Straight-up catch Germaine is eager to prove his worth to Jules, and she falls hard. But it's soon clear Germaine's keeping at least one big secret. And the deeper Jules digs, the more her balancing act and her romance begin to crumble. Now Jules can either turn to her faith and open her heart to love--or risk getting it broken. . .
"Enough drama, romance, and faith that keeps you turning pages." --Tia McCollors, Essence® Bestselling Author
"A sweet Christian romance." –Publishers Weekly
"Christian fiction fans will love this book! Man Enough For Me has heaping helpings of faith, prayer and redemption. I expect that readers will be clamoring for more from Rhonda Bowen." --Tiffany L. Warren, Essence® bestselling author
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Man Enough for Me
By RHONDA BOWEN
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Rhonda Bowen
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Miss, another drink for you."
She should have known better than to stand by the bar. But it was the only spot in the house where she had a full view of the floor and all the entrances. That was especially important tonight when it was very possible that media might show up. It would be just like them to slip through a side entrance, and try to sneak an interview with Truuth without checking with her. Those journalists—she couldn't live with them, but didn't have a career without them.
"You know the drill, Owen," Jules said to the bartender. He smirked and sent back the drink to a dark guy lounging at the other end of the bar. Although it was just 10:30 p.m., Owen had already returned three unsolicited beverages for Jules, so they were now on a first name basis.
Jules sighed heavily. What was it with these brothers? Couldn't a girl stand alone at a bar in peace? She was used to the attention that her curvy, size eight figure, smooth, caramel-colored skin, and dark, wide eyes usually attracted. But that didn't make it any less annoying. She pushed a lock of her wild, curly, shoulder-length hair behind her ear, and wished for a moment that her five-foot, six-inch frame could be invisible just long enough for her to get her job done.
It was bad enough that these brothers kept shooting her greasy smiles, but if they were going to send her drinks, couldn't they at least find out what she was drinking and send that? Maybe then she could think about entertaining a conversation with one of them.
Then again, maybe not. She knew exactly how their weak game would go, because she had heard it a million times before. She couldn't help but grimace. What she wouldn't give for something new.
She glanced at her watch impatiently, wondering why the MC was taking so long to put Truuth on stage. From what she'd heard, new music night at the Sound Lounge usually wrapped up around midnight. That only gave them an hour to get Truuth up to do his set.
Scanning the room again, she noted that the reviewers from the free entertainment tabloid EYE Weekly and the city's monthly culture magazine Toronto Life hadn't left yet. In fact they looked pretty at ease as they sipped their drinks and chatted with a couple other patrons. While she was watching them, she saw Baron Levy and his girlfriend slip in through the side entrance.
Baron was a music reporter for Urbanology, one of Toronto's popular urban music magazines. When Jules had called him earlier in the week to pitch the event, she hadn't been certain he would show up. Urbanology had a habit of ignoring artists who weren't halfway to a Juno or Grammy award. But for some reason, he had turned out to see Truuth, who was still just the opening act for most opening acts. Maybe they were finally beginning to see in him what she had seen all along. Maybe this was a sign of things to come. A small shiver ran up her spine, and she downed the rest of her cranberry juice.
"Can I have another one of these?" Jules asked, shaking her empty glass at Owen.
Owen held up one finger, motioning for Jules to wait, as he finished talking to someone on the phone behind the bar. A few moments later he turned back to Jules and gave her an apologetic look.
"Sorry, Jules, I gotta cut you off," he said, taking her empty glass and placing it under the counter.
Jules rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Owen. Hurry up already with that drink. It's the only thing keeping me sane right now."
Owen shook his head.
"No can do, Jules. I have orders from management not to serve you anymore beverages."
Jules scanned Owen's face for a hint of his boyish grin. But the look in his eyes told Jules he was dead serious. Her own eyes widened in surprise.
"You've got to be kidding," she said. "I am a paying customer. Why can't I order a drink from the bar?"
"Management reserves the right to refuse beverages to any patron if they have reason to believe that said patron is either below the legal drinking age or impaired to the extent that to do so would cause harm to the patron in question or other guests of the establishment," Owen said in one breath.
"You don't even serve alcohol! I'd have a better chance of getting drunk off the tap water."
Owen shrugged, and began wiping down the bar. "Sorry, Jules. I'm just following orders."
"From who? You know what, forget that. Let me talk to your manager, 'cause this is—"
"Hey, is everything okay?"
Jules glanced over at a tall, dark guy who had come up beside her at the bar. He wore a look of concern on his handsome features, but Jules was too upset to notice.
"Someone told the bartender to cut me off," Jules said, glaring at Owen.
"Well, maybe they thought you were—" The guy stopped short when Jules turned her fiery eyes on him.
"Never mind," he said quickly. "What were you drinking?"
Jules folded her arms and shot a nasty look at Owen, who was trying his best to avoid her by acting busy.
"Just cranberry juice."
Without hesitation, the nameless stranger turned to Owen. "One just cranberry juice, please?"
