About the Author
Zane is the New York Times bestselling author of Afterburn, The Heat Seekers, Dear G-Spot, Gettin’ Buck Wild, The Hot Box, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Nervous, Skyscraper, Love is Never Painless, Shame on It All, and The Sisters of APF; the ebook short stories “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “Everything Fades Away”; and editor for the Flava anthology series, including Z-Rated and Busy Bodies. Her TV series, Zane’s Sex Chronicles, and The Jump Off are featured on Cinemax, and her bestselling novel Addicted is a major motion picture with Lionsgate Films. She is the publisher of Strebor Books, an imprint of Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. Visit her online at EroticaNoir.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Zoe had seen the young woman a few times before. She always sat in the back of the meeting room, seemingly lurking, and she never said a word to anyone. She just sat there with this deadpan expression on her face and listened to everyone else discuss their addictions.
Brian, a white male in his late fifties, was finishing up his testimonial. “I recognize this as an illness now. I used to think I just got a little carried away with sex at moments. Then it became an obsession. There were times when I couldn’t even bring myself to fall asleep without feeling the inside of a woman first. When my wife of many years refused to satisfy my needs, I would resort to paying for sex. I would find myself cruising the avenue to pick up whores. Women that had no issues about giving blow jobs for less than the cost of a tank of low-end gasoline. I realized some of them had to carry diseases. How could they not? Still, I was so obsessed with sex that I risked it anyway.”
Brian’s face became distorted as the first tear fell from his left cheek. One of the moderators, Grace, stood up and walked over to the podium to pat him on the back. While Brian was regaining his composure, Zoe seized the opportunity to survey the young woman’s face again. Still nothing. No sign of emotion whatsoever. If it were not for the light fabric of her rayon shirt moving slightly, Zoe would have doubted that she was even breathing.
Brian pulled himself together and continued. “Now I have nothing. Alice left me. My kids are grown, living their own lives, and they hate me too much to even look at me. I spend every single holiday alone. The pain is unbearable. If only I could turn back the hands of time and start over. If only I could make things better.”
The sexual addiction meeting had turned highly emotional yet again. Several of the people broke down in tears. Not so much for Brian, but for the pain and anguish they themselves had endured in their lives of turmoil. Zoe rarely cried at the meetings anymore. Her counseling sessions with Dr. Marcella Spencer, a month at a center in Florida run by a friend of the doctor’s, and a loving and supportive husband had helped her survive her ordeal. Ironically, Zoe had probably been through more drama than anyone else in the room. Her sexual addition had led to three simultaneous affairs with two of her lovers ending up dead at the hands of a third.
Zoe emerged from her seat and approached Brian. She embraced him and whispered in his ear, “It’s going to be all right, Brian. We’re all in this together.”
Zoe glanced at the back of the room. The young woman had exited as quietly as she had entered. Damn, she always does that! Zoe thought.|Nervous 1
I entered my third floor apartment fighting back tears. It was hot. Extremely hot. I’d forgotten to turn on the air before I’d left that morning.
I tossed my keys onto the coffee table and kicked off my low-heel black pumps. “You knew they were calling for a heat wave today,” I said aloud, recalling the morning weather report that I’d neglected. “Why didn’t you turn on some air?”
The sole of one of my stockings snagged on a nail in the parquet flooring as I stumbled into my hallway. I adjusted the thermostat to seventy and sighed, praying it wouldn’t take long to drop down from the current temperature of eighty-six degrees.
I continued down the hall into my bedroom and collapsed on my king-sized bed. I’d purchased it despite the fact that one person didn’t need such a monstrosity to sleep alone. And sleep alone I did. Always.
The red light on my answering machine was blinking. Who could possibly have called? On a Saturday, no less. Normally it would be Momma, but she was out of the country for two weeks. She’d whisked off to Paris to fulfill a lifelong dream. More like fantasy. Momma had a way of fantasizing like no other. One day I hoped she would find whatever it was she was truly searching for. I doubted she would’ve called more than once at those rates and she’d called three days earlier to inform me that she and her latest romantic conquest had arrived safely.
I rewound the tape and hit play.
“Jon, what’s up girl? It’s me!” a bubbly, female voice squealed out at me to the point where I felt compelled to adjust the volume.
Me who? I wondered.
“In case you don’t know who this is, it’s me, Darnetta.”
I sat up on the bed. I should’ve known it was Darnetta. I heard that overanxious voice daily at work. Why was Darnetta calling me at home on a Saturday? We were coworkers but rarely spoke more than two words to each other.
