#6 Do I know you?
We arrive at The Palace, and I give Marcus a kiss on the cheek, thanking him for dropping us off. The four of us go in through the VIP entrance, where Dshawn is handing out black VIP bracelets with the club’s logo on it so we’ll have access to the karaoke bar upstairs that always gets turned into a VIP area for the masquerade party.
“Nia,” Dshawn says, recognizing me even with my mask on. “You look beautiful, sis.”
“Thanks.” I turn around, showing him how my dress glitters when I move. “Made it myself.”
He pulls me in for a hug and smiles warmly. “You look amazing.”
“Dshawn!” His girlfriend Shaughna walks into the small room, her hands on her hips. “Put on your mask, you asshole!”
“Yes, dear,” he replies, rolling his eyes at me before putting on his simple green mask. He’s in jeans and a T-shirt, and the mask was dangling off his ear when Shaughna walked in. Shaughna is in a floor-length red dress with a matching mask, blending in with all the guests. He reaches into his pants and pulls a pink plastic card that can be used to pay for drinks. “Don’t overdo it,” Dshawn warns me, knowing I tend to get carried away when he lets me drink for free. “And don’t give rounds or anything. Just you and your girls. Shaughna will kill me if you spend as much as Marcus did last time I gave him a pass.”
“You can trust me, Shawny,” I say teasingly, snatching the card from him. “You’re the best.”
“Are you going to stand there talking to your brother all night, or are we going to party like it’s our last night on earth?” Ayaan asks, putting an arm around my shoulders and leading me into the club where the party is in full swing. And let me tell you, no one throws a party like my brother’s girlfriend. Shaughna Elmore is magic, for sure. I don’t know how my boring older brother managed to snag a woman like that, but thank God he did. Way better than stupid Bee who keeps dumping Marcus. At least Shaughna is proud to be with a Davis man, as she should be.
Three hours later, I’ve got a nice buzz going and I need a moment to take a breath and not be in the middle of sweaty, writing bodies. I’m determined not to focus on getting a guy tonight, and I think that’s why tonight is so much better than most nights I go out. I dance with my friends, do shots, and enjoy watching everyone in their pretty clothes with their masks on. No flirting needed.
When I walk outside, I spot Dshawn and my uncle Aston right away, having a smoke. I laugh as I make my way over, holding out my hand. “Give me one.”
“You don’t smoke,” Dshawn says, looking appalled that his baby sister is asking for a cigarette.
“It’s bad for you,” Aston agrees.
“I’m pretty sure Shaughna will castrate you if she finds out you smoked when you promised her point blank that you’d never put another cigarette in your mouth when she got pregnant with the twins two years go.” I grab a cigarette from his pack and motion for Marcus to light it. “Aston, I doubt that Aunt Annabel will be very happy about this either. Want me to join you or rat you out?”
Finally, they comply and I inhale deeply. I don’t usually smoke, because I know it’s bad for me, but ever since my very first drag back in high school, I know I’m addicted to them. I only allow myself a smoke at nights like these, knowing that if I’d smoke at home too, I’d never be able to quit.
“I hate that you’ll all grown up,” Aston says, shaking his head at me.
“Please, she’s still my baby sister,” Dshawn argues.
A guy steps up to us right when I’m taking another drag. He’s in a black suit and he’s got a full mask on, black with silver. “Got one to spare?” he asks in a deep, friendly voice.
“Sure,” Dshawn says, handing him a cigarette and lighting it for him.
“Oh, you bastard,” I say, smacking him. “I have to talk you into it, but some random stranger can have one with no questions asked?”
When the guy takes off his mask and brings the cigarette to his mouth, I realize he’s not a random stranger. I know him, somehow, but I’m not sure where I recognize him from. He gives me a strange look, cocking his head to the side.
“Have we met before?” he asks.
“Really?” Dshawn says, standing up straight now. “You’re going to hit on my little sister with her brother standing right next to her?”
“And with a line that cheesy?” Aston adds, looking menacing.
“I’m serious, you look familiar,” the guy says, still frowning.
“Yeah, you too,” I agree, taking off my mask so we can see each other better. He’s tall, broad, with light blonde hair and tan skin that suggests at least one of his parents has dark skin. His lips are full and pouty, very enticing, and his eyes are deep mahogany brown. “Oh my God,” I say, laughing when I realize how I know him. “You’re Randy!”
“So we do know each other?” he asks, still at a loss.
“My mother has been trying to set me up with you for weeks,” I say, pulling my phone from my small silver purse. I pull up the picture Mom sent me and show it to him. “You’re the guy whose mother went to high school with my mother.”
“Oh, Nia!” he realizes, laughing along now. “Yeah, Mom showed me your picture. Sorry for never actually calling you.”
“Please, like I was going to pick up,” I reply, rolling my eyes. “I never go out with guys my mother sets me up with.”
