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Book 1: My Dirty Bucket List

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Old Wounds

Chapter 1

Present Day- Two Years Later

POV: Raven

While I’m on the phone with the sponsor who has committed to donating products for my Sex bucket list initiative, Lola bursts into my office without knocking.

“Quick! Turn on the Sports News Channel!”

I hold up my index finger to silence her, but she just waves me off, rolling her eyes. I frown at her dismissive response before putting my hand over the mouthpiece of my cellphone.

“I’m on the phone with a client,” I whisper. “We’re discussing the launch date and their product placement space on the website.”

She shakes her head, refusing to accept my answer. “Look at this!” she urges, ignoring my rebuff, before rushing over to my desk. She moves things around until she finds the clicker for the television. My eyes dart over in her direction before twisting my chair around for a little privacy.

She walks to my armchair, swinging it back around, and points the remote at the TV on the wall. She turns the volume all the way up, just as I’m finishing up my call.

“This had better be—-”

I mute my threat when I see my ex-husband sitting at the Sports News Channel desk answering questions about me.

Sports Announcer says, “So Dexter, you and your work partner Hugh Daniels seem to have the Midas touch. You guys have one of the most successful Sports Agency's in New York. But my question concerns your ex- wife, Raven Brody- Cunningham. What do you think about her instant success? In only two years, she has taken a big bite out of the same companies that you do business with, such as Nike and Under Armour. They have been rumored to be chasing her down for Product placement spots on her blog. Even some of your clients are seeking her out for freelance branding advice.”

“Well, my ex-wife's little blog is generating some buzz, and yes, she’s manipulated some minor victories, all of which is because of her exploitation of our divorce, nothing more.”

“Asshole!” Lola whispers. I shush her quiet to continue listening.

“Dexter Cunningham... come on, I don't think you are giving her enough credit. She is one of the most sought-after Influencers and branding agents in New York. She is even representing some top Professional Basketball League players, and according to an interview in HQ magazine, your business partner Hugh Daniels said, and I quote: “Cunningham Sports Management group would be who you are today without the contributions of Raven Brody-Cunningham.”

Lola looks over at me as soon as Hugh's name is mentioned, expecting some reaction from me, but I give nothing away.

I saw Hugh on the cover of HQ last week in the supermarket, but didn't bother to read the article or pick up the magazine because seeing him on television or in print is just too painful, even now. I haven't heard from him in 2 years, not a phone call to check to hear how I was doing, or a text message just to say hi, not one email when I made my first million... nothing. Ever since we kissed that night, my separation was final, I have been exiled by him, shunned and forgotten.

I sigh, putting those things out of my mind to refocus my attention on the television screen.

“Hugh has had a soft spot for my ex-wife. They remained friends after our divorce, so I’m not surprised by his statement. But she will always be mine... that's why she can't stop writing about me. (He laughs) You know I was her first and only lover.... I guess I’m hard to forget.”

“Wait... what the hell was that?! Did he just say what I think he said?” Lola's mouth drops open. She looks at me in shock and concern, questioning what I will do about this.

I close my eyes and lower my head in submission because even after all this time, he still won't let me have anything... but now, I will not let him win. I look up at Lola as inspiration strikes me.

“Launch my Sex Bucket list on my blog today and then text our source at Sports News Channel and have him give the message to the announcer while he’s interviewing Dexter.”

“Yes, that's what I’m talking about!” Lola claps her hands, before taking out her cellphone. “I would hate to get on your grim side! But are you sure? Because once I press publish, there is no turning back. There are some risky things on your list, and social media can be harsh and unforgiving. They can turn on you at any moment…”

Her voice lingers a little, expressing her concern, but I’m so ready for this.

“Lola, I’ve been dating three eligible bachelors for 4 months now, and we have taken all precautions. They’ve all been recommended by acquaintances of colleagues, have all signed confidentiality agreements, and they will never reveal their identities. Not to mention, we have verified their portfolios, they’ve been vetted by private investigators and tested for diseases. I will narrow the three men down to one man in four days. Now is not the time for me to be squeamish,” I assure her... all the while trying to reassure myself before continuing.

