How’s everyone? First, thank you to all who have supported and sent me messages, left reviews, and just generally enjoyed Safe Space. Xavier and Chanel’s story has been a labor of love. Safe Space 2 is currently in its revision/editing stages, and I am hoping for an early Agust release. I will definitely keep you all updated when I have a release date. As for now, here is a sample of what’s to come in Safe Space 2. Enjoy!
****Unedited. Subject to Change****
“You think you know her that well?” I heard the challenge in his voice.
“I do,” I answered with confidence.
“What makes you think that?”
I rubbed the back of my neck, growing irritated at this line of questioning. I knew Chanel. Maybe not everything, obviously. But we’d spent too much time getting under one another’s skin for me not to know her. But I didn’t feel like sharing that with Jason. I wanted to keep the intimacy I felt with Chanel just between us.
“The real question is why don’t you know her that well?”
Jay’s expression morphed into a shocked look. “The hell is that supposed to mean?” He stood up from the bench at the same time I did.
“It means exactly what I said. She’s your sister. Why the fuck didn’t you know what the hell was going on in her life? Why the hell did you find out about the shit that went down with her fiance at the same time I did? Five years after the fact?” Those were questions I’d been wondering for weeks now. Another reason I’d kept my distance from Jay, aside from my traveling. He was her older brother, supposed to protect her, no matter what. And he failed. So, I was pissed at him too.
“Man, I tried to look out for her. You should know that better than anyone else. What the hell did you think I was doing those times I asked you to stop in and check in on her while you were in D.C?”
My head shot back in surprise. I thought back to the times Jay would ask me to pop in on Chanel while I was out in D.C. handling business. She was still in law school at the time and living with Ethan.
“I never liked that dude. Something about him always seemed off to me. Well, not even him but the way Chanel seemed to close up in herself when he was around.” Jay shook his head as if remembering the signs of what was going on in their relationship right in front of him and being completely oblivious to it at the time. “You never picked up on anything when you saw her out there?”
I closed my eyes, thinking about one of the times I visited Chanel’s D.C. apartment.
Six years earlier…
“Xavier, what’re you doing here?” Chanel asked through the intercom of her apartment building.
“I was in town and remembered you didn’t live far from one of the spots I’m opening. Let me up. I bought some pumpkin scones from the deli down the block.”
“Oh! I love that place. Hang on.”
A second later I heard the buzzer sound signaling I’d been granted access to the building. I opted to take the stairs to her third-floor apartment instead of the elevator.
“Hey,” she answered the door with a warm smile on her face.
I let my eyes glide down the length of her body. Her hair was pulled back in a poofy ponytail at the back of her head. She wore a simple gray sleeveless tank top and black stretch pants. I grinned at the pink polish on her toe nails. I briefly wondered why I even noted the color of her toe nails but pushed that thought aside.
“Hey. Can I come in?” I asked when I realized I was still on the outside of her door as we stared at one another.
“Oh,” she blinked. “Sure, come in. Is it cold out?”
“Nah, not too bad.” I pulled off the leather jacket I’d been wearing and placed it on the back of one of the wooden chairs in the kitchen. “What’re you up to?”
“I’m just studying. Finals start next week.”
“Then only one more semester of law school left. You ready for working as a lawyer?”
She gave a half-hearted shrug. “I’m scared as hell, to be honest. You want something to drink?” She asked over her shoulder as she pulled out two plates from an overhead cupboard.
I had to tear my eyes away from her round ass in those leggings. “Here, let me help.” I stepped behind her, placing my hand on the small of her back and easily reaching up grabbing two saucers.
“Thank you.” Her voice was breathless. “I don’t know why Ethan insists on putting the dishes on the second shelf where I can barely reach them.”
The mention of her live-in boyfriend reminded me that she was taken. For some reason, my stomach twisted at the reminder that she shared this place with another man. I stepped back, placing my hands on the counter, instead of on her. “You didn’t need a plate for me. I just wanted to drop these off.” That was a partial lie. Jason had asked me to check on Chanel and make sure she was straight. I did that from time to time when I was in D.C.
“No, please stay for a little while.”
When she turned those big brown eyes on me, pleading my knees felt a little weak.
“Ethan’s working late, as usual, and I’ve just been studying. It’s so quiet here.” She stared at me, waiting for my response. I dropped my coat, which I had grabbed from around the chair. That move instantly brought a smile to her face.
“A’ight. I’ve got some time before I have to be anywhere. But I’m not eating one of those pumpkin scones.” I pointed at the box with a look of disgust on my face.
