I’d respected my sister’s wishes and stayed away from Phalin. Didn’t do more than dance with her that New Year’s Eve, and even then, I kept my hands above her waist. I kissed her at the stroke of midnight but fought the urge to pry those pretty lips apart with my tongue. And after we turned up with our siblings—who rushed off immediately after we all toasted to the New Year, to do their own thing in a bedroom that was luckily out of earshot, because the last thing I wanted to hear was my sister getting pounded by a nigga—I walked her to her room, kissed her on the forehead, and didn’t see her face again until the next morning. We’d exchanged numbers and even texted a few times. Never anything heavy. Just a good morning here, or a wyd there. She seemed chill enough. Smart, independent, busy making the world a better place for niggas like me to live in. You know, typical black girl magic. And for that and many other reasons, I decided to leave her be. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t think about dismissing all that shit and shooting my shot. Wouldn’t be a man if I didn’t at least imagine it. “Bro, you comin’ or not?” My boy, Kenny had been sitting in the living room of my apartment, distracting himself on social media while I decided if I was gonna step out or stay my tired ass at home. It was times like this when I forgot my boy had left the hood and made a name for himself as the platinum rap icon known in H-town and around the world as Plus. He was so regular. Still the same old Kenny that helped Dwight find his way home from school one day, and wound up on our living room sofa every day since. I’d been staring at the mirror tryna decide if I was gonna wear glasses or contacts, a seemingly simple decision that would take me ten minutes to make. “Gimme a minute, nigga,” I yelled down the hall from my bathroom. Kenny had dropped in unannounced like he always did, in town for business but always making time for family and close friends. I don’t know how he flew under the radar so easily. Dude was worth millions and you wouldn’t know it by the way he carried himself. Aside from the designer clothes that his assistant purchased, he was as down to earth as they came. “Bruh, don’t nobody give a shit about them Clark Kent ass glasses,” He sucked his teeth, having been through this scenario with me enough times to know exactly what I was doing. “It’s already10 o’clock. I'm tryna stay low profile, ole diva ass nigga.” “My nigga, you rolled up in a platinum Tahoe. On blades!” I yelled down the hallway, cranking out a laugh from the pit of my stomach, brushing a hand over my waves, hearing him laugh in return. “Fuck you!” He trailed off, throaty ass voice hiked with chuckles. “That hoe roomy as fuck, tho.” “Gotta be, with yo' giraffe ass in the back and swole Moe drivin'.” I walked into my room and dropped down on the foot of my bed to pull on a pair of black, leather Polo boots that Nedra’d bought me for Christmas. She already knew that was my signature color. Went perfect with the leather jacket I’d copped in Austin a few weeks before Christmas, and hadn’t had a chance to wear because it never stayed cold for more than two days in Houston. I threw on my specs and stood up in front of my bedroom mirror for a final once-over. Then it was off to Bottoms for the turn-up. Kenny was lucky I cut for his impulsive ass. I was living off three hours of sleep. Phalin I had absolutely, positively, no god damned business in this club or any club for that matter. Though I didn’t look it, thanks to the fountain of youth passed down from Mommy, I was old enough to be an aunty to half the folks in attendance. But I’d promised my Goddaughter, Taya that I’d attend her first showcased performance as an aspiring singer, and there was no location that would make me stiff her on a promise. Her mother, Tashena, had been my best friend since high school when she gave birth to Taya at the tender age of sixteen. Her folks had sent her to live with her grandmother, to hide the pregnancy from the judgmental eyes of their close-knit church family. And Mama Nell took her in with open arms, quickly deciding that since her daughter, Tashena’s mother, was so concerned with keeping up appearances, she’d let Tashena stay out her sophomore, junior, and senior years, while she helped raise her great-granddaughter. With that kind of love being poured into her when she needed it most, it was no wonder Tashena went on to do great things with her life. Went straight to college after graduating high school