Jamieson Legacy Excerpts

Book 1: Guilty of Love

“You change your dates more than a woman changes her lipstick,” Malcolm teased Parke over the phone.

“There is a reason behind my madness, as you call it. Not that I’m an extremely religious person, but I feel God is leading me to somebody.”

“I doubt it, PJ. Your recent choices are causing you to lose your mind. If it’s contagious, then stay away from me.”

“Okay, I agree that Nyla was a mistake on my part. It’s partially your fault, too. I’ll never tell you another one of my dates’ names.”

“I’ll never ask again.” Malcolm laughed.

“I admit I strayed away from my protocol with that one.”

“With that one? Try all of them. You need a woman like Hali. Say the word and I’ll ask her about some of her girlfriends when I surprise my baby for lunch later.”

“I don’t need any help.”

“Oh, you need help, all right.”

“Is Hallison so much a woman that she’s got you in a headlock? I can’t see a woman putting me in that position. I’m not ready to be tangled up like that.”

“Suit yourself. Have a crummy day, big brother,” Malcolm barked, laughing and ended the call. He was happy he didn’t build barriers like Parke. Picking up another file scheduled for an audit, Malcolm hoped he could crunch the numbers on three companies’ records before noon so he could surprise Hallison. They worked about ten blocks apart, and met for lunch when they could get away.

Hours later, Malcolm walked out the automatic doors from his office in the Metropolitan Square Building downtown without a care in the world. All was good, and according to the three sistahs in the elevator he had stepped out from moments ago, he looked delicious. One cooed, another whispered, one boldly complimented him on his intoxicating cologne. Malcolm appreciated the kudos, but ignored their overtures. Like his brother, he enjoyed the attention of beautiful women, but only one set his soul on fire.

At one-minute after one in the afternoon, Malcolm entered the revolving doors to the Bank of America lobby. He scanned the wall for the building directory. With his finger he line-read the names until he found Personnel.

On the same floor to his right, Malcolm smoothed his paisley print tie against his shirt as he walked down a short hall and opened a glass door. Suspenders complimented his smoke-gray pleated pants. His worn, but polished shoes squeaked on the tiled floor.

One side of the office housed a row of computers. A few applicants glanced up. When Malcolm removed his sunglasses, a few women ogled him. Hallison said his glasses made him look sexy, rugged, and dangerously appealing.

He approached a large executive-style desk that seemed to separate the ‘common’ area from the private offices. A dark-skinned woman with fashionable glasses and a head full of twisted curls glanced up. She dropped her pen. Staring, she caught her breath.

To keep from disturbing the job applicants, Malcolm leaned forward and whispered, “Is Hallison Dinkins in?”

The receptionist gave him a milk-white smile. “Your name, please, sir?” She scanned an appointment book.

Stuffing both hands in his pockets, he cocked his head to the left. “Malcolm Jamieson, Miss Dinkins’ personal Certified Public Accountant.”

An odd expression masked her face. She pushed back from her desk, stood and locked her desk. Without a word, she turned and her shoes began a two-tap rhythm across the room. She didn’t instruct Malcolm to wait, so he followed.

Unlike the common area, a maroon thick carpet arrested her noisy heels. The woman stopped at a closed door where Director of Human Resources was centered on a distorted portrait-size glass window.

Malcolm was impressed. At least he knew his baby worked in a nice environment. He hoped she liked surprises. Knocking, the receptionist stuck her head in the office and then waved Malcolm forward, aware that he had trailed her.

Entering Hallison’s domain, Malcolm’s eyes were transfixed on Hallison’s blossoming smile. “Roomy place,” slipped from his mouth, but he would get a better look around later. “I was hoping I’d get this reaction.” Strolling to her desk, Malcolm leaned over and took her lips in a slow kiss before whispering, “Hi.”

She pulled away, gulping for air. “Hi, back. What are you doing here?”

Aware of his seduction, Malcolm pecked soft kisses on her lips. “Oh, convincing my lady to have lunch with me.”

“Hmm,” Hallison moaned, lifting an eyebrow. “I don’t know.”

“Uh-huh, we have to celebrate,” he teased, meeting Hallison’s questioning eyes, “our four incredible months together. The future looks pretty good to me right now.”

Hallison blushed and rubbed her nose against his. “And, I’ve enjoyed every moment. About lunch, I may need more convin—”

Malcolm’s response was an urgent, demanding kiss before helping her to stand. He massaged her fingers. “You never have to tease me to get what you want, woman. My kisses have your name written all over them.” Hallison opened her mouth to reply, but stopped. “Baby, is Calico’s okay, or would you rather eat at the Bread Company?”

Coming around the desk, Hallison snaked her arms around his neck in a hug. “I’ll eat White Castle gas burgers just to share lunch with you, but I like Calico’s.”

“I had a taste for some Hallison Dinkins, and the sight of you satisfies my craving for now. C’mon, let’s eat.”

Surveying Hallison’s red silk suit, he whistled when she walked to a wall mirror to finger-comb her hair and check her makeup.

The long-sleeve double-breasted jacket fell below her hips. The matching skirt stopped inches above her knees with teasing splits on both sides and three-inch pumps had Malcolm’s heart pumping faster than running on a treadmill.

“You need a bodyguard, Miss Dinkins, and I’m here to offer my services.” He reached for her. “I like being with you.”

“And, I like you being with me, too.”

Hand in hand, Malcolm escorted her to the downtown Italian restaurant. It was already packed with the lunchtime crowd. As the waitress led them to a cozy window seat, he teased Hallison’s ear with his breath. “You look breathtaking.”

Looking into his dark brown eyes, she mouthed her thank you.

They ordered sodas and decided to share a house salad and pizza. While waiting, Malcolm reached over and played with Hallison’s fingers. A woman sitting behind Hallison distracted him. She made it obvious she was checking him out.

Hallison glanced over her shoulder and lifted her chin in a silent challenge before turning back to Malcolm. Only her eyes wouldn’t meet his.

“She’s not a treat or a threat,” Malcolm assured her and he stretched across the table, closing the distance between them.

Nodding, Hallison looked away unconvinced. Her beautiful lips were twisted in contemplation. He squeezed her fingers. “This lunch, this moment is about you and me. Anyway, Wabash Park is kicking off its weekly summer concerts tomorrow night. I’d love to have my lady wrapped in my arms while listening to live music under the stars.”

As she struggled to answer, Malcolm wondered if the woman’s boldness had upset her. Maybe now was the perfect time for them to plan a romantic getaway. He brought her hand to his lips and placed soft kisses inside her palm. “I want to be with you. No other woman, but you. You don’t have competition.”

“There’s always competition, always.”

“Not against you, Hali. I want just you.”

“I want to be with you, too.”

He inched his mouth closer to her lips. “They can look, but only you can touch.”

Book 2:Not Guilty of Love

 

“What?" Hallison and Malcolm snapped in harmony as they shot questions at Parke.

"You've got to be kiddin' me. What—" Hallison reached out and gripped Parke's arm.

"I didn't know the woman owned a gun. Why..." Mal­colm paused.

Parke held up his hands to ward off the firing squad. "Grandma BB sent me a text message stating she was about to be handcuffed for something nobody can prove. Then I received a call from Cheney's mother. She was cry­ing and saying that Roland had been shot by some crazy woman. He was rushed to DePaul Hospital's emergency room. I put two and two together. Things are about to get ugly."

Malcolm glanced from Parke and Hallison. "I don't know what math you're using, but this is not adding up for me."

"It's not making sense to me either. How is Cheney holding up? I can't believe her day ended like this. Do you need me to stay with Kami while you two go the hospi­tal?" Hallison asked, wiping tears from her face.

"She's not going to the hospital," Parke answered.

"Oh, okay. That's probably better. I guess I should stay with her," Hallison volunteered, already heading upstairs. "At least we can pray together while we wait for news."

Gritting his teeth, Parke shook his head and restrained her. "Hold on. I'm not about to upset my wife yet. I'll go to the hospital and find out what's going on before I break the news."

"Parke, I know she's pregnant, but that's her father, and he could die," Hallison argued.

"Then we'll have to pray he doesn't. I'll bet Grandma BB's not finished with him. Something tells me it was just a warning. That woman is having some serious issues conforming to holiness, man!" Parke rubbed his neck in frustration.

"You think?" Malcolm muttered sarcastically, folding his arms. "It sounds like you know what's going on, and it wasn't an accident."

Parke nodded. "It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Listen," he said, lowering his voice as Hallison paced, "you know we consider Grand­ma BB part of this family, but I can't be with both of them at the same time. She is Kami's great-god grandmother, god great-grandmother, or whatever she is. Anyway, she's family. I don't want her there alone. She's probably beside herself, realizing what she's done. I'm guessing the police probably took her to the Ferguson Police Department since the shooting happened near Wabash Park. She doesn't belong behind bars."

Mrs. Beatrice Tilley Beacon, aka Grandma BB, was Cheney's former next door neighbor. On the surface, peo­ple dismissed her as a harmless, childless, and senile old widow. It was a ploy to deceive everyone about her vul­nerability. Mrs. Beacon had wrinkle-free mocha skin and snowy white strands mingled with silver hair. She was a small-framed woman whose height was five feet in heels, four-eleven in the trademark Stacy Adams shoes she wore like house slippers.

She was known for taking catnaps during the day and terrorizing the neighborhood at night. From her living room window, she kept vigil over the normally tranquil street, shaded by mature trees and brick-covered walk­ways that led to each neighbor’s front door. Her loaded shotgun was the incentive that caused intruders to think twice about committing burglaries, assaults, and car thefts on the block.

It wasn't Mrs. Beacon's age that earned her respect. It was her megawatt spotlight, which was bright enough to flag down a plane. More than a few robbers froze when the light was shone on them. Mrs. Beacon made her own deci­sion whether to call the police. Depending on her mood, she often took matters into her own hands, using a so-called marked bullet to threaten anyone who gave her back talk.

