CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE
SALIM’S POINT OF VIEW
“Is Isaiah going to be okay?”
I lifted my head to see the concerned faces of Cassie, Catalina, Mama Mariah, Shadie, and Zoe as they joined me to sit in the chairs as we waited for news of my fiancée’s health. Thankfully for the ladies, they weren’t hurt but dehydrated. Ryan had a few bruises from the goon’s punches but he was treated and released. But Isaiah was still under observation after the doctor said that he was suffering from bruises in his chests, dehydration, shock, and exhaustion. “He’s resting, last time I checked,” I replied somberly as I took out the familiar robin’s-egg-blue ring box and opened the lid to reveal the ring. “I’m not too sure that I even deserve him after what he went through. Isaiah is all that I wanted and needed and that he’s bound to be trailblazer anywhere he goes. Maybe I just let him go so that he won’t be-“
“Stop right there, Mary!” I heard the pissed off voice of the spitfire known as Evita Mateo as she and Natasha stormed over to where I was. “I know damn well that you’re not going to dump Isaiah after you know what he went through with Ryan and that fool made more amends after all of that!”
“Evita, Natasha, it’s not that I don’t love him. It’s just that he deserves someone wo can be by his side,” I defended. “And Ryan may be his new chance at-“
I never finished my statement because Natasha landed a swift left hood to my nose, making me stumble back. “What the actual fuck!” I yelled, grateful that I wasn’t bleeding.
“Oh, I can do much worse than that,” Natasha spat angrily, her jade green eyes and glowing with rage. “The day that you revoke the engagement is when we start ruining your life. And you know that we got-“
I held up both hands. “I know, I know. You all have connections to the mafia and that I can easily ‘disappear’ and make sure that I never resurface. But I’m scared that I’m not the real one for Isaiah.”
Now it was Mariah’s turn. “Who was the one to stop by the hospital to offer him and Natasha to move after that hoe attacked him at my restaurant?” she asked, placing a firm hand on her hips.
“Me,” I replied softly.
“And who was the one to refer him to me for a session?” Zoe asked, her lips pursed.
“And who gave him an opportunity of a lifetime to design at your family’s empire and work with you on your line?” Shadie asked, her accent thick with contempt.
“And are you going to let him go after all of that?” Natasha asked, her glare softening as she walked up to me until we were an inch apart. “I know that you’re the one for him even before all of this because only you can make my Izzy boy feel special. He’s been told that he’ll be a cripple for life and yet he arose from the ashes. Did you know that Amerson made him an offer to kill himself to let us go and to spare your lives and many others?”
My eyes widened. “I didn’t know,” I breathed. “Tell me that-“
“He didn’t, don’t worry about that.” I heard Callaway said in a tense tone as he and his parents joined us alongside mine, Armand, and Jarvis. “Even after I dumped him- by Caylee’s orders, by the way- he proved to be resilient than I expected. He mourned for what could’ve been for at least a week before he decided to finally let me go and move on with being the best designer that he wanted to be. And I can imagine that his late mother wouldn’t let him feel sorry for himself like his old teachers in boarding school.”
“That kid’s one hell of a fighter,” my brother piped up, his signature smile on full display. “Jarvis even chatted with him at one point, he and I giving the kid our blessings and even inviting him along for some tours that Jarvis is planning for his fashion line and a bit of cooking workshops the month after your wedding.”
“That is, if you’re still planning to pop the big question,” Jarvis said, giving me a scathing glare. “Well, is he is or is he ain’t your fiancée?”
I took a deep breath, knowing that a part of me doesn’t deserve him but the majority knew that I was head over heels with the blind Nubian emerald with a lot of heart and a talent for flair. “He is my baby,” I said, my mind made up. “And this time, I will never let him go.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Shadie warned. “Lady X, Marias, and Nebraska all knew that you’d have doubts and that they told me to call them if you think about ditching my baby.”
“No need,” I assured her. “I need to talk to Isaiah and I need to put this ring on his finger now.”
“That is one fly ring,” Evita drawled. “But I prefer something much more classy. I’ll call Tiffany’s to get the proper ring for Isaiah.”
“Duly noted,” I said as we saw the plump, matronly Black nurse- the same one that treated Jarvis- approached us. “Is Isaiah going to be okay?”
She smiled, eyes bright with relief. “The kid’s been asking for you,” she said. “But he’ll need to stay overnight and will need to add some meat on his bones.”
“We were about to eat lunch when we were kidnapped,” Catalina replied.