“Oh, c’mon they’re not that bad,” she teased, pushing the opened box in my face so I could smell them.
I turned my head. “Nah.”
“If you don’t like pumpkin scones why did you buy them?”
“I told you, they’re for you. I remembered you liked the pumpkin scones sold at my coffee shop back home.”
Her grinned. “You remembered that?”
I nodded shocking us both. She’d devoured those things from the little coffee shop I owned just off the campus of the University of Houston, where we’d both attended, though at different times.
“They were so delicious. Do you still sell them?” she asked, placing a scone on one of the saucers and pouring a glass of the almond milk she’d pulled from the ‘fridge.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I sold that place a couple of years ago.”
Her forehead creased in concern “Why?”
“I wasn’t interested in the cafe business.”
“On to bigger and better?”
“Um, well we have some brownies I bought earlier this week. You do like brownies right?”
“Almond milk? It’s vanilla flavored.”
“I was used to regular milk, but my best friend Gabby is vegan, and she’s got me hooked on almond milk now,” she stated, as she took a seat across from me at the wooden circular dining table. We enjoyed our snacks for a few minutes in silence. I had to force myself to keep it together when Chanel closed her eyes and moaned a little bit after the first bite of her scone.
“I’ve been trying to be good and stay away from that deli for weeks now.”
“Why?” I took a sip of my milk.
“Because between that place and the stress of finals I could gain ten pounds, easy. Ethan’s already been making comments about my gaining weight.” She frowned and my fist tightened at the thought of her thinking she could be anything less than desirable.
“He’s a fucking fool.” My bluntness caught her off guard, and she gasped. I hadn’t said anything I didn’t mean, so I simply stared at her as I took another bite of my brownie. “Why aren’t you out on the town on a Friday night? I know you said you’ve got finals, but that’s not until next week.”
Sheee made an unreadable face. “Ethan’s at work.”
“And? Why can’t you go out with friends?”
“Most of my friends are also busy studying. But my best friend is packing to move across the country in a few days.”
“That sucks. Why aren’t you helping her?”
A pout formed on her lips. “We’re not speaking right now.”
Her eyes shot up to my face before she peered at something over my shoulder. A far off look appeared on her face.
I lowered the glass of milk I’d been ready to take a sip of, alarm bells went off in my gut.
“No reason. Just girl stuff,” she waved a hand as if it was no big deal.
Something told me differently, though. Before I could question Chanel about it, noise at the door drew both of our attentions. A few seconds later the door opened, and a man strode through. He stopped short when his eyes landed on me. His face turned into a scowl.
“E-Ethan,” Chanel started, jumping from her seat and scurrying over to her boyfriend. “You’re home. I thought you’d be in a little later.” I could’ve been imaginging things but her voice sounded strange. Almost guilty.
I frowned, not liking the tone her voice now held. His scowl moved from me to Chanel.
“Yeah, I finished the brief I was working on earlier than expected. I thought I’d come home and surprise my favorite girl by taking her out to dinner. But I see you’ve already eaten.” He eyed the plates on the table, then turned his gaze on me again.
I picked up my glass taking the last sip of milk before slowly standing. I didn’t like the vibe I was getting from this dude.
“Ethan, this is Xavier. Jason’s best friend. He’s in D.C. on business and stopped by to drop off some scones. We were just catching up.” She stopped talking shortly, biting her lower lip and now standing in between me and Ethan.
“Yeah, that’s right. You’ve told me about him.” His face seemed to soften just a little when he looked at me.
“What’s up?” I greeted, sticking my hand out.
“Not much, man,” he shook my hand. We stood about the same height. At six foot one, I may have been an inch or two taller than him. “Thanks for keeping my girl company while I was at work.” He pulled Chanel into his side.
“Thanks for the scones, Xavier.” Chanel gave me a half-smile.
“Anytime,” I responded, and I swear Ethan’s face tightened at that. Before I could give him another look, my phone buzzed. I pulled it out seeing the name of the woman I’d intended to take out later that evening. That reminded me that I needed to get going if I was going to make my date with Genene. I hit ignore but shot her a quick text letting her know I’d call her back in a few minutes.
“I gotta head out. Chanel, it was good catching up. Ethan.” I gave him a head nod as I stepped around him and moved towards the door.
“Thanks again,” Chanel added as she escorted me to the door.
There was a look in her eyes I wanted to ask about, but my phone buzzed again. This time it was my assistant, telling me some information about a building I’d been looking to purchase.
“You take care. Enjoy those scones.”
“I will.” She closed the door rather abruptly, but I didn’t think too much of it as I strolled down the hall, reading over the email I’d just received.