Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You never forget your first time: Blissful Summer

Today is the ebook release of my first Kimani romance. 

In my story, Make You Mine Again, Bradley Stephens has to win the love of his life back. He pushed her away during an emotional time in his life. Now, they are thrust together during his sister's wedding. 

Here's a sneak peek: 

You are cordially invited to celebrate the union of Miss Shelby Eaine Stephens and Mr. Jacques Luc Renard Saturday, the 25th of April, at half past three in the afternoon at the Shangri-La Hotel Paris Jansen Douglas smiled at the invitation that arrived to her photo shoot in Harlem, but her smile quickly turned to a frown when she realized that attending Shelby's wedding would more than likely mean seeing her ex-lover, Bradley. Talk about a blast from the past, a painful memory that the years and her success as a model hadn't erased. But, whatever. She wasn't going to miss Shelby's wedding! She simply had to meet the man who'd been able to tame the young Miss Stephens.

Shelby had a reputation that spanned the East and West coasts as a love-them-and-leave-them type of chick. Of course, some of the stories had been wildly exaggerated. Like the one about her and an A-list superstar and the fact that she had been the reason for movie star Ian Kelly's trip to rehab.

Shelby and Ian had starred in a movie together that bombed at the box office, but their exchanges on social media made it seem as if they had something else going on.

After the movie failed to launch Shelby's career, she decided to move from being an actress to living off the trust fund that she had received from her family. Some people called her a professional party girl. She, however, was simply a woman of leisure.

This didn't make Bradley happy at all, since he thought Shelby should've been working with the family business.

Unlike Bradley and Ian, she and Shelby had remained close over the years. The one rule to their friendship: never mention Bradley. But she knew that he was going to be front and center at this wedding.

So, she thought as she filled out her RSVP card and added a plus one. She'd planned to be in Paris this spring. She'd had five years of being "the Face," an international top model. But over the past three months, her bookings had declined and she noticed a decrease in the fees she commanded. Granted, she was still making a hefty salary, coming in at number two on a recent Forbes list of top-paid models, but her accountant did tell her that her income had dropped ten percent.

It was a good thing that she didn't spend as extravagantly as many of her colleagues in the industry.

"Jansen," the photographer called out. "We're ready."

Smiling, she glanced down at her rainbow silk dress from the new collection of Branford Diaz, and then headed to the studio and took her mark. Photographers loved Jansen because she didn't do the diva thing, even though she was well within her rights to do so. Instead, she took direction, criticism and ended up with fabulous pictures. She'd been the favorite model of some of the top photographers, according to industry rumor.

"I'm ready," Jansen said with her trademark smile.

Bradley Stephens, CEO of the Stephens Family Resource Center, was two seconds from screaming. Shelby, his younger sister, was getting on his nerves with this wedding that she was supposed to be paying for, though he'd just received a stack of bills from France.

"Yancy," he said, calling for his assistant. The comely blonde walked into his office and offered him a cautious smile.

"Yes, sir?"

"Please do me a favor, remind me that when my sister gets married, she will no longer be my problem," he said then shook his head in anguish.

"I'm sorry," she said with a shoulder shrug.

"Yancy, have you gotten the contract from the catering company about the banquet for the girls?"

"Yes, they just arrived. Let me get them," she said.

"And then you can take the rest of the day off," Bradley said. "I appreciate all the work you've done for this banquet."

"I just wanted it to be a success as much as the last one was," she said as she walked out of his office.

Bradley paused. The banquet had been the brainchild of Jansen Douglas. She had been the one who'd suggested that the foundation have a celebration to thank the donors a few years ago. They'd been wrapped in each other's arms in bed that night.

Her skin had been as smooth as silk as he'd stroked her arms while she laid out the plans for the event.

Memories of Jansen Douglas always made him shiver with regret.

Bradley quickly busied himself with a report of the financial reports for the foundation's first quarter. Private donations were down fifteen percent and that gave him pause. He wondered if he needed to funnel more money into marketing the foundation or if he should follow the Kickstarter trend to get the new shelter in Atlanta funded.

One thing he knew for sure, this wedding wasn't going to be the multimillion-dollar event that his sister had dreamed up in her head. Shelby was quite frivolous and he needed to rein in her spending. And he knew it wasn't going to be long before he had to deal with his bean-counting brother, Kenyon, who would be griping about Shelby's wedding. Though Bradley had been surprised that it had even gotten past the invitation stage. His little sister was a bit of a commitmentphobe. He couldn't blame her. Love was about sacrifice. Something he could write a book on. But, at the end of the day, if Shelby was going to settle down, it would be worth not reading about her exploits in the gossip rags. Glancing at a picture of his parents, Bradley smiled. They were either laughing or shaking their heads in heaven at their three children.

The car accident that took Joan and Winston Stephens haunted him, shaped him, made him afraid to give his all to anyone because he couldn't handle losing her. The way he'd lost Jansen. Slamming his hand on the desk, he didn't have the time or energy to get lost in emotions or the past. He had to call his sister and tell her that her fairy-tale wedding was about to be too much for him to pay for. It wasn't that he didn't have the money; she just needed to realize that there were more important things to do with three million dollars.

Jansen washed the makeup from her face and sighed. Photo shoots were starting to get tiring, but the runway was still her first love. "Jansen," her assistant, Dove Lace, said as she walked into the washroom. "Donovan Strange just called. He wants you to meet him for drinks tonight."

"Finally," she exclaimed with a smile. She'd been trying to meet with him for three weeks.

"Said he'll meet you at the Flatiron Lounge around eight."

Jansen glanced down at her Burberry watch. "That's less than two hours from now." She frowned, then nodded. "If you don't mind, call him back and tell him I'll be there."

