In the first book of a fierce new series, meet Memphis’s hardest ride-or-die chicks as they fight along with their infamous men to lock down the Dirty South.
Memphis is the crime capital of America, and no one knows that better than the women born and raised on its mean streets. It’s put sisters Ta’Shara and LeShelle on opposite sides of the street game, where blood means nothing and loyalty doesn’t last long. It’s also got Yolanda, an ambitious drug mule, and Melanie, a police detective, caught up with the same man—the notorious hustler Python. These four women think they’ve got the game figured out, but the one man they have in common will have them living double lives and wondering who will come out on top. Forget what you heard about East Coast/West Coast, ’cause real vendettas are born in the Dirty South.
“Diamond’s ear for street talk comes across loud and clear . . . a violent and profane tale, which launches a gritty new series. The divas here are realistic characters, and the pacing zooms . . . one of the best constructed street lit stories of 2010.” —Library Journal
“A nonstop, hard-hitting page-turner.” —Tu-Shonda L. Whitaker
About the Author
De'nesha Diamond is the author of almost a dozen street lit novels and short stories, including the gritty Desperate Hoodwives tales. This edgy Memphis native aims to deliver hope in tales that walk the fine line between glorifying thug life and telling it like it is. Visit De'nesha online at DeneshaDiamond.com.
Read an Excerpt
By De'nesha Diamond
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 De'nesha Diamond
All right reserved.
At 8:15 a.m. the halls of Morris High School are already crammed with a bunch of lil niggas who didn't want to be here-me included. It doesn't matter that I'm in the top 5 percent of my class and that I already know the colleges I want to apply to next year. I hate this shitty school and look forward to the day I can roll up out of the here for good. Real talk, I have plans-big muthafuckin' plans that don't have shit to do with holding down none of these wannabe grown niggas repping bullshit gangs and bragging about how hood rich they are while they blast they way to the jail or the graveyard.
It isn't that I don't understand the struggle. Hell, I didn't come up with shit either. No money. No home. No parents. The only thing I did have was a crazy-ass sister who loved the streets despite the fact that they don't love her.
"Ta'Shara!" Essence's unmistakable babylike voice squeaks above all the other miscellaneous conversations floating down the hall.
"What up, E?" I say, jerking open my locker.
Essence reaches my side, out of breath. "Have you finally lost your goddamn mind?"
I know exactly what my girl is yapping about, but I'm not in the mood to try and explain myself. "Don't start." I grab my precalculus book and check my lip gloss in the small mirror on my locker's door. "It was a mistake and it won't happen again." I slam the door closed and try to go on my merry little way.
"A mistake? Girl, do you-"
"Your ass ain't cute," Qiana sneers, poking out her hip and mean mugging me while her neck twirls on overtime.
I roll my eyes and smack my perfectly round booty at Qiana. "That ain't what your man said last night."
"Oooh!" The other niggas littering the hallway instantly jump into the mix.
Qiana, a compact shawty dressed in black jeans, black T, and sporting a lopsided Louis Vuitton cap, steps forward, popping her bubble gum. "Hands off Profit, bitch. I catch you rubbing your stank-ass titties on him again and I'm going to personally slice your ass up."
"You mean these titties right here?" I cup my shit, knowing they put Qiana's minus-A cups to sleep. "Don't hate on Profit just 'cause you eyeballing my shit. If he was a homo thug, then I guess his ass would try to get with you and those dried-up Flowers you run with."
"Dayum!" some inconsequential nigga in the crowd hollers.
Qiana's already-burned toast complexion darkens as fire leaps into her eyes.
I'm not the least bit surprised that Qiana and her dyke friends with theVice Lords' Flowers feel bold enough to step to me like this. I sort of expected the shit when I let my guard down and got caught hugging up on Profit after homeroom-a serious violation since Profit's family run with the Vice Lords, and guilt by blood means that he's VL property as well.
Despite the ring of Flowers behind Qiana, Essence and I hold our ground, ready for the jump-off. The Flowers are infamous for jumping chicks and forcing them into their shitty-ass gang. The school is littered with bitches repping for the three dominate gangs in shady M-Town: the Black Gangster Disciples, the Vice Lords, and the Crips.
