Sample Sunday | The Passion We Share
I’m feeling generous + confident that you’ll enjoy the trill.
Here’s the full prologue (2,644 beautiful words.)
Get a feel for where the story is headed and don’t forget to make room for me on your calendar for, April 18th. You won’t want to miss out on this one.
It was hard holding my head upright; impossible to keep my eyes open during an impromptu meeting with my boss and the marketing crew at Blue Wave Media. We were all crowded around the umber shaded roundtable, staring at each other for answers.
As the new marketing manager of the company, more was expected of me. Mr. Sutter had put me in charge of the team two months ago. Today, I’d dropped the ball.
“Ms. Graham!” Mr. Sutter dropped a massive stack of paperwork in front of me, both startling, and pissing me off. It was his appointed to-do-list that had me exhausted and mentally impaired this week. I always found myself doing my work and his.
“Take this paperwork and head home. Get some rest, enjoy your weekend, and provide me some good news for our client by Monday afternoon,” he said.
“I got it, sir.” I nodded and stood to rush out. Embracing the paperwork against my chest, I paced down the long hallway of my office to lock up and locate the nearest exit.
My six-inch heels were soundless on the carpet spread throughout the building. The moment I stepped onto the parking garage of the tall business structure, my excitement heighted as my footsteps echoed on the discolored pavement.
Thank God it’s Friday
Once inside my jeep, I locked the doors, tossed my purse and leather briefcase to the passenger’s side, and slumped down onto the seat. I despised the dark tints on my purple Rubicon when I first leased it, but on days like this, I was grateful they shielded my dismay from possible lurkers.
“Drive.” A deep voice boomed behind me. The voice was spine-chilling deep and threatening. I assumed my heart would stop before he had a chance to hurt me… or worse.
“I don’t have any cash on me,” I whispered. I was too in shock to cry, too mind-boggled to react smarter than I had.
He scoffed, followed by a small chuckle. “Crank this toy car up and drive, girl.”
“Excuse me?!” I snapped my neck. It was a bold move, but I didn’t care at the moment. If he was going to kill me, he needed to put me out of my misery now.
I didn’t want to be teased and led to a deeper torture. It had already been a long week!
I twisted the key, revved the engine and headed out of the garage. Sneaking a glance in my rear-view mirror, I gasped faintly at the man who stared back at me.
I didn’t know him. Had never seen him in my entire twenty-seven years of living. But he was one of the finest men I’d ever laid eyes on. His features spoke for him. A quick glance at him revealed that he was smooth, a total charmer and lots of trouble.
I couldn’t believe this was really happening to me. And by him.
“Where are we going?” I questioned, looking back and forth from the rear-view mirror to the congested streets of downtown Orlando.
“You doing good, shawty. Keep driving straight,” he responded, laid back and anxious at the same time. He eyed his watch like time wasn’t on his side, and tightened his jaw occasionally like there was tension between him and I.
He wasn’t afraid of me taking glances at him; he clearly wasn’t worried that I would file a report and describe every feature about him to a police sketch artist.
“What’s your name?” He looked up from his watch and caught my eyes in the mirror.
“My… my name?”
What the fuck is my name?
“That’s what I asked you, shawty.” He chuckled, shaking his head at my nervousness.
“Hazel,” I finally answered. He’d just asked a moment ago, but I’d already felt I let him down.
How’d he have me forgetting my own name?
“Oh,” he reacted unimpressed. I was sure he’d already noticed the eyes behind the name. He’d glanced in them long enough. “Do me a favor and focus on the road, Hazel. Traffic is crazy as fuck and you burning a hole in a nigga face.”
I didn’t try to smile!
I didn’t even want to smile during a time like this, but it was out of my control. A stranger. A fucking criminal in my backseat had an effortless influence over me that I couldn’t explain.
“What’s your name?” I asked. Obliging to his request, I look forward, solely focused on the busy road.
“Daniel,” he answered quickly. Too quickly.
Men knew they could lie! Or at least try to.
“Why are you in my car, Daniel?”
“Needed a ride.” I could sense him shrug. Nonchalant must’ve been his middle name.
“That’s… strange,” I whispered. “You could’ve asked for one better than that. Maybe from the passenger’s seat next time so I see it coming,” I quipped.
“Hazel.” He chuckled at his lap.
“Yeah?” Grateful for a red light, I slowed to halt, then looked at him through the mirror again.
