I am pleased to announce that my latest book ‘Just One More Time’ (Orlando and Katrina’s story) will be available across all Amazon platforms on November 1st, 2018. Here’s a sneak peak!
Orlando Johnson swore in ways that would make his religious grandmother offer him up to God in prayer. He tried to bite back the curses but couldn’t. Every idiot in Manhattan seemed to be out for a casual drive. Now. Was. Not. The. Time. Orlando had been mingling with the fifty persons celebrating his brother, JT’s, gallery opening and engagement when his phone rang. The shrill tone jarred him from the conversation he’d been having with a new associate attorney. He quickly shook the young man’s hand before he moved towards the large, glass door to answer the call. Orlando expected his secretary since there were several documents he left the office without signing. It wasn’t Gertrude Payne’s gruff and efficient voice on the other end of the line, however. Instead, he was confronted with the light, sweet warmth of Katrina Bolton’s voice. It was the type of voice that made him think of fields of wildflowers and gentle streams. Orlando’s breath caught in his throat. The only person in the world he’d have been more shocked to find on the other end of his cell phone was his biological father. Many questions jumped to his throat but they were all drowned out by the emotions hitting him from every side. Orlando didn’t have much time to process hearing the voice of the woman whose heart he had ripped out, broken and shat on before another crisis erupted.
“Jamie Gregory has been hospitalized. I need you to get here as soon as possible.”
She rattled off the address of the hospital as Orlando’s gut tightened with worry. Jamie Gregory. What the hell happened to Jamie? He thought of the five year old who had nicknamed him Juice and hoped the situation wasn’t as dire as Katrina made it seem on the phone. Orlando loosened his thin, navy blue tie and tried to will the traffic to move more quickly. Maybe he needed Grandma Nona’s prayers after all.
Orlando made it to the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center half of an hour after he received the phone call. That was a full twenty-nine minutes later than he’d wanted to. He was making inquiries at reception when he heard his name. He turned around, unprepared to be face-to-face with Katrina. She looked up at him from behind sweeping lashes but did not offer him a smile. She was enough like the twenty-five year old he’d walked out on that she felt familiar but she’d changed in so many ways, it was like looking at a stranger. Her brown eyes, the color of warm cognac, were blank and devoid of any recognition or memories. He guessed they were strangers.
“Ms. Bolton,” he said.
“If you would come with me.”
Without waiting for his response, Katrina turned on her bright, blue heels and stalked towards the elevator. She was wearing light, blue jeans that hugged her ass and a white top. Orlando wondered if she was on a date when she first heard about Jamie. The thought roused negative feelings in the pit of his stomach that were as unexpected as they were shameful. He caught up with her in four long strides, grabbed her arm and spun her gently towards him.
“I know I’m not your favorite person,” he said softly. “But could you drop the ice-queen act for a little while?”
She shrugged her arm away, pushed her brown-dyed bob from her face and smiled. It wasn’t a friendly smile and annoyance radiated off her in waves.
“If you think I’ve been pining for you all these years you’re a bigger jackass than I thought. Don’t flatter yourself. I believe in professionalism but I guess you don’t have to be too concerned with that working in your daddy’s law firm and all.”
Traces of her Southern accent shone through her insult and Orlando cringed. Katrina wasn’t just mad – she was really mad. She clenched her jaw, turned from here and stalked towards the elevator. He stared after her wondering where mild-mannered Katrina had learned to throw barbs. He would get his question answered, but it would not be now. They had more important things to deal with.
“What happened to Jamie?” he asked as he joined her in the half packed elevator. She punched in the fourth floor before turning to him. “He’ll be okay... eventually. He’s a little cut up and has a fractured arm but he’ll soon be on the mend. He kept asking for you and considering the circumstances my boss thought it was best you came.”
She nodded sharply. “I work for the CPS. I moved to New York three months ago.”
“Child Protective Services?” he echoed. His thoughts immediately went to Jamie’s twenty-two year old mother. Irma had worked tirelessly to regain custody of her son after she completed drug rehabilitation therapy two years ago.
“Jamie is now a ward of the state. His mother overdosed. He broke his arm trying to get down the fire escape to get help when he realized she wasn’t waking up.”
His heart sank. When had she relapsed? How did he miss she needed help? Jamie hadn’t mentioned anything during their last outing. He was as happy, talkative and inquisitive as ever. He tried to replay every minute of their last Saturday together to see if there was anything he should have picked up on.
“Don’t go there,” Katrina said softly. “Irma made her own choices. Right now your focus should be on Jamie. He’s hysterical and all he wants is you.”
All he wants is you.
Katrina remembered when she was in the same boat as little Jamie Gregory. Thank God for time and healing. Yet, she couldn’t believe her luck - or lack thereof. Orlando goddamned Johnson. Katrina was halfway through a lobster salad when her office phone rang. She was all at once relieved and worried. Her date had not been going well so she was happy for the excuse to leave but the office calling her so late screamed trouble. It was worse than she imagined. The little boy cried all through treatment and begged her to get ‘Juice’. She had no idea who this Juice person was but figured if they would give Jamie comfort she would do everything in her power to contact them. Jamie Gregory had spent the last thirty-six hours with his mother’s corpse and needed all the comfort he could get. She couldn’t believe it when this Juice turned out to be Orlando Johnson; the adoptive son of the Johnson clan, hot shot corporate lawyer and the man who broke her heart. A promise was a promise and Katrina wasn’t in a habit of breaking them so here she was in a too small elevator with the man she wanted to be near to less than the Devil himself.
He cared for the little boy, she realized. He was tapping his index finger rapidly against his thigh, a nervous tick he’d had since their dating days.
“He will be fine,” she said, hating that she felt the need to comfort him. She took a good look at Orlando. The years had been kind to him. He filled out the light, grey suit he was wearing and she found herself drawn to his hazel eyes. Although they were filled with worry and panic they were still so damned beautiful. Down girl. The years had dulled the sharp impact of what he’d done to her but he was still the asshole who’d lead her on for three years before discarding her like she was nothing.
She silently thought of the mantra that got her through the first agonizing months after he left: never forgive, never forget.
They could have been going to the tenth floor for how slowly the elevator seemed to move and Katrina sighed with relief when she finally stepped onto the pediatrics ward.
She walked him to the nurses’ station and waited for him to get his visitor’s credentials. Then, ensuring there was enough distance between them, Katrina led Orlando to Jamie’s room.
“I have a surprise for you,” she said in the warmest, most excited voice she could muster with the emotions causing chaos inside her. Jamie looked up from the tablet he’d been glued to. She watched excitement fill his eyes as he looked around the room for Orlando. Jamie almost launched himself off the bed when his eyes landed on Orlando. The nurse restrained him with a chuckle. “Let him come to you.”
“Juice!” he exclaimed.
“Hey little man.”
Orlando eased out of his jacket, sat at the edge of the bed and pulled Jamie into his arms. The little boy clutched Orlando for a few moments before he burst into tears. It wasn’t the first time Katrina had heard Jamie cry since she was assigned his case but these tears were different. They were the tears you cried when you were with someone you felt safe with. Someone you trusted. She watched how gentle Orlando was with the little boy and felt her eyes well. Would he have been like that with their children if he’d given their future a chance? She chased the thoughts away as she repeated her mantra: never forgive, never forget.