This story cemented Raven's position as one of the best contemporary writers. Another one of her romantic comedy novels that became a best-selling African American romance novel. This is a perfect book if you love romantic stories and enjoy hilarious romance novels with plenty of twists and turns.
Rachel is a young, hot, African American novelist, and she's in a bind. She's got a big event coming up on Friday which could make or break her career, but she doesn't have a date. Her mom twists her arm into taking Michael, a world-renowned artist with more than a few quirks. Rachel, however, just can't seem to figure him out, and it's driving her crazy. As far as she's is concerned, he's either the most attractive man she's ever met, or the most terrifying. But which one is it? The deeper Rachel goes down the rabbit hole, the more she finds out about Michael, and the more she desperately she hopes that her heart is correct.
Can Rachel discover all of Michael's secrets and still love him?
BEFORE THE BIG NIGHT
It was an interesting time in my life. I had spent my years after college waiting tables to pay my bills while following my dream of becoming a successful writer. In three years, I’d written three romance novels, and published each independently. Each title received a respectable amount of success, but the true reward came when some talent scout at Simon & Schuster read some of my work and decided that I would be the next author they would bring into the limelight. Mind you, my first three titles had already netted me a fair degree of success — especially with black women, my target audience. So while I might have had to sign a few autographs when I was at the hair salon, I was still pretty much unknown to the rest of the world. With a big publisher behind me, my goal for my next novel was nothing short of becoming a New York Times Bestseller.
Just because I knew how to craft a tantalizing romance between a black woman and a white man didn’t actually mean that I had personal experience. I must confess that I hadn’t been on a date in months, and I’d never even slept with a white man before –– I’d never so much as seen a white guy’s cock before in real life. As a BWWM writer, I was always paranoid that I’d say something in my books to expose me as a fraud who didn’t know what she was talking about. For example, one time I compared my lead character’s junk to a pink strawberry. I thought for sure that all of the penis experts would throw their arms up in protest, but nobody noticed. Do white men’s penises really look like pink strawberries?
Anyway, my pathetic love life especially bothered my mother. You see, my mom was a former Ford Model — one of the few black ones in her time, I might add — and she never forgave me for not being as hot, or as successful as she was. She had long since given up hope that I might grow out of my awkward phase, but now that my career as a writer was starting to take off, she was absolutely thrilled with the idea that maybe she did rub off on me a little bit. To give me a warm welcome, one of the bigwigs at Simon & Schuster had invited me to a snobby social, and my mom had decided to use the upcoming event as an opportunity to initiate the one thing that no black woman wants to hear from her mother: it was the dreaded relationship intervention.
A relationship intervention happens when your parents, relatives, or closest friends decide to push you out of the driver’s seat of your own love life and start steering you in a different direction. This usually involves meeting up for what looks like an innocent get together followed by an ambush of unsolicited relationship advice and demands. Case in point: One quiet afternoon, my mother and I were having a delightful lunch at a bistro downtown, when our laughter and fun conversation took a sharp turn…
“Oh, c’mon Mom. Do we really need to talk about this? My love life’s fine!”
“No it’s not, Rachel. You’re almost 30 and you haven’t even met a decent man. Do you think you’re going to keep those fresh looks forever? When was the last time you went on a date?”
“Your older brother has four kids and Trisha’s pregnant with a fifth. Your little cousin Dwayne’s fifteen, and he can’t stop talking about getting married –– or about getting to third base. Even your grandpa found himself someone online. The man’s been a widow for 20 years; he’s so computer illiterate that he needs tech support to figure out how to turn his computer on, but he figured it out because don’t nobody want to be old and alone. You don’t want that, do you?”
“No…” I groaned, rolling my eyes…
“C’mon, now. You’re not getting any younger. You don’t want to wind up like your aunt Mary Jo, do you? All she’s got is a dog named Michael Ealy who gets to stay in the room when she masturbates.”
“Eww! Mom, I don’t wanna know about that…”
“Your little sister is seven years younger than you, and she’s already married. She was smart –– she married young and fetched a hot black Wall Street banker with a six pack. Who knows if you’ll ever be able to bring home something like that…”
“So what do you want out of me, Mom?” I barked. “What am I supposed to do? I can’t just snap my fingers and have the man of my dreams appear before me…”
“Nobody’s talking about pie in the sky miracles, Rachel. I just want to give you a little push in the right direction.”
