Archive for April, 2011


Focusing was getting more and more difficult with each passing day that she was traipsing around the apartment. Damn place was so small that even a fucking ant scrambling through the kitchen made him start feeling suffocated. Some shawty dancing from Toby’s room and into the kitchen in hot pants and a tube top wasn’t helping things a damn bit.

Vic scowled at his ceiling as he flipped onto his back and sent his sneakers flying across the room. Toby’d been glaring at him for a week now, Jazzy’d been grinning like a fool, and Vic’d been spending all his time grabbing a smoke with his friends or hiding out in his room like a damn animal. Wasn’t right. He paid for half of this apartment himself.

There was a soft knock at his door and he cocked his brow as he grabbed his hat and sat up. “Yeah?” When Toby poked his head through the door, Vic snorted. “Man, since when do you knock?”

“Since you got something on your mind making you tense.” Toby smirked as he nudged his dreads out of his face. “Ain’t looking to walk in on you relieving it.”

“You’re sick.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Toby leaned against the doorframe. “Look, Jazzy coming over, but I gotta run out and grab some shit. You gonna be here to let her in?”

He held back the urge to curse. “Yeah, man. Not a problem.”

“Aight, cool. Kinda surprised you ain’t tried to scare her away yet.”

Vic chuckled as Jazzy danced past his mind’s eye in that rose-colored underwear of hers. You got no idea. But instead he drew in a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah, don’t got nowhere else to be.”

“Aight. Thanks.” And he disappeared again, leaving the door wide open.

Something on his mind. Something getting him tense. Vic rolled his eyes and fell back on his bed again. If only Toby knew. If only Toby knew Jazzy was just using him, that he wasn’t even her type and that Vic was…man, he’d shit bricks. He’d see that Vic got something over him, and he’d hate it. Wouldn’t even be able to stand it.

She’d come about as close to propositioning him as she could without pulling up her skirt and commanding him to fuck her.

His ego swelling, however, was interrupted by the sound of a knock at the door. He nearly teleported to it in his haste.

“Well, well,” Jazzy said with a grin as she sauntered into the apartment like she owned the place. “Lookie here, Mr. Vic Ortiz. And where’d my host for tonight run off to?”

“Out to the store or something. How’d you know?”

She tossed her hair and let that grin spread farther. “Boy ain’t gonna let anyone near me if he get the chance, you know that. Not unless he gotta.”

“You speak the truth.” Vic locked the door behind her out of habit and nudged his legs to carry him to the hallway instead of the couch the little minx was currently sprawling on. “Anyway, he be back soon, so you don’t gotta wait very long.”

“Now, hold up a minute.” And, Jah help him, he did. He stopped right in his tracks and looked at her. “You don’t wanna keep me company?”

Hell yes. Vic stared at her for a long moment before looking back toward the hallway. “I mean, I got shit to do, and-”

“Bullshit. Vic, if you don’t sit right here, I swear to God I’ma smack you.”

Jazzy meant business. Always did. ‘Specially when she had that little gleam in her eye. Vic crossed his arms over his chest as he narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think you get how important this shit is.”

“Yeah?” She perched on the edge of the couch and quirked an eyebrow challengingly. “Show me.”

The air conditioner kicked off and left them sitting in a chilly silence, both standing on the edge of their territories with no-man’s-land stretching between them. His fingers itched. He gently rubbed his calluses together. “…well, it ain’t happening in this damn sauna.” Vic jerked his head toward the hallway as he peeled off. “C’mon.”

The room was silent behind him as he disappeared. It was only when he sat on his bed and began adjusting his fan that he heard the faint squeaking of the sofa. When she appeared in the doorframe, he studied her. She looked strong, confident, like she knew exactly what she was doing, even though she’d just charged headfirst into his territory. “So what’s this?”

“Doing some writing.” He snagged his acoustic guitar, the one pristine thing in the whole damn apartment, and smirked at the way her eyebrows shot skyward. “What?”

“Hell, I don’t know. Just forgot you played. You any good?”

Vic snorted. “Does a fat kid love cake?”

“Aight, Mr. Hot Shot,” she drawled as she kicked off her shoes and crawled onto the bed beside him. “If you wanna drop that ego for a hot minute, then you gonna play something for me, right?”

“Man, I don’t gotta impress you.” But he strummed along the strings anyway, twisting his other fingers into familiar positions against the bridge. The reverberation of the strings was the absolute epitome of home. “What you wanna hear?”

“Something good. You got any of that?”

He smirked at her over the guitar. “You tryin’a start something?”

“Maybe.” Jazzy tousled her curled as she crossed her legs, one curled over the other. “You think you can handle what I’m bringing?”

The familiar thrum of adrenaline slid through his veins, hot and thick and bubbling like a poison. “Girl, I can handle anything.” It was when she leaned toward him coyly that he slid the guitar pick down the strings again. “You still wanna hear that song?”

“I’unno. Maybe I wanna make some music of my own.”

Ignoring the smooth trail of her tongue across her lips, Vic leaned back a foot. “You gonna have to get your own damn guitar, then. I don’t share mine.”

“Toby’ll share his.” He drew in a slow, deep breath and held the bridge of the guitar a little tighter. “Good brothers always share their toys, right?”

Vic flew to his feet and made a long, elaborate show of putting his guitar back on its stand. “Jazzy…girl, you gotta stop this. Toby’ll skin me alive, you know that.”

“Boy, I ain’t his to claim. I do what I want.” She arched those thinly plucked eyebrows at him. When he didn’t say another word, she slid the spaghetti straps down her arms and shocked his heart into skipping a beat. “I always thought musicians were fine.”