Owen opened his mouth to protest, but one raised eyebrow from the guy seemed to shut him up fast.
"One cranberry juice coming up," he said, reaching under the bar for a clean glass and pouring the drink.
A few moments later Jules stole a peek at her intervener out of the corner of her eye as she sipped on her drink. After handing her the glass, he had given her a small smile, and then had gone back to leaning against the bar with not so much as a second look in her direction. They had finally introduced Truuth, and Jules could hear him warming up the audience as he prepared to start his set. But even though she was excited to see him go on, she couldn't help but glance over at the attractive man who had stopped her from making a fool of herself.
"So I feel like I have to talk to you now," Jules finally said.
He laughed, and Jules couldn't help but notice the dimple in his left cheek.
"You don't have to do anything." His eyes were still on the stage.
Jules rolled her eyes and sighed. "Yeah, but I'll feel guilty if I don't. Hi, I'm Jules," she said, turning toward him.
He grasped her outstretched hand, finally turning his gaze toward her. "I'm Germaine."
Jules breathed in sharply. His eyes were beautiful. They were an intoxicating shade of hazel with tiny golden flecks that seemed to glow like the dim chandelier lights of the lounge. She had to blink several times just to stop herself from staring.
"Uh ... nice to meet you." She swallowed hard. "Th-thanks again for ..." She motioned to her drink.
"No problem," he said, smiling. "Are you sure that's only cranberry juice though?" he asked teasingly. "'Cause you seem to be stuttering a bit."
Jules silently thanked God for making her too dark to blush.
"I assure you, it is nothing but cranberry juice," she said when she recovered. "I don't usually let strangers buy me drinks; it tends to turn them into stalkers."
Germaine chuckled. "I assure you, Jules, I have no intention of stalking you."
"And yet you're still here," Jules said sweetly.
"I am. But if I remember correctly, you were the one who started this conversation."
"Only because I felt obligated."
"Well, I can't be responsible for your conscience, now can I," said Germaine. "But if it gets me a conversation with a beautiful woman, then I can't complain either."
Jules looked back at the stage, trying in vain to hide the smile that was curling her lips.
Okay. This brother was good.
She glanced back at him, admiring his angular profile, cool, mocha chocolate skin, and six foot something frame.
... and he's not too bad on the eyes either.
The crowd, which was pretty large for a Thursday night, was already on its feet and rocking to Truuth's up-tempo, hip-hop sounding groove. Even the guys from the media, who were always too cool to act like they liked something, were out of their seats. Jules couldn't help but grin in excitement. No matter how many times she watched Truuth perform at a show, she still got goose bumps when she saw how well he could move his audience. It made all the hard work she put into his career more than worth it.
"He's pretty good," Germaine commented.
"His name is Truuth," Jules replied. "And he's more than pretty good. He's amazing."
"Sounds like you have a little crush."
Jules glanced over at Germaine, who still had his eyes on the stage.
"Only the professional kind. He's my client."
Now it was his turn to look at her. He was about to say something when Tanya appeared.
"Some guy from Urbanology is looking for you. He said he talked to you this week?"
Even though she was speaking to Jules, Tanya's eyes kept shifting across to Germaine. Jules could already see the wheels in her friend's head spinning.
Jules glanced back at Germaine. He winked at her before turning back to his drink at the bar.
"Who's the eye candy?" Tanya hissed as Jules half dragged her friend across the room toward the table where Baron was sitting.
"Interesting," Tanya said, glancing back at him. "Looks like he was feeling you."
Jules glanced back at Germaine, who was chatting with Owen at the bar, and admitted to herself that this was one time she didn't mind.
It was 12:45 a.m. before Jules got the chance to sit down. When she finally sank into the corner booth near the back of the lounge, she immediately slipped off her heels and curled her legs up under her.
She was beat. After arranging and monitoring Truuth's interview with Baron, shuffling him around to the other reporters in the house, and taking requests for digital photos and follow-ups, she was completely drained. Not to mention starving, and craving a cold beverage like nobody's business. She glanced longingly over at the bar, but knew that her feet would never carry her that far.
"What's with you? You look barely alive," 'Dre said, dropping into the chair across from Jules.
"You have no idea. I would give anything for something cold right now," Jules said, smiling sweetly up at 'Dre.
"Well, there'll be time for that later."
Jules tried her best not to roll her eyes. 'Dre was the CEO for Triad Entertainment, the small start-up company that managed Truuth along with a host of other emerging urban gospel music artists. He was sharp as a tack when it came to running the business and working with artists and record labels. But his one-track mind was sometimes too much for Jules to handle.
"I saw that Urbanology guy talking to Truuth. Good work on that. I might have to hook you up with some of our other artists."
"Not for what you pay me," Jules said only half-jokingly.
The stipend that Triad paid her was nothing in comparison to the value of the work she did for Truuth. In fact, if it wasn't for her day job, at Toronto Grace Hospital, she would have had more than her aching feet to worry about.
