This is a romance novel excerpt from Jamila Jasper's latest novel, Safe With Me. As one of Jamila Jasper's pregnancy romance books, this book dives into the story of Shakira and Charles. This black woman and white man have a shocking connection from the past that threatens to get in the way of their romance.
If you love romantic stories, you'll definitely enjoy this excerpt from a new contemporary interracial romance book. This is one of Jamila's best steamy romance books to date.
This story is about a black woman named Shakira whose life dream is to open up her own salon. She's career oriented and has no time for a social life outside of her best friend Deion. At thirty five years old, Shakira has practically given up on finding love but when she reconnects with a man from her past, she may be able to find love and stay true to herself.
That is, if they can overcome all the obstacles that are keeping them apart…
Both of them have years of baggage to work through and it's unclear whether their relationship will survive up until the very end of the story.
Romance Novel Excerpt:
“No. Deion… Just no. Don’t even think about it!” Why would you suggest something like that to me?” Shakira whined.
Deion kept filing her nails, barely looking up.
“Because. You seem like you need someone in your life Shakira. Everything can’t just be about work and sulking.”
“I write too…”
“Oh who cares? It’s not healthy for you to be like this.”
“Relationships aren’t everything, Deion.”
“You say that… But I know you Shakira. How can it hurt? It’s just one blind date. If you have a shit time, I’ll owe you.”
“Owe me what?”
“Anything you want sugar.”
“Your taste in men is crap Deion.”
“Well at least I get laid.”
“There’s no point in me having a relationship anyways. Where can it possibly go? I’m too busy with work. I have goals Deion. Not everything can be about men. It would be doomed from the start.”
“Shakira, you know those are just excuses.”
Shakira scoffed. “These aren’t just excuses Deion. It’s called being practical.”
“You can’t hide from love forever.”
“Wow have you been filling up on romantic comedies or something?”
“Hush. You just need to agree.”
Shakira thought for a few moments while still scowling at Deion. Shakira pulled her long black curls into a bun on the top of her head. She couldn’t believe that Deion would spring this on her all of a sudden. Why was she so obsessed with getting Shakira to go on a blind date anyways? What could she possibly stand to gain from such a thing?
“I’m going to get my iPad upstairs,” Shakira mumbled.
“Well think about it while you’re up there. I’m finishing off your moscato.”
Shakira ran upstairs to search her bedroom for her iPad. She instinctively stopped to look into her bedroom mirror as she passed it. Wow. I look tired. Shakira thought to herself. She wasn’t sure when she’d become that person who was constantly exhausted, but the change showed on her face. Her sepia toned skin looked more dry and sallow than usual. The dark circles under her eyes were about to take on a life of their own. Shakira’s deep grey eyes looked forlorn. Maