Before Single Ladies returns to our TV screens in January, a three-part eBook series written by New York Times bestselling author Ashley Antoinette is hitting stores so fans can get their fill of their favorite women from the ATL. The series is set between the finale of season two and the premiere of season three and focuses on the individual lives and loves of the show’s leading ladies. Today we bring you an exclusive, free excerpt from the first book in the series which is all about Raquel, entitled A Couple Of Forevers. The e-book is available for download on Amazon.com, in the iBookstore, and on BarnesandNoble.com.
The whir of the helicopter’s blades made a deafening sound as Keisha stared out of the window, dazed. She couldn’t believe that she had been stalked by Veronica, and all over Sean at that. Sean had been a part of her life for many years. They had been great lovers once, so she knew the type of game Sean was laying down in and out of the bedroom. She couldn’t fathom the fact that a successful, driven, and beautiful woman had been driven to madness over a man. It was good, but it wasn’t that good, Keisha thought snidely as she pursed her lips and tightened her grip on Malcolm’s hand. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze in return, bringing a sense of peace to Keisha that she hadn’t felt in months. Now this, this is that good, she concluded. Malcolm was her ‘feel good’, her ‘get right’, her ‘everything’. Whenever he was in her life she became a glass half full type of girl. He gave her infinite happiness and even when a million things were going wrong, as long as he was there, that was enough to make everything okay. He handed her a headset and she held it open before placing it carefully over her bobbed hair. All sound was immediately drowned out. It tuned out the madness and as she stared into Malcolm’s warm eyes, she realized that he did the same for her as well. Focusing on this beautiful man before her helped her tune out the world.
“I never want to live another day without you, Keisha,” Malcolm said. His words melted her as soon as he said them. They had been without each other for so long that everything with Malcolm now felt brand new. Sure, she had her doubts about where this may lead. If history had taught them anything it was that making this thing work would take some persistence. Their personalities were too strong not to clash every once in a while, but the same stubbornness that they hated in one another was also what they loved about one another. It was that thin line type of love. One moment they couldn’t get enough of each other, the next they were fighting like cats and dogs, but through it all the passion never died. At the moment, Keisha felt as if she was on cloud nine. She had the luxury of having the new relationship flutters while being comfortable enough with him to have no worries. For the first time in too long, she was truly happy.
Keisha opened her mouth to respond but was silenced when she noticed Taylor fighting against the forceful gusts of the helicopter, her hair and Burberry trench coat blowing violently in the wind.
“Umm, Malcolm,” Keisha stated in confusion. “You want to handle that?”
Her voice filled his earphones and he peered over her out of the window. He grimaced and grit his teeth as he shot her an apologetic look. She patted his hand reassuringly. Keisha wasn’t naïve. She was sympathetic to his situation. Things like this were always messy. She knew that Malcolm would have to deal with the fallout of his breakup with Taylor. He had been in a serious relationship with her for months. Keisha didn’t expect for the poor girl to just disappear into thin air without protest. Any woman in her right mind would put up a fight for a man like Malcolm. Unfortunately for Taylor, poised against Keisha, she would not win. The chemistry between Keisha and Malcolm was undeniable. Even when they hated each other, their love was still palpable. It was too strong for either of them to ever deny and too great for anyone, especially Taylor, to break. It had been folly on her part to turn this into a competition between them. Keisha and Taylor were like night and day. Where Taylor came from affluence, Keisha had grinded her way to success. She had earned every single thing she had, which is why she seldom came up on the losing end of the stick. Taylor was out of her league when it came to squaring off with Ms. Greene. Keisha only hoped that Malcolm would let her down with sensitivity so that they all could close this awkward chapter in their lives.
“Wait a minute, Jackson, cut the engine,” Malcolm instructed, speaking to the pilot.
Malcolm rose from his seat and kissed Keisha’s forehead as he bypassed her to exit the flying machine. He adjusted his tie, loosening it as it suddenly felt like it was choking him. He was visibly uncomfortable and prepared for a showdown. He was being put on the spot and didn’t appreciate it. Taylor and Malcolm had already been through this song and dance. He hadn’t expected to replay the final act in their relationship. The prim and proper Ms. Taylor wasn’t the pushover she appeared to be. At first glance he could see the fire that danced in her eyes. She was livid and Malcolm was a bit unnerved as he waited for her approach. Her five-inch Louboutins were like stakes stabbing the concrete as she walked furiously towards him. The helicopter blades stopped spinning, the engine’s roar softening to a purr, allowing natural sound to be audible again. Taylor’s trench coat blew in the wind as she stalked over to him. She was a woman scorned and Malcolm could see the undeniable look of hurt in her glossy stare. Evidence of a night full of tears stained her face. She was desperate and it showed. On any other day she wouldn’t be caught dead with swollen, red eyes, or messy hair, but today she was laying it all on the line. Her heart was on her sleeve and Malcolm could tell that it was taking everything in her not to allow her emotions to flow freely in this moment.
“Taylor,” he greeted.