“Well, he’s a bit on the underweight side, so he’ll need to add more to his meals, the doctor reported, “so I don’t see the reason to not have something on the calorie laden side.”
“Say no more,” Mariah said, pulling out her cellphone. “I’ll have the chefs from my restaurant cook up a big meal for him.”
“And I’ll have Miss Laura send him some cakes and cookies,” Clarissa announced. To me, “Go get your fiancée and put that ring on his finger already!”
As if she had to tell me twice! Waving a farewell to everyone (and after getting my dinner order in to Mariah and Miss Laura), I made a beeline to Isaiah, ready to place it all on the line.
ISAIAH’S POINT OF VIEW
“Isaiah,” I heard the molten-golden voice of the man that I love- say in a tentative voice as he stepped into the room, he standing by the foot of the bed. “You doing okay?”
“Yeah, considering that the doctor said that I’d be ready to blow away in the wind if I was told to leave tonight,” I replied. “Anyway, I thought about you when I was kidnapped by that blonde nightmare and her tanks she called her goons. I’d thought that you’d abandoned me for someone else. But then, my mama told me to never go back to any more pity-parties. She said to always keep my head up and know that you and the others were on the way to save me. I just never expected for THE Jarvis Ra’Quan Frazier-Saint Croix to be the one to gun her down like that.”
“You’re welcome,” I heard him say as he and Armand came into the room, my nose greeted by the scents of Drakkar Noir and Tom Ford Slate.
I playfully rolled my eyes. “And I was ready to welcome any fate that was coming my way, whether it was more heartbreak or my death or a second chance of life and love,” I continued. “I may be blind, but I wouldn’t trade any of the opportunities or any of the moments that came into my life. You, Salim Saint Croix, have given me a new chapter filled with danger, love, and even happiness. And I have a feeling that the painting I did is a symbol that I was now a part of a triad of dragons being dominant yet protective over their submissive phoenixes who needed second chances, new chapters, or even a push into the unknown.”
“That was an amazing picture, by the way,” I heard the melodic voice of Aria Melody say as she, Natasha, Shadie, and Mama Mariah came into the room and joined our party. “And I’m glad that you heard my voice in your vision, too. Child, you deserve the best in life. And I’m sure that Salim agrees.”
“Damn right I do,” I heard Salim drawl as he moved to the right side of my bed before reaching for my IV-wired right arm. “Baby boy, I want you in my life more than ever before and I don’t regret saying that I love you that night when we spent it together in my room. I meant it then as I mean it now: I love you, Isaiah Van Blackwell, and I want you in my life forever together until never, and even after death do us part. So with that said…”
The drag queens and the ladies squealed with glee as I felt a circle of metal being slipped on my ring finger. “Is this what I think it is?” I asked.
“Yes,” Salim said. “So, will you do me the honor of marrying me? I made it official on paper when I made you that offer of designing for me, but after all that we went through; I need to-“
“Yes,” I breathed, feeling the downpour of tears cascade down my face. “Salim Saint Croix, I will marry you!”
“Finally!” Jarvis said, clapping his hands. “I’ll be helping Catalina out with the wedding! And I call the arrangements for the food and colors. And I’ll design the tuxedoes.”
“Already taken care of, child. Though Laura and I will need your input at times,” Mama Mariah pronounced. “Now, Isaiah, you get some rest and be prepared for your large dinner I’m sending over.”
I groaned playfully. “I’m betting that you’ve arranged for a giant dinner,” I said, knowing that she did, plus some cakes from Mama Sophie’s.
“You damn right,” Shadie drawled as she ushered everyone out of the room. “You still don’t eat enough to keep a herd a cattle alive. Come along, Salim. You can suck face with Isaiah when he goes home in three days.”
“Three days?!” Salim and I said in unison.
“Sorry, Mr. Van Blackwell, but you do seem too thin to be released tomorrow. Thankfully, we’re going to plump you up real good. Plus, you still need to recuperate from your chest bruises and the mild concussion.”
Oh, yeah. “Well, I’ll see you later, my sightless wonder,” Salim said in a mock-sad tone. “I’ll be visiting you every chance you get.”
“I can’t wait,” I told him, listening to him leave just as I was greeted by the smells of Tex-Mex chicken wraps, homemade lasagna, buffalo chicken wings in honey barbecue sauce, waffle fries, and other savory dishes alongside the flavors of chocolate, key lime, and more desserts.
I groaned, knowing that I’m going to burn all of this off afterwards even when I’m asleep. But never let it be said that Mama Mariah Canfield and Miss Laura Halliday can’t throw down in the kitchen with the way that they do.