“Jon, I was wondering if you want to hang out tonight. I know we don’t usually flow like that, but I have two tickets to this live concert at Club Snatch and everyone else I know has plans already.” There was a slight pause. “That’s not to say that you’re my last choice. I was going to ask you about going out sometime soon anyway and I saw this as the perfect opportunity. You always seem so shy at work. Anyway, give me a call if you can make it. My number is—”
I didn’t even bother to listen to the phone number and hit the erase button. Me in a club? No way. That meant a lot of people. That meant a lot of men. No way!
· · ·
I baked some chicken breasts that I had marinated in Hawaiian flavoring all day. I cut up a few russet potatoes and boiled them along with a pouch of broccoli. While I was waiting for my meal to get done, I pulled some paperwork out of my briefcase and looked over the weekly shipping records for the office supply warehouse where I was head accountant.
The numbers didn’t make sense. They were way under target for the week, something that normally only happened around holidays. After all, who orders office supplies for Christmas presents? Most people take vacation the week between Christmas and New Year’s anyway. But we were in the middle of August, when there were no holidays.
I’d broken out my calculator and was crunching numbers when my phone rang. I debated about answering for the first three rings. What if Momma was calling back? Maybe something had gone wrong in Paris. I picked it up on the fifth ring, one ring before my answering machine normally kicked in.
“Jon, is that you?”
I didn’t utter a word.
“Jon, you there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” I replied hesitantly.
“It’s me, Darnetta!”
“I kind of figured that.”
“I left you a message earlier. Did you get it?”
“Uh . . .yes, I did. Sorry I didn’t call you back but I couldn’t quite make out the number.”
“Cool. It’s no problem. Sometimes I talk too loud. I’m working on all that though. So, what’s up? You trying to hang out tonight or what? Lil’ Z is performing. The show is going to be all that and them some. You feel me?”
“Yeah, Lil’ Z, the rapper. You’ve never heard of him?”
“Of course I have.” I lied again. “He’s one of my favorites.”
I hoped Darnetta wouldn’t ask me to name any of his songs because I’d never heard of the man. Thankfully, she didn’t go there.
“So how about it, girl?”
After accidentally knocking over my tea onto some paperwork, I involuntarily blurted out, “Shit!”
“Ooh, Jon, I’ve never heard you curse before,” Darnetta chided. “What else do you do that I don’t know about?”
I didn’t like her implications. “Huh? What do you mean?”
I felt bad about cursing. I wasn’t raised that way but, from time to time, a four-letter word forced its way out before I could push it back down my throat.
“Never mind,” Darnetta said. “What about tonight? I really need someone to go with me and I don’t want to waste the ticket. They were so hard to come by.”
“What about your boyfriend, Darnetta?”
Even though we rarely held conversations at work, everybody knew about her boyfriend Logan. He was all she ever talked about—rather, bragged about—in the break room.
“Logan’s out of town for the weekend. He went to Durham. Asshole! I’m so pissed at him. I told him about this concert weeks ago but he made plans to go hang out with some of his immature friends anyway.”
“I see.” I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling. Surely there had to be one other person in the entire city of Atlanta Darnetta could get to go with her. “Darnetta, I’m exhausted. I had a lot of errands to run today. Maybe we can go out some other time.”
“Aw, Jon, please don’t do this to me,” Darnetta whined into the phone. “I realize this is short notice, girl, but I guarantee you’ll have a good time. Funky music. Free buffet. Fine-ass men.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Now I definitely wasn’t going.
“Jon, I’m telling you to take a chance and do the damn town with me. What’s the problem? Do I stink or something?”
We both giggled.
“Darnetta, it’s not you. Really, it isn’t. I just don’t like going out. Especially to clubs. I don’t even recall the last time I’ve been in one.”
“Well, things need to change then. How old are you?”
“I’ve never heard of a single, twenty-four-year-old woman that doesn’t enjoy going out. You have a man, right?”
Now why did she have to go there? I could never tell her the truth. She could never identify with the fact that I’d never really had a boyfriend. No one would.
“No, no man. I’m kind of between men at present. You know how it is.”
“I’m feeling you. That’s why this is a great opportunity to meet someone new. There will be a ton of bachelors there tonight, just waiting on a sexy sister like you to grace their presence.”
Me, sexy? Who was she trying to fool?
“Darnetta, I appreciate the offer. I can’t believe you thought of me, but I really just can’t make it. Sorry.”
Darnetta sighed into the phone. I could tell she was disgusted. “Fine, Jon. I’m going to let you off the hook this time, but there’s one condition.”