I'm in a unique position. Like Profit, I have a little guilt by blood situation myself. My older sister, LeShelle, is the head Queen G, riding with the Black Gangster Disciples. In the grand scheme of things, Qiana is just a lowly chicken head and she knows fucking with me means death.
Qiana grinds her back teeth and stares me down. She knows her options are limited. "Let's just see what Fat Ace got to say about Profit dipping his dick in trash."
I flinch. If anybody has the power to shut us down, it's Profit's menacing brother. "Get your snitchin' ass out my face."
"What's going on over here? What is going on?" Principal Davis shuffles his tall, lanky frame through the crowd. His old ass always gets nervous whenever too many niggas are clustered together.
I turn my back, considering the situation squashed for the moment. Beside me, Essence exhales a long breath.
"Girl, you're playing with fire," she whispers as we make our way down the hall. "That bitch can't keep water, and you and Profit's scandalous situation is going to reach Fat Ace-and LeShelle."
My mind races a mile a minute. What are we going to do?
"What the hell were you thinking about, kissing him like that in public? Y'all were supposed to keep y'all shit on the DL."
"I know. I know. But Profit kept fuckin' around and pinchin' me on my titties."
"Well, I hope it was worth it. 'Cause now y'all shit is wide open, and the blowback ain't going to be nothing nice. You feel me?"
Now my head hurts. Profit and I didn't ask for none of this gang bullshit, and neither of us feels like we should be beholden to a bunch of laws and bylaws that we never agreed to. We've been feeling each other for the past six months, ever since I caught him peeping me out in German Town. I'd just tagged along with Essence to visit her uncle out there in a nursing home....
German Town was the latest spot white folks had flocked to, trying to get away from niggas. I remembered being stunned at the pristine sidewalks, mowed lawns, and fancy cars flying down the roadway. It felt like another universe to South Memphis, where bullets fly and drug fiends reigned supreme. Essence and I turned the day into an adventure and hung out at Wolfchase Galleria, snickering and cheesing at all the uppity white folks.
In my heart, there was a little jealousy about how the different classes carried themselves. They acted and were treated like the whole world was theirs. Their clothes were nicer. Their cars were hotter. Hell, if I didn't know better, I would've sworn the damn air was fresher.
"Hey, Ta'Shara," Essence whispered. "Ain't that nigga checkin' you out?"
"Hmm?" I looked up from my baked cinnamon pretzel and glanced around. My gaze zoomed across the food court and zeroed in on the only brother in the place. It didn't hurt that his ass was fine. In one sweeping glance, I saw that he was an easy six-three, lean with a basketball-player frame. If there was anything against him, it was his being on the high-yellow side. Up until that moment, I had preferred my men to be dark.
"Oooh, girl. He's undressing you with his eyes," Essence teased. "You going to let him violate you like that?"
"Nah. That nigga ain't nobody." I went back to eating my pretzel, but all the while I felt the brother's heavy gaze caress every inch of my body. It took everything I had not to peek back at him. I then decided to give the brother an opening by telling my girl I was going back up to the Auntie Anne's Pretzels counter for something to drink.
"You want anything?" I asked.
"Nah, girl. I'm straight."
I stood up and switched my hips all extra because I wanted the yellow cutie to see what I was working with. Up until the previous year, I had been a late bloomer. My older sister, LeShelle, had got her tits and ass in junior high while I had to wait until I was a sophomore in high school. Now that I got them, I sure as hell knew how to flaunt them. And it didn't matter how much junk food I ate; being the star on the track team kept my waist small and my long legs firm and shapely.
"I'd like a Coke," I told the woman behind the counter, and then wiggled a hand down the front pocket of my jeans for some change.
"I got you," a deep baritone said from behind me. A second later, a Lincoln was slapped on the counter. "Keep the change."