“Huh?” I asked, eyebrow raised. “What are you getting at?”
“I have it on good authority that you don’t have a date for your Simon & Schuster social on Friday night. I have the perfect guy for you––”
“Oh no,” I protested. “No way. Besides, I already have a date.”
“I’ll go with one of my girls.”
“Seriously? Have I taught you nothing? If you take one of your girlfriends, then you might as well not go at all…”
“What do you mean?”
My mom cleared her throat as she prepared for her triumphant speech…
“God bless them, but every one of your friends suck. If you show up with Amber, she’ll peck at every guy within a ten foot radius of you. You know she’s an overly competitive whore who can’t stand the idea that a man might find you more attractive.”
I folded my arms disapprovingly and wrinkled my face. My mom continued…
“Monica will chase men away because she I’m pretty sure she hates them.”
“She’s not a lesbian, Mom.”
“And what about Troya?” I offered. “She won’t be so bad. She might even help me find a guy…”
“Are you kidding me? She’ll cockblock you the whole night.”
“No, she won’t.”
“Honey, Troya’s the worst of them all. If a guy approaches you, she’ll death stare you from across the room to try to slut shame you into submission. You know how she gets with her weird religious mumbo jumbo.
“I know that what I’m saying seems harsh, but darling, now that you’re in the limelight, you need to get it through your head that appearances mean something. If you –– romance author extraordinaire –– show up without a nice, hot man by your side, everyone’s going to want to know why. It’s bad press. You’re going to want to show up with a man, whether or not you’re sleeping with him, because with a hot man by your side, you’ll be seen as untouchable, and that’s right where you want to be. Dogs always try to sniff around the alpha male’s patch of pee. Do you see what I’m saying?”
“Wait. Mom, did you just compare me to a patch of pee?!”
“It doesn’t matter. Look, baby, why don’t you let your mommy set you up this one time? I promise, if it doesn’t work out, I’m never going to stick my nose in your business again…”
“But Mommm,” I complained, “These setups never work. The guy always turns out to be some wimp who’s thirty and still living in his mom’s basement, which is precisely why he tries to get old ladies like you to set him up with their daughters. Besides, there’s no way I’m going to show up to such an important event with a complete stranger. There’s going to be reporters and press. No way…”
“Have a little faith, dear. You don’t think your mother knows the type of man that you want most? His name his Michael. You’ll love him. He’s an artist — mostly photography — and he’s totally handsome. And here’s the best part: you write romance novels, and he’s one the sweetest, most romantic men I’ve ever met in my life.”
I tried to decode my mother’s language. She said artist. I heard: broke. She said totally handsome. I heard: Maybe he’s not balding. As for the whole romance connection, now I was already convinced that I’d hate him, because behind my big romance writer nametag, I fancied myself to be about as romantic as a potato…
“I met him through some of my old Ford connections,” Mom said. “You’ll love him, I promise.”
My mom looked over my shoulder toward the bistro’s front door. It was then that I realised that my mother wasn’t asking my permission for a setup. She was merely informing me that it was already happening…
“You brought a guy here? Mom, how could you?”
“Don’t worry, darling. I promise, you’re going to love him.”
My mom looked at the front door again expectantly. Just then, a tall, clean shaven, dark skinned man entered the room. If he wasn’t successful, he certainly played the part perfectly. He wore a sharp, pinstriped suit, he walked with a confident swagger, and he was the spitting image of Idris Elba. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How had my mom done good and set me up with a handsome hunk like that?
Before I had the chance to thank her, the handsome black man walked straight past the two of us and joined the table of businessmen at the opposite corner of the room. Moments after that, my mom pointed at the front door…
“There he is…” She said.
I tried to adjust my eyes to the blinding light from outside, and soon the real Michael came into focus. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The man who had just waved to my mother, and was approaching our table, was covered in dirt from head to toe. He looked like he’d just stepped out of a coal mine. I took one look at his pale skin and blue eyes couldn’t help but feel like my mother was trying to pull a fast one…
“What the hell is this, Mom?” I said. “Why is this man covered in dirt? And why’s he white? You think that just because I write about white men all day long that I’m trying to get locked down by Adrien Brody? Mom? Mom?”