“We built this entire business on my reincarnation, my quest to find myself and liberate me from Dexter's control and abuse. My disciples have supported me through this and have waited six months while we laid the groundwork for this launch. I will not let them down by second guessing this. I’ve received packages and crates of lingerie, perfume, shoes, sex toys, dresses, jewelry, makeup, sex club invites, and restaurant vouchers from businesses waiting for me to mention their products on our blog. Because when I do, millions of believers will rush out to buy everything that we tell them to purchase, and attend the places we recommend that they frequent. We’re fixed for this, Lola, and I’m ready for this. I need to wipe that smug smile off Dexter's arrogant face and be the person I want to be instead of the fearful shell of a woman he wants me to be. So, are you with me?” I ask her, wiping tears away.

Lola smiles, nodding her head as she presses the launch button in dramatic fashion. She gives me a high-five as we read over the list that is now published for the world to see.

Sex Bucket List:

#1 — Go on a date wearing a remote-controlled vibrator and give the device to your partner.

#2 — Make out with a stranger in a bar.

#3 — Have sex wearing high heels only! Too large to walk in or get out of bed, but significant enough to turn your mate on.

#4 — Have sex in public, sitting in your partner's lap while sporting a skirt.

#5 — Have sex hand cuffed to a bed.

#6 — Have an actual orgasm during sex... no faking it!

#7 — Masturbate with one person watching.

#8 — Visit a sex club with a willing participant.

#9 — Place a candy necklace around my thigh and have my partner nibble it off.

# 10 — Have phone sex with someone I have feelings for.

After we finish perusing the file online, Lola texts several news outlets to inform them of the launch. Then, she screenshots the list and sends it to our contact, so he can make sure that the announcer gets it. Now, the only thing left to do is wait...

Ten minutes into the commencement, the feedback and comments come roaring in and it’s clear that the post has caused a stir. The sexual conservatives who hold common attitudes about femininity question my willingness to speak about sex and have concerns about how this will affect our social norms. The sexual liberals who support me, and who will embrace new sexual freedoms for women, have voiced the need to discard women's conventional roles regarding desire, while encouraging me to continue pushing the boundaries.

My phone is buzzing nonstop with tweets, emails and text messages expressing judgment and criticisms, but I’ve also received overwhelming praise and support for the decision to do this. I’m getting memos from reporters and radio stations asking me for interviews and exclusives while Lola is manning the stacks of comments on the blog. But despite all the feedback I’m receiving, the only response I’m interested in right now is from the person seated at the Sports News Channel anchor desk.

I’m so nervous that I set my phone down and switch it to vibrate so I can redirect my attention to what’s happening on the TV screen. I’m waiting for any signs he's received the list.

After ten more minutes of watching, I see the announcer hold up his hand in the middle of one of Dexter's self-promoting monologues, before pressing his fingers on his earpiece.

“Lola! It's happening!” I scream, motioning her over to the TV screen. She closes the laptop and rushes to sit on the corner of my desk, waiting for Dexter's reaction.

The announcer’s eyes grow enormous as he listens to the producer in his earpiece. He reaches for the iPad that is stationed on the anchor desk before pressing some keys on the attached keyboard. He reads a little before smiling in satisfaction.

“The much-rumored existence of your ex-wife's Sex Bucket List has just been confirmed, and she launched it today. I also notice that there are countless companies that have donated their products and who have bought advertising space on her website supporting her initiative. When we asked you about it last month, you said that she would never do something like this because she is the quintessential obedient girl, and she didn't have the guts. Well, you have underestimated her yet again, Dexter. Would you want to comment?Especially about #6, seeing that you just stated that you were her only sex partner, so she must be referring to you.” The announcer chuckles, pushing the iPad over so Dexter can have it.

Dexter turns a beet-red as he reads the list. He unloosens his tie and squirms in his chair before looking into the camera. “Well, I’ll be in New York one more night and Raven and I have dinner plans ... so when I meet her, I will ask her about number 6. But I’m sure that this is all some publicity stunt... she is an advertising genius, after all.”