As dry as his mouth suddenly was, he had to try. “That’s damn good, ‘cuz Toby’s one t-”

“Can you fucking stop talking about that son of a bitch for just five minutes?” The shirt hit the floor and his back hit the wall. “Shit, you’d think he was the one with the tits here with how much you talk about him.”

“Jazzmine, I-”

“No, you gonna shut up now.” The lioness stalked him, more stunning and sensual in her bra and shorts than anything he’d ever seen in the world. “I been eyeing you up since I moved into this shithole. You the only thing that make Southtown bearable when I get here. Gave me some scenery to look at, you know?”

Part of him wasn’t even sure she was speaking. All he knew, TRULY knew, was that jacked-up-pheromone smell of her sweat on the air and how his tongue was desperate to taste it. But when she pressed against him and he felt the swell of her breasts against his chest, everything that wasn’t tactile fell away. His breath hitched as she grabbed his hands and pressed them against her waist, sticky and shining in the heat of the sun.

“Vic,” she murmured, tilting her head back and staring up at him languidly beneath those long, thick eyelashes. “I swear to God, if you don’t kiss me-”

He pressed his lips against hers in aggressive abandon and pulled her so close he wasn’t even sure she could breathe. She tasted like honeysuckle, fresh and warm in the Summer. He was barely aware of the groan she dragged from his lips as she pushed him against the wall and plundered every inch of his mouth with that intoxicatingly sweet tongue of hers.

Every piece of clothing she freed him from was a relief in the oppressive heat around them. Hell, with the heat that every stroke of her fingers stoked within him, he didn’t think he’d ever know what Winter felt like again. “Holy shit,” he breathed, thudding his head back against the wall as spots suddenly flew before his eyes and Jazzy drove him straight up a rollercoaster. “Jazzy, shit, you gotta stop that, girl.”

“And why’s that?” she murmured coyly, sending a shiver up his spine and turning his sweat ice cold just before he grabbed her arm and tugged her back to her feet in one rough, fluid motion.

“Because,” he whispered, pressing a possessive kiss to her neck. “We ain’t finished here yet. Hell, we ain‘t even started.” He dove into her collarbone and lapped up all the sweat he could taste, dizzy and delirious with desire, and guided that nymph back toward his bed as she clung to him like a child.

Drowning in her was the sweetest thing he’d ever felt in his entire fucking life and it clouded his mind until every thought was gone. He was only aware of the feel of her jagged hips under his hands, of the way she locked her legs so tight around him that he didn’t think she’d ever let him go, of the thudding of his cheap floor fan and the air conditioner almost drowning out her sharp and animalistic groans as she threw her head back and sent every curl flying. Every sense was accounted for. Everything was one long sensual ride, drawing something primal out of him, something he’d never known before in his long eighteen years.

She pulled him down close and latched onto his neck like she was a damn vampire or something. “Shit. Fuck. Jazzy, I…FUCK.”

“Shut up,” she breathed, scraping her nails down his back as he arched it and hissed. “Shut up and fuck me harder.”

When a breeze shot by his head, whistling like a missile, Vic lurched away from a suddenly shrieking Jazzy and stared at it. A very familiar switchblade was implanted in the wall, like it’d been there its whole life. “I ain’t gonna miss again.” The familiar low and dangerous timbre of his brother’s voice made him feel sick inside. “You get your fucking hands off my girl, you sumbitch, or I’ma snuff you. And I’ma like it.”

Vic stared into Toby’s cold eyes as his chest heaved, his favored switchblade now open and ready in his palm. He was barely aware of Jazzy wrapping herself up in his sheet and stumbling across the room. “Toby, you just gotta calm down.”

“I’ma deal with you in a minute. You go sit in the living room. I got some business to take care of.”

“Toby-”

“I ain’t gonna tell you again!” Even Vic flinched at the unfamiliar feeling of Toby raising his voice so loud that the entire apartment felt like it was gonna just give in. “Get yourself cleaned up! I’ma deal with you in a minute!”

Jazzmine stared at him for just a moment more before she grabbed her clothing and scurried out of the room, not even looking back.

The entire room went frigid and cold as Toby slowly turned his head to look at Vic again, his eyes gone from freezing to red hot. Vic’d never felt so exposed in his life, trying to catch his breath and naked as a jaybird under the watchful eye of his brother. The man didn’t say anything for a long minute. When he did, however, he lifted his switchblade and pointed it straight at Vic. “What the fuck was that?”

“I thought Health was the only class you didn‘t skip.”

“Don’t you fucking play with me, Vic. I ain’t fooling.” He took a few steps closer and Vic flinched again, his fingers tightening their hold on his blanket. “I will fucking gut you like the spineless coward you always been. What. The fuck. Was that.”

Vic met his eyes with all the teenaged entitlement he had in the world and scowled. “That was me fucking your girl.” Maybe Toby wasn’t expecting him to say it so succinctly, but the older man stayed silent and tensed his jaw. “That was me making her scream my name. Making her forget you even fucking existed. Only took, what, ten minutes since you left?”

It was Toby’s turn to flinch, and if anything it looked like it just made him angrier. He leaned in and held the blade an inch away from Vic’s neck, gritting his teeth. “You selfish bastard. Why…why would you…do you know how many fucking women are in this shithole around here?!”

“Yeah, I might, if they weren’t all fucking falling all over themselves to talk to you!” Vic shouted back, his desperation making him lean forward even though it drove him closer to the blade.

“What the hell are you talking about? You just running your mouth, ain’t you? Just love to hear yourself talk. What the hell?”

“I ain’t lying! Ain’t my fault if you too damn blind to see it!” He sucked in a deep, shaky breath, grabbing Toby’s wrist with such strength that he knew in an instant they were in a stalemate. “Every day, that’s all I hear! Vic, where’s Toby? Toby coming out today? He done with that damn snow bunny yet?” He was vaguely aware of his hand shaking and the blade quivering dangerously because of it. “Do you think I like hearing all that shit all the fucking time, Toby?!”