My mother wasn’t listening to me anymore. Her plan was already set in motion, and she had already set her mind on seeing it through to the end. As Michael arrived at our table, she stood up to greet him. I kept my ass glued to the chair. I was seething…
“Oh Mikey,” my mom said while kissing each of his dusty cheeks, “I’m so glad you came. Meet my beautiful daughter, Rachel. Isn’t she lovely?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rachel,” Michael said, extending his hand toward me for a handshake. I was having none of it. I was willing to admit that Michael was handsome — in a David Beckham after a muddy soccer match kind of way — but what kind of white guy shows up to a nice restaurant in the middle of the day, covered in dirt? I was on high alert…
“Why exactly are you covered in dirt?” I said, with the most unimpressed tone I could muster.
“Oh, this?” Michael said, referring to his entire appearance. He seemed to have become self aware for the first time. He laughed and scratched his head. “You know, I just got back from digging up a few graves…”
My mom gave me a side eye that only an angry black mother can do. In one look, she said it all: Don’t embarrass me, or I’ll kill you! She wasn’t bluffing, either. I could tell from my mom’s intense grimace that if I put up too much of a fight, she really might kill me. She would at least pull out her belt and whoop me in public, and I was too old for that, so I decided to play a little bit more diplomatically. I extended my hand to shake his…
“It’s nice to meet you, Michael,” I said with a slightly sarcastic tone.
At this point, my mother decided to give Michael and me a chance to get to know each other a little better so she excused herself and went to the ladies’ room, however not before she gave me one last death stare. Don't fuck it up! She seemed to say. I gave her a hopeless, groveling look. It was obvious that I didn't want to be there, but since she’d forced my hand, I tried to make the best of a bad situation. In spite of the fact that Michael was covered in dirt from head to toe, at the very least, he was handsome and jovial. I tried to keep that in mind as my mother left the table, and Michael sat down…
After Michael and I had exchanged a few awkward pleasantries, I discovered a few things about him that changed my opinion from ‘hell no’ to ‘maybe’. For starters, he didn't let his appearance get in the way of him being charming and fun. I liked that. His smooth, deep voice also worked to sooth my reservations about him, and I also figured out right away that he was definitely very bright. He happened to mention that one of his favorite authors was bell hooks. We got into a heated discussion about black sexual politics, and needless to say, I was impressed. I had spoken to a lot of handsome white guys in my day, but meeting one who appreciated a top black feminist scholar was a first.
Most surprisingly of all, Michael had a decent explanation for why he had shown up to such a nice restaurant in the middle of the city looking so bad. To tell you the truth, I had already gotten so engrossed by our stimulating conversation that I had almost forgotten about the whole covered in dirt issue, but when he brought it up, he handled my objection like a champ.
“I guess I ought to apologize for showing up like this, covered in dirt. I'm very passionate about the work that I do. I'm working on an art piece that's going to be my magnum opus. I like to think of it as my version of the Sistine Chapel. Sometimes I get so obsessed with it that I forget that how messy being an artist can be.”
“Wow. That sounds intense,” I said. “What are you working on, exactly?”
“That's top secret for now,” he said. “But perhaps I’ll show you when it’s closer to being finished?”
“Okay…” I said. I was admittedly a little bit mesmerised. I had never actually met a guy who had such a combination of eloquence, charm, intelligence, passion and masculine grit. Michael had a sort of glint in his eye that revealed a magnetic charisma. I somehow knew that he wasn't playing around. He really was some sort of hopeless romantic who was wild about his craft. Suddenly, the dirt that covered his body seemed kind of sexy…
“But for starters…” he said. “How about we talk about that date?”
Right about that time, my mom showed up again. It was an obvious and shameless tactic to bully me into saying ‘yes.’ My mom gave me an admonishing glare, and Michael waited in anticipation for my response. All of a sudden, the pressure was on. Was I really going to take Michael up on his offer? After all, I still didn't know who he was. Could I trust him? Forget about him embarrassing me in public, how could I be sure he wasn’t some sort of creep? I couldn't. That was the whole problem. My eyes told me one story about him, but my gut said something else entirely. I struggled to make my decision, and the seconds ticked on.
