1. Return

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Reagan didn’t know what to expect when she crossed the threshold of her childhood home. The walls had been repainted, the furniture was replaced but she still recognized it as home. Her grandmother’s wall of plants were still thriving, perfectly placed in front of the bay window. “Gigi? Mah? You guys here?” Reagan said, dropping her backpack on the couch. She walked down the hall towards the kitchen, hoping her grandmother was cooking a welcome home feast of all her favorite high-calorie foods. She found the kitchen spotless and empty.

Reagan made her way throughout the rest of the house until she found her old bedroom, still decorated with her Word Up! Posters of boy bands long gone. The collage of photos hung over her desk, full of pictures of friends and postcards of destinations she’d planned to take. The bed was freshly made, dressed with new yellow linens to match the yellow throw rug at the foot of the bed. As she slipped deeper into her nostalgia, she heard the heavy front door open and close. She galloped down the stairs to see her mother, kicking off a pair of 5 inch heels.

“Hey Mah,” Reagan said, coming down the rest of the stairs.
“Reagan? My baby!” Ray said, throwing her arms around her daughter. “I didn’t know you were coming in today! I would’ve taken the day off!”
“It’s fine, I just got here. Where’s Gigi?”
“It’s Wednesday. She’s got her card game with the biddies down the street. Come in, let me look at you!” Ray said, spinning her daughter around. They sat on the couch and Ray threw her arms around her daughter again.
“I have missed you SO much!”
“I missed you too, Mah.”
“Tell me everything. What happened with you and what’s his name? Jetson?”
“Hudson. And nothing really. He proposed, I said no, then bought a plane ticket,” Reagan said, shrugging her shoulders.
Ray patted her daughter on the thigh. “Good for you, baby. Don’t let these nappy-head niggas tie you down. You have so much more going for you than being a wife,” Ray said before standing again.
“We need to celebrate! Let’s go out tonight!” Ray said, pulling her daughter from the couch. Reagan had forgotten how much natural energy her mother had. “I don’t know, Mah, I kinda just want dinner and a hot bath.”
“Oh, don’t start that old lady shit with me! I get enough of that from Mah!”

As if on cue, the front door opened once more and Alma Mae entered the house and took in the scene. “Reagan! Baby!” Alma said, pulling her granddaughter into a tight embrace.
“Hi Gigi!” Reagan said, embracing her grandmother. Alma even smelled the same to Reagan, like warm shortbread cookies.
“What are you doing here? I thought you didn’t come in for another few days.”
“I was…really anxious about getting here,” Reagan said, partially fibbing.
“Anxious to get away from that Jetson boy,” Ray said, sauntering into the kitchen.
“Hudson and no, I was not,” Reagan yelled after her mother.
“Why, what happened boo?”
“He just…proposed a little.”
“OH MY LORD JESUS! Let me see the ring!” Alma said, clapping her hands together.
Before Reagan could offer an explanation, Alma had pulled her left hand up to inspect the ring that wasn’t there.
“He didn’t have a ring?” She asked, her top lip turned slightly in disgust.
“I didn’t accept it.”
“Oh, honey, you can always go pick out a new one. That’s what gift receipts are for,” Alma said as she headed to the kitchen behind her daughter. Reagan sighed before following them.
“I didn’t accept his proposal,” Reagan said, sitting down at the table.
Alma, who had begun pulling leftovers from the fridge, froze. “Well, why not?” she said, dropping the Tupperware on the table with a little too much gusto. Ray snorted into the glass of lemonade she’d poured.
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be tied down to some ain’t shit man for the rest of her life.”
“Oh, shut up Ray,” Alma said, swatting at her daughter.
“I don’t know. I just wasn’t…excited. I always thought when I met the one, I’d feel it. Sparks or something,” Reagan said, shrugging her shoulders.
“You don’t have to settle. There are plenty of men who will set your whole person ablaze,” Ray said, setting another glass in front of her daughter.
“Sparks are overrated. I felt sparks the first time I met your grandfather. Sparks lead to fire,” Alma said, sipping from the glass her daughter left unattended.