Cheney had slipped through her neighbor's intimidat­ing facade. Mrs. Beacon's sweeter, gentler side flourished when Cheney accepted her first foster child, Kami. Mrs. Beacon stockpiled her house like a KB Toys store, and her back yard became a makeshift playground.

"I don't know, Parke. My girl still has a right to know." Hallison paused. "Wait a minute." Squinting, she cleared her throat. "If you don't need me to stay, you don't need me to go with him." She pointed nervously. "Malcolm can go alone."

"I need Malcolm to get her out of there. Pay her bond or bail or whatever. I don't want her spending the night in a cold cell. I think she's at Ferguson's jail. Bro, you know I'm good for it. Hali, you go for backup and quote Grandma BB whatever scriptures come to mind. I can't believe this happened." Parke didn't wait for their answer. He snatched his house keys off a wall hook. He continued fussing under his breath as he raced out the door then turned back. "Re­member to lock up."

Hallison didn't feel confident about her scripture-quoting ability in Malcolm's presence. He reminded her of all that she gave up in the name of salvation. Parke and Cheney tried to stay out of Hallison and Malcolm's busi­ness, hoping they would resolve their religious differences. However, the longer the separation lasted, the more un­comfortable Hallison felt around them and Malcolm's fam­ily. She didn't want the couple to have to choose sides.

When Hallison would've backed off, Cheney always yanked her closer. "We're sisters, Hali. We were friends before, but God made us sisters forever."

Left standing in Parke's living room, Hallison tried to refocus as she quickly finished covering the leftovers. She raced to the kitchen and shoved dishes into the refrigera­tor. Malcolm trailed her without saying a word, or aiding in the clean-up. Just like a man. His expression was un­readable. What is he thinking? she wondered.

 

 

Book 3: Still Guilty 

 

Dr. Rainey Reynolds didn't understand his twin sister, Cheney Reynolds Jamieson. She was sleeping with the enemy—not in bed, but she was guilty by association. He was seconds away from demanding to know where her family allegiance lay as they en­gaged in a fierce stare-down duel.

They were outside their parents' palatial home, which was tucked behind a tree-lined block on Westmoreland Avenue in the Central West End, an affluent area within St. Louis city. The fifteen-room, three-story stone-and-brick mansion was daunting. Once a person entered, the feeling of being swallowed up wasn't an exaggeration.

Hovering four inches over Cheney, Rainey didn't in­timidate her. Not much of anything did. Naturally beautiful, people wouldn't believe she was as tough and stubborn as she was.

"Remember the family pact?" He blinked, losing the battle.

Frowning, Cheney squinted. "Nope." She jutted her chin higher and folded her arms, indicating she had time for an ex­planation.

"The unspoken rule," he stated, hissing. "If somebody talks about your mama, it's fighting words, or if someone jumps your sister or brother, we all fight."

"We're thirty-three years old. I've long ago put away childish things." Cheney turned to terminate their conversation. As she began to step down the brick-covered circular steps, he reached out and stopped her, causing Cheney to teeter on the edge.

Glancing over his shoulder, Rainey double-checked their pri­vacy. He wanted to make sure their bickering hadn't summoned their parents' housekeeper, Miss Mattie, to investigate the disturbance.

"It's the same concept, twin. We should stick together in this crisis." He interlocked his hands. "Traitor," he bit out with venom then added a few profane words, which forced Cheney to blink. Tilting his head, Rainey gave her a look that was meant for a burglar to think twice about breaking and entering. "You don't get it, do you? If my so-called friend hurt one of my family members, it would be over, and my cut would be clean."

Cheney offered a strained smile. "Ever heard of forgiveness?"

"No." Rainey wanted to shake his sister until her dead brain cells came alive or fell out. She saw nothing wrong with befriend­ing a woman who wanted their father dead.

He didn't care that Cheney had moved next door to Mrs. Bea­con, who fabricated a lie that their upstanding father was a hit and run driver who mowed down her husband. Who knew that Mrs. Beacon would take it a step further and try to harm their father? Now, their father had to go on trial for an alleged hit and run fatal accident, which was ridiculous. It was mind boggling that Cheney still maintained a friendship with the lady.

"Not when it comes to my enemies, Cheney. I happen to be selective about extending amnesty." Rainey tried to control his temper and non-existent high blood pressure, a condition that would surely surface once the trial portraying his father as a mur­derer was over.

"God's trying to get someone's attention. No, make that a whole lot of folks' attention." She waved her hand in the air, stepping closer.

"Well, the Lord's got it, because every media outlet in the area is probably enjoying this." When she reached out to touch him, he moved back, disturbing a pillar of flowers.

"Rainey, this is not about you."

He grunted in disgust, jiggling keys to his black metallic BMW. The jiggling was a habit that annoyed others; still, he allowed the nuisance to fester when he was irritated. "That's where you're wrong, twin. This is about the Reynolds family, our reputation, and integrity. I will not believe our father intentionally ran over Mrs. Beacon's husband with his car and then cowardly left a man to die. Not only can he lose his medical license, he can go to prison for something he didn't do. It's a good thing that bul­let grazed his shoulder, or he would've been dead."