“Shut up.”

“No, I ain’t gonna shut up! You gonna listen, for the first fucking time in your life!” Vic shoved Toby back a step and pointed straight at him as he got to his feet. “I’m sick of your fucking bullshit! I’m sick of it! You being the perfect one, you getting those fucking dreads from Ma, you dancing around like you ain’t got a care in the world when shit’s hitting the fan and I’m the one taking it. You got any idea what the hell I‘m talking about?” But Toby didn’t deserve a chance to speak. Vic swiped his hand through the air, a violent slash cutting the air. “No! No, you don’t got a fucking clue, but you gonna pretend you do. Aw, yeah, you gonna pretend you get it, that you was there. Bull-fucking-shit.”

“The hell are you-”

“Shut the hell up!” Vic’s voice cracked, and he jerked open his top drawer to pull out his own switchblade. Home, that’s what it felt like when everything was turning red, when all he wanted was to draw fucking blood all over again and get another notch on his belt. He glared at Toby and snarled, flicking the blade open. “I’m tired of it, Toby. I’m fucking tired of it! Living in your damn shadow? Getting second best all the damn time?”

Toby flicked his eyes to the blade only once before he looked back at Vic, peering through his curtains of dreadlocks. The beads on every dread mocked him, reminded him of the mother that blew the first of them all, who didn’t have a damn thing left for her baby son. “You talking crazy.”

“I’m talking crazy.” Vic laughed, harsh and unamused, and drew his thumb down the smooth handle of the blade. “I’m talking fucking crazy. Listen to him. I’m crazy!”

“Hell yeah, you damn crazy if you think I ever wanted that!”

“Shut up.” He was getting closer to Toby, talking small steps he wasn’t even that aware of. “You ain’t never tried to change it. You ain’t never try to make it better. You ain’t never-”

“Are you drunk? Are you fucking drunk?” Toby peered at Vic even as he took a single step backward, unknowingly fueling the rage pumping through his veins.

Vic thought of the beer bottles lined up by the trashcan, giving the spiders a home for a few more days, and felt his tongue cry out for the taste of anything that was gonna make his head spin, make him shove this shit to the back of his mind all over again. “Do I look drunk?”

Toby’s nostrils flared as he shook his head. “Vic, I swear to Jah, if you even think about it…”

The mental picture drew back from the beer bottles by the trashcan to a large, open living room, a flickering TV illuminating an empty shell laying back in the recliner, four more bottles scattered around the floor, blood staining the shell’s knuckles, a kid standing in the doorframe and being ignored, “When’d it be any of your damn business?”

He moved like a shot, and by the time Vic’s blade was on the ground and his wrist twisted painfully in Toby’s grip he wondered why he hadn’t seen that coming from his fucking perfect brother before this shit even happened. “You made it my business,” he hissed, leaning so close his dreads touched Vic’s face and made the younger man flinch. “When you fucked my girl.”

“When you gonna see it?” Vic sneered at Toby and leaned even closer, until the dreads blocked out every piece of light in the air. “She ain’t your girl.” Toby shoved him away so violently that Vic almost fell back on the bed again and caught himself at the last second. He glared over his shoulder. “And you know what’s real funny? That girl you say you love so much? She came in here to get me to fuck her.”

“You are a fucking liar.”

Vic rolled his eyes as he grabbed his boxers and pulled them on. “Toby, when the hell’d I ever lie to you? I ain’t ever done that, you know it.”

“Then it’s about time you started.” The blade was still open, still shiny and craving blood to stain it in Toby’s hand, and Vic looked over his shoulder again with the most challenging expression he could muster. But his brother looked blind, distracted, focused far elsewhere. “Jazzy wouldn’t do that. She-”

“Will you open your damn eyes for just one minute? Just one?” Vic turned his head to the side, outlined an erotically painful mark he still felt against his neck, exposed it to the sunlight. “This look like it from someone unwilling?” Toby wasn’t even listening. He was shaking his head, shaking his hand, and Vic wondered if the blade’d go clear through his brother’s foot if he dropped it. Vic opened his mouth to say something sharper, but he heard the door close loud and clear just as the air conditioner shut off.

“What the hell?” Even though Toby spoke first, Vic led the way to the door, cocking his brow as he shoved his head out.

The living room was empty.

“Shit,” Vic whispered as he flew through the living room and opened the door. “Jazzy?” He was faintly aware of Toby in the bathroom, in his own bedroom, looking like Jazzmine was smart enough to hide from the brothers in the fucking shower or something. Her curly head was missing from sight, and a gust of wind nearly knocked him over the edge of the rickety railing. “Shit!”

“Where is she?” The door flew open again and Toby joined him outside, his feet only pausing for a moment before he began to run down the stairs.

Vic was hot on his heels. “She ain’t here, that’s for sure.”

“Don’t get smart with me,” Toby snarled, glaring over his shoulder at his brother as he jumped the last three steps and caught himself with a feline sort of grace. “I ain’t finished with you yet, you son of a bitch.”

“She was your momma too. And she fucking liked you bet-”

“This ain’t the damn time!” He peeled around the edge of the building and froze, staring everywhere with a heavy brow. But when Vic got behind him and slid up on his tiptoes, looked all over the place, he knew in a second that she was gone.

“…bastard. You scared her off.”

Toby froze, affronted, before he slowly turned his head and stared at Vic. “You just want me to kill you, don’t you.”

Sometimes he felt like he already had. Vic narrowed his eyes up at Toby before he walked across the hot pavement toward the stairs again, subconsciously dodging the broken glass and cigarette butts here and there on bare feet. “Whatever. You just call her, sweet talk a little, it’ll be like it never happened.”