He was such a beautiful man.
A perfectly groomed goatee connected to a thick, refined beard. The sunlight that invaded my windshield produced a perfect illumination that revealed specks of light brown in his dark eyes. His almond brown skin was flawless. Although his actions were dangerously flawed, he appeared… flawless.
Beautiful as ever!
“You talk too much.”
“I do that when I’m nervous,” I whispered, utterly afraid of him. I wasn’t only looking back to admire him; I was watching my back. At any moment, if he’d threatened my livelihood, I wouldn’t have hesitated to yank the wheel violently and cause an accident. Dramatic, I know. But whatever it took….
“Don’t be.” Daniel spoke calm and unimpressed with my hesitancy of him. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.”
“Can I ask questions?” I pulled my eyes from the mirror and cringed at the road.
Why did I feel more awkward than concerned for my life and well-being?
Daniel made me feel more nervous than scared, like I should have been.
“One.” He huffed. I looked in the mirror at him performing a slight eye-roll out of the window. It was the cutest thing I’d ever witnessed.
“Is Daniel your real name?”
After connecting with my eyes in the mirror, he chuckled and licked his lips. I felt so insane! It didn’t make sense that I wanted to be the one swiping my tongue across his alluring lips.
“Real shit? That’s the one you’re going with?”
I shook my head vigorously, hoping for a do-over. “No.”
“Aight.” He shrugged. “Be concise, shawty.”
“Why are you in my car?” I asked, looking back and forth from his mysterious eyes and the road. A sly smile curled his lips.
“Couldn’t make it to my own. The area was too hot.”
“Twelve was swarming the grounds. C’mon, Hazel.” Daniel kissed his teeth and shook his head at me, amused. I’d seen the twelve reference on black twitter enough times to know exactly what that meant.
“Is that where we’re going now? To your car?” I tried my luck with asking a second question.
Daniel stared at me with a straight face, motionless. “Not quite,” he answered, then paused. “You’re safe with me, Hazel. This some other shit, I know. But you’re good. I just needed a ride, aight?”
He looked at me with sincerity, like he was trying to convince me to trust him. Since I was already out of my fucking mind, I did. Something within urged me to give him the benefit of the doubt. To trust him.
“RJ,” he corrected quickly thereafter.
“RJ,” I whispered and held back a smile. “Okay, RJ."
I approached an intersection that only offered two options.
Right or left.
Looking to him for clarity, I found myself lost in his obscure eyes. The cars behind me laid down on their horns, commencing a full-on wrath of alarms while shouting out of their windows for me to proceed.
“Left,” RJ finally instructed. His deep baritone sent chills down my spine.
In all ways, this was unethical. Every part of it. Yet, there I was, satisfied that it was happening to me. He’d livened up my dull world by hiding out in the back of my car. RJ had given me the excitement I'd desperately needed.
“How was work?” he asked. The inquiry was typical, just not for our newfangled circumstance. Hesitantly, I parted my lips to speak, then pressed my lips together when I couldn’t form the right words. “It’s a twenty-minute drive, shawty. You might as well tell me about your day.”
I didn’t know if he was from the city of Orlando, but he was definitely from the south. His country accent intrigued me. I refrained from giggling each time he spoke.
“Work was… work.”
“You work for Blue Wave, right?”
“Yes.” I nodded. “That was the building. Are you familiar with us?” I nearly cringed with every word I spoke. Small talk wasn’t my thing. Besides, I didn’t want to talk about me. I wanted to discuss him.
“Nah.” He chuckled and glanced out the window. Positioned directly on the middle of the backseat, he smoothed his hand down his all black attire. RJ pulled a small, wooden brush from his pants pocket and checked himself out in the mirror as he perfected his wave pattern.
Was he a pretty boy or a thug? Maybe he was a mixture of both.
It was hard figuring him out; impossible to read him.
“You live around here, Hazel?” he asked and stashed his brush back in his pocket. Tilting his head to the side, he summoned my eyes through the mirror, taking my focus off the road.
Talk about a distraction! RJ couldn't be ignored.
“I live in Oviedo."
“That’s a little bit of a commute, aint it?”
“It is, but when my father passed a year ago, he left me everything, including my childhood home. It’s my favorite place to be."
“And your mother?”