with a two-year-old Taya propped on her hip when she accepted her diploma. And did the same thing two years later—with Taya walking this time, of course—when she acquired her associate’s degree from a local junior college, a degree that I too acquired that same year, and had added a few more since then right along with my friend. We were some old broads now, but there’d been a time when me and Tashena were shutting shit down onsite and leaving a trail of broken hearts in our wake. We tried our best to keep those stories out of earshot of Taya because we somehow wanted to mold her into the nun that neither of us aspired to be. But it was only a matter of time before our baby girl blossomed, and that cocoa brown skin that she’d inherited from her mother became more radiant than we could hide beneath a pair of blue jeans. She’d grown into a beautiful young lady, one that wasn’t content with the nine-to-five jobs we’d been working at different petrochemical refineries for the last fifteen years. Taya wanted to be a star and had the vocals to pull it off if she could only be heard by the right set of ears. “Phal, do you see this shit?” Tashena yelled in my ear as we followed the tall, boxy bouncer whose name I couldn’t remember, to the V.I.P. section of Bottoms, a club that had been in existence since we were Taya’s age. It’d been drastically remodeled and didn’t at all resemble the crimson, smoky spot we’d frequented all too often back in the day, looking for love in all the wrong places and finding nothing but drunk niggas who knew that young pussy was usually the easiest to get. “See what, girl?” I yelled, glancing back at her over my shoulder, nearly crashing into the broad back of the bouncer in the process. “The stairs, bitch. They added a second floor up in here?” Tashena’s big eyes grew even bigger as we approached the bottom of a glimmering staircase that had not been in place the last time we were there. “Damn, I guess they did,” I replied as we rounded the back of a section of closed off booth-seating that was crowded with hyped up youngsters, singing every word to a song that I didn’t know not one word to. The staircase was somewhat hidden, and could only be seen if you were looking for it, or wide-eyed like my friend. To my surprise, the bouncer pulled the blinged out rope that separated the staircase from the rest of the club, and waved out a hand, motioning for us to make our way up. “Is this... are we supposed to go up there?” Tashena squeaked, long, fuchsia fingernails pressed to her blooming chest. “Yes, ma’am.” The bouncer nodded, flashing a set of beautiful white teeth that Tashena had complimented when he first introduced himself to us at the club’s entry. “Oh, okay,” She nodded, full lips pursed. “Lemme find out you tryna treat me right and take me home, Vert!” She winked her naturally long and curly lashes at the big man who looked like he’d do more than treat her right if she just said the word. Vert. Something told me I needed to commit that name to memory. Vert shook his big bald head, a bright smile slowly and hesitantly fading as he ushered us up the stairs, finally arriving at the landing where a scattered crowd of folks were chattering, drinking, and dancing to music that was more my speed. “Is this the geriatric section?” I asked Vert. He grinned and replied, “It is a lot more laid back up here. The boss man figured y’all wouldn’t wanna be down in the mix with all those youngins.” “And what would make the Boss Man think that?” Tashena propped a hand on her wide hip, looking up at least a foot to meet Vert’s heavy-lidded brown eyes. “Do we look old to you, Vert?” “I wouldn’t say old,” he carefully replied, eyes sliding from me to Tashena and lingering at her for a while in damn near adoration. “You ladies don’t look a day over twenty-one, but a man knows a grown woman when he sees one. It’s all in the walk.” He winked at Tashena, and all I could do was watch and wait for her reaction. Vert couldn’t’ve known, having just met her, but Tashena was all talk, and hadn’t so much as given a man her phone number in the last two years. “You keep winking at me like that, Vert, and you’re gonna have a five-foot, eight-inch problem on your hands.” She dipped her head to the side, roving her eyes from the tip of Vert’s polished black boots to the crown of his bald head. She tapped my arm while he was still staring at her, then spun away on a pair of sky-high licorice pumps, off towards an unoccupied table with a bouquet of purple balloons shooting from the