I took my time glancing over my shoulder, and when I did, I wasn't prepared for the big, caramel-brown eyes twinkling from beneath a fan of long, curly lashes. My heart started playing hopscotch in my chest. His hair was cut low, but I could tell he had that good Puerto Rican grade that had a nice wave and shine without the help of greasy products.
"You ain't got to stare that hard, baby. I'm real." He smiled, hitting me with perfect rows of pearly white teeth.
I cut my gaze away and grabbed my drink.
"What, you just going to take a nigga's drink and roll?"
I strutted off.
"Oh, your momma must not have raised you right."
I stopped. "Don't be talking about my momma. You don't know shit about me."
My anger only made his smile wider. "I know you're rude as hell. Does that count?"
"What, I'm supposed to bend over because you dropped five dollars? I ain't impressed."
My potential boo licked his fat, luscious lips as his gaze dropped to my ass. "I ain't said shit about bending over, but if you put that fat onion in my face, I'm going to give you something to remember me by."
A delicious thrill slivered straight down to my panties, despite me holding on to my mad face. "Is that how your momma taught you to talk to a lady?"
"Oh, so it's a'ight for you to talk about my momma, huh?"
"Answer the question."
He held up his hands. "My bad, shawty. I didn't know that you were going to try getting all brand-new on a brotha." He adjusted his collar as if it were an invisible tie. "Excuse me, miss. May I ask you your name?"
I crossed one arm beneath my breasts and sipped on my Coke as I weighed my decision.
He stood, waiting and doing his damn best to mesmerize me with his deep-pitted dimples.
"Ta'Shara," I finally said, offering my hand.
"Ta'Shara," he repeated.
My name sounded sexy tripping from his lips, and I felt that same thrill hit my clit and dampen my panties some more. "And what's your name?"
"Profit." He straightened his shoulders and licked his lips. "But you can call me your boo."
I cocked my head. "What makes you think I ain't already got a man?"
"'Cause you standing here flirting with me."
My lips twitched upward. "I'm just talking to you because you were crying about your five bucks."
"Tsk, aww, Momma. Don't play me. That ain't no money. Come with me and let me show you how I roll." He cocked his head.
"Nigga, I don't know you."
"What, you scared now?"
"I'm just stating the facts." I went back to sucking on my straw. "You could be a mad rapist or a murderer or something."
"Yeah, right." Profit hooked his fingers through the front loops of my jeans and pulled me so close my titties pressed into his chest. When I didn't resist, his smile turned cocky as hell. "Now do I look like a killer to you?"
I wanted to answer, but being all up on him like that made it hard to think about anything other than wondering what his fine ass looked like naked.
He laughed at me, his breath all spearmint fresh. "Do you put all niggas through this much drama when you know they feeling you?"
"There you go crying again. Your momma must not have breastfed you when you were a kid."
"There you go talking about my momma again." His beautiful brown gaze lowered to my round titties. "But if you're offering to breast-feed a nigga, I might let that shit slide."
There was a hot moment of temptation. No little nigga had ever gotten me this hot. Plus, there was just something about his cocky ass that felt like the ying to my yang.
"C'mon, lil momma. I'll take you and your little friend shopping." Essence, who was just inches away at a wrought-iron table, perked up at that shit.
"A'ight. Cool." I hit him with the full power of my white smile.
"Yeah!" Essence sprang up like a Pop-Tart.
Wanting to see what Profit was working with, we hit every store in the mall, waiting to see when he would cry uncle and start cussing our asses out. It never happened. Profit peeled Benjamins off a fat knot of bills and made it rain at each cash register with a smile.
"I think this nigga is serious," Essence whispered when her feet started hurting, and she was ready to go home.
I was thinking the same thing.
"So, can a nigga get the digits, or are you just going to play me?" he asked once he helped load our shopping bags into Essence's old Ford Escort.
I folded my arms and stared. "Where you from?"
"Germa nTown? What, your people got money?"
"My people do a'ight, but I ain't from German Town. I meant Memphis. South Memphis, to be exact."
I frowned. "I'm from South Memphis. How come I ain't seen you before?"