I shrugged instantly. It had been a long time since I cared about rebuilding a relationship with my mother. She’d cheated on my father and abandoned her family for another man. I’d forgiven her long ago, however, I would never be able to look at her the same. At twelve-years-old, I was separated from her, and she was the one who’d made the decision to leave her only child and husband behind for a man she’d fallen madly in love with.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I managed to say.
“I feel you,” he mumbled. “I never knew mine either.”
I didn’t know her. At all. She’d changed from the angel I’d deemed mine. She’d broken me and my father’s heart and left us to fend for ourselves shortly after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I tried to make Helen Graham dead to me after all she’d done to our family, but I still loved her. So much.
Even if I refused to see her or accept her many calls throughout the week. I still loved her.
“Hazel…” The resonance of his voice brought me back to reality. “You good?”
“Y-yes. I’m fine. Do I keep straight?” I avoided his eyes, needing a break from his mystical optics.
“At the next light, turn right. It’ll lead us to a dirt road with a dead end. Don’t trip. It’s my stop and you’ll be fine to leave out the way you go in.” I thought that would be the end of it, but he continued. Like he could read my mind, he provided me the reassurance I needed. “If you don’t believe shit else I say, believe I won’t hurt you. You’ll never see me again after this, but I need something from you too.”
“I’m not going to go to the police,” I said. RJ smirked, and I was sure it was because I sounded promising. So promising that I would’ve been offended if he pressed the issue.
“Bet,” he said and produced a subtle head nod. “Slow down. This dirt road will fuck your car up if you do too much.”
Obliging, I let off the gas and eased down on the brakes. The sun was turning in, ducking behind thick clouds. Fear was seeping into my pores now that I was on the designated road to be rid of him. Seemingly, my life was in danger, but he made me feel safe.
“Stop right here,” he alerted me, his baritone was deep and demanding. “This good. You can back out and go back the way you came from here, shawty.”
Sliding out of the backdoor, he closed the door and stood by my window with a smirk until I downed it.
“I appreciate you, beautiful. Gas money.” Retrieving a wad of money from his back pocket, he tossed it at me and walked away. The weight of the money distracted me for a moment. I could’ve cursed myself when I looked up to see he’d disappeared.
Only tall, bulky bushes surrounded the dirt road. The scenery reminded me of the movie Children of the Corn.
I contemplated looking for him to return the money. It was more than I could ever accept, especially not knowing where it came from. Getting caught up over this was the last thing I wanted to do. If it came down to being questioned for this, I would portray the victim, no matter how secure he made me feel in his presence.
The sun was leaving me stranded. A nagging urge to back up quickly and speed out of there guided my next moves. An estimated couple thousand or more, bounced over my lap as I zoomed down the road.
I had no impulse to spend the money. No excitement to splurge or count it out to discern the specific amount. Holding onto it felt better. It reminded me that I’d encountered him. It was a peace-keeping for the trouble he’d caused me.
From the passenger’s seat, my iPhone’s generic ringtone blared inside my purse. My heartbeat raced as my foot stomped down onto the brake, causing the jar to jerk forward, then backward again. People in the cars behind me honked their horns and cursed harshly out of their windows. I took a wide turn on the street I’d almost missed—the street we’d just drove down not even five minutes prior.
Looking into the rear-view mirror wasn’t the same anymore. He wasn’t in the backseat to stare back at me. His mysterious eyes were gone.
The struggle to reach over and dig in my purse for my phone lasted longer than expected. My nerves were shot, hand trembling too much to grip the phone.
“Hello.” I exhaled deeply after I answered. A last-minute response had my best friend, Moni, talking shit the second she heard my voice.
“Took you long enough. Are we still meeting for dinner tonight?”
“Yes, please. I’m off an hour early. Should I head to Olive Garden now?”
“Great. Because I’m already here with a glass of wine to my lips. See you soon.”
“Hey!” she shouted, ceasing me from dropping the phone from my ear. “Are you okay?”
“Moni.” I sighed and blinked rapidly. My blood pressure was through the roof. Nothing was the same. “You wouldn’t believe what just happened to me.”
This would be the most mind-blowing dinner for the both of us. Reflecting on what I’d just experienced while observing her reaction would be one for the books!
“Be there soon. Love you,” I said, disconnecting our call immediately afterward.
I lavished in the solitude I’d needed as I drove twenty minutes into the city to meet-up at our favorite restaurant. Peace was required to gather my composure and come to terms with my new-found reality.
What the hell just happened?