center, and a purple cardboard sign with Taya’s name written on it platinum lettering. Vert huffed out a chuckle, big chest rising and falling as he pressed a hand down the length of his crisp, black button down. “You ladies let me know if you need anything.” He nodded as we took our seats. “Um hmm.” Tashena almost moaned, peering over her shoulder with her back to the man. This girl was a real piece of work. “We sure will.” She licked her teeth. Poor Vert couldn’t help but blush as he turned and walked away. & The music got increasingly better with every sip of Bottoms’ long standing signature drink, the Nasty Bitch. It was much prettier than its name implied. A dark pink concoction of lemonade, strawberry liqueur, and just enough rum to remind you why the limit was two on this particular drink. I could vividly remember my first time taking one on. Thought I was a big girl until I reached the bottom of that sugar brimmed glass, and face planted on the dance floor because my ankles were no longer under my control. I learned that night to sip a Nasty Bitch slow, because just like an actual nasty bitch, she didn’t give a damn what she left you looking like. Feeling the effects of rum and pink sugar, me and Tashena left our seats and joined about a dozen others on the dance floor when a throwback from a local artist, who we'd all known before he blew up and retired a few years back, came blaring through the speakers, ringing nostalgia through the space. I’d forgotten I could bend it over that low, and definitely couldn’t remember the last time I backed anything up for reasons that didn’t relate to operating a vehicle. But it didn't take a full minute for us to rock our hips to Plus's “Ass & Elbows”, riding the beat like a bike—or a stranger’s dick, actually, when a full minute into the song, the small crowd on the floor multiplied, and I was being dry humped by somebody who needed desperately to rub one out in the restroom. Luckily for him, grinding against a stranger never seemed like a bad idea with twelve fluid ounces of Nasty Bitch in your system. And Tashena didn’t make things any better, landing a grind partner of her own, amping me up with her tongue hanging out of her mouth as a tall, familiar looking lanky nigga with skin the color of wheat bread, and a head full of deep chocolate dreds, gripped her round hips and manipulated them to his—and her— liking. “Get that shit, P!” She yelled over the music, breasts bouncing up and down under a black, spandex top that conformed to her voluptuous curves. I just kept on dancing, not bothering to look back, afraid that the man whose big hands were planted on my hips might not look as good as he felt. As the song approached the end, right after Plus repeated the chorus, saying all he wanted to see was ass and elbows, the stranger whose penis I could now identify in a brail notebook, leaned in close and whispered in my ear, “Wait ‘til I tell yo' brother.” My skin flushed red. Breath became lodged in my throat. Soaked panties were now deemed a flood area. And every fine hair on the surface of my skin rose to attention as if the Lord himself had called them to attention. I could not believe what I was hearing, and there was no way in the world the crisp and familiar voice in my ear belonged to who I thought it belonged to. I hesitantly turned around with my eyes closed tight, then opened them to see exactly who I’d expected. If offered the chance to choose one super power in that moment, I would’ve chosen to melt into the god damned floor. Seth “Seth?” She breathed, turning all the way around to face me, eyes bucking as she pressed a hand to her chest and blinked again to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating, I guess. “In the flesh,” I smiled. “You make a habit of grinding on strangers in clubs?” I teased, looking down into a set of pretty brown eyes that were slightly glazed with tipsiness. “I… no,” She stuttered. “What are you doing here?” She raised her voice over the thumping music. “I could ask you the same question.” I returned with the same raised volume. “Touché,” She nodded, eyes darting to the side when her friend bumped her hip, completely unmoved by Kenny’s presence. “Oh, Tashena, this is Seth, Justin’s brother-in-law.” She screamed an introduction. Tashena roved her big eyes up and down my frame, almost like she was browsing a menu. “And Seth, this is my best friend, Tashena.” She added, to which I extended a hand and pulled Tashena’s freshly manicured, chocolate brown hand to my lips. “Nice to meet you.” I