Cheney scrutinized her brother from his leather designer shoes to his troublesome thick, wavy curls. His face was smooth except for a thin mustache and a goatee. As toddlers, people had doted on them, calling them cute. Now, standing regal, Rainey's looks could only be described as breathtaking, heart-stopping, and eye-bucking distinguished. His convictions—right or wrong—were tighter than matted hair.

His intellect was exceptional, and his career was soaring as one of the most sought-after new orthodontists in the St. Louis area. Being the son of the assistant director of obstetrics and gy­necology at St. James West Hospital had its privileges. Rainey's style of dress was a war between conservative and contemporary. The result was his signature collection.

"Judgmental doesn't compliment you." Cheney shook her head.

"We're talking about some serious allegations here. You're way beyond rational." He balled his fists, jiggling his keys again. "I have every right to be angry. It's going to be a media circus around the courthouse."

"Don't you think I know it?" Cheney folded her arms and tapped her shoe. "I know you're not blaming me for stirring the pot." This time she backed up, sidestepping the matching pil­lar of flowers. "You don't have to say it. Your eyes reflect your thoughts."

She gracefully planted her hand on her luscious hips, as her husband described them. She lifted a brow and exhaled. She counted to two-and-a-half before she was about to release her fury.

The power of life and death is in the tongue, God intercepted with a portion of Proverbs 18:21.

"I love you," she said so unexpectedly, she surprised herself.

He frowned, clearly caught off guard. Forgoing an endearing reply, Rainey dared one last jiggle, shook his head, and opted to march away. He followed the stone path outlined with red petunias to his sedan parked in the semicircular drive. Before he disengaged his alarm, he looked back. "See you in court."

Book 4: The Acquittal



I never should’ve let her go, Dr. Rainey Reynolds scolded himself for the umpteenth time since Josephine Abena Yaa Amoah’s departure—as if he could’ve stopped her.

Come home to Africa and ride on our crocodiles, play with our monkeys, walk above the trees in our rainforest, dance on our many beaches…Come to Ghana with me, and taste the freshest pineapples and papayas in the world, or delicious domedo…Come with me… Josephine’s enticing whispers faded in his mind.
  Her appeal had been so strong that Rainey had felt compelled to pack and program his GPS to that destination.
Tall and elegant, Josephine didn’t just walk into a room. She moved like a dancer as if the rhythm of Africa’s drums played in her head. The day she beckoned to him, Josephine’s clothes were wrapped around her body like melted wax. Her rich brown sugar complexion glowed. Simply put, Josephine was a majestic woman, created to be noticed, from her husky African accent to her expressive brown eyes—and her hair—not one strand out of place. He remembered every detail, even the scent of her toothpaste.
However, despite Rainey’s attraction, Josephine possessed one irritating attribute. The woman hadn’t seen eye to eye with him on practically anything while she was a graduate exchange student at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
“So…” Dr. Shane Maxwell said as he tapped his fingers on their table, interrupting Rainey’s musing. “Let me get this straight. Where did this idea of doing missionary work suddenly come from, and of all places Ghana?”  
Both had attended a day-long conference of the St. Louis Chapter of American Association of Orthodontists, the elite and highly competitive professionals of the dental field. With the lectures finished, they had just placed their orders at the Yia Yia Euro Café.
Rainey squinted at his colleague and childhood friend. Growing up, they had been inseparable. Easygoing until provoked, their memories rarely faded. Each possessed striking looks and an athletic body. They had their pick of women, especially when it was made known that “doctor” was part of their title.
Shane grunted when Rainey hesitated. “Wait a minute. Isn’t that where the woman who thought she was too good for you hails from? What was her name? You two didn’t even get along.”
“Josephine Abena Yaa Amoah.” Her name flowed easily as Rainey tried to duplicate the Ghanaian accent. “Granted, our personalities clashed most of the time, but there was a mutual attraction. Plus, she did invite me to her homeland.”
“No, if I recall correctly—and trust me, I do—you told me this Josephine lady was conducting story hour at a library to a bunch of kindergarteners. It wasn’t a personal invitation. You just so happened to be there because you were meeting your twin sister for lunch.”
As Rainey tried to defend himself, Shane held up his hand. “Somehow you felt compelled to accept her indirect offer from how long again? It’s been almost a year! You can’t be serious? Desperation doesn’t suit you. Let it go, man. Let her go, please.”
And that was the problem; no matter how hard Rainey tried he couldn’t erase her memory. “Dr. Maxwell,” Rainey addressed him professionally just to annoy him. “As you know, it’s not unusual for our colleagues to volunteer their services in any manner we chose, especially in underdeveloped countries. As a matter of fact, two groups recently returned from Central America, and did you know some children in Honduras had never seen a toothbrush?”
Rainey shivered at the thought of gum disease lurking in the hidden crevices. “Can you imagine? So I thought to myself…” he shrugged. “Why not give back? I contacted Dentists Without Borders and there just so happened to be a need in Peru and Ghana. I requested Ghana.”
“What a coincidence,” Shane said sarcastically before stroking his beard. “That’s another oversight. We’re not dentists, Rainey. We did not agonize three years in post-grad to specialize in orthodontics to pull teeth.” The joke between them was all anyone needed was sewing thread. “In case you forgot, we’re not licensed to extract teeth.”
This was not the time for Rainey’s friend to play the devil’s advocate. “Just go with my flow. For the fun of it, I mailed my application to the organization, along with a copy of my credentials.”
“What? If you were wearing braces, I would say they were too tight. Rain, listen to me, man.” Shane leaned across the table. “We give back by donating thousands of dollars each year to charities.  You and I serve on several boards, volunteer occasionally at Big Brothers Big Sisters, we sponsor little leagues at Herbert Hoover Boys Clubs…Write a check.” Shane reached inside his suit pocket and pulled out his checkbook. “I’ll even match you dollar for dollar, or donate supplies since you’re feeling charitable.” He poised a nearby pen to write out the amount.
“It’s not all about the money this time.” It was about seeing Josephine, her fantastic smile and experiencing the sparks between them that continued to simmer even in her absence. Neither time nor distance had smothered his attraction.
They paused when their meals were placed in front of them. Each silently said grace before they draped napkins on their laps. Although there was a lull in their discussion as they savored their selections, Rainey’s mind continued to play a matinee of his life. He needed a sabbatical to escape his dysfunctional family.
The honorable Dr. Roland Reynolds had a flawless reputation in the medical profession and community as an OB/GYN practitioner. His father would tell his children stories about near death experiences during deliveries, but how through his skilled hands and expertise, the babies had arrived safely into the world.
The illusion of the great and powerful doctor was shattered when he confessed to an old hit-and-run case that killed a man. For almost a year in his father’s absence, Rainey, the only son, had played big brother to his older sister and head of his mother’s home.
Only in a twist of fate did the victim’s widow unknowingly become close friends with his sister, Cheney. His father was tried, convicted and sentenced to two years in the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Missouri. Twenty-four months, seven hundred and thirty days seemed like an eternity to his family.
Rainey refocused on the present as he helped himself to another bite of roasted chicken. A few seconds later, he wiped his mouth. “I know what you’re thinking.”
“Oh, I doubt it.”

