It is said that our gifts will make room for us, a fact I can testify to in my career as an African American independent author. I can also testify to the fact that it became more apparent when I returned to my roots, in the church where I grew up in south Minneapolis. Once that happened, everything kicked into a higher gear–the publishing, the marketing, the opportunities, the support, etc. Gratitude is also important, for what we give is what we receive.
This month, I had the honor of becoming the newly appointed book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper here in the Twin Cities. I give thanks for this opportunity to pay it forward, to support Black authors and poets. Since African Americans are more likely to be independent authors, representation matters.
That being said, a writer’s work is never done, and the sixth novel in my Christopher Family Novel series, The Right to Be, is nearly ready to be launched. As this is my first full-on male/male romance novel, I am excited to bring my voice to “Romancelandia.” The following is an excerpt from the novel, where Allan and Mickey Davis, sons of music legends Lissa and Michael Davis and grandsons of billionaire mogul Allan Beckley Christopher, have a fateful meeting:
The 4th of July brought with it the time-honored traditions of cookouts, barbecue grills, etc., and the Hendricks-Bell household was no exception. Cousin Wayne and Cousin Theo broke out the Old School funk while everyone pitched in and did the prep work. Cousin Theo, of course, laid claim to his status as grillmaster. While he proceeded to grill the ribs, chicken, hot dogs, and burgers, Jermaine helped his dad with the potato salad, cole slaw, and baked beans. After ensuring there was plenty of ice and refreshments, the others took a rest break in anticipation of a great meal.
“Hey Cuz.” Ronnell sashayed over to the patio where Allan and Mickey were relaxing.
“Hey. What’s up?” Allan asked.
“Some friends of mine are having a birthday party over the weekend. Wanna come?”
“It’s gonna be a barbecue, so dress casual.”
“Are Dylan and Hari gonna to be there?”
“You know they’re in London. They won’t be back for a couple of weeks.”
Mickey took a moment to stretch. “OK. So, who are these friends?”
“Ramsey and Roslyn Arrington. It’s their birthday. Well, their birthday is actually on July 9, but since that’s on a Monday, they’re celebrating it July 8. Their parents know mine. You know how that goes.”
They regarded each other in that quiet understanding of the “parent network.” With school out, Mickey and Ronnell had been blessed with summer positions at Christopher Electronics, while Allan and Jermaine worked at Edwards Enterprises. Not that they needed the money, but their respective parents instilled certain values in them. As such, they weren’t afraid of hard work.
“Where is the party gonna be?”
“At Lake Johanna in Arden Hills. It’s about twenty minutes from here.”
After a confirming nod, Allan replied, “Great. We’re in. Now, where is the nearest fireworks show?”
“It’ll be at Powderhorn Park this evening.” Ronnell looked in the direction of the grill, where his father gave him the high sign. “Hey, Pops is ready. Let’s get our plates.”
With Sunday afternoon traffic, the drive was easy as Ronnell navigated I-35W through Minneapolis in his parents’ forest green Ford Expedition and exited at County Road D, heading into Arden Hills, a small, upscale suburb of St. Paul. Given the 93-degree temperature, the air conditioning was on the maximum setting.
“Where’s Lamar?” Allan asked his cousin.
“He had to do something for his dad. He’s gonna get a ride out here and come back with us.”
Jermaine, who was cuddled up in the back with his boyfriend, Marcellus Green, joined in. “That’s probably why Daddy and Pops let us use their SUV. This way, everyone can be comfortable. Right, baby?”
Marcellus, who was an amber-complexioned version of Babyface, ran his hand across Jermaine’s smooth cheek affectionately as they rounded Lake Johanna Boulevard. “Better believe it. Hey, isn’t that where we’re supposed to be?”
“Yeah, in the park area.”
“You didn’t tell them about our parents, did you?” Mickey’s voice carried a note of concern.
“Don’t get all paranoid on me, Cuz,” was Ronnell’s answer. “We know the drill.”
The music was conducive to a good time, loud enough to enjoy but short of attracting complaints from local residents as they pulled into a parking space and stepped out. Most of the partygoers were gathered around the large pavilion on the north end of the lake, although some guests brought swimwear and headed over to the beach.
Allan couldn’t miss the look on Mickey’s face when he laid eyes on the young woman holding court at the pavilion. She was a 5’9” hotty, easily a younger version of Nia Long of Soul Food fame. Dressed for the heat of the day, her matching yellow top and shorts complimented and highlighted her medium brown skin, her shoulder-length black hair styled in twists. Not only that, she was curvy. Definitely his twin’s type.
Mickey normally took it in stride when women threw themselves at him. Already, several young women at the party had given him flirtatious looks and sultry gazes, not to mention discreetly passing him their phone numbers before he even reached the pavilion. The object of his interest, however, wasn’t doing anything—just socializing and enjoying time with her guests. He was mesmerized. “Who is that?” he wondered as Jermaine, Marcellus, and Ronnell approached them.