But the money didn't bother her. At the end of the day, all she cared about was using her skills to support an artist who was doing something for God. And if one person came to know Christ because he or she read Truuth's story in the paper, or heard him sing in some obscure music café on a Thursday night, then it would be worth it for her.
"Come on, Jules," 'Dre cajoled. "You know it's all about the vision."
"Maybe. But that vision of yours better quit booking Truuth for events in the middle of the week. Unlike some people, I gotta get up for work in the morning," Jules said pointedly.
"I hear you," 'Dre said, smirking.
"And next time, could you give me more than a couple days notice on the gigs you set up for Truuth?" Jules continued. "I know you're the boss and all, but it's hard for me to do my job when I don't even know what's going on. I've never even heard of this place before, not to mention I don't even know who's in charge around here. For all I know we're going to get sued for taking photos without a release form."
'Dre laughed. "Don't worry. No one's getting sued," he replied. "We've got personal connections with the guy who runs the place. It was a last-minute, easy setup; that's why we didn't bother you with it."
"Now that's my girl! Yo, Jules, I can't believe you hooked me up with Baron Levy," Truuth said, appearing out of nowhere. Whereas the media attention had worn Jules out, it seemed to have completely energized Truuth.
"It wasn't me; it was all you," Jules said, smiling.
Every time she looked at Truuth, she felt inexplicable pride swell inside her. Most people would have broken, or become bitter if they had grown up with a mother who was a drug addict and who died without giving them as much as a prayer. But not Truuth. Not only had he risen above it, he had used his experience to reach others who were still where he used to be. He used his music to show them that God could be their way out of no way, just like He had been for Truuth.
"You gotta meet somebody," Truuth said beckoning to a figure nearby. "G, you already know 'Dre; this is my publicist, Jules; Jules, this is my cousin Germaine."
For the second time that night Jules caught herself staring.
"We already met," Germaine said casually, his eyes lingering on Jules for a split second.
Jules shivered despite the warmth of the club.
"Yeah, we met," she mumbled, tearing her eyes away from his.
"I've been looking all over for you guys," Tanya said, appearing out of nowhere. She stopped suddenly, looked up at Germaine, then at Jules.
"Tanya, this is Truuth's cousin, Germaine; Germaine, this is the boss lady, Tanya," Jules introduced.
"A pleasure to meet you," Tanya said brightly, before turning back to 'Dre and Truuth. It was obvious from her briskness that she was in full business mode.
"There's this guy who's doing a gospel thing later this year. I think he might be interested in booking Truuth. Maybe we can even get him to squeeze some of the other artists into the roster."
Not one to miss a business opportunity, 'Dre was out of his seat and nudging Tanya across the room before she had even finished speaking.
"Catch up with you later, cuz," Truuth said, trailing behind them.
"Aren't you gonna do the mad dash with them?" Germaine asked, raising one eyebrow questioningly.
"Nah. They can handle it, that is if they don't scare the poor guy off with their enthusiasm first."
Germaine chuckled lightly before occupying the seat 'Dre had just vacated.
"I thought you weren't gonna stalk me," Jules said.
"It's not stalking if you enjoy it."
Before she could think of a witty response, the bartender came over and placed a glass of cranberry juice in front of Jules and what looked like a root beer before Germaine.
"Thanks, Owen," Germaine said, nodding slightly to the bartender as he left.
"Since when are you and the bartender on a first-name basis?" she asked.
"Since I hired him."
"You hired him?" Jules said. "So I guess you're going to tell me next that you own the place?"
Germaine smiled easily, his eyes never leaving Jules's.
"You're the owner? But wait, that means ..." Jules's eyes widened as Germaine casually took a sip from his root beer and watched her put the pieces together.
"You told Owen to cut me off!"
Germaine shrugged unapologetically. "Guilty as charged."
"Why would you do that?"
"How else could I get you to let me buy you a drink?"
Jules opened and closed her mouth several times as she searched for a response. She was sure that she probably should be mad at him. But she could only shake her head and smile. Guess she didn't have to look far for that something new after all.
"Okay, so you got a few moves," Jules said, refusing to give in so quickly. "Is that supposed to impress me?"
"I never said it should."
"Good, because it doesn't."
"I picked up on that," Germaine said easily. "Tell me something though," he said, cocking his head to the side and looking at her curiously. "What would it take to impress you?"
His eyes were hypnotizing her again, and Jules felt her stomach begin to do somersaults.
"Well, if I had to tell you, then it wouldn't be that impressive anymore, now would it."
"You do have a point there." The corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. "You're something else, Jules. A guy's gotta bring his 'A' game when it comes to you."
"Oh, you were bringing game? I couldn't tell."
"Ouch," Germaine groaned, leaning back and grabbing his chest. "You're killing me."
"Nah, you're fine. Most guys wouldn't hold out for as long as you have."
Excerpted from Man Enough for Me by RHONDA BOWEN Copyright © 2011 by Rhonda Bowen. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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