“What, I’m supposed to just forget the slut fucked you?” But Vic didn’t stop walking. He’d lived enough of his life out on the fucking street like it was a movie just to entertain the damn neighbors. Didn’t need everyone to see this too. He took the stairs two at a time, feeling an uncomfortable churn in the base of his stomach. “Pretend she ain’t gonna do something like this again? Use me?”

The churn grew more acidic as a thought occurred to him. …shawty was using me to get to him, right? Or was…shit. Vic tore the door open and ran into the kitchen on impulse, skidding across the floor on bare feet for a moment before he opened a cabinet door. It was a hell of a lot emptier than it should have been. “…shit! Toby! Get your ass in here!”

“The fuck are you yelling about now? Just love to fucking hear yourself talk.”

“I ain’t joking around! What’d you do with the can?”

“Man, I ain’t touched the can.” Toby came around the corner of the kitchen, saw Vic throwing everything out of the cabinet, and froze. “…Vic, what the hell did you do?” He stumbled forward, nearly tripping over a can of beans, and shoved Vic out of the way to take over.

Vic caught himself against the counter and got the wind knocked out of him. He glared at the surface before he curled his fingers over the edge and turned to look at Toby. “I didn’t do a damn thing.”

“Then where the hell’s our money?!”

“It ain’t there, is it?!” He started flinging other cabinets open, cursing every time one came up missing that giant coffee can.

Toby slammed the door shut and grabbed Vic’s shoulder, twisting him around to look him in the eye. “Vic, Jah help me, if you took it and bought you some fucking cigarettes and booze…”

He’d been stabbed. That was all there was to it. Vic leaned back against the counter, felt it dig into his back with a vengeance, and thought that still didn’t have anything on the sting in his chest. “You…serious?”

Toby stared down at him, peering past the ballcap that somehow’d never left his head even when he was tangled up with Jazzy, for a long and silent minute. When he shook his head and backed away, dragging his hands through the ends of his dreads, Vic felt that pressure lift off his chest all over again. “No, I ain’t, you wouldn’t have done that. You ain’t Pops.”

“Damn right I ain’t.” His voice shook a little when he said it, and he hated himself for it.

His older brother hung his head with a heavy sigh and rubbed his face. “You know what this means, then.”

“Means we gotta hunt us down a fucking ho?”

“Tempting as that is…” Toby threw his dreads back, hanging down at the base of his angel bones now, and looked over his shoulder. “She gone, man. She ain’t coming back.”

“Yeah, but if we find her-”

“We ain’t gonna find her.” His voice was sharp and final, and Vic knew there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. Vic rubbed his stubbly chin as he huffed out a sigh and sulked past Toby. “Where do you think you’re going?”

He wanted to lift his hand and flick Toby off with eighteen years of rage pent up in his body. But he stopped in his tracks instead and pressed his hands against his bare waist, staring down at the stained carpet. “My room?”

A snort was his first response, and when Toby touched his shoulder Vic flinched. “You ain’t going anywhere. We gotta talk.”

“Shit, you sound like Ma.”

Silence. Toby took his hand back and sauntered toward the couch, all baggy clothes and broad shoulders, and Vic felt a twinge of envy all over again as he watched him walk. His brother was tough. He didn’t even need that fucking switchblade to make Vic and everyone else in the hood want to be him. “C’mere. You got a lot of shit to say to me.”

Vic stiffened, crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t got a damn thing to say, not anymore.”

“How long you been wanting to fuck her?”

Whatever he’d been expecting, it wasn’t that. He actually turned the question over in his head a few times before he remembered he was supposed to be a pain in the ass. “How long she been in town?”

Toby blew out a long sigh, leaning back into the couch cushions and kicking off his shoes. “…couple of months, maybe?”

“Couple of months, then.”

His brother snorted as he propped his feet up on the coffee table. “I hear that.” Another long bit of silence, and Vic leaned back against the wall to try to get a little more comfy. “Why the hell’d you just…stay all shut up about it?”

It was Vic’s turn to snort. “How often you tell me who you want?”

“You could’ve had her.” Toby quirked his brow and looked over at him, smoothing dreads out of his eyes. “All you had to do was just fucking say something.”

“Say something to the Golden Boy, take away what he wanted? You shitting me?” His feet carried him toward the couch before he even knew what was happening, and soon he was plopped down right beside his brother, trying to leave a cushion between them. “You honestly telling me you was just gonna lay down and let me have her if I wanted?”

“Hell yeah.”

“Toby.”

“Aight, look,” he started, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he thudded his head back against the wall. “Maybe I’d be pissed off, sure, whatever, but if you told me you wanted her to be your girl, I’d get over it and step off.”

“You ain’t never bullshitted me like this before.”

“Vic, what the hell do you think I am?” It was silent for a long time as they stared at each other, four eyes as brown as milk chocolate. Toby shifted to face him, crossing his legs on the couch cushion as he furrowed his brows in sheer confusion. Vic felt his skin start to crawl in discomfort. “When’d this fucking happen to us?”

“What do you mean?” He shifted like he was eight again, staring at the floor.

“We used to be close, real fucking close, and now you just…” The air conditioner kicked on, and Toby shook his head, the beads clanging together just audible enough. “You’re my brother, Vic.” There it was again, that acid churning at the base of his stomach. “And you know what, I don’t even care that you fucked Jazzy, ‘cuz she just a ho. She gonna get all fugly and shit soon, spend our money on fucking cigs and scotch, but you…” He touched Vic’s shoulder again, was unsurprised by his flinching. “You my brother. And you always gonna be my brother.”

Vic cursed under his breath and shoved Toby’s hand off his shoulder. “Man, this ain’t no daytime talk show.” He shoved himself back until he hit the couch’s arm, but Toby came right after him, grabbed his shoulders. “Get the hell away from me,” Vic snarled. But Toby’d never listened to him in his life. Why would he start now?