"Been down in the ATL for a couple of years with my moms, but the stress of being a single mom tryna raise a black son was too much, so she sent me to live with my father and big brother, Fat Ace."
My heart dropped. "Fat Ace ... is your brother?"
"Ah, shit," Essence swore, crossing her arms behind her. "Give this nigga his shit back and tell him to get ghost."
Profit's face twisted. "Damn, shawty. Slow your roll. What, you kicked it with my brother or something?"
I stepped back and shook my head. "I can't be fuckin' around with the Vice Lords. My sister would fuckin' kill me."
"Whoa. Whoa." Profit tossed his hand up. "I ain't in that gangsta bullshit. I make my own moves. You feel me?"
"I hear you talking, but ..."
"But what? You don't believe me?"
"I'm saying it don't matter. I ain't in the game, either, but it don't mean that I ain't caught up in the politics of the situation. My sister is Python's main chick. Do you know who he is?"
"I heard the name around. I've only been back in Memphis a couple of weeks."
"Well, he's the head nigga of the Black Gangster Disciples. That means he's your brother's number-one enemy. Those niggas been beefing since my ass was in grade school."
Profit paused, and then in the next second shrugged it off. "That shit ain't got nothin' to do with us."
"You can't be that naïve," I said with my heart twisting in my chest. I was really feeling this nigga, too.
Despite Profit's reassurances, there were flickers of concern about the situation in his face. But being a true stand-up nigga, he didn't like being told that he couldn't have something ... or someone. That was the day we hatched the idea of us seeing each other on the serious down low. The only other person who knew the deal was Essence, and she had my back like a muthafucka.
Now, because of one slipup, our shit is wide open. When LeShelle finds out, the blowback is going to be nothing nice.
Datwon Jackson is standing in the center of Momma Peaches's cramped house, sweating like a runaway slave. Fear is a scent every Gangster Disciple killer thrives on, and we are all eyeballing Datwon's trembling ass while he takes his sweet time stacking money in front of our leader-and my man-Python.
I smirk at the weak-ass nigga. I know what the fuck is about to go down, and I can't wait for my man to deal with the weakest link in our organization. Had it been me, I would've toe-tagged his ass a long time ago. But he's Python's blood-who knows how he's going to handle this situation.
"Somebody shoot this dumb mutherfucka," Python hisses after taking one glance at the money stacked on the table and knowing that the shit is short.
An arsenal of handguns is lifted and aimed at Datwon.
I smile as I stand behind Python, ready for the shit to go the fuck off-which always happens when you get a bunch of niggas together.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, mutherfuckas. Whoa." Datwon's eyes bug out as he jacks up his hands. "Python, how you going to kill me? We're cousins, man!"
"Nigga, you're like my fifth cousin twice removed and shit. Ain't nobody going to be crying foul over that bullshit," Python sneers. His big, bulky, chocolate frame is littered with tats of pythons, teardrops, names of fallen street soldiers, and, more importantly, a big six-pointed star representing the Black Gangster Disciples. Python isn't just a member of the violent gang; in Memphis he is the head nigga in charge. Everybody in South Memphis knows my nigga don't fuck around when it comes to his money, drugs, territory, and women-in that order.
The seriousness of the situation hits Datwon like a ton of bricks. The young nigga's face twists like he smells something nasty while his eyes manage to squeeze out a few tears.
That shit only angers Python even more. "Nigga, is you about to start crying and shit?"
The surrounding brothers snicker and cheese. It takes everything I have not to start instigating shit by yelling, Put a cap in his ass. This was a family situation. Everybody needs to fall back and let Python handle his.
Python snatches off his shades and rakes his black gaze up and down his cousin. Despite his hard-earned muscles, Python has a face only a mother can love. But the brother has presence, power, and mad respect. "If you going to be big, bad, and bold and steal from a nigga, then man up." He hammers a fist hard against his own chest. "Pump that shit out and meet Lucifer like a fuckin' soldier."
Excerpted from Hustlin' Divas by De'nesha Diamond Copyright © 2010 by De'nesha Diamond. Excerpted by permission.
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