tried her best to concentrate.
"This, Elyse, is where the transmission fluid is kept. And that's the receptacle for your windshield wiper fluid."
Gamba reached inside and grabbed a yellow plastic handle.
He removed the dipstick, glanced at the tip, then thrust it back inside of the long tube. "This, Elyse, is very important. The best type of engine is a well-oiled one. And you must learn to check and see how much oil is remaining, for you never want it to run out."
"Why not?" she politely asked, silently wishing she had a fan with which to cool herself off.
"Good question. The oil is a lubricant, and all the parts need it to keep the engine functioning and moving. It's like humans needing oxygen to breathe or else we will die."
Elyse felt her mind wandering again, and she nearly let out a moan until she realized what she'd been doing. Her cheeks flamed red, and she felt ashamed. Would her emotions for a man ever be normal? Could she ever enjoy a true relationship?
She and Gamba had been hanging out since last December when he decided to take her under his wing. He'd never shown any romantic interest. She figured it was because she used to act and look too much like a tomboy with her long-sleeved shirts, golf hats, and baggy slacks that covered her figure. These days she wore shirts that clung to her breasts, paired with hip-hugging jeans, and occasionally she'd throw on some booty shorts or a dress.
But even with the cute little outfits, it seemed as if Gamba barely noticed.
What if she was wasting her time? What if she had no real future with this man or any other man?
"And so, if the oil runs out," Gamba went on to say, "the engine will start to grind. It will make loud, screeching noises then, God forbid, it will lock completely up. Basically, the parts grind together, engine gets overheated, and the car parts get hotter and hotter."
Feeling overheated herself, Elyse waved her fingers across her face and enjoyed the little bit of cool air. She hoped Gamba didn't think she was weird, like everyone else — people, especially her family, thought she was an oddball, awkward young woman.
But Gamba was deep into his lecture, not aware of how Elyse fanned herself and the cute way she licked her bottom lip.
"Elyse, I'm going to teach you how to change your own oil. You understand?"
"Yeah," she firmly told him. "I understand."
"And by the time we're done, you will know how to change your own tire."
Her brown eyes widened in distress. At nearly seventy-four inches, Gamba's pickup stood much taller than Elyse, who was only five feet one.
The tires were so huge it seemed like they could easily crush her to pieces. She was thin and willowy and hadn't been active in a gymnasium since she'd graduated from high school.
She glanced at her bony arms. "You see this?"
"Yeah." He nodded. "So?"
"I'm not strong enough."
"Shhhh," he told her and pressed his finger against her soft lips. As his finger lingered for a moment Elyse tried to keep herself from whipping out her tongue. She wanted to suck his finger, suck on other parts of Gamba's sexy body. But she told herself that he wasn't thinking about her, her lips, or her shameful lust. He saw her like a sister, nothing like a lover. And Elyse hated that all Gamba wanted to do with her was to teach how to change a damned tire.
"Gamba," she said, her voice quivering with anger. "No! I can't do this."
"You, young lady, are much stronger than you realize. I believe that."
"But I just don't think I can —"
"Have you tried, Elyse? Have you?"
She stared once more at the gigantic truck that towered above her. It looked like it could kill her without even trying. Elyse shivered and whined. "Gamba, me? Change a tire? I-I can't do that. I just can't."
"Yes, you can, sweetheart. Don't be scared of anything that looks too hard, Elyse."
"Don't be scared?" she asked.
"Right, never be scared of anything or anybody because you —"
"But, Gamba," she said in a rare interruption, "my sista Alita told me ... She said if someone wants me to do something ... and they say, 'Don't be scared,' then that's a bad man. He's trying to do a bad thing. He's lying his ass off and he can't be trusted."
"And you believe everything your man-hating sister tells you?"
She nodded. She could agree that Alita did have nasty opinions about most men, but what if was the truth? At that moment, Gamba seemed anti-Alita. And to Elyse's ears it sounded like he doubted her just because she trusted in the one family member who had cared enough to rescue her.
"I'm not trying to be disrespectful," he gently replied. "But what if your sister is wrong? Because instead of thinking negative, what if you throw away all that fear and end up doing great things ... things you never dreamed you could do?"
"I-I dunno. I have to ask my sista about it first, then I'll let you know what she says."
Even though he was tempted to, Gamba could not be genuinely upset at Elyse. Nor could he blame her paranoid, overprotective sister. All he could do was gain her trust by assuring her that he understood.
"Your brother-in-law, Nate ... well, yeah. He is a bad man. He wanted you to do bad things. He should be in jail, but that's another story altogether. But this right here ... learning how to drive defensively, being able to do simple car maintenance, it's not wrong. And I'm not, either. I just don't want you to be afraid, and that in itself doesn't make me the bad guy. You get it?"
He took a moment, wanting to explain things in a way that would make her feel safe.