“What are you doing, Malcolm?” Taylor asked, the bite of anger nipping at him in her tone. She peered over Malcolm’s shoulder at Keisha waiting in the helicopter. “All of this time you told me that Keisha was just a friend…that I was being paranoid…that she wasn’t a threat to our relationship. You promised me and now here we are. She’s sitting in a seat that I just occupied less than forty eight hours ago!” She screamed the last part, unable to keep her tone of voice calm.
“Taylor, we both knew that this would never last. My heart…”
“What heart?” Taylor spat as she folded her arms across her chest. “We go from being happy and waking up to each other every morning, to me finding out you need space like this?” She held up the note that he had left on her pillow while she slept. She had awakened to the white piece of paper lying next to her where he should have been. “This is insensitive, it’s insulting, and your reason for leaving…that you need space…it’s a lie!” She was so passionate that she was practically yelling at him.
Malcolm felt guilty for the way that things had turned out with Taylor but there was no changing the fact that what he had with her couldn’t compare to the way he felt about Keisha. It was better to let it go now than to let things linger. It had never been his intention to hurt her feelings but life and love was complicated. There was always a con to giving your heart to another. It made you vulnerable and susceptible to extreme hurt and in this love triangle Taylor had come up short. There had never been a competition between she and Keisha over Malcolm. In his heart, he had always known. It had just taken him a while to admit it. After Keisha had been put in harm’s way, it became crystal clear. She was the one and he wasn’t going to lose another moment with her. He had been a stubborn and foolish man, letting his pride keep them apart. If he had lost Keisha without ever getting a chance to tell her how he truly felt, he would have never been able to live the rest of his days in peace.
“Just say it. Admit the truth to me, Malcolm. I don’t want some false goodbye letter. You tell me you are picking Keisha over me. Tell me that you don’t love me. That it’s her. That it’s something so special about her that you’re willing to throw away what you have with me. Is she that special to you, Malcolm? Is this thing with Keisha that important?” she asked genuinely. Malcolm saw the glimmer of hope still flickering within her and hated to be the one to snuff it out. He knew that a heartbreak like this would wound Taylor for years to come, but it had to be done.
“She is,” he confirmed.
His words were like the breakdown for Taylor. She clutched her chest and inhaled sharply as her eyes widened. The line between love and hate must have been pencil thin because he saw her mental state change in a heartbeat. Her eyes went so cold that her stare sent chills down his spine. Tears fell down her cheeks, immediately pressing Malcolm’s guilt button.
“Don’t,” Malcolm whispered. He hated to see her cry, especially over him. He didn’t deserve her tears and he had to place his hands in his pockets to stop himself from reaching out to console her. He didn’t want to extend a false sense of hope for Taylor. This was over. He couldn’t be her shoulder to cry on. It was a shame because Taylor was exquisite. She was the perfect woman…for someone else. Malcolm preferred something perfectly flawed…imperfectly accurate…Keisha. That was the only woman who could counter him. He cleared his throat and said, “I really am so sorry, Taylor.”
Taylor opened a flap on her Birkin and removed a handkerchief. She dabbed at her tears as she responded. “No Malcolm, you’re not sorry, but you will be.” She turned on her Louboutins and began to walk away. Malcolm turned, but the sound of her voice caused him to gaze back at her. “Malcolm?”
He didn’t respond but once his attention was hers she continued, “Once that helicopter lifts into the sky you are dead to me. You’ve never been held accountable for the way you’ve treated anyone. With your…good looks…your prestige…your charm. You have your way with women and then you toss them away, but there is a price to pay for breaking my heart, Malcolm, and I’m warning you that it’s a hefty one. So I hope your little,” Taylor paused as she motioned towards the helicopter where Keisha was sitting, “tramp…”
“Taylor,” he said sternly, warning her not to continue. All it took was the tone of his voice to put her in check and bring an end to her little rant. She scoffed then smirked in disgust, jealousy written all over her face.
“So protective over her,” Taylor mocked. “You never defended me that way,” she said. “Hope she’s worth it.”
Her words injured him but he nodded in understanding as he watched her strut her meanest walk out of his life.
His conscience was guilt ridden until he turned to see the lady that he had sacrificed it all for. Keisha sat gazing sympathetically down at him. He climbed into the helicopter and patted the pilot on the shoulder.
“Let’s get it in the air,” Malcolm said, clearly exasperated.
“I’m sorry that you had to do that,” Keisha said as he sat down beside her.
He gripped her hand tightly and gazed out of the window as the chopper lifted into the turquoise sky. They suddenly had the best view in Atlanta as they ascended over it.
“I’ve got to handle some business in the Bahamas, but how about we take off after that, run away together for the entire summer. I think we both could use a getaway,” he said surely.
“I’d like that,” Keisha concurred. “Business first and then lots of pleasure later.” Keisha was giddy with excitement but she held it in, keeping her poker face in tact so that Malcolm wouldn’t know just how smitten she was. They were about to embark on a summer of love as they explored the world and became reacquainted with one another. It was an unconventional way to reunite. Only Keisha could be so lucky to be flown around the globe in the lap of luxury. Keisha had expensive tastes and Malcolm was just the man to fulfill all her desires…mentally, physically, and emotionally. It just so happened that financially he obliged her as well. It was a perk that she was inclined to accept.
I’m a lucky girl, she thought.