“A condition?” I asked, still trying to reorganize my papers and dry the damp ones off.
“Yeah, the next time I ask you to hang out with me, no matter where it is or when, you have to agree right this second that you’ll go.”
“Um, I can’t really say if—”
“Jon, I mean it. Agree to go with me next time or I’m going to be highly offended and get an emotional complex thinking I really do stink or something.”
I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I agreed. “Okay.”
“I’ll hang out with you the next time you ask.”
Darnetta giggled. “All right. Now we’re getting somewhere. Well, I better run and get ready for the evening. Even though I’ve got a man, I’m still trying to be fly as hell when I step up in that bitch. I still have to wash my hair so I’m going to get started.”
“Have a good time, Darnetta.”
“Oh, I will. You can believe that.”
We discussed work for another few minutes before hanging up. Darnetta said that if I changed my mind, I could call back within a couple hours. But that would never happen. There was no way I was going to a club with a bunch of strange men around. They made me nervous.
I ate my dinner and watched some cable. I was completely drained by ten. I took a hot shower, threw on some pajamas, and climbed into my bed with the latest D. V. Bernard novel, The Last Dream Before Dawn. The brother is a powerful writer but I didn’t make it through ten pages before I passed out.|Nervous 2
Two Hours Later
What kind of boring sista falls asleep at ten-thirty on a Saturday night? Jon really needed to wake up and smell some strong-ass coffee. We were young, educated, and beautiful. But the way Jon dressed, which I hated, deterred people from figuring out the beautiful part. I was sick and tired of the ugly-ass, wire-rimmed glasses. I’d broken three pairs and Jon still hadn’t taken the damn hint. Our vision wasn’t that bad anyway. I could see just fine without those stupid glasses. Fuck it. Jon could wear them but I refused to reduce myself to that.
I wasn’t about to be bored so I got out of bed, went into the bathroom and glanced into the mirror. As usual, Jon had on some baggy-ass, flannel pajamas that I wouldn’t be caught dead in.
I checked out our reflection in the mirror. “Look at us. We’re tall; we’ve got thick, ebony hair; caramel skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom; legs for days, and an ass men would weep over. Yet you try to cover us up like we’re a nun or some shit. Fuck all that. A body like this is meant to be displayed.”
Jon had taken care of the bathing part so that left me with the hair and makeup. I tore the pins out of our hair and let it flow before breaking out the curling iron to hook our ass up. Jon kept buying this cheap lipstick from the dollar store but I found an old tube of L’Oréal behind some jars in the medicine cabinet, mixed the two, and it looked halfway decent.
Pickings were slim in the closet, at least when it came to “whorefits.” I selected a black suit and managed to turn it into a somewhat revealing ensemble by going braless and leaving the blazer unbuttoned except for one button at the waistline. I was content. We were showing mucho cleavage and looking damn good.
· · ·
When I pulled up in front of Club Snatch, it was a madhouse. Finding Darnetta to grab that extra ticket would prove to be damn near impossible. Jon was always fucking things up for us. Darnetta was a cool sista and Jon had no business turning down invites in the first place. I almost fainted when she agreed to accept the next invitation from Darnetta. I couldn’t wait to see that.
It wasn’t like we had some busy-ass social calendar or some shit. Those stupid sexual addiction meetings didn’t count as socializing. Jon never said anything while she was there. Besides, there was nothing for her to say. She didn’t know jack.
After circling the block three times, I finally lucked out and spotted someone pulling out of a space. The music was slamming but there were more than a hundred people in line. I was infuriated. I wanted in there bad. Lil’ Z was doing the remix of his hit “Baby Got Breastesses for Dayz” and I was all into him. Jon’s stupid behind had never even heard of him. That says it all.
Damn, I just love bald heads! That was the first thing that came to mind when I spotted his blue-black ass standing at the end of the line. I could tell he was from Jamaica, Barbados, or some other place Jon refused to take a vacation, even though I’d left numerous pamphlets and brochures around the apartment as hints.
The brotha definitely had my interest as I approached him. I surveyed the area. He was alone. The couple in front of him was locking lips and needed to get a room. Hell, Mr. Fine and I needed to get a room our damn selves, but I had something much better in mind.
I brushed my fingertips over one of his ass cheeks. He was wearing the hell out of some navy slacks and I couldn’t resist.
He swung around and glared at me with a pair of sexy, brown, bedroom eyes. He was seemingly pleased with what he saw before him and his eyes dropped down to my exposed breasts. The heat had calmed down from earlier and the cool breeze was making my nipples hard.
He flashed an eno...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.