"Elyse, what if you're out on the road driving. And I'm with you but I'm tired as hell and I couldn't help but doze off." He laughed to himself. "That's what happens to a hardworking man sometimes," he said. "We hardly ever get enough sleep. So anyway, you and I are in my truck and you're behind the wheel, and we happen to drive on a road where some stupid person left some nails in the street. And you drive over the nails and we get a flat. What would you do?"
She thought for a second. "I wake you up."
"Good one, Elyse." He chuckled. "But seriously, sweetheart, everything that I am teaching you will empower you. I'm only here to help."
Elyse hated when he said that he was "only here to help." At the same time, she felt ashamed for being ungrateful to someone who begged her to believe in herself. But in Elyse's world, trust was a slow-moving golf cart, not an Aston Martin.
When she failed to reply, Gamba proceeded to tell her the exact type of oil that the engine required, how much the tires needed to be inflated, and used a portable air compressor to show her the proper way to pump air into them.
"Got it?" he asked when he was done demonstrating.
"Yeah," she lied. "I got it." He'd been instructing her for a good thirty minutes. At this point, information overload made her feel dizzy with exhaustion.
In observing the stressed look on her tender face, Gamba was concerned. He never wanted to overwhelm her. But he was on a strict mission to give her the strength that she would need to make it in this cold, cruel world.
"Don't be upset, Elyse," Gamba gently told her. "You're doing fine, really well so far. I believe in you, and I know that you'll be able to handle everything that I teach you."
"But why teach me?"
"What do you mean?"
"I lived with my sista Burgundy for a long time. You've taught me more in weeks ... than she taught me in years. She let her husband do me wrong. She's a bad sista, a terrible woman."
Elyse's heartfelt confession made Gamba feel sad for her, yet he remained unfazed. "I don't know the answer to why your sister neglected to school you on the things that a woman should know. Maybe she had her own issues that she was dealing with. But all I can say right now, Elyse, is that you act like a wallflower, but you are a rose. A dozen roses. So, hold your head up high. I want you to forget about the people that hurt you."
At his positive words, Elyse felt her chin and head lift. And she slowly forced herself to trust in Gamba and in herself. At least for today.
In that wonderful way of his, Gamba continued speaking calmly yet firmly to her. She fought hard not to stare into his dark eyes; she wanted to compose herself whenever he smiled, for it was true that each time Gamba broke out into that wonderful laugh of his, Elyse wanted to laugh, and melt, and throw herself in the safety net of his arms.
Even if the topic bored her to death, right then Elyse decided she could listen to him talk all night. He seemed so strong and self-assured.
After another five minutes, Gamba wrapped up his lecture then slammed the hood of the truck.
"Come on, let's go," he said to her. He reached for his keys while she jogged to the passenger side so she could climb in the seat, sit back, and allow her mind to rest after harboring many sexy thoughts. Before she could get in, Gamba stopped her.
"No, don't sit there. Elyse, I think you're ready. You can drive."
"No, Gamba," she complained. "I don't like big trucks."
"I know you don't. But it's only because you're scared. You don't have to be."
She shook her head in defiance.
"Even though you don't feel comfortable, Elyse, do me a big favor and try anyway. Just get in. We can go down this block till we reach the corner; we can drive a few miles on the next street, then turn around and come back. Easy!"
"Gamba!" She folded her arms across her chest and stood firm.
He smiled at Elyse until she couldn't help but smile back. When he tossed the keys at her, she ran around to the driver's side and got in.
She'd do anything to please him. Gamba had been so tender with her, had expressed such confidence in her, that it would not hurt her to try and make him feel happy for a change.
Expelling a deep breath, Elyse adjusted the seat and mirrors, started the ignition, then they chugged along.
"Relax," he instructed her. "You're gripping that wheel and driving like you're eighty."
She laughed and sat back. It felt odd to be up so high above the ground. But thankfully it was an easy Sunday afternoon, and the streets were not very busy.
"Okay, I think you can go a little faster," Gamba encouraged her. "We're leaving this residential street and we're turning onto a main street. Do like thirty-five to forty-five miles an hour."
"Ohh," she said with a shudder. She could see there were a few more cars now zipping along up and down the road.
"I-I'm scared," she finally admitted.
"Nothing's going to happen, Elyse. When will you believe that I got you?"
"You got me?"
"I'm here for you."
Elyse nodded. "Okay," she whispered. And she pressed her foot on the accelerator. The truck lurched forward hard enough to jostle them in their seats.
"Oh uh," Gamba said. "That's too much gas. Just give it a little bit of a push. Do it again."
Before she could respond, a late-model luxury car swerved into the truck's path. Alarmed, Elyse slammed hard on the brakes. She and Gamba jerked forward. The tires screeched. Shocked and afraid, Elyse raised both her hands and placed them over her eyes, but she accidentally lifted her foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.