“Hmm,” Randy muses, his eyes moving over me appreciatively. “Good thing I ran into you then. I love your dress.”
“Made it myself.”
“Then you’re very talented.”
“Okay, now he’s definitely hitting on her,” Aston tells Dshawn in a tight voice.
I roll my eyes at them, smiling at Randy, who grins right back. He’s handsome, I realize. Very much so. And he seems interested. Maybe the Gods of Love are finally taking pity on me. Now that I’ve stopped looking for a guy, I’m getting one thrown into my lap.
Randy snuffs out his cigarette. “I’m heading back in. Join me?”
“I think I will.” I give my brother and uncle a pointed look, forcing them to let me go. I’m 22, for crying out loud. They both know I’m nowhere near to an innocent virgin. Hell, even back when I was virgin I was far from innocent. I doubt I ever truly was.
“You truly look amazing,” Randy says as I take him into the club through the VIP entrance. “I didn’t expect Mom to set me up with someone who looks like a runway model.”
If my skin wasn’t so dark, he’d be able to see me blush. “Thanks.”
“What did your mother tell you to sell you on me?” he asks curiously.
“You have a job and an apartment.”
He waits for me to say more, and laughs when I remain silent. “That’s it? No wonder you never texted me.”
I shrug. “Mom doesn’t have high hopes for me, I guess. What did yours say?”
“You’re 22, a hairdresser, you come from a big family with good values - whatever that means - and you’re creative and funny.”
“Why thank you,” I say with a small smile. “That’s a better sales pitch for sure. Almost good enough to call the girl, don’t you think?”
He laughs. “I see the funny part is true.” He gestures at my dress. “So is the creative part.”
“The rest checks out as well,” I add. “Want to fill in the blanks for me?”
“24, chemical engineer,” he says, holding out his hand. “Randy Fields.”
“Nice to meet you, Nia. Can I buy you a drink?”
I take out the pink card and beam at him. “My brother Dshawn - the big scary one outside just now - owns this place. I think I should buy you a drink instead, Randy.”
“You get more and more perfect with each passing second,” he jokes, putting a hand on the small of my back as he leads me into the club itself, straight to the bar.
We do a few shots together, and then he pulls me to the dancefloor, where we put our masks back on and start dancing. He moves like a professional dancer, and it’s awesome to have someone who can keep up with me. He twirls me around and pulls me against him with his hands on my back, not letting them wander over my body like so many guys would.
“If I didn’t have a full fake mask on, I’d so be trying to kiss you right now,” he yells into my ear.
In response, I reach up and take it off, tilting my face up to his. My mask is only for the upper part of my face, so my mouth is all free for him to conquer if he wants to. He smiles brightly and puts his hand on the side of my face, his thumb softly stroking my flushed skin. My hands are on his chest, and our lips are now so close that I can smell the shots from earlier on his breath.
After what feels like an eternity, he leans in kisses me softly, like I’m the only girl in the world. I press my body up against his, and I feel him grow hard against me, his erection poking against my belly. He grunts into the kiss and deepens it, his tongue dancing with mine just as expertly as our bodies did to the music.
When we break apart, he winks at me and puts his mask back on, going back to dancing with me. He steps back a little so our bodies aren’t pressed together as much, but I’m not having it. I rub my body against his, grinding against him to the beat. He grabs my hips and his fingers dig into my skin through the silky material of my dress.
“Next time my mom tries to set me up, I’m definitely going to call,” he yells into my ear.
“Next time?” I repeat. Is he already replacing me in his head? Am I that bad at kissing?
“You’re right, I don’t need another setup,” he says, easing my mind. “Can I take you out sometime?”
“Sure!” I was expecting him to ask me to go home with him, but I like this better, I realize. He wants to see me again another night, instead of dragging me to his apartment for a one-night stand.
We exchange numbers and he dances with me for a few more minutes before he tells me he needs to find his friends who’ve been texting him non-stop. I realize it’s almost time for me to head out because Marcus is picking me up soon, so don’t tag along with Randy. Instead, I find Ayaan, Holly and Aimee, making sure we’re outside at the time Marcus told us to be ready.
“Good night?” he asks, smiling at me when I sit down next to him, still reeling from the excitement of it all.
“Very good,” I confirm with a happy sigh. It was good. Very good. I didn’t expect to actually like a guy my mother chose for me, but so far, Randy seems like a nice guy. Plus, he’s a good kisser. That’s always a plus.
My phone buzzes, and I see it’s Xavier, asking me if I’m up to meet him in a few hours, before he goes to work. He woke up in the middle of the night feeling horny, apparently.
Ugh, a morning booty call? Seriously? I text him back that I’m not going to make it, wondering why I put up with guys like that. Maybe Randy will be different. We’ll see.