Book 5: Guilty by Association

Boston, Massachusetts

 

“He called again,” Sandra Nicholson told her son, Kidd Jamieson, as soon as his commanding figure cleared the doorway of their Hyde Parke condo.

Grunting, he shut the door. Kidd’s nostrils flared as he swaggered across the hardwood floor. The persistent caller claimed to be Cameron Jamieson, a distant cousin who had tracked down him and his younger brother, Aaron “Ace” Jamieson through some genealogy nonsense.

Cameron said he was completing his second engineering degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At first, Kidd wondered if it was a prank. After all, in the black community, everybody claimed to be a cousin.

“I told the man we weren’t interested in whatever he was selling,” Kidd spat before brushing a tender kiss on his mother’s cheek as he headed to the kitchen.

“Kevin Jamieson,” she said, following him then planting her hands on her hips. “He isn’t pedaling goods. He represents your father’s side of the family—maybe the good part. At least feel him out.”

Family, huh? More like… Kidd didn’t finish the thought. “Okay, I’ll put an end to this for once and for all. You have his number?”

Kidd didn’t need this added frustration. He was the older of two sons to a never-been-married mother. Kidd found no fault with her, just his absentee father. His priority was no matter what, to take care of mother, which had become a little harder after he was laid off from the Gillette Corporation—a job he labored at for eleven years—and forced to give up his apartment.

His mother tore off a sheet of paper and handed it to Kidd. Studying the number, he punched in the digits and leaned against the granite counter top.

“Hello?” Music was blasting in the background.

Assuming it was Cameron who answered, Kidd didn’t waste his words on preliminaries. “Let’s meet.”

And Cameron didn’t play dumb. That earned him a point of respect. Kidd heard him muffle the phone. “Hey, it’s my cuz. Turn it down,” then he repeated his order, adding, “lower!”

Kidd grunted. Cuz? The man didn’t know him, yet claimed Kidd anyway, which was odd, considering his worthless father had turned his back on him and his younger brother.

“I’m ready whenever you are.”

“Now,” Kidd demanded. Let the man come to his turf.

Cameron didn’t stutter or skip a beat. “You name the place and I’m there.”

Kidd did and disconnected.

“You could have invited him here, honey. He’s very polite when he calls, not rude like you just treated him. Don’t make me ashamed Kidd.”

Shaking his head, Kidd washed his hands in the sink, then grabbed a plate out the cabinet. “He may have our number, but he doesn’t need to know where we live.” Without a care in the world, Kidd began lifting lids and peering into pots. “Mmm, sweet potatoes and collard greens. Thanks, Ma.”