Lola snorts at his answer before quirking an eyebrow at me. “So you have gone from writing a little blog with insignificant victories, to being an advertising genius all in thirty minutes. That guy is a piece of work!” Lola shakes her head before becoming quiet again.

I smile during the rest of the interview as Dexter stumbles through the remaining series of questions with a distance view in his eyes. But I see him... I recognize that look, he’s fuming underneath, and I also realize what that anger will lead too.

My smile fades, my hands become moist and my face turns white with anxiety. I get up from my chair to pour myself a glass of water, realizing the firestorm I’ve just ignited. Although I wanted to stick it to Dexter for saying all those things, I never imagined that he would want to meet me... I don't know if I’m ready to see him again in the flesh.

“This is great! Did you notice his reaction?”

I turn, and the corners of Lola's lips turns up into a contemptuous and mocking smile, but when she sees the worry on my face, a knowing look washes over her.

“You never agreed to dinner with him did you?”

I shake my head as my hands tremble a little around my cup.

“Has he ever beat you?” She glances at me, waiting for my answer.

“Most of the time it was just verbal abuse... yelling, calling me names, putting me down. He only struck me a few times...” I confess ashamed.

“What?! Why didn't you tell me?!” She frowns in dread, walking toward me. She takes the glass of water from my hand and leads me to the sofa.

“He made me feel like it was all my fault.For so long that I believed him...” My voice trails to a whisper, remembering the terror and panic I felt every time I walked into our home. I spent almost three years getting over this... over him, but the piercing look he gave me through the screen of the television brought it all back.

“Does Hugh know?” Lola asks, holding her breath.

“God, No! And there is no reason for him to find out. We haven't seen or spoken to each other in over two years. I’m confident that Hugh doesn't even think about me anymore.”

Admitting this truth out loud releases the ache in my heart that I’ve been carrying around every day since he left me in my apartment alone that night. The pain is so severe sometimes it causes me physical agony.

“I’m uncertain I agree with that statement...” Lola mumbles underneath her breath, before getting up from the couch.

“Lola...What do you know?” I stand, stalking behind her to my desk.

“Nothing... I remembered the way he looked at you when he thought no one was watching. He only had eyes for you. God knows he’s never given me the time of day,and I’ve tried to hit that, trust me.” She swoons, licking her lips.

“Lola. That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. If I was so special to Hugh, why did he leave me? Why hasn't he called me?” I argue as a lump in my throat threatens to unleash the tears I’m trying to hold back.

Before I can protest further, my phone vibrates on my desk. I roll my eyes at her before picking up my cellphone and looking at the screen... it’s Dexter. I turn the screen to Lola as she gasps in surprise.

“You don't have to answer it you know,” she states, matter-of- factly.

“Yes, I do. I’m not running from this... from him anymore.” I take a deep breath and answer it.

“Hello Dexter, it's been a while. To what do I owe this call?” I ask.

He doesn't greet me or make small talk, he just issues an imperative statement. “Meet me at Le Bernardin at 8:00pm. Don't be late.” Then he hangs up.

I look at the phone with an unsettling expression on my face, before lowering it back to the desk.

“What did he say?”

“He just ordered me to dinner tonight at 8:00pm and just hung up.”

“Well, after what you just told me, I’m not letting you go alone. So, either I’m going with you or...” she smiles as she rubs her hands together.

“Or what?”

“Or... you could ask one of the three guys you've been dating to meet you at the restaurant tonight. That way if he tries anything, you will have someone there who might deter him.”

I speculate about her proposal before deciding she’s right. I don't know what state of mind he’s in, so it's stronger to err on the side of caution instead of taking unnecessary risk.

“I think you had better sit this one out, Lola,because all you will do is antagonize him more, so... I will call Greg and have him meet me at the restaurant at 8:15pm. Dexter’s only getting fifteen minutes of my time.”

I call Greg to set everything up. I work for a couple more hours before leaving the office to go get dressed for dinner, not knowing what the night will bring.

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