“Hey Cuzins. Let us introduce you to the guests of honor.” Jermaine brought them over to the gorgeous yet unknown sistah and the young brotha standing next to her.
“Hey, birthday twins,” Ronnell said brightly, giving the honorees a hug.
Jermaine followed suit with, “I’d like to introduce you to some cool dudes in our lives. Ramsey and Roslyn Arrington, these are my cousins, Mickey and Allan Davis. They’re from Chicago.”
Allan barely heard the introductions. His breath was stolen as he looked down and dived into Ramsey Arrington’s stunning brown eyes. Standing 6’1” at 210 lbs. and dressed in a Timberwolves basketball uniform, Ramsey, like his twin sister, had the looks and charm that made them among the most popular students at Mounds View High School prior to their graduation, according to his cousins. He wore his hair in a low fade and, judging from what Allan could see of his arms, chest, and legs, Ramsey kept himself in outstanding shape. As for his eyes, beautifully set in that gorgeous, medium brown face, they spoke volumes. Most important, he clearly liked what he saw in Allan. He’s checking me out. Yaassss!!
“How do you like Minnesota?” Ramsey asked after greetings were exchanged.
“It’s different, but it’s been growing on us since we’ve been at school here.” Allan hoped his friendly and casual reply would conceal his burning desire to find out if Ramsey’s lips tasted as good as they looked.
“Really? Where?” Roslyn’s eyes didn’t leave Mickey’s.
“We’re at the U of M,” Mickey answered in his most charming voice. “We just finished our freshman year. What about you?”
“Ramsey and I are over at Augsburg College,” Roslyn answered. “High school seems like a breeze compared to college courses. Now we understand why Mama and Daddy stayed on our backs about studying and grades.”
“True. It’s one thing to dream and another to put in the work to achieve the dream.” Ramsey gave Allan a subtle onceover, his eyes twinkling at the sight of Allan’s rainbow bracelet. “You guys hungry? We can fix you a plate.”
“Yeah. Those burgers look awfully good,” was Allan’s reply, confirmed by a nod from his twin. “And Happy Birthday to you.”
When the Arrington twins turned around to prepare the plates, Allan and Mickey’s mouths dropped before they took in a breath; both Roslyn and Ramsey brought meaning to the term bootylicious. They exchanged an intuitive look and immediately knew what they were going to do—get to know them and stake a claim. For Mickey, it was confirmation that the funny New Year’s wish he made back in the Bahamas was coming true. For Allan, every boyfriend he ever had faded into the background in those moments. Thomas who?
For the duration of the birthday party, young women continued to flirt with Mickey, be it discreetly or overtly, in order to gain his attention. Mickey, however, only had eyes for Roslyn and could easily be found wherever she went. Mickey’s attention toward her, to his delight, was reciprocated with the little smiles she cast in his direction.
As for Allan, he made sure he was somewhere near Ramsey, ready to talk with this hot, magnetic guy between his duties as a host and honoree. They wound up being among the last partygoers to leave, but not without Ramsey and Roslyn’s numbers in their cell phones.
“Earth to Mickey, Earth to Allan, come in, come in,” Jermaine teased on the drive back.
“Huh? Oh. Right.” Allan felt a little embarrassed at being caught daydreaming.
“I bet I know what you’re thinking about—or should I say, who,” Ronnell added knowingly, giving Lamar a conspiratorial grin as they crossed the Mississippi River at downtown Minneapolis. “I saw the way you two were checking each other out.”
“Okay, okay, so I think he’s hot,” Allan admitted. “And maybe it’s a good thing he doesn’t really know anything about Sunrise. Maybe that’ll make it easier to…”
“Take him out on a date?” Mickey threw in.
“I see you’ve come back from the stratosphere, Cuz.” Jermaine smirked as he gave Ronnell a high-five.
“I just know that my brother has a point. As for me….”
Mickey let out a sigh of the smitten as he recalled their playful flirting at the party. “When it comes to Ms. Roslyn Arrington, I will be in full pursuit mode. But I want her to know who I am before she meets the folks.”
“I know,” Allan agreed. “I get this vibe from Ramsey, the vibe of a guy I’d take home to meet Mom and Dad.”
Ronnell took Lamar’s hand in his free one, wearing the grin of a high-priced matchmaker. “Looks like you two have it bad. Well, to ease your way and put you out of your misery, here’s a little intel. From what I picked up on at the party, they’re interested in you. But you’ll have to step up your game. They’re just like their parents. If you want to lock them down, you have to show them you’re not just there to hit it and quit it. Trust and believe, they will shut that down with a quickness.”
The twins breathed a sigh of relief and replied with a simultaneous, “Got it.”
Believe in dreams and never give up.
(c) 2021 by W.D. Foster-Graham