Good Sunday morning to ya! And a blessed Sample Sunday, when we authors tease and titillate readers with snips of our works in progress. I am pleased to share a sample from Dinner at Sam’s, the followup to Brunch at Ruby’s (yes, FINALLY). I’ve JUST started writing this, so don’t get your hopes up for a pub date soon. But I have started writing it.
For those that don’t remember from Ruby’s, Sam’s Bar & Grille is next door to Lorraine Gladwell Books, the bookstore that Renee owns. Dinner at Sam’s will focus primarily on Vanessa, Maxine’s real estate agent with the husband who was living a double life. Warren Jackson left her and her daughters flat broke and destitute. She needs a divorce lawyer– and fast– but she can’t afford one. She picks up some extra work at her uncle’s restaurant and that is where she meets the man that will change her life.
Let’s get a look at how Vanessa’s life went off the rails. Of course, subject to change (and probably will). Enjoy!
It wasn’t supposed to end up this way. And I don’t know if I mean that in a good or bad way. Ten years ago, I met a ruggedly handsome, wide-shouldered, bulky, tall drink of dark liquor in the kind of place where a young “dancer” meets a man of means. Warren Jackson was everything I was looking for and nothing I needed.
The first few times we talked, he was sweet. He knew what to say, how to say it. Called me Miss, bought me drinks, kept me occupied by buying dances, but wouldn’t make me dance the whole time. He had a smooth tongue and he was persuasive. Very persuasive.
He was a regular at Red Heels, the club where I worked. It was dark and seedy and fed my rebellious nature. I was young–barely eighteen– and firm with a nice, taut body and I could dance. Some of the others could just barely find the rhythm…I already had a leg up.
The other girls had tried to warn me about Warren, but I wouldn’t listen.
“You be careful with that one,” said Sonja one night, eyeing my stack of tens and twenties, mostly from him. “People talk, and I hear he likes to date girls from here. Then he gets rough when he don’t get what he wants.”
I nodded at her, tucking away my roll of green. I’d never made so much before meeting him. I wasn’t looking a gift horse in the mouth. “He won’t have that problem with me. He keeps giving me bank like this, he’ll get what he wants.”
“So you’re going to whore yourself out ’cause a brother looked your way?”
I eyed Sonja, a hint of a grin on my lips. “Sounds like you’re jealous that a brother looked my way and not yours. Maybe he likes these smooth, supple legs and not those dimply tubes of cellulite you got.”
I kicked up my Zanotti’s and rested them on top of the vanity table. This put my long, lean dancer’s legs on display. Sonja rolled her eyes and chuckled, deep in her throat. “Don’t act like you’re the only one here that has the attention of a handsome, rich brother. I’m just trying to tell you what I hear about that particular brother.”
She paused while inserting a long, sparkly earring into her ear to give me her full gaze. “And it ain’t good. Now you go on thinkin’ you the shit and whatnot. Let that man sweet talk you, flash all that money and that black card in your face, sell you bill of goods. Don’t come cryin’ when he uses you up and dumps you on the side of the road when he’s done with you.”
“Yeah well…” I sigh, gathering my small clutch and my jacket. I was knocking off early. I didn’t tell Sonja that I was going elsewhere for drinks with Warren. “I don’t think that’ll be happening for me. Something tells me that Warren Jackson might be the answer to all my problems.”
I stood, then bent over her shoulder and looked her in the eye, in the mirror. Sonja was older, in her thirties at least. Her dark skin had a dull pallor to it; her eyes were sunken and the whites of them were more red than anything. She was a pretty face, but not really much more. She claimed to dance because she wanted to, but I had it on good authority that Sonja’s day job didn’t pay much and neither did the fathers of her three children. She teetered between addiction and sobriety and these days, addiction was winning. She’d been up and down so much in weight that her skin sagged from the trauma. I didn’t see her lasting much longer at Red Heels.
“You have a good night, Sonja. And be careful.”
“You too, baby. Especially that last part. I’m serious; be careful with him.”
“Mhmm, I hear you. Ole jealous ass.” I snickered as I teetered out of the club, met Warren at the back door and slid into the passenger seat of his Mercedes.
We dated and broke up a dozen times over the next few years. At one point, I was through with him and his control issues, with the fact that he still went to Red Heels, even after he’d convinced me to stop dancing. Then the pregnancy test came up positive and it seemed like overnight, Warren changed.
He said he’d stop going to Red Heels. He’d marry me. He wanted us to make a real effort at a relationship, but he needed me to be sure that I wanted that with him— that all his “sampling”, he called it, was about him not being sure that I really wanted him. Never mind that I quit my job and became his live-in love slave.
So I took the leap. Smug and giddy in my happiness, I gave Sonja the widest grin as I walked down the aisle in my designer gown. She rolled her eyes at first, then smiled back. See? She was wrong. Wasn’t she?
A year after Olivia was born, Jaclyn came. Warren was moving up in his company, becoming indispensable, he said. His bosses needed him on the road, making trips, selling their software in person. Warren was ambitious; he wanted to be high on the food chain at the company, more than just their highest selling salesman of all time. Chairman of the Board, Vice President, Senior Management— all of those titles sounded nice coupled with his name.
I was naive, proud to be Vanessa Jackson, former topless dancer, now mother of two living in an elegant home in an affluent neighborhood. I thought nothing of his long, drawn out trips and his inability to check in, to stay in touch, to even talk to his wife and children at night. I was so used to his hands controlling everything about our life together, I missed every single sign that should have signaled what was coming.
Then everything came apart. And everything that Warren Jackson is slapped me in the face.