The woman straightened her dress after she pressed the doorbell. She’d seen the address on Theodore’s driver’s license so many times, she had it memorized: 341 Tireman Rd. The woman, his wife, opened the door and dried her hands on the towel she’d draped on her shoulder. It was the day before the holiday, July 3rd and she had plenty of food to prep before the family arrived.
“Yes?” Alma asked the mystery woman. She was empty-handed so Alma immediately knew she wasn’t a saleswoman.
“Alma Dobson?”
“Yes?” Alma repeated, finding herself annoyed.
“Who is it, Mommy?” A little girl appeared behind her mother, the spitting image of Theodore, with pigtails.
“Mind your business, Almathea.”
“Hi, little lady. What’s your name?” the woman asked the small child, kneeling slightly. Alma stepped in front of her child and placed her hand on her hip.
“Can I help you?”
“I just wanted to know if Theodore was coming home,” the woman said, straightening suddenly and staring Alma square in the eye.
“It’s the holiday. Theodore is already home.”
The woman chuckled and licked her lips, prepared to spill the secret she’d been keeping for weeks.
“Everyone knows he’s just playing house over here, until he gets up the courage. He might be afraid of you, but I’m not. I just wanted to let you know that—“
“Know what? You need to talk a little faster,” Alma said.
“Your husband has been sleeping with me. For weeks now. I just wanted to be a woman and let you know that we plan on getting married.”

Alma’s face didn’t budge, not from surprise or distress; she’d already known about her husband’s extracurricular activities. “Is that all?”
“I’d just like to know when Theodore is coming home,” the woman repeated, gathering up what little dignity she had left. Alma grinned at her audacity.
“You enjoy your weekend,” Alma said, attempting to shut the door, when the woman stuck her foot in the doorframe.
“Excuse me, bitch, I wasn’t done,” the woman said, trying to push the door off her now-pinned foot.

What happened next would be talked about for months and would prevent any of Theodore’s women from darkening their doorway. Alma opened the door again and stepped onto the porch, forcing the woman to take a step back.
“Theodore Macrae Dobson lives at 341 Tireman Rd,” Alma said before backhanding the woman with her left hand. The strike stunned her and knocked her to the ground.
“There is but ONE bitch with paperwork on Theodore Dobson,” she said, before punching the woman full in the face. She tried to crawl down the steps before Alma grabbed her and shoved her into the banister three times, breaking several of the wooden planks on the side.
“That bitch’s name is Alma Mae Dobson and if you ever come over here again, thinking you run some shit, you better remember that you are on MY property and the police won’t think twice about me defending my home and my family,” Alma said, before kneeling to whisper in the woman’s ear. “With my pistol,” she said before throwing the woman out onto the street.

Theodore, tall and dark, bound out the house when he heard the commotion from the kitchen. He came out to see his wife walking back into the house while Whitney struggled to stand in the street, her face covered in blood. Stunned, he turned to Alma, who kissed him sweetly on the lips before asking “Are the ribs done, baby?”

“Gigi, when are you gonna get this porch fixed?” Reagan asked, as she began pulling her boxes from the car out front. Alma stopped and admired the broken posts. “They remind me of your granddaddy,” she said, smiling to herself.

Ray didn’t give her daughter a chance to unpack before she began demanding they go out. “Here, wear this,” she said, tossing her daughter a strappy navy-blue dress.
“Mah, really?” Reagan said, inspecting the dress. Knowing her mother, it would reveal way more than Reagan was comfortable, however, she knew her mother would pick out something much worse if she complained.
“Just put it on!”