Toby wrapped his arms around Vic, tight like a solitary confinement cell, and held on like a bear even as his brother thrashed in his hold. “ I ain’t gonna let you go.”

“I’ma rip your throat out if you don’t fucking let me go right now.”

“Aight, that’s what you want?” Toby growled, digging his fingers bruisingly into Vic’s back. “Do it. I don’t give a shit. I ain’t letting you go.”

Vic shoved his hands against Toby’s chest desperately and grabbed fistfuls of his t-shirt when he still didn’t give. “Man, you ain’t Ma.”

“And you ain’t Pops.”

He gave Toby a solid punch in the ribs and heard him curse, but he was still stuck, and now his eyes were starting to burn. “Fuck you!”

“You ain’t. You ain’t Pops.” Toby pressed his head against the side of Vic’s and growled his words directly into Vic’s ear, where he could hear Toby gasp when he landed yet another sharp punch. “You ain’t gonna be a damn thing like him either.”

“And how the hell do you know?” Vic grabbed his shirt again, threw his weight to the side, and just barely missed the coffee table as they both came tumbling down hard on the floor. But even as Toby’s grasp loosened just enough so he could breathe, he didn’t let go.

“’Cuz that fucking booze ain’t you! Those cigs ain’t either, and the joints ain’t, and-” He choked when Vic dug his thumbs into his throat, but pulled Vic so close he couldn’t get the leverage to keep pushing enough to keep the words cut off. “Fuck it all, Vic, you ain’t Pops. You Victor Ortiz, and you gonna reach the stars if you just get on your fucking tiptoes.”

His breathing was erratic now, his movements clumsy, and Vic grabbed the front of Toby’s shirt and leaned down until they were nose to nose. “I hate you, you son of a bitch.”

“I know,” Toby whispered, never once breaking eye contact. “And that’s my own damn fault. And if you give me the chance, I’ma make it up to you, I promise.”

“You can’t do that.”

“You right, we can’t go back. But dammit, we can go forward.”

Vic crumpled and clung to Toby, burying his face in his shirt as he sucked in a wet, shaky breath. “Fuck it. Fuck it all.”

Toby reached up, grabbed the hat, and threw it behind him. It landed right on top of the empty beer bottles. “I ain’t ever gonna let go.”

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“So you and Jazzy, huh?”

Toby poked his head over the refrigerator door and grinned. “Yeah, I guess. Who told you?”

Vic cupped his hand around his cigarette out of habit and flicked his lighter on. “Jazzy tell me. I saw her yesterday.” As he took a long drag, he leaned back against the couch with a dry chuckle. “The boys are gonna hatechoo.”

“Man, ain’t my fault they didn’t grab her while they had the chance. I ain’t letting her go.” He finally selected a bottle of Pepsi with a contemplative hum before he hip-checked the door shut. “So, I uh…sorry I didn’t tell you.”

He waved Toby off. “Ain’t nothing but a thing, man. Don’t worry about it. You wanna keep it to yourself. I get that.”

The bottle fizzed as Toby popped the top off and sent it flying across the kitchen. “That ain’t t. I just-”

“Just wanna keep secrets, right?”

“All right, since when the hell do I gotta clear my cuffs with you?” Toby stood in front of Vic and scowled. “You gonna be Ma now?”

Vic glared at him as he tapped his cigarette on the ashtray just a little harder than necessary. “Just forget it, aight? Forget it.”

The air conditioner kicked on violently, and Toby rolled his eyes as he leaned against the wall and turned his back to Vic as much as he could. He stared at the door long and hard before he waved the smoke away from his face. “Put out that fucking cigarette, man, you ain’t that.”

“I’m a man now. Don’t tell me what to d-”

Toby had him jacked up against the wall before Vic could even finish his sentence. “You ain’t a man. You wanna be a fucking man, you drop that shit and prove it.” He snatched the cigarette from his brother’s lips and shoved him to the side. “You wanna kill yourself?” he asked, shaking the cancer stick at him before he drove it into the ashtray. “You go grow a damn spine and buy yourself a fucking gun.”

“Fuck you!” Vic shouted. His fists went flying, but Toby caught them both and twisted the kid around until he couldn’t breathe from the arm against his Adam’s apple.

“You gonna go for a walk,” Toby hissed in Vic’s ear. “You gonna go all the way to the fucking Watts Towers, and you ain’t coming back here ‘til you done cooled off.” Toby guided the sputtering and flailing Vic all the way to the door and shoved him at it. “And if you ain’t, I’ma beat yo ass like the man you wanna be. I ain’t gonna treat you like no kid no more.”

“Fuck. You.” The door slammed shut seconds later. Toby’s muscles ached from tension, and he put the Pepsi bottle down before he could throw it across the room.

Vic had barely walked a mile through the swirling police sirens, the thumping bass, the loud shouting, before someone called his name. He turned his head, saw a headful of curls, and kept right on walking.

“Vic! You in a hurry or something?”

“Maybe. What you want?”

“Wantin’ you to slow down, for starts.” She grabbed his arm and he frowned, but slowed to match her pace. “The hell’s your problem?”

“Ain’t no never mind. You know how to mind your own damn business, Jazzy?”

She chuckled and looped her arm around his, drawing a frown and a quirked brow from him. “Not once in twenty years. I see you got something you wanna get out. You ain’t gonna get a better offer.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“C’mon, boy, you got a bangin’ shawty on your arm and you turning down the chance to get cozy with her?” She nestled a little closer as they walked, keeping comfortable with his pace as she grinned up at him. “You a fag or just blind?”

“Uh.” Vic carefully unwound her fingers from his bicep, flexed as it was. “You know you my brother’s girl, right?”