nodded, tipping my chin at Kenny who didn't need or want an introduction. My boy looked like the happiest nigga in the world standing behind Tashena. He liked em thick, and she was definitely that. “This is my boy—” “We know who he is.” Tashena cut me off, rolling her eyes up and to the side like she had some kinda beef with Kenny. “Wait, is that…is that Kenny?” Phalin squeaked. “Oh my God, it is! I didn’t know y'all were friends, Seth. Why didn't you say something?” “Shiid, I...” I trailed off. “How’d you get up here without getting ripped to shreds?” She continued, accepting Kenny’s offer for a hug, which didn’t surprise me. “Called up here and ordered the ghost treatment.” Kenny shrugged his shoulders after taking a step back to stand closer to Tashena, who was looking way too comfortable in his presence. I was gonna have questions for my boy later. “Must be nice.” Tashena blew out a breath, folding her arms across her ample breasts. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Kenny asked. I was getting more confused by the minute. “Nothin’, I guess.” She scratched the side of her neck before running her hand over her long, black hair. “Here we go with this shit.” Kenny huffed, eyes rolling up to the ceiling before jotting over to me. “I’mma go grab somethin’ to drink. Y’all good?” He asked, canvasing the three of us before returning his eyes to an agitated Tashena. “I’m good, thanks.” Phalin smiled, then smirked at Tashena. “Yeah, I’m straight.” I added, returning my eyes to Phalin who seemed to be as confused as me. After stepping aside to square something away with Tashena until Kenny came back from the bar, Phalin returned to me at the edge of the dance floor and asked if I’d like to go somewhere quiet and talk. Surprised that she’d asked, I quickly obliged and followed her out to a patio on the opposite side of the room. “I musta really caught you off guard?” I stood with the pad of my palms pressed against the railing, taking my eyes from the streaks of red and white lights flying down I-45, over to Phalin who standing beside, facing the freeway with the wind blowing her hair up and away from her neck Her big, fluffy blonde afro was no longer there, replaced by a sleek, shoulder-length copper streaked bob look that drew even more attention to her oval face. With skin the color of buttered toast, and eyes as dark as the sky itself, she was too sexy to be angelic, yet too soft to be anything but good. “That’s the understatement of the century, sir.” She replied, eyes low but glimmering as a soft smile spread across her lips. “How’d you and Kenny link up? He’s at least ten years older than you.” “Is it illegal to have older friends?” I squinted. “No, I was just... me and Tashena know him from school.” She explained. “I’m just tryna connect the dots. My bad.” She put a hand up in surrender and all I could think about was how good those long ass fingers would feel wrapped around my dick. “You good,” I stuffed my hands in my pockets. “He’s a good friend. Helped my brother out one day and he’s been family ever since.” “Oh, ok.” She nodded, and I was having a hard time not looking back at her ass in those skin-tight, leather pants and thigh-high boots with heels high enough to set an arch in her back, and platinum zippers down the back of her calf. “I’d apologize for what happened on the dance floor, but we both know I wouldn’t mean it.” I grinned, rubbing a finger and a thumb down my chin. “So, what you been up to? You ain't hit me in a minute.” “Busy as usual.” She replied, blowing out a breath and turning around, placing her bottom against the railing, resting her elbows on top and looking to the side at me. “Too busy to check on your poor lil brother-in-law?” “First of all, you are far from poor.” She smirked. “Far from lil too. But who’s counting?” I shrugged, folding my arms across my chest and staring down at my boots. A fucking scuff? Great. “Is there something you wanna ask me, Seth?” She caught me off guard. Looked like Phalin wasn’t with beating around the bush, and I appreciated that. “I don’t… nah. Why you think that?” I knew exactly why she thought that. Mostly, because it was true. But she wasn’t ready for my question, nor was I ready to ask it. It was all about boundaries and I’d already crossed one. “Are you scared of me?” She asked, elbows and ass still resting against the railing. “Cause if you are—“ “I’m a grown ass man, Phalin.” I replied, way too defensively. “Is that right?” She smirked again, huffing and shaking her head. “It is,” I