Dressed, Reagan tiptoed into her mother’s room and watched her at her vanity. Even as a child, Reagan loved watching her mother get ready to leave out, because she made everything seem as though it were a special occasion. Even in her 40s, she was still exceptionally beautiful and she used that beauty to pass for a woman in her 30s. Everything about her appearance had to be perfect and in place. Ray had encouraged her daughter to be everything she could be: smart, funny, cultured, but her emphasis on beauty was paramount.
Alma walked by and spotted her daughter in her mirror before she whispered in Reagan’s ear. “Maybe you guys will be gone by Labor Day.”
“I heard that!” Ray said, never taking her eyes off the mirror as she drew a perfect line of eyeliner. “I am so excited that you are here, Reagan. I just started going to this new place called Clover and I just LOVE it! And the men,” Ray said, before giving a suggestive shiver.
“I thought it would just be us, Mah,” Reagan said, sitting as best as she could on the end of the bed in the bandage dress.
“What’s a party without men?” Ray said as she sprayed setting spray all over her face.

The party at Clover seemed to be just that: men of varying ages, shooting their shots at every available woman in the room. As soon as Ray and Reagan entered, they were swept up in a bevy of offers and compliments. Ray, a frequent flier, danced away, eager to entertain her new friends, leaving Reagan standing awkwardly near the exit. She migrated to the bar, where she planned on staying until her mother tired herself out.
“What can I get you?” the pretty blonde bartender asked.
“Jameson and coke,” Reagan said, before surveying the room. Out the corner of her eye, she spotted her mother climbing up onto a table and dancing to the Migos song that was playing.
“Actually, hold the coke,” Reagan said over her shouder to the bartender.

An hour had gone by before she saw her mother again, who had rushed to the bar on the arm of a stranger. “Reagan! Meet Hammer! Hammer, this is my daughter, Reagan,” Ray said, snuggling up to the large man.
Hammer?” Reagan said, giving her mother an incredulous look.
“Daughter? You guys could be sisters,” the man said, looking too hard at the two of them. Reagan could sense the gross thoughts that were crossing his mind as he stood in front of two beautiful women and she scoffed.
“Can I buy you another drink?” he asked.
“No, Hammer, I’m good,” Reagan said, before downing the remainder of her third drink and walking off.

Ray followed her daughter to the bathroom, where she was washing her hands. “Are you ready to leave?”
“Yeah, kinda. I don’t wanna stop the party between you and Hammer,” Reagan said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to cheer you up.” Reagan sighed as she looked up in the mirror at her mother.
“No. I’m sorry. I have been a Debbie Downer today. I guess I’m just more tired than I thought. We don’t have to leave if you don’t want.”
“Or…you could take the car and I can ride with Hammer,” Ray said, smiling.
Reagan turned around, ready to tell her mother off. It annoyed Reagan that her mother was still up to her old tricks and had used her as an excuse. However, the whiskey was kicking in and she wanted nothing more to lay in her bed. Plus, she’d just be wasting her breath. Her mother would never change. “Sure, Mom. Have fun,” Reagan said, pulling her mother into a tight hug.

Photograph

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“I wanna meet this girl who’s been occupying all my baby’s time,” Ricky’s mother, Phyllis, said. Before her son could reply, the waiter returned and deposited their brunch in front of them.

“Things are still new. I don’t wanna chase her away,” Ricky laughed before scooping potatoes into his mouth.

“Tell me all about her.”

“She’s wonderful, really. Smart, funny, gorgeous. She keeps me in check.”

“I love her already.” Time with his mother was precious to Ricky, since he’d so nearly lost her at the beginning of the year. The one thing she wanted was to know her son would be taken care of. He hadn’t told his mother, but he’d already begun falling in love with Alex.

“You should bring her to the barbecue this weekend. I promise, no grilling,” Phyllis said, mimicking the Boy Scouts pledge.

“I’m going to see her tonight so I’ll bring it up. No promises,” Ricky said. He was excited that his mother was excited about his new relationship, especially since she had been so negative about the girls he liked.

“Just promise me you’ll try and make this work. Treat her with all the respect and dignity you show me,” Phyllis said, taking her son’s hand. Ricky smiled and nodded, giving his mother a squeeze back.