Jazzy batted her eyelashes at him coyly. “That mean I turn into a buttaface all the sudden?”

Vic finally gave up on getting her to release his arm and snorted as he rolled his eyes. “You know you ain’t.” His chest puffed up a little with every step they took, noting the way all the guys were staring at him with that weird mix of anger and envy and how they checked out Jazzy from every angle they got. A glance at her face told him she knew too and that she didn’t give a shit. “I give you any more compliments, your head’s gonna swell ‘til you can’t fit through a door.”

“True ‘nuff.” In fact, she didn’t seem insulted by it at all. “How long you walking for?”

“Hell if I know. Long as I gotta.”

“Your legs getting tired?” She looked down at them and he stole a glimpse at her profile. Most damn confusing little minx he ever met in his life.

When she met his eyes, he realized the question wasn’t rhetorical. “Naw. Why you ask?”

“’Cuz there’s only so long I can walk on these…” Jazzy drew him to a stop to stretch out one of her long, shapely legs, covered in black leather with a heel taller than Watts itself. He let his eyes linger on her thigh as she went on. “…an’ you ain’t tell me anything yet. C’mon.” She gently tugged at his arm and led him toward a nearby bench, that ass of hers swinging like a hypnotist’s clock. The way it looked just a couple of days ago without all that denim in the way swirled past his mind’s eye.

He drew in a sharp breath, flitting his eyes up to the back of her head. “Now, who the hell said I’m gonna tell you anything?”

“I did.” Jazzmine perched on the bench and patted the spot next to her. “You don’t pop a squat, I’ma get up and make you my damn self.”

“I’d like to see you try.” But he sat beside her and stretched out his legs with a groan. The sun was setting in the distance, and he eyed it with a strange sense of contemplation. What the hell do you tell the fine C-4 sitting next to you about her boy acting like a piece of shit? Her thigh brushed against his and drew his attention back to her in a flash. “…aight, look, it got to do with your boy. Dunno how keen I am on telling you all about that.”

“Mmm.” As she crossed her legs at the ankle she perched her arms on the back of the bench and smiled at him. “I’m a good listener.”

“You also fucking my brother, so…”

“Ain’t nothing but a thing.” She waved it off like an impatient gnat. “You telling me you don’t sleep with anyone?”

Wait. Vic turned his head and stared at her, frowning. “I mean, yeah, but-”

“And that mean you cuffin’ all of them?”

“Naw. But we, uh, generally both know that. Ain’t one of us thinking it’s some serious commitment shit or anything.”

Jazzmine chuckled, her voice low and husky, and tilted her head toward him. “Toby’s naïve. He got this…plan in his head for us before he even talk to me.” As she met his eyes with those amber gems of hers he felt his heart kickstart in anticipation. “Since when the hell’s that mean I gotta follow it? I’m my own woman. I gonna do what I want, not what he say.”

“And you, uh…planning on telling my boy this anytime soon?”

She shrugged, one lean shoulder lifting and peeking out from her tank top, before she slid her leg higher and crossed them at the knee. “Maybe. You got a problem with that?”

“You playing my brother…and you wanna know if I got a problem with it?”

“Yeah.”

“Aight, just making sure we on the same wavelength.” Vic pretended not to notice the very soft brush of her shoe against his calf and gulped. “Look, boy’s a bastard sometimes, but I got his back.”

Jazzy grinned, slow and warm, and tilted her head to the side. “And he got yours?”

He remembered Toby pushing him around the apartment, snatching the cigarette from his lips, threatening his ass, and his cheeks flushed. “I mean…”

“You don’t know.” She tossed her head back and laughed. “Man, that’s too much. You think he give a damn about you? In case you missed it, your boy’s got stars in his eyes, wanna be a big rock star. Can’t see anything past ‘em. Not even you.”

“Shut up.”

“It’s the truth. And you know it.” When she reached toward him he wrapped his fingers around her wrist and frowned threateningly. The feel of her smooth skin under his calloused fingers felt just like it did yesterday. He wondered if the rest of her felt that smooth and tightened his hold. But she didn’t look away. She held his eyes, held that smirk, and held his attention. “I ain’t in this for the long haul. Your brother’s aight, but he ain’t my type, not really. Naw, I lean toward lean and sharp, dangerous, angry…” She leaned in close to him, guiding the back of his fingers to brush against her thigh. His hand immediately loosened its hold. “So, you know, you ever in the neighborhood…”

“Get out of here,” he growled, releasing her wrist and taking his hand back. “Get back home.”

She chuckled. “Aight. You wanna keep me company on the walk?”

“Shut up.” He was on his feet and on his way to Watts Towers before she could so much as breathe.

He carefully stroked her hair, feeling the thick curls there twist and twirl around her fingers in a strange sort of dance. He followed them with a small smile on his lips and tilted his head to the side. When she shivered he chuckled. “You cold?”

“’Course not.” Jazzmine tossed her head and smirked up at him from beneath thick, dark eyelashes and smeared eyeliner. “Ain’t like I’m lying here butt naked or somethin’ while you get all the damn covers.”

Toby grinned wider as he pulled the blanket back and suddenly became immersed in the Arctic. “I gotta way to warm you up.”

“Man, ain’t you ever get tired?” She flashed a surprisingly white smile as she trailed her fingertips over his naked chest, skirting around the edge of his pectoral.

“When I got a goddess snuggled up next to me like this? Enough to get any man’s blood boiling all over again.” His heart took to fluttering again as she pressed her naked body against his side and intertwined her smooth leg with his. “C’mere.”

As he wrapped his arms tightly around her, however, she pressed a manicured finger to his lips and shook her head, quirking a brow. “Not all of us got your stamina, boy. Gimme a few winks, that’s all I’m askin’.”