Sandra sat at the table, folded her hands, then cleared her throat. “How long do you plan to make him wait, Kidd?” She didn’t mask her irritation with him.

“He’s interrupting my dinner plans and I’m hungry. Job hunting isn’t what it was when I finished junior college.” Kidd took a seat at the table after piling enough food on his plate to feed him and his mother.

 

Book 6: The Guilt Trip

Twenty-eight-year-old Aaron “Ace” Jamieson wasn’t married and never had been married. In fact, he wasn’t planning to pick out a tuxedo and meet a woman at the altar any time soon. To maintain that resolve, Ace displayed the highest level of professionalism when it came to playing the dating game.

Early on, his buddies taught them that it’s around the three-month mark when women began fantasizing about permanent residency. Therefore, his benchmark was seventy-two days or less. Ace was upfront with the ladies that he wasn’t looking for anything serious.

As he shaved, he snickered, recalling some of the tactics women used to trap him into marriage: lavish gifts, on-demand intimacy, or claiming to carry his love child.

Shaking his head in disgust, Ace rinsed off his razor. He methodically massaged aftershave on his face and throat. Women’s bluffs didn’t make him blink. He would not be lured into any baby momma drama.

But something had happened to his determination three months ago when his cousin’s friend introduced him to Talise Rogers. She swept him off his feet on the first date. There was something alluring about her independence, confidence and her exotic dark features on brown sugar skin.

Humph! Their connection was more than the explosive physical attraction. If there was a soul mate, Talise was it.

To Ace, she was his Tay. He was convinced she had an invisible grip on him that was about to bring him down, and he wasn’t complaining. It took some back-and-forth battling between his mind and his heart, but Ace thought Talise just might be the one he couldn’t let get away.

Genuine, honest and gorgeous. When she surpassed the one-hundred-day mark, Ace had stopped counting. “I’m actually losing my mind over this woman,” he mumbled and continued dressing to take her for a Friday night out on the town.

Bobbing his head, Ace slipped his feet into his shoes. Yep. A man would be a fool to let her go. He grinned when he thought about their intimacy. Ace wouldn’t comment.

Before the night ended, he was going to have an out-of-body experience and do something he had never before contemplated: profess that his feelings for her were beyond a physical attraction. Whew.

Talise was the sole reason why Ace had repeatedly turned down his brother, Kevin “Kidd’s”, offer to relocate to St. Louis. Of course, he couldn’t tell his brother that his decision was based on a woman, despite his company having two openings in the area. If Kidd had seen Talise, he would have understood his reluctance to be uprooted.

He swiped his car keys off his nightstand and jogged down the steps to the first floor of the condo he shared with his mother in the Hyde Parke neighborhood of Boston.

Sandra Nicholson paused watching her favorite television show. She glanced over her shoulder and lifted a brow. His mother might as well been eighty years old because all she did was work, church, and home.

“Hmm. You look exceptionally handsome tonight. Are you still going out with that Tanya, Tia, Tor—young lady?”

“Tay, Momma.”

“I knew it began with a ‘T’.” Pointing the remote at the flat screen TV, Sandra muted the sound. She smiled, showing off the same left cheek dimple that Ace inherited.

“Five months with the same woman. When am I going to meet her?” His mother’s eyes danced with mischief. “All I can get out of you is her name.”

“Which you can’t remember. I guess that’s why they sent you an AARP card,” he teased. Her mischievous eyes squinted to instill fear. It didn’t work. “And it’s been four months.”

“I would like to meet Tay.”

That’s not happening any time soon. I need to figure how to define our relationship first. He chuckled. “Good night, Momma Nosy.”

Stepping to the sofa, he leaned over and brushed a kiss against her cheek, then sauntered out the door. That was another first with Ace; he never divulged the names of his conquests. It would mean there was some form of attachment.  

Book 7: Free from Guilt

                                    

Cameron Daniel Jamieson wasn’t going down like his brothers and cousins in the romance department. No woman in the world would get him to a prayer altar as a prerequisite for the wedding altar.

Absolutely, he wanted to get married, and he somewhat was on the prowl for a wife. His criterion was she had to be the one his heart refused to let get away. Cameron didn’t believe in mixing religion with politics, at the workplace or in relationships, and definitely not outside of the church walls. That was nonnegotiable.

He did a quick sweep of his relatives gathered in the dressing room in the small St. Louis, Missouri, church. Cameron noted the common thread among the men. Their wives had dug their stilettos into the ground, refusing a diamond ring unless their Jamieson man humbled himself to Christ first. How ridiculous, but that’s exactly what happened to them.

His cousin Aaron “Ace” and Ace’s wife, Talise Jamieson, were moments away from renewing their wedding vows in an elaborate ceremony.  A few months earlier, the couple had married three weeks before their precious daughter was born.

It was a happy ending to their tumultuous courtship. Cameron paused in his thinking. He guessed there were always exceptions to the rules. Maybe, if it wasn’t for Jesus intervening, he wouldn’t be standing there about to witness their wedding vow renewals today.