“I promise.” Continue reading

DSW

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It was inevitable that I’d sell my body for money. Most of the girls I graduated high school with went on to procure dance cards to gyrate under hot lights the day after our matriculation. It was just the environment we’d become products of: most of our mothers were slaves to their vices, leaving us defenseless in homes throughout the county. One way or another, a man would make us victims, by force or voice. Continue reading

COMPLICATED {6}

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Elise knew he would be there, but she was still unprepared when he walked in the door. She’d spent the last two weeks painstakingly arranging every detail for the bachelor/bachelorette party at the secluded cottage; It was her way of focusing on something other than her missing lover.

“Oh, so you’re on that bullshit tonight, huh?” Josalyn said, watching attentively as Elise finished the large cup she’d just poured. Elise gasped and winced as the liquor burned its way past her throat and stomach.
“Long week,” she said flatly.

It killed her to keep the secret from her best friends, especially when she needed their advice at the moment.
“What’s the point of having a bachelor/bachelorette party if they’re already married?” Amara said, swigging from her own cup.
“His family is very traditional. I don’t even know if they know about the house yet,” Elise said. She poured another serving of Hennessy into her cup.
“I see what kind of night this is gonna be,” Josalyn said, still awed by her friend’s consumption.
“She’s just trying to keep pace with Liam.”

Elise found her eyes, scanning the room for him. His animation with her sister made him easy to spot, booming over the speakers and conversations. The rage that had been boiling inside her pooled into another heat that sat between her thighs at the sight of him. His beauty and charm gave him access to any woman he chose. On anyone else, the busily-patterned button-up would be played and his exposed chest from its lack of buttoning would be corny, but Liam was regal. Elise watched him like a hawk, examining his every move, anticipating her attack. She knew he’d seen her and was waiting for his opportunity to strike. He made his way to the trio to deliver his traditional greetings. He seized Amara in his arms and squeezed her as tight as he could.

“Are you drunk?” Amara asked.
“Quite,” he said, hugging Josalyn before turning his attention to Elise.
“What’s up?” he said, taking her in.
“What’s up?” she repeated before he swept her into his arms. She’d kept her hands glued to her side as he pulled her into his chest. Her icy demeanor held briefly, until it was thawed by the gentle press of his lips onto her neck. Suddenly, she was ablaze beneath her skin. “I hope you didn’t drive,” Elise said.
“Well, this is a slumber party, right?” he said, winking at Elise before he walked away.

Elise managed to drag her sister off of her husband’s lap, just long enough to pull her into the master bedroom. “I literally can’t hold this in any longer,” she said, shutting the door behind her.
“What, what happened?”
“My secret one-thing? It’s Liam,” Elise said. The words felt like she was releasing a breath she’d been holding in.
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Yeah, but I fucked up. I asked him out and now I know he’s weird about it.”
“Go talk to him! Not me!”
“I can’t! What am I supposed to say? Hi, I know I asked you out and it’s cool if you don’t like me that way, but I’d still like to hit that?
“Yes! Say exactly that!”
“Em! Be serious!”
“What do you want?”
“5 minutes in the linen closet?”
“Make it 10,” her sister said before shoving her back out the room.

In her mind, she’d known she still wanted him. She’d plotted the whole night, from the decorations and the music, to the black dress she wore that accentuated her body. With her sister’s approval, Elise was ready to make her move.
“El, do you wanna play this drinking game?”
“Yeah, let me grab a cup,” she said, making her way into the kitchen. As she reached for the red solo cups on top of the fridge, she could feel the hair on her neck raise sharply before the hands snaked around her.

“Shit,” he whispered into her ear as he draped himself over her. “This dress is driving me crazy. I need to take it off,” he said, his hands lazily ambled across her body. Just as she settled into his warmth, he was gone, several feet from where he had once been as one of the guest wandered into the kitchen. They exchanged heated looks, before Liam went back into the living room. She’d managed to let out an annoyed sigh as Amara entered.

“Five bucks he’s passed out on the floor before midnight,” Amara chuckled, refilling her cup.
“I’m not gonna take that bet. He’s blasted.”
“He’ll be ok. He just broke up with someone and he’s a little raw.”