“You already given me enough o’ those for a lifetime, babe.” But he leaned back into the pillow and was rewarded by her head gently laying on his chest, where he tangled his fingers all over again. He’d never seen quite a mane like it. It’d been the first thing to catch his eye out there on the streets as she strutted along with her friends, their heels clicking against the sidewalk in a strange symphony. The boys had puffed up, stuck out their chests, preened and called out to them, and this little minx’d just lift that hand of hers and shoot them a seagull painted on her middle fingernail. He’d never wanted something so much in his damn life.

“You’re thinking,” she said quietly as she looked up at him again. “Careful there, boy, you gonna get a headache again.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Shut up.”

“Make me.” She captured a bead at the end of his nearest dreadlock and spun it between her fingers, studying the foggy surface with a growing smirk.

“Oh, you wanna go?”

“You couldn’t take me if you try, you know that, you or your damn brother. Buncha fools, you Ortiz brothers, all struttin‘ around like you a bunch of mighty fine musicians.” Jazzy tugged at the dread teasingly. “So don’t you even start or I’ma walk right out that door an’ you can just cry yourself to sleep.”

“Naw.” With his arms wrapped tightly around her again he dragged her on top of him and kissed her, hard and passionate. “I ain’t letting you out of my damn sight, I don’t give a damn what you say.”

Jazzy threw her head back and laughed, her neck long and tantalizingly exposed to him, and he leaned up to press a long series of kisses down it. “I’d like t’see you try, boy. C’mon, ‘nuff of that.” She smacked him playfully on the chest and he fell back again, licking his lips with a mischievous grin. “I done already told you I gotta catch a few winks, so you just hold your horses.” Those eyes of hers meant business, and she held his gaze just long enough to prove it to him. “I’ma get some water. You can’t stand it, you can just drag yourself into that bathroom and take care of it your own damn self.”

She tugged on her bra and panties to the sound of his laughter before she waltzed out of the bedroom and shut the door behind her, chin as high and spine as rigid as a princess. Wasn’t that hard to figure out where the kitchen was in the first place. You live in an apartment with four fucking rooms and suddenly things get a hell of a lot easier to find. She traced her fingertips over the peeling wallpaper as she hummed softly, looking down the hallway with a quirked brow and a slight pout before she disappeared into the living room. She slid past the couch and eyed all of the stuffing trying to escape through the slit fabric before she crossed into the kitchen and stepped over the empty beer bottles scattered around beside the trashcan.

Jazzmine took her time walking past the cabinets, eyeing each and every imperfection on them and drumming her nails carefully along the stained countertop before pausing beside the last one and opening it. Pots. The next bore her plates. There were bowls, spices, cleaning supplies, and everything else she wasn’t expecting to find before she finally reached the glasses in the first cabinet she passed and shook her head with a little smirk.

She waltzed her way back to the cabinet, smoothing her hand across her stomach and eyeing it before she leaned against the counter and flipped the faucet on. There was a moment of consideration, a pause, and then she turned the water level down until it was barely a sputtering. She tested it with her fingers for a long moment before finally tucking the giant glass beneath it and eyeing the hallway again over her shoulder.

While she waited, she quietly hummed and tapped her foot to some beat she‘d heard at that last show she‘d been to, all to get an eyeful of some dreads and a baseball cap. Everything in the apartment got her highest scrutiny, from the ashtray on the coffee table to the dishes piled up in the sink and stinking to high heaven. It was only when she heard a key fumbling at the front door that she quickly shoved the water level higher, filled her glass within three seconds, and whirled around to press her back against the counter.

Vic Ortiz sidled into his apartment with a newspaper tucked under his arm and made his way halfway to the couch before he shit his bricks. “Fuck!” He tugged his hat’s brim down over his eyes and put his back to the kitchen. “Jazzy, what the hell you doin’?”

“Getting a drink. What the hell’s it look like, Ortiz?” She took a long, leisurely sip and tucked her free arm around her stomach with a quirked brow.

“Getting a drink…” His tone was flat as he licked his suddenly dry lips and tapped the newspaper against his arm like a drummer having a seizure. “Well, I ain’t gonna distract you from it, then.” He’d made two steps toward the hallway before he heard her speak again.

“You scared or something?” The kid froze in his steps and Jazzy spread her lips into a broad smirk. “You tryin’a tell me you ain’t never seen a girl like this before? I mean, ain’t nothin’a be ashamed of or anything, but-”

“That ain’t it!”

“Don’t be such a prude. Just pretend like you at the beach or something, boy. You know your brother got the only working air conditioning in this fucking apartment.” He kept his head tilted down, staring at the floor, and Jazzy chuckled. “C’mon, quit trippin’. Kick back and have one youself. Want a beer or something?”

As she made her way to the refrigerator, she studied him from the corner of her eye and watched the way he slowly lifted his gaze and nudged his cap back. He followed her movements like a wolf. “Naw, I ain’t feeling that.” She draped her arm over the back of the refrigerator and leaned in to study the contents that she already knew far too well. “I’ma just…uh…”

“…get some water?” She rolled her eyes to the door itself and poked her head above it with a smirk. Vic quickly flicked his eyes back up to her face before he nodded and tossed the newspaper at the couch as he tucked his hand in his baggy pocket. “Fine, I’ll get it.”

“Thanks.” He collapsed on the couch and sent his shoes flying as he pulled a box of cigarettes out of his pockets. By the time she’d come with his glass of water he’d already filled his side of the room with smoke. He watched her as she perched on the couch beside him and offered the glass. When he took it and she gently tapped her glass against his, he nodded. “Where’s Toby?”

“Sleeping. Think I wore him out.” Jazzmine studied the way he looked away and took another long drag, his foot tapping against the floor. “Boy gotta get his energy back up before the repeat performance.”