Seeing my prolonged hesitation, my mother cleared her throat loudly to prompt me for my answer. Michael also sensed my uncertainty. He stepped in to give me an out…
“Look,” he said. “I know this is a little awkward. Fifteen minutes ago, you didn’t even know my name. Now here I am, perhaps not looking my best––”
“No kidding…” I blurted out. Michael smiled, then he leaned into my ear so he could whisper the rest of his message…
“You don’t have to do this,” he said quietly. “If you say ‘yes’ to get your mother off your back, I won’t hold it against you if you stand me up later.”
I realized right then that Michael was in as much of an awkward position as I was. He wasn't some desperate loser who needed some old lady to hook him up with her daughter. In fact, he wasn’t even here for me at all. He had only shown up to the bistro out of respect for my mother, one professional to another. He felt as awkward about the whole thing as I did. In fact, he was probably trying his best to turn me off, which was probably the real reason why he was so filthy.
That realization suddenly made me feel like an asshole. Here I was, resisting him with all my might, when in fact, he was trying to do the same thing…
“Fine,” I said. “You can be my date on Friday night. But you better be freshly washed and in a tuxedo.”
“You have a deal,” Michael said. “You can meet me at my place. Here’s my address.”
As Michael handed me a napkin with his handwriting on it, he shot me a coy smile and a wink, making sure that my mom didn’t see. I knew what that wink meant. The ball was still in my court. I could either meet him Friday night at eight, or show up to my Simon & Schuster social all by my lonesome. What would I do?
* * *
The next day, I had an appointment to get my hair done with my three best friends: Monica, Amber, and Troya. Under the noise and heat of our hair dryers, I discussed the issue with them…
“Don’t do it! You don’t have any facts about him. Based on what little you know, you can’t even rule out the possibility that he’s not a serial killer. I don’t like those odds. Next thing you know, he’ll be using your nice brown skin for the cover of his Satanic Bible.”
That was my friend Monica. She was a senior accountant for ExxonMobil eastern division as well as a Princeton graduate. After years of fighting her way to success in a male dominated industry, Monica carried a huge chip on her shoulder when it came to all men, everywhere. My mother was wrong; Monica wasn’t a lesbian. She was, however, a numbers girl. In life, just as in business, she always crunched the numbers and demanded a good return on her investment.
“Don’t listen to Monica, try him out. As I always like to say, men are a never ending sausage buffet; if you kill one, another one will rise up to take his place. Show up with him, if he turns out to be a dud, leave with someone else, and post the story on Instagram. Do you have any idea how much people will pay to see that kind of stuff on a daily basis?”
That was Amber. She was a femme fatale with a vengeance. She used her powers of seduction to attract men, and then troll them on Instagram. She had built an entire media empire around it, with millions of followers and endorsement deals from a wide variety of designer companies.
“Rachel! Don’t ever have two dates in one night. It goes against the word of Christ to act so lustfully. Besides, if you want to keep a man hooked, you’ve gotta make him wait at least seven days before you meet up with him.”
Troya managed the investment portfolio of the entire North American branch of the Baptist Church. There were two things that she was most proud of in the world. The first was being noticeably light skinned. The second was being a self proclaimed “virgin of Christ”. Troya was definitely not a virgin, but she did go out of her way to make sure that she could never, ever, be accused of being a slut.
Both Monica and Amber kissed their teeth in chorus. “Oh, please,” Amber said. “Virgin, my ass,” Monica muttered.
“Follow the seven day rule and you’ll be on the fast track to having a serious relationship. Just like me…”
Troya smiled as innocently as she possibly could. Almost as if a halo were over her head. This only served to aggravate Monica and Amber, but I jumped in before they could take her down a peg…
“What’s the seven day rule, Troya?”
“It’s a stupid rule that some Catholic nun probably made up to keep women’s thighs glued together,” Amber chimed in.