Elise found it impossible to mask her fury as she turned and stormed out onto the porch. She’d been saving her special friend as an after-party treat, but her anger rose in her throat like bile. Her breath was jagged as she inhaled and exhaled the thick smoke, almost immediately calming her raging brain. She replayed the last two months over and over in her head, looking for any sign in her murky memories. She’d known Liam her whole life and found it hard to believe that he’d lie to her and cheat on someone. She’d always held him to a slightly higher standard but it dawned on her that Liam was a man, just like that rest: capable of anything. The weed began to work its magic, slightly relaxing Elise, as she heard the door creak open.

“There you are,” Liam said, before he dropped onto the steps next to her. He reached out to take the cigar from her hands, when she pulled it out of his reach.
“Oh, you being stingy tonight?”
“I don’t like to share,” she said in a grim tone.
“What’s wrong?”
“You’ve been with someone this whole time?”

Liam sighed and rubbed his face. He’d come to the party to avoid his thoughts of Kim and her “happy” marriage.
“It wasn’t anything serious. And it’s over.”
“Obviously it was more serious than you thought,” Elise scoffed. Up close, Liam was a sweaty, drunk mess, which eliminated a lot of his charm.
“It was. Or I thought so. But it’s over and I’m over her.”
“So you couldn’t tell me you were with someone else? Or did you just want to have your cake and eat it too?”
“That’s the dumbest idiom ever…”
“Only because you don’t understand it,” Elise said, ashing the blunt and standing to leave. Liam leapt up and blocked her path to the house.
“Come on, don’t be mad. I’m sorry,” he said, running his hands over her chilled skin.
“No, fuck you. I’ve been, I don’t know, holding out hope that one day you would see me since I was a kid. I’d given up until…. I don’t know what you and ole girl had going on, but obviously you’re upset about it. You came here, hoping I’d be ok with you ignoring me for weeks now so you could get your sad little rocks off but it’s not happening.”
“Ok, I’m upset! Damn, I thought friends were supposed to be there for one another.”
“You don’t know what a friend is, Liam. Everything is always about YOU. You think the world is supposed to just stop for you and it doesn’t. I have feelings too. You don’t even have the decency to turn me down properly!”

Liam’s face changed instantly, an unfamiliar emotion Elise had never seen. He took his hands off of her and stood back. “Is that what this is about?”
Elise bit her lip and shook her head. She’d be damned if she dropped tears in front of him.
“Bro, you’re tripping. No, I know what it is. You’re jealous.”
“Jealous?! Of what?”
“Jealous that I actually wanted something with her. Terrified that you were another side piece just waiting for a ride around the block and a pat on the head.”

Elise felt as though the air had been ripped from her lungs. If her reaction time hadn’t been impaired, she might have tried to peel the flesh from his bones. She shut her eyes for a moment, trying to turn off the brewing storm.
“Goodbye Liam.”

COMPLICATED {4}

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“Keep talking,” Liam said, planting a damp kiss on the inside of her thigh. Elise’s head was swimming, mostly from holding her breath for, what seemed like, ever. Liam had been waiting for her at her front door when she came home from her unimpressive date, a cocky move, even for him. He hadn’t even considered the idea that she would bring the guy home.
“I-I was just stressing about the wedding but…” Elise gasped. Liam had buried his tongue into her once more, drinking her in a beastly fashion.
“‘But’?” He stopped again to ask. He continued planting wet kisses on her thighs.
“I just hate rushing. I feel like everything is going to go wrong,” Elise said, slipping from her peaceful state.
“Hmm.”
“What?”
“Good thing you don’t have to worry about that right now.” Continue reading

COMPLICATED {2}

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Elise stood in the triple mirrors and willed the dress down over her stomach. “Everything ok in there?” the clerk asked for the 3rd time. Elise growled and gave up, recognizing the dress wasn’t as “flowy” as she described.
“It doesn’t fit,” she said, yanking the flimsy material back over her head. As she redressed, she felt a short moment of embarrassment and shame. If she’d stuck with the keto diet, it may have worked. She yanked the curtains open and stepped back out into the showroom. The clerk, petite and brunette, made a face before taking back the dress. “This is the largest size we have,” she turned to announce to the rest of the wedding party. Emerald, Elise’s older sister and the bride, stood and smiled slightly.
“We’ll look somewhere else,” she said before leading the bridal party out of the store.
Continue reading

