Tai Wilson has hit forty and finally is ready to settle down with the man of her dreams—now she just has to find him. An executive who has success, her dream home, and a flourishing employment agency in Washington, D.C., she wants a partner to make her world complete.
Her attempts to focus on the right guy get pushed aside as her long-lost sister returns, and she balances the time between the two. Tai and her only sibling, Trista, were separated as children when their parents passed away. Trista’s past is completely unlike Tai’s upscale world. Tai introduces her to fine restaurants and treats her to spas, but Trista has trouble trying to fit into her sister’s world.
Tai treasures female networking as she celebrates friendship with her sidekicks, Candace, a fashionista; and Nevada, a journalist turned private detective. Each has their own lifestyle but when they unite for ongoing adventures, they are as one. Will Tai and Trista finally create the sisterly bond they both crave, or will their attempt to establish a strong union crumble before their very eyes? Will Tai find the man of her dreams? Add in some friends with issues of their own, and Tai is definitely ready for The Next Phase of Life.
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Pleasure ’n’ paradise
Tai glanced at the nightstand clock: It was close to midnight. Eager to escape, she gingerly arose from the soft satiny sheets, peeping at her bedmate who was in a deep slumber. I’m on this beautiful island and it’s way too early for me to turn in, she thought.
There was little time to worry about hooking up pieces for a sensual outfit; it would be quicker to grab a dress—one of her hot numbers. She pulled a fire-red jersey wrap sundress out of the closet and quietly headed for the bathroom. She analyzed the persona reflected in the mirror. Here she was in St. Maarten and confined in a hotel room with a grumpy ex-boyfriend. Boring wasn’t the word for Vince; he was the king of Lazyville. After they’d had a rendezvous—a quickie—he had done the usual: drifted to sleep in record time.
Tai had buzzed him a few months ago on the relationship rebound. He immediately had agreed to take her to the tropical retreat. She wasn’t looking for love; only a travel escort.
She was still recuperating from the grave disappointment of a no-show. Tai had celebrated her fortieth birthday with a big bash when her longtime beau, Austin, decided to pull a disappearing act. After envisioning them as a standout couple on her grand night, when all eyes would be on them, he was nowhere to be found. Tai was forced to celebrate her four decades solo. She had spent months planning the party of 200 invited guests at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C. ValÉ, her fashion designer friend, had created a black and gold, form-fitting, one-shoulder dress to show off her curves that she had managed to maintain at her milestone age. Tai was proud that she had held on to her youthful figure and had no problems flaunting it.
Throughout the evening, her guests had continuously inquired about Austin. The duo had been joined at the hip like two peas in a pod. Now, on her special night, he was ghost. Maybe her occasional comments about turning forty being synonymous with marriage had scared Austin. After all, so many brothers shied away from the ring on the finger. However, Tai felt assurance that Austin was ready to settle down after their five-year relationship. She now presumed commitment wasn’t in his vocabulary when it came to a walk down the aisle.
Despite her constant calls, emails and texts, Austin had failed to respond; she snipped her sweating-a-guy behavior. At forty, she shouldn’t chase after any man! Who the hell did he think he was anyway? The chocolate-skinned, baldheaded and dapper attorney was rolling in the looks and intellectual department. But the disappearance proved that he lacked dignity and respect when it came to their relationship. Pulling out on her with no explanation was surely immature. Oh, well, it’s his loss, she thought. Moving on…despite the pain and ongoing heartache. Can’t let this man continue to play ping-pong with my emotions.
Tai reached for the washcloth and freshened up, ensuring that the water ran lightly. She slipped into the little halter dress that lifted her 40-Ds and accentuated her curves. She dabbled on foundation and applied eye shadow and mascara, then searched her makeup kit for her favorite lip gloss. She sprayed on Halle Berry Reveal perfume and then turned to get a full-length view in the mirror on the bathroom door. She slipped into her black strappy heel sandals. The red dress complemented her honey complexion; she was pleased with her late-night look.
Tai peeped into their luxurious suite and Vince was like a statue. He had shifted slightly but not enough to awaken. Boy, I must’ve put a whammy on him, she thought. He’s sixty, but damn, he should have a little bit more stamina.
Tai had dated Vince briefly when she was in her early thirties. Her associates, not her close friends, had considered her a gold digger. But she refuted, saying that she was attracted to Vince despite the age difference; it wasn’t for his wallet. Yes, he was wealthy, a surgeon with a mansion in Beverly Hills and the ultimate bachelor. His sprawling spread was a fabulous six-bedroom resort with an indoor and outdoor pool, tennis court and a full gym. It was a fitness guru’s paradise and Tai ensured that she took advantage of the amenities. She and Vince would work out on the weights and treadmill and then she’d whip up health-conscious meals in his huge gourmet kitchen.
Tai had met Vince during one of her business trips to L.A. when she was a marketing representative. The two became travel companions and their getaways were mainly on the West Coast: from bed and breakfast inns in Santa Barbara to shopping in Carmel to views of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When Tai desired to escape to the islands after Austin’s disappearance, she had thought of Vince. Now she was in St. Maarten at the fabulous Sonesta Maho Beach Hotel and he was snoozing in sync with the sounds of the flat-screen TV.
She tiptoed across the room and opened the door, being careful to close it securely behind her. She strutted to the elevator; feeling uplifted and ready for whatever was in store. When the doors opened, she stepped inside and headed to the lobby. The outdoor cafÉ beckoned.
Tai spotted a barstool where she sashayed toward and pulled it up to the bar. Scoping out the scene, she noticed that tonight’s crowd was thin. It didn’t matter; she was simply trying to chill and forget about the whole Austin saga. Sure, she was forty and eager now to find a “Mr. Right,” if one existed, but meanwhile, she was in paradise.