returned. “Ever considered maybe it’s you that’s scared?” “Scared of what?” “Seriously?” I looked down at myself, then back up at her, wearing a smile on her face that was more lip and less teeth. “I knew you were cocky, but not this damn cocky.” She rolled her eyes, pretty red lips almost pulling my dick to a swell. “And for the record, I ain’t scared of shit.” “Then say what’s on your mind.” I didn’t even bother defending the cocky comment, because I’d heard it a million times and the shoe damn sure fit. “Do you really wanna know what’s on my mind, Seth? Like are you even ready for that?” She stepped away from the railing and stood right in front of my face, looked up into my eyes and silently dared me to look away. I didn’t say a word, afraid that she might hear my heart beating through my mouth. I was feeling things, crazy things. Things a woman damn near a foot shorter than me shouldn’t be capable of making me feel. “The first time I saw you, I knew I wanted to fuck you,” She said without blinking. “I wanted to take you into my room, strip you naked, and make you filthier than you’ve ever…fucking…been.” She dragged out those words with full intentions of making my knees buckle. Now her hand was gripping my chin, a subtle form of control that turned me on for reasons that would probably never be apparent. And I could feel her warm breath swimming up against my nose, making me even more curious about how her kisses would taste. “I don’t think you were ready for that, Seth.” She let the end of my name rest between the tip of her tongue and teeth like some kind of treat that she wasn’t done tasting. “Doubt you’re ready for it now.” She continued, putting me in a trance with those eyes, that hand, and those got damned lips. “How long’re you in town?” I asked, using all the strength I had to catch my breath and say those words. “I leave tomorrow morning.” She replied without hesitance, soft hand slowly releasing mine before I grabbed it at waist level and guided it down to my growing erection. “Do I feel ready?” I let her grip it. And her pulling that bottom lip between her teeth was all the answer I needed. “Follow me.” She glanced down at my crotch, then glared into my eyes. And thank God it was dark as we rushed back into the club, or everybody in there, including Kenny and Tashena with their ambiguous connection, would’ve seen the bulge under my jeans. & “Where you takin’ me, girl?” I’d been in Bottoms more times than I could remember but had never taken the route that Phalin was taking. “Why, you scared?” Voice muffled under the music echoing against the walls, she kept a grip on my hand and didn’t look back at me as we rushed down a dark, narrow hallway with an exit door at the end, the smell of fried chicken becoming more pronounced with every step. I didn’t bother answering that question—not that it would’ve mattered with the swiftness in her steps, heels clacking against the snow-white floors reminding me that this wasn’t a dream. Before long we were entering a kitchen. Like an actual occupied fucking kitchen. The staff of maybe ten people was so busy moving about like worker bees, they didn’t see us slip through a side door that led to a cramped broom closet in the very back of the kitchen. A long sink basin occupied one of the four walls, and on the opposite side of that wall were brooms, mops, and other cleaning mechanisms. Phalin all but shoved me into the tiny closet, then stepped in after me and pulled the creaking door closed. “Nobody comes back here ‘til closing,” She faced me with her back to the door, the smell of fried chicken now replaced by the scent of Fabuloso. “Do you have protection?” “Wait… what… how do you even—“ “I worked here.” She blurted in a rush. “Wore the shorts and everything. And if you speak a word of this to my brother—“ “I think we got more than some booty shorts to worry about right now.” I cut her off, reminding her of the sticky situation we were potentially getting into. “I’m grown,” She said, propping her hands on her perfectly proportioned hips. “And I love my brother as much as you love your sister, but this has nothing to do with them. I want you.” “And I want you too.” I returned. ”But—“ “No buts, Seth,” She stepped in closer and pressed a finger to my lips. “Do you have protection, or do I need to grab some?” I looked down at my pocket and Phalin took the hint. Reached right in and grabbed a condom from my wallet like it was her fucking property. Shit turned me on and scared me at the same time. I wasn’t used to relinquishing control, and