The Trouble With Diamonds: Eight

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Olivia squealed as Dorian picked her up in a bear hug and swung her around. “Congrats, baby!” she laughed. He set her down gently and kissed her cherry red lips. His graduation from Quantico was a huge achievement, however, it wasn’t the reason behind his fluttering heart. “Marry me,” he said, his forehead pressed against hers. “Shut up,” she said, slapping his chest and laughing. He caught her arm and sank down on one knee. He reached in his inner pocket and produced the blue box holding the single solitaire. “Olivia…” he began. They’d only been dating for 8 months but Dorian was sure the sun rose and set with her. “I’ve never been in love before you. I’ve never known someone so amazing, so loving, so deserving of everything the universe has to offer and if you say yes, I promise I will spend the rest of my life trying to give it to you.” Olivia’s eyes swelled with tears at the beautiful man knelt before her. Her head was nodding before she could get the words from her lips. “Yes!”

“Where the fuck is the power?!” Dorian yelled into his earpiece, making his way through the dark and panic. It was her, it had to be. As soon the power was out, she slipped from his grip and into the darkness. “I had her!” he yelled as he got closer to the Markov. “Sanchez, do you have eyes?!”
“I can’t see shit! It’s pitch black!” The party began to grow more and more anxious in the dark, escalating to some screams and raised voices. “Everyone, everyone, please remain calm! We are working on this issue as expeditious as possible! If you can all just stay where you are to prevent any further injuries,” Mayor Hayes said from somewhere in the dark.

“Maverick, what the fuck happened? We still had time!” Noelle said, pushing through the obscured guests. “I may or may not have blown the power for the entire Eastern grid. Don’t worry, I’m working on getting it back! I guess it couldn’t handle the surges I was sending to the security systems and I didn’t realize that…”
“Maverick! Focus! I wasn’t in position! How long until the power comes back on?” Noelle barked when suddenly, the lights flickered on in the manor. “The entire grid just came back live! I didn’t do this!” Noelle had nearly made it to the display holding the Markov when she noticed the glass case was already empty. “Oh my God, it’s gone.”

“What’s gone?”
“My wedding ring! I took it off to wash my hands and when I looked back, it was gone!” Olivia half-sobbed. “Hey, no, it’s ok, baby, we’ll find it.”
“I can’t believe I even took it off…” she said as he pulled her into his chest. “Don’t cry baby. If it’s really gone, we’ll just get another one.”
“That’s not why I’m crying….I…I just haven’t told you…” Dorian’s heart dropped into his stomach. Her tone had changed and he immediately feared the worst. In the few months they’d been married, they’d been fighting more frequently. At first he wrote it off as the end of the honeymoon phase, but after the things she said to him last night, he slept on the couch. He silently prayed for control over his temper over whatever she told him, no matter how awful. He pulled her away and looked in her tearful eyes. “My emotions have been all over the place and making me a little crazy lately and I just decided to take a test and….I’m pregnant.” She could tell Dorian was braced for bad news and it took a few seconds for his steely resolve to melt. “You mean…I’m gonna be a daddy?”

She had to move fast when she saw the Fed making his way towards her; it would be a matter of seconds before he and his backup surrounded her. She ducked out of sight into a nearby hallway. She needed a few seconds to look over the plans for the house again when she spotted it out the corner of her eye: her father’s coin. Tied to string, it dangled on the doorknob catty-corner to her position. She crossed the hall and examined the coin closely. She instantly recognized the symbols on either side. How did it get there? Who put it there? Questions burned in her mind until her adrenaline prodded her. It had to be a sign. She pushed the door open and slipped inside.

The office was decorated warmly: pewter green wall, gray carpet and a large oak desk decorated the east side of the room. A French double door was situated on the other side, showcasing the grounds towards the main entrance. Someone had given her a way out. She had no time to contemplate the mire; she needed to run. Now. She kicked off the gold heels and pushed through the doors in a full sprint.

Dorian had made his way to the front door as the party continued on inside. He scanned the view until he spotted the woman in white hopping into her red Corvette. He drew his weapon and pointed in her direction. “FBI! FREEZE!” There was no way Noelle was giving up that easily. She peeled away from the curb, almost hitting the valet and burned rubber down the driveway. “Dammit!” Dorian yelled as he galloped down the stairs. He made his way to the Mustang being pulled around. “FBI! I need this vehicle,” he said as he shoved the valet out the way. He sped around and down the driveway after the thief.

“Shaw, where the hell did you go?”
“I am in pursuit of the suspect! Female, African American, approximately 25-30 years old, driving a red 2017 Corvette!”
“I’ll put local P.D. in the loop. Dorian, are you SURE she has the bracelet?”
“Affirmative. I’m going after her ass,” Dorian said, before hanging up the phone. The hum of their engines ripped through the air as they sped down to the expressway. Dorian remained mere paces behind her as she zig zagged through traffic trying to lose him. Noelle hit redial as she dodged a Caravan in the farthest lane. “Maverick, I need you to get me out of here. I got a Fed on my tail!”
“Whoa, FBI?! How did that…”
“Never mind, Gina! I need to lose him!”
“Take the expressway for 4 more miles. You’re close to the Casup Basin. There are a few cabins still in those woods.” Noelle stomped on the accelerator hard and shot away from her pursuer, eager to get out of sight. “Exit’s on your left!” Maverick yelled as she watched her GPS display of Noelle’s location. Noelle turned the steering wheel hard and zoomed across three lanes to get off the freeway. “Shit!” The Fed yelled, nearly having to make a U-turn in front of several cars.

“Push, Olivia, push!”
“I CAN’T!” she yelled before collapsing back into his arms. “Please…we can still make it to the hospital, Dorian,” she sobbed. Her labor began and progressed quickly, too quickly for them to make the trip to the hospital like they’d planned. “How long before that ambulance gets here?” Dorian barked into the phone. “I’m sorry, sir, but they are still 20 minutes out due to the collapse. From the sound of things, I’m gonna have to walk you through delivering your daughter,” the 911 operator said calmly into the phone. Olivia, slick from sweat, shook her head furiously. “No, no, no, no, please, I can’t—“ she began before she was overwhelmed by another contraction. She let out a scream that sent a shiver down Dorian’s spine. “Dorian, can you please look between Olivia’s legs and describe to me what you see?” He kissed his wife on the top of her head before changing his position on the bathroom floor. “Oh my God! I think I see the head!”
“Ok, Olivia, that means you’re crowning. You need to push as hard and as long as you can so you can have your baby tonight, ok?”
“No, no, we had a plan. Dorian, tell her, we had a plan,” she said, on the brink of exhaustion. “Hey, hey, look at me,” he said to her. “You are going to have our baby tonight. But I need my warrior right now. I’m not giving up on you and I’m sure as hell not letting you give up. So on my count, I need you to push hard and long so we can meet our kid, ok?” The tears welling in Dorian’s eyes were enough to convince her. “With me, one, two, THREE!”

“Shaw, what….your….-cation?” Dorson yelled into the phone. His connection faded the farther he drove into the woods around the lake. “She’s in the Basin! I’m not gonna lose her!” he yelled before the phone disconnected. He threw the phone into the seat next to him and pushed on. Noelle steered the car deeper and deeper into the darkening woods but with every turn she made, the headlights behind her followed. Dorian pushed the car next to hers, both of them casting heated glances at one another. He turned the wheel and bumped the back of the Corvette with the front of the Mustang. Noelle shot an incredulous look at the Fed before she tried to zoom away, however, the ground had become too muddy for the car to gain necessary traction. Noelle, afraid for her life, veered the car away from his last bump and steered the car over a log. The car skidded down a slight embankment and rolled twice before landing on its lid. Dorian slammed on the brakes but the mired ground sent him sailing headfirst into a large oak tree.