"I already told him that you're available. He's so handsome."

Jansen rolled her eyes. Handsome men were a dime a dozen and she wasn't looking for love—not ever again. Not that selfish kind of love that meant she had to turn her dreams off to make a man happy. Closing her eyes, she chided herself silently for allowing Bradley to slip back into her mind. She was supposed to be so over that man, but every now and then he'd rear his handsome face in the rearview mirror of her mind. Men from all over the world had romanced her. But in her heart of hearts, she knew no one could take Bradley's place. And she hated that she compared everyone to him. An egomaniac, lovable and deliciously sexy man who made her hot just thinking about him—after all this time.

Yes, Donovan Strange was handsome. He was also one of the most powerful names in the fashion world. He'd designed some of the hottest gowns and red-carpet looks. Stars like Beyonce, first lady Michelle Obama and other A-listers sought him out when they needed a one-of-a-kind look. His work had been highlighted at Fashion Weeks in Paris, Milan, New York and Los Angeles.

He was known just as much for his business acumen as he was for his designs. Jansen wanted him to help her transition from model to model agency owner. There were things that Jansen wished she'd known about the fashion industry before that day in Lenox Mall.

With Donovan's help, she hoped to open a full-service agency for models to groom them for life in front of and behind the camera. She hated that the stereotype of models was beauty and no brains. Jansen had fought it her whole career. There had been plenty of people who'd underestimated the fact that she had a master's degree in public policy and had experience with a world-renowned nonprofit agency that helped women and families. Sometimes she missed that work. Missed doing more than just lending her face and donating money to groups that did what the SFRC did. And even though her relationship with Bradley had ended badly, she still supported the center and its mission. There he was again, in her head. She needed to get her game face on because she had business to attend to. She picked up her bag and headed out the door. When Jansen saw a car waiting for her, she wanted to kiss her assistant for saving her the hassle of hailing a cab in the sweltering spring heat of New York. Hopping into the airconditioned car, she smiled in relief. As she was about to lean back and close her eyes, her cell phone rang.

"Yes?" she said when she answered.

"Ooh, someone is in diva mode."

"Shelby! You have a nerve. Besides, I'm channeling my inner Shelby. Girl, I'm just hot and tired."

"Yeah. I heard it's steamy in New York, but here in Paris, it's a cool sixty degrees."

Jansen sucked her teeth. "Just rub it in, heffa. So, tell me about this man who actually got you to say yes."

"We can talk about that this weekend. I'm flying in to New York to get some ideas for my wedding dress."

"Baby, you're in the fashion capital of the world, why are you coming to New York?"

"Great, then you'll come to Paris." Shelby sounded like a kid asking to get picked up from camp early.

"Negative. I have another photo shoot in a few days, and then I have… Wait, why do you want me to come to Paris?"

"To talk me out of this wedding." She said it breathlessly, as if she'd been holding it in for weeks.

"Shelby, why do you need anyone to talk you out of getting married? Your lovely invitations have already been sent out."

She sighed and Jansen couldn't help but wonder if her friend was getting married to satisfy her family—more specifically, Bradley. She groaned inwardly, there she was thinking about that man again.

"What if I love him more than he loves me?"

"Why do you feel that way?"

"Because of you and Bradley."

"Ugh! I'm going to hang up on you."

"I know we're not supposed to talk about that, but you gave him everything and what did you end up with?"

"Think about your parents," Jansen said. "They loved each other unconditionally."

Shelby groaned this time. "You know our generation doesn't roll like that. I'm not trying to get married and then find out that the man I love is screwing around on me or."

"That never happened with me and Bradley. I'm just saying."

"Jacques is amazing and beautiful. But the French are different."

"Honey, you're different. You're the kind of woman who a man can't get over. You're overthinking it."

"Or maybe I didn't think enough. I'm always jumping into something headfirst. That's it, I'm calling the wedding off."

"Girl, that's crazy and impulsive. Why did you agree to marry him if you had such doubts?"

"Because I love him. I'm just being crazy and your favorite Stephens is driving me nuts. He had the nerve to tell me that I need to tone my wedding down. Hello, it's Paris. Over-the-top is expected."

Jansen marveled at how Shelby went from canceling her wedding back to planning it in a single bound. "You're my favorite Stephens."

"Sure, if you say so. You know, he's going to walk me down the aisle."

"That's great," Jansen said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

"Anyway, maybe."

"Let me stop you right there. I don't care what your next statement was going to be, I don't want to hear another word about your brother."

"Well, your serial dating only proves that you're not over him."

"I don't serial date."

"Jake Bensimon doesn't think so. I took him off the guest list."

"Whew, thank you so much."

Shelby laughed. "I thought he was going to be the one for about fifteen minutes. He's the reason Jacques and I met."

"And you're not inviting him to the wedding?" Jansen asked, furrowing her brows. "That just seems rude."

"Honey, it wasn't as if it was a good thing. Jake was drunk on the French Rivera and was lamenting about you. He was getting loud and embarrassing, so I kept trying to get away and he kept pulling on my arm. Jacques came rushing over and knocked him out. I love a Frenchman's passion."

"I bet," she replied. "And you want to give that up?"

"Oh, hush. I'm just suffering from cold feet. And. Let me call you back."

"All right, and I can't wait to see you in that great wedding dress." After hanging up with Shelby, Jansen closed her eyes and sank into the leather seats, wanting nothing more than ten minutes of sleep. But all she could think about was how she was going to ignore Bradley when she ran into him in Paris. Then another thought popped into her mind. What if Bradley arrived at the wedding with his new woman?

So what. It's time for us to move on anyway. I'm sure Bradley Stephens isn't thinking about me at all, Jansen thought as she opened her eyes and blankly watched the passing cars.

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