“Girl, I don’t gotta hear ‘bout you being a damn jump off for my bro, shut your mouth.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” He scowled and tapped his cigarette against the ash tray. “Ain’t my business. You just keep your little performances to yourself, aight?”

She flopped against the opposite arm of the couch with a similar scowl as she pulled her legs to her chest. Took everything in him to keep his eyes off her curves and on the wall instead. “Honey, just ‘cuz you jealous-”

“Like I got anything to be jealous of. The hell you talking about?”

“I don’t gotta explain myself. You ain’t stupid and I ain’t either.”

A heavy silence hung over the room before Vic threw back the glass of water and drained it. It was only broken by the clanking of the glass against the table. “If you done…” Suddenly the lighting of the room blinded him and he whirled around to watch Jazzy shove his hat on her head and sashay off to the kitchen. “The hell you doin’?”

“Man, I don’t know what you talking about.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder, every curl swaying just above the small of her back and drawing his eyes downward. “I’m just putting my glass up.”

“Like hell you are. Gimme my hat.”

“Fuck your hat, wigga. Buy another one.” She turned it around until it perched sideways on her head and eyed him over her shoulder with a quirked brow and a smirk.

“Wigga?” Vic dug his cigarette into the ashtray as he came to his feet. “You one to talk, you damn snow bunny.”

“Shut up.” As she tilted her head back to take a long healthy drink Vic made his way toward the kitchen, fingers locked in his belt loops. “You got something to say?”

“Naw, but I gotta hat to get. Give it here.”

“Aww, you gonna cry if I don’t?”

“Jazzy, I swear to Jah, you give it or-”

She turned and faced him with a smirk, arching her back. “Or what?”

He froze in his steps as he locked eyes with her, looking more like a man than a boy of barely eighteen. He spread his shoulders to their full broadness and frowned. “The hell you playing at?”

“I’ma be hanging around here a damn long time, Vic.” Jazzy placed the glass on the counter beside her and crossed her arms just under her bra. “So we might as well try to get along, you know?”

She had a point. He took in her tousled hair, her wild makeup, the love bites on her neck, and inevitably let his eyes trail down to the inviting cleavage thrust toward him. “Aight. Whatever.” As his eyes danced back up to her eyes he held out a hand and nodded toward the top of her head. She stared at him for a long moment, her smirk mischievous and her eyes hooded, before she slid out from between him and the counter and strolled toward the living room. “Jazzy, I swear I’ma smack you.”

“You gotta catch me first, boy.”

He shoved away from the counter and came after her quickly, and she looked over her shoulder just in time to laugh and whirl out of his reach. They flew around the living room like two kids, him a little slower than he could be and her as graceful as a damn ballerina as she constantly flitted just out of the range of his hands. By the time he finally got her cornered he’d tripped and pinned her to the couch, a hand holding both her wrists over her head while the other grabbed his hat and shoved it on his head again.

Her chest heaved as she panted under him, wiggling to get comfortable, and he froze as his eyes widened and he felt that rush of adrenaline flow through him. “You got your hat don’t you, boy?” And he released her wrists and went to sit back on his knees, but she suddenly grabbed his shirt and tilted her head to the side. “Ortiz, that a twenty-two in your pocket? Or…”

“Shut the hell up.” He shoved her down on the couch and scrambled to his feet, backing away as his nostrils flared and he growled. “I ain’t like that.”

“’Course not. Nobody said you was.” Her arms remained over her head and she stretched out across the couch, one of her knees pointing to the ceiling as she rolled her head over to look at him from beneath her thick lashes. “But if you ever are…” Jazzmine let her words hover in the air for a long moment before she came to her feet as well. She approached him, and frantic as he was he stayed right where he was like he’d grown roots. Jazzy paused in her steps before she tapped the brim of his cap and smirked. “You know where I am. Catch you on the flip side, man.”

The instant that Jazzmine slithered into bed beside Toby again, he roused from his dozing and blinked sleepily at her. “Hey there. You get lost?”

“Naw. Just got a damn long drink.” She smirked and threw one leg over his hip to sit astride him. “You get a good nap?”

The contact drew a long groan from his lips and he tilted his head back, letting his eyes slide languidly shut again. “Yeah. Hella good nap. You tryin’a tell me something, girl?”

“Maybe.” She chuckled as he slid his hand up her back and fumbled with her bra for a hot minute before getting it loose and tossing it aside.

For his part, Vic stared after Jazzy like she was a siren as she disappeared into the hallway, feeling a painful lurch in the base of his stomach. “…fuckin’ ho.” He shoved his hat off and dragged his hand over his stubbly head, scowling. The smell of lavender floated up to him from his hat and he glared at it for a long moment before he heard a soft feminine moan drift out of Toby’s closed bedroom door. “Dammit.” He roughly rubbed his face and stormed down to the bathroom, nearly slamming the door behind him.

I haven’t been here in ages. It’s a shame, since I do so love writing and want to share it with everyone that I possibly can.

Regardless, I’m back for a short time. I’ve been writing a story that I want to share with people, so I think I shall post it here in scenes. It’s very different from anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s still a rough draft…but I could write it no other way. I hope everyone enjoys it, especially since my writing style continues to change and to even out.

I have twelve months before I need to have my novel completed for my senior thesis, and publishable at that. I think I have somewhere around 25,000 words of a rough draft at the moment and I’m getting a little antsy about my deadlines…but don’t tell anyone. 😉 As far as all of my superiors know, I’ll get this done before January because I’m cool like that.

Enjoy the first scene of Poison and Wine coming in just a few minutes!

P.S. To anyone who was following my NaNoWriMo progress…I closed out November with almost 80,000 words, which is 30K above the goal. I’m still preening even in April. 🙂