“Amber’s wrong,” Troya explained. “The seven day rule definitely works, and it sets the guy up for perfectly for the 30% percent rule. In a nutshell, a woman must always make a man wait, while only putting in 30% of the effort. The longer you make him wait before the first date, the harder he’ll work for your attention, and the longer he’ll wait to have sex. And every girl knows that the longer you wait for sex, the more a guy loves you, and the more likely for your relationship to turn into marriage.”
Monica shook her head in protest…
“The 30% rule already sounds like a lot of hard work to me. If a man shows up covered in dirt and asks me out on a date, he’ll have to bring his bank account statement, doctor’s report, and a recently updated background check. That would help me a long way in deciding whether I want to bother showing. Besides, Troya. For all of your seven day rule this, and 30% rule that, how’s your new man doing?”
“We’re doing just great,” Troya said snootily. “He buys me flowers all the time, we talk on the phone almost every night for hours, and he hasn’t even pressured me for sex. #Winning.”
“Gay…” Amber blurted out.
“Probably not,” Monica rebutted. “But he definitely has something to hide. Have you been to his place yet?”
“No…” Troya said sheepishly.
“I’m shocked — and appalled, quite frankly,” Amber said.
“You’ve been dating this guy for like three months, he hasn’t fucked you, and you’ve never even seen his place? He sounds like textbook male hoe,” Monica said. “I bet he’s got two cell phones, three aliases and he gets lots of sexy text messages from Domino's.”
“Well, at least I’m not trying to find men online,” Troya sneered, “like some desperate loser…”
“Actually,” Monica said. “Online dating is a proven and effective way to meet a man. Did you know that one in eight people who get married these days have met online? eHarmony has an excellent algorithm for matching couples based on compatibility, with a 93% success rate. Now those are odds that I like. And, as it so happens, I’m going to meet a gentleman that I met online on Friday myself.”
“You girls are so boring,” Amber said. “When was the last time you let a man enjoy the thrill of the chase? If you really want to improve your odds of success, you’ve got to put yourself out there more. First you show up to the club wearing a sexy black dress and the tallest pair of heels you can find, then try to look as ‘damsel in distress-y’ as possible with an empty martini glass in your hand. Works every time.”
“But Amber…” Troya gasped, “That’s sinful.”
“I’d rather size a hundred men up within seconds and fuck the best one at the end of night than waste three months of my precious life, only to find out that my ‘man’ has been sleeping with half of the city. Seriously, Troya, you need to figure out what your man is hiding ASAP before you regret it. Take it from the girl who really knows how to have a successful marriage. If a man loves me, we can keep it casual for 30 years, and tie the knot on my deathbed. That way I’ll die knowing my marriage was definitely a success and I don’t have to divorce a guy because ten years into our marriage, I found out he had a baby diaper fetish.”
After my date at the hair salon with my girls, I started to wonder…
How much should you trust a man in a relationship, and what was the best way to do it? Should you crunch the numbers, like Monica, and let statistics be your guide? Should you have blind faith in a man because he lived up to your rules and regulations, like Troya? Should you never trust a man at all, like Amber, but just give him the benefit of the doubt as time marches on?
And what’s the best way to find out about the skeletons in a man’s closet? Can you ever really know someone for sure? Should you? What if you find out something that destroys your entire relationship? In other words, if you find out that your partner has a scat fetish, would that be a deal breaker, or can you really know every crappy little thing about another person — so to speak — and still like them?
That night, I had several nightmares about what would happen if I agreed to meet Michael on Friday night.
I dreamt that he was covered in dirt because he’d just dug his way out of federal prison. In this equation, I was just a body that he could use as a cumdumpster and human shield before he escaped to Guatemala.
Then another dream came. In it, Michael was one of those peep show freaks who hides at the bottom of latrines and lets women piss and shit all over his face just to get a peek.
Then, in another dream, Michael just liked dirt, and he wouldn’t have sex with me, unless I went a week without showering.
Was I losing my mind?
When I woke up, I decided that I couldn’t allow my imagination to get in the way of my love life. I decided then and there to show up to the Simon & Schuster social with Michael on my arm.
Check out more of our romantic comedy novels. Raven Ferrari's most recent release, Getting Her Ex Back is available now! If you enjoyed this excerpt, you'll definitely love what she has in store for you with this one. Click here to read more.
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