However, Cameron took the credit for introducing Talise and Ace, but they later split on bad terms. When Cameron learned that a future illegitimate Jamieson child was at stake, he didn’t hesitate about intervening in his cousin’s business. Cameron refused to lose any connections to his ancestral tree.

When Ace got his act together and proposed, Talise had two stipulations to her holdout of saying yes: She did not want to be pregnant in a wedding dress, and her sister who was serving in the Persian Gulf, had to be present. Today, Talise had her wish. Women and their demands could really put a strain on a brother. Oddly, the “groom” was nervously pacing the floor.

“Chill, dude. You’re already married. It’s not like Talise is going to leave you standing at the altar,” Cameron taunted his cousin who was more like a third brother to him.

“Today is all about my baby. You have no idea how important this is to her,” Ace said as he paused, staring down at Talise’s wedding rings and his band, which he cupped in his palm. The set had been on his wife’s finger a day earlier.

At that very moment, Ace’s s cell phone rang and ended the discussion. When he answered, the photographer snapped a picture. Listening to the one-sided conversation, Cameron sensed something wasn’t going as planned.

“She did what?” Ace roared. “You’ve got to be kidding me? It’ll be okay,” he consoled, exhaling. “I’ll see you in a few. I love you, babe.”

“Something is not okay. What’s going on?” Cameron, along with the other groomsmen, was ready to spring into action.

“It’s Talise’s stepmother,” Ace said, glancing around for his father-in-law who had excused himself for the men’s room. “She’s in the bridal chamber giving Tay grief. Basically, she’s complaining about wearing pink instead of white on her wedding day. Plus, the woman’s harping on why we couldn’t renew our vows in Talise’s hometown of Richmond and more. My wife hasn’t lived there in years.”

Cameron knew Ace didn’t hold his tongue if anyone upset his wife. This was supposed to be a joyful occasion.

“The final straw was when her stepmother demanded to be escorted down the aisle as part of the wedding party. Thank God, Grandma BB stepped in and put the woman in her place.”

“Yikes.” Cameron stuffed his hands in his pockets. It was a known fact that Talise did not refer to the woman as her stepmother, but as her father’s new wife after the death of her mother.

“Yikes is right. Grandma BB shoved the stepmother out the door and warned her that unless she wanted to go home with a limp, she’d better not try to even put her big toe in the center aisle.”

Book 8: The Confession

 

“Excuse me.” The richness of a baritone voice interrupted Sandra Nicholson's next sip of java as she stared out the window at the Nook Cafe'. Glancing over her shoulder, Sandra expected to see... Well, she didn't know what she expected, but the good-looking gentleman with defined features wasn't one of them.

The mesmerizing voice matched a captivating man. Wow, she kept thought to herself as he seemed to study her. 

“You are one incredibly beautiful woman,” he stated as he towered over her table she shared with her son, who had minutes earlier excused himself for the men's room.

The stranger’s timing couldn't have been more precise. A snarl from her overbearing son, and the man surely would have thought twice about stopping. Where was Kidd anyway?

Without waiting for her response, the distinguished gentleman swaggered out of Nordstrom's boutique cafe and disappeared into the store, leaving a trail of his designer cologne as his calling card. His stride had been as confident as his declaration.

Sandra did her best not to ogle, but she conducted a quick assessment in less than sixty seconds. She guessed him to be about six-one or two and would tower over her five-seven frame.  Judging from his wavy thick salt and pepper curly hair that complemented brown skin, the man was in his late forties, early fifties.  If good genes ran in his family, he could have been hovering over eighty for all she knew. Yet, his confident stride hinted of a man who was youthful and fit. With jaw-dropping looks, she pegged him as a ladies man in his heyday, or even now. Sandra knew how to call them, because she had been charmed by the top of the line Samuel Jamieson. She dismissed the temptation at the same time Kidd reappeared, talking on his cell phone.

“Eva,” he mouthed.

She nodded as he took his seat, then her mind drifted once again to the striking stranger. It wasn't like she didn't receive compliments here and there, but it was the commanding way he said it that made her want to pass out and never regain consciousness if it meant he would be in her dreams.  Because he said it, Sandra felt beautiful. Maybe it was the highlights in her hair that her daughter-in-law, Talise, insisted she try or maybe it was the ensemble she had meticulously assembled to wear.

“Okay, babe. Don't worry. I'm on my way.” Lines etched Kidd's forehead, which put Sandra on alert. No time for whimsical musing as she leaned forward with concern. “Is everything okay?”

“No.” He gritted his teeth. “The car won't start and Kennedy has a doctor's appointment. Sorry, Mom, we have to cut our breakfast date short.” He stood and pulled a twenty out his wallet then kissed her cheek. “Are you going to be all right?”

Sandra smiled. “No apologies needed, son. Go see about my grandbaby. She's your priority.”

“But you're right up there at the top of my list too.” Snatching his jacket off the back of his chair, he hurried off.

The monthly breakfast treat was her older son's idea for some one-on-one time. Even though he was married, he still felt obligated to look after her as if she was an ailing out of shape granny in her eighties, not a woman who had yet to experience a hot flash.