this was obviously how she rolled. “Magnum, huh?” She grinned, ripping the package open with her teeth, as I stood there looking stupid, dick hard as a fucking trigonometry quiz. “You gonna get those or…” She glanced down at my crotch. And without hesitation, I unbuttoned my pants and pushed them down around my hips. Phalin backed me up against the far-wall and pushed me down on a small folding chair situated in a corner of the closet. She leaned back, bracing her palms on the lip of the sink, then planted a heeled foot on my thigh, directing me to unzip and remove her boots one by one. And after I’d done so, trailing my tongue across my lips because even her bare feet were sexy, I did the same to her pants without hesitation, then watched in suspense as she stepped out of her panties. My eyes could hardly take what was happening. A single, dim, light bulb hung from the center of the ceiling, lighting the closet just enough to cast a glow on the peak of her curves, sending my mind spiraling further into a place of weakness and surrender. Staring at me with an intensity that would likely keep me up all night thinking about it, she straddled those toned legs on either side of mine and “Fuck!” left my mouth as she swiftly sheeted me with the condom then sank down over me like a warm, snug glove. “Yes.” She moaned, hands planted on the rise of my shoulders, sliding up and down my length, so tight, and wet, and warm that it was all I could do not to shout again. “I knew you’d be good.” She purred into my ear as I roped my arms around her tiny waist and pulled her middle against mine. “You’re so big, Seth. So… fucking… shit!” It was her turn to scream as I thrust up and deeper inside her. “This what you wanted?” I whispered in her ear, nibbling her lobe, having completely forgotten where we were and how we shouldn’t be doing this shit. “You came to get this dick?” I had completely lost my mind, circling my hips and hitting every single angle on the inside of her pussy. “Yes, baby.” She cried against my neck. “Fuck me.” She rolled her hips forward and back. “Why’d you make me wait?” She whimpered, sweat beading on her forehead and mine, glasses fogging up because suddenly the closet was one hundred degrees hotter. “Seth!” She screamed, gripping her arms around my neck, taking me like she was made to do it as I slammed into her pussy harder. My core felt tight and I knew it wouldn’t be long. I braced my palms at the rise of her hips and slid her up and down my shaft. Her breasts bounced freely underneath a loose-fitting blouse. I took her nipples into my warm mouth one by one, dampening the fabric of her top with my spit. “You feel so… aah!” She breathed, gripping the back of my head with one hand while the other was braced against the sink. “Cum for me, baby.” I begged, pulling off my glasses and resting them on an empty shelf next to us, feeling blood rush to the tip of my dick. “Please, Phalin, cum. That fuckin door ain’t locked.” I returned my lips to her nipples, suckling hard, turned on more when she arched her back in response, but still aware that a nigga could get arrested for fucking in a broom closet. With my help, she bounced harder, covering me from base to tip, slippery and fucking wet. She pulled her hand from the sink and roped both arms around my neck, panting with surrender as trimmers took over her body. My skin was prickled with goose bumps and my knees went weak, as I moaned inaudible words against her neck, allowing climax to take me wherever it wanted me to go. And then we sat there, wet, and exhausted, and out of fucking line, for what seemed like forever, but could’ve only been a few minutes. Neither of us said a word. Just breathed and let the weight of our actions sink in. Phalin slid up and off of my still semi-erect penis, and it took everything in me not to pull her back down as she backed away and went to the sink. She pulled a bundle of napkins from the dispenser on the wall, soaked them with warm water and handed them to me before preparing the same make-shift washcloth for herself. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to speak to her again. Couldn’t imagine what our next words would be after fucking in a closet. But then, “Now was that so hard?” She asked, leaning against the sink and zipping her boots after she’d pulled on her pants in record-speed. I stood up, put on my glasses, and fastened my jeans, shaking my head and staring at her the whole time. I didn’t know what I’d gotten myself into and wasn’t sure I wanted to get out.