“Hey, sweetie, what can I get you?” the charming bartender asked, flashing a Cheshire cat grin.
“I’ll take a pomegranate martini. Please make it stiff.”
The sounds of Maysa blared through the speakers. Tai loved neo-soul music; it always placed her in an upbeat mood. She absorbed the atmosphere on this moonlit night. A slight breeze was comforting and offered relief from the steamy sunshine that had blanketed the small island during the day.
It was Tai’s first visit to the island known for being Dutch on one side and French on the other. Earlier that day, she and Vince had driven their rented Jeep throughout the countryside. They had heard about a nude beach on the French side where they stopped to take in the sights. Of course there were visitors who had no qualms about showing their bodies; no matter their shape or form. Vince had encouraged Tai to shed her swimsuit and join the others, but she wasn’t following the old adage: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”
SINGLESANDCOUPLESWERESCATTEREDTHROUGHOUTTHECOCKtail lounge featuring brilliant shades of turquoise, mango and fuchsia. The bright colors generated a feel of tropical living and created a lively ambience. Tai was enjoying the fruity flavor of her martini and was ready to order a second one. She stopped in her tracks when she locked eyes on a handsome islander. He commanded attention as his smooth cocoa complexion glistened under the low lights. His black button-down shirt showed off his well-chiseled chest. When he caught her look, Tai quickly turned her attention back to the bar scenery. She was slightly embarrassed but also pleased he had noticed.
“Hello, lovely, you sure are wearing that dress. It’s on fi-yah.” Tai jumped slightly as she was startled. The mystery man had made his way to the bar and was now overlooking her shoulder. “Hope I didn’t scare you.”
Tai turned and offered a sexy smile. “Oh, no…thanks for the compliment. I think you saw me checking you out.”
“I did. What’s your name?”
“Tai. And yours?”
“Carlton,” he responded, rolling the “Carl” with his accent. Tai was admiring his full physique now that he was positioned close. “Care if I join you?”
Carlton sat on the barstool next to her. “What would you like to drink?”
“Well, I just finished a pomegranate martini.” Tai made eye contact and edged closer. “But now I’d like a Sex on the Beach,” she said slowly and teasingly.
“Hmmm…cool,” Carlton responded. “Eric, the lady wants a Sex on the Beach. And I’ll take Hennessy and Coke,” he told the bartender.
“Got it. Will make it real sexy.”
“Where are you from? Here alone?” Carlton inquired.
“I’m from D.C. and yes, I’m alone…for the moment.” Carlton raised his eyebrows in curiosity but he dared not barrage her with more questions.
Tai had never tasted the cocktail, but tonight she thought it was fitting. The name itself conjured up images of how her body was feeling; she was starting to heat up down south. She squirmed on her stool as she crossed her legs.
She sure looks luscious in that red dress, Carlton thought. His mind drifted to Coco Brown and the Phat Cat Players…Caressing you so close… Sundress…
“This is delicious. Wow, I’ve never tried it but was always curious.” Tai was enjoying her newly discovered Sex on the Beach. She was relieved to have met Carlton as she didn’t want to spend her last night “alone.” She didn’t mind being restless; just not lying in bed next to a knocked-out lover with a TV watching him.
“What do you do on the island? It’s such a beautiful place. I can’t imagine working here. I’d be stretched out on the sand, laid back and soaking up the scenery.”
“Actually, I’m in law enforcement. I’m a cop.” Carlton cleared his throat. “Mostly undercover.” He stared into her eyes. “But we like to let our hair down, too.”
Tai grinned and twirled her stool to face him. “Oh, I’d better behave.” She smiled and took the last sip of her drink. Her mellow mood blended with the light jazz. Carlton recognized she was relaxed, and he didn’t want the night to end.
“Let’s take a walk,” he suggested.
“Why not? That sounds cool. It’s such a pretty night,” Tai agreed.
Carlton helped her from the barstool, admiring her vision of beauty. Now he really could check out the dress he was singing about in his head.
TAI’SAND CARLTON’SSHADOWSDANCEDALONGTHESOFTSAND as they strolled barefoot. The waves of the turquoise sea played their own melody, offering a romantic breeze. They continued to a secluded sandy spot hidden below a cliff overlooking the moonlit landscape.
Wow, now this is what I call paradise, Tai thought, then exhaled.
Tai dropped her sandals and her tiny shoulder bag as Carlton embraced her tightly. They kissed ferociously and groped each other with intensity. Peeling off their clothes, they discovered irresistible passion. Their nude bodies meshed as they lowered to the sand. And the moon radiated a magical love potion.
© 2011 Charmaine R. Parker
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
New Beginnings Tai Wilson is a successful entrepreneur in the D.C. area. Like most, she's ready to settle down. After spending five years with Austin, she assumed he was the one. Unfortunately, it's the night that she celebrates her 40th birthday that she realizes happily ever after is not in the cards for them. Despite her failed relationship, Tai is still living, learning and searching. Trista, Tai's younger sister, reaches out to her on Facebook, after 30 years. Though they are sisters, Tai and Trista's upbringing do not mirror the others. After a tragedy involving their parents, the sisters were separated. Tai was raised with the grandmother and Trista a neighbor. Tai knows that her sister is in need and willing opens her home and heart to her. Tai prays that this is not a decision she will regret. Will she? I like that "The Next Phase of Life" is based on successful women of color. An easy read, I wish more emphasis would've been placed on the story versus that of the designer brands. Reviewed by: Carmen