The truck sped up, hopped over a high median, and violently rocked several times before landing on the grass. The truck kept moving, rolled down the median, back onto the street and began heading in the wrong direction.
She opened her eyes. "Gamba!" she screamed. A blue SUV narrowly missed them.
Gamba sprang into action. He maneuvered his body against Elyse and grabbed the wheel. He forced the truck to swerve. They almost hit another oncoming car; Gamba slowed the truck down. It scraped against a utility pole and came to a stop.
Elyse screamed then sat stiffly in her seat.
"You all right?" Gamba asked, more worried about her than the truck.
Just then the driver's side door got yanked open. Elyse stared into the eyes of her brother-in-law. The harsh expression on Nathaniel Taylor's face said it all.
"What are you doing, Elyse?" he asked. "Why are you driving this truck? Why haven't you reported to work this past week?" Nate and Burgundy owned Morning Glory, the restaurant where Elyse was employed.
"Did you lie to us again by calling in sick when you are out here messing around with this man? Answer me, Elyse!"
The accusations flew out of Nate Taylor's mouth. Suddenly Elyse felt like a piece of property, a runaway slave being confronted by her master. She shrank back.
Gamba rounded the truck and was now facing Nathaniel. Elyse slowly got out of the truck and watched.
"What were you trying to do back there?" Gamba asked Nate. "You intentionally tried to run us off the road! Why do that, man? You crazy?"
"I wasn't talking to you. I'm talking to my family." He turned to Elyse once more. "Did you hear what I asked you? Did you make up a lie about being sick just so you can hang out with some man you just met off the street?"
"You don't know who or what I am," Gamba said.
"I know exactly who you are," Nate told him. "You're just one of my customers. But I'm her kin. Plus, I'm her boss. I have a right to ask her anything I want."
"You shouldn't even be within a hundred feet of Elyse, you spineless piece of shit," Gamba told Nate.
"What did you say to me? I will wipe the floor with your ass."
Gamba's voice was steely. "I wish you would lay a hand on me or her."
The tension grew so thick that Elyse prayed to be invisible. She couldn't believe that two grown men were fighting over her.
When Gamba drew back his fist and aimed it at Nate's jaw, she grabbed his arm and yanked.
"No, Gamba, don't. Please!" she cried out.
Gamba lowered his hand. Though he longed to rip the skin off of Nate, he knew he could not lose it in front of the woman who'd just begun to trust him.
"All right," Gamba said backing off. "You're her boss. Fine. All I can say is, she'll return to work when she's ready."
"And who are you to be answering for Elyse? You her man?"
Gamba wanted to say yes. Elyse wanted him to say it too.
"I'm a man, that's what I am. And way more of a man that you could ever be," Gamba replied. "So get back in your car and go on about your business. She's with me right now." He gently wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
"You don't belong, young thug," Nate said as he watched them. "You are permanently banned from my restaurant, and you need to stay out of my family's business."
"Man, don't use the family card. If you really cared about family, you wouldn't have done what you did. You sick fuck!"
"W-what," Nate sputtered. "Who told you that? What did they say I did?"
"You know exactly what you did. Sick-ass old man."
Elyse felt comforted by Gamba's hug, but at the same time she envisioned Nate's cold, hard fingers probing every part of her body ... She remembered how he'd masturbate in front of her and then smile as he watched her reaction ... She could not forget the wild, distant look in his eyes as her tried to coerce her to have sex with him.
As the two men continued to argue, Elyse noticed that the car keys were in the ignition. The engine was still running.
Elyse broke away from Gamba and got back in the truck. She shifted the gear to reverse.
Gamba looked up, startled. "Elyse, don't," he said and ran toward the truck. She ignored him and put the gear shift in drive.
All she could remember was Nate's awful penis being shoved inside her. His cold, hard lips pressing clumsily against her mouth, forcing her to kiss him until she wanted to throw up. His gazing at her body like he owned it and she was nothing but a piece of meat.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Sister's Survival"
Copyright © 2018 Cydney Rax.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Survival,
Chapter 2 - License to Marry,
Chapter 3 - Love Hurts,
Chapter 4 - Ghosts of Troubled Pasts,
Chapter 5 - March Madness,
Chapter 6 - Why Did I Want to Get Married,
Chapter 7 - Sex Ain't Better Than Love,
Chapter 8 - Basic Training,
Chapter 9 - Unfinished Business,
Chapter 10 - Daughter,
Chapter 11 - Girls' Trip,
Chapter 12 - Back at Ground Zero,
Chapter 13 - Everything Must Change,
Chapter 14 - Side Deals,
Chapter 15 - No One Wants to Swim in the Rain,
Chapter 16 - Reinvention,
Chapter 17 - The Weary Blues,
Chapter 18 - Coco is Loco,
Chapter 19 - Sleeping with Married Men,
Chapter 20 - Death Is Better than Life,
Chapter 21 - Survivor's Remorse,
Cydney Rax Social Media,