In her mid-fifties, Sandra had regrets in her life. One, she had yet to marry. Even after she repented of her deeds and accepted salvation outlined in the Book of Acts, God hadn’t blessed her in that way. Second, the man who fathered her two sons out of wedlock wasn’t worth the heartache he called her. But the Lord had given her two beautiful granddaughters to spoil—one from each son. And she did without any guilt trips from their scolding.

As a personal fashion consultant and shopper, Sandra set her own schedule.  She didn't have to meet with her client until this afternoon. She had worked in the insurance industry for most of her adult life to provide for her boys. With her 401K and pension, Sandra had quit her job in Boston and relocated to St. Louis to be closer to family. That move seemed to liberate her and she explored her creative side. She was finally, after thirty years, putting her fashion merchandising degree to work.

Sandra glanced around the cafe. No other male patron seemed to pay her any mind.. She didn't consider herself vain. She strived to live with a humble spirit, but a male compliment, not coming from her sons, did make her smile.  Wait until she told the Jamieson girls about this. She chuckled as finished her crepes and fruit.

Book 9: The Guilty Generation

W here is Kami? Parke K. Jamieson VI wondered for the countless time. His seventeen-year-old daughter was on her first date. Why did little girls have to grow up? Why did they like boys? Why was Kami testinghim? He should have installed the tracking app on Kami‘sphone—a recent birthday gift—like he‘d wanted. But ohno, his wife, Cheney, said he was overreacting and to trust Kami. Parke did, but he was suspicious of any boy or man,whose last name wasn‘t Jamieson, within ten feet of hisdaughter. It was their overactive male hormones he wanted to place on ice. He checked the time on his watch again. Now, thirty-two minutes late was proof he wasn‘toverreacting. He was just a concerned, overprotective, and

loving father.
If he even motioned he was tapping his phone to call or 
text Kami, Cheney gave him the eye that he‘d better not. Wives could be scary, and if a man loved his wife, he‘dbetter let her have the upper hand every now and then.

Flexing his muscles, Parke folded his arms and trained his eyes on the entrance of the banquet room. Despite the ruckus of little people‘s screams of delight around him, Parke kept his position. His cousins and their families chatted and released hearty laughter as his irritation swelled, ready to explode.

This was not the mood he wanted to possess for a get- together to celebrate family, recite oral history that everyone should have memorized by the age of five, and to play Afrocentric and Black American history games.

As the Jamieson‘s clan expanded, their homes could nolonger accommodate the many generations under one roof. That explained why sixty-three Jamiesons locally and across the country were at the Hyatt Hotel in St. Louis on a Friday night to kick off the long Memorial Day weekend. The banquet room could easily hold a hundred-plus guests.

The casual weekly family gathering he had enjoyed as a boy defaulted to monthly to accommodate each family‘s lifestyle. For a while, the gatherings even became a hit-or-miss affair. That‘s when his father, Parke V—called Papa P by his adorning grandchildren—put his foot down. Enough was enough. He issued a written decree that the entire family would come together for an evening of bonding among the generations every spring, summer, fall, and winter. There would be no excusable exceptions unless there was death or illness. His father even went so far as having the head of every household sign it, because family meant everything.

The Jamieson wives loved the idea of letting someone else do the cooking and cleaning while everyone had a good time. The elegant white linen tablecloths and bright overhead chandeliers mocked the occasion of its guests. The night was about fun, games, and food. The Jamieson women opted for designer jeans and high heels. How did his wife and the others glide across the floor with such precision? he wondered. In contrast, the teenagers and smaller children were outfitted for comfort and play time. There were so many little ones.

Parke wouldn‘t be surprised if the Jamiesons surpasseda couple hundred in attendance within the next few years with the diligent efforts of his youngest brother, Dr. Cameron Jamieson, leading the family tree search,uncovering one descendant at a time. As Parke‘s mind wandered, his eyes didn‘t—they were locked on the entrance. Schedules were shuffled and appointments pushed back. Everyone with Jamieson in their DNA was expected to show up and on time, so Kami was flirting withan uproar from her grandfather...and him. He huffed.

His wife blocked his view. ―At ease, Mr. Jamieson. She‘ll be here soon."

He relaxed. Cheney was a distraction without trying. Her features always mesmerized him. Even after fourteen years of marriage, she was stunning and had less gray strands than him. After tonight, he was sure more would have sprouted by morning.

"―I‘m cool." He slipped his hands in his pockets.

"―Liar." Her eyes twinkled, a sign that she was in tune tohim. She brushed her soft lips against his and turned to leave when he grabbed her hand and returned a kiss of his own. She knew how to kiss him and make everything better, easing the stress that had been there momentsearlier. A house could be on fire and he wouldn‘t know it.

When he fell in love with her, Parke meant with everything within him until death only they would part. "Later, you and me, our bedroom, by the candlelight."

She lifted a brow and sashayed away.

How could Cheney be so calm? Kami was their onlydaughter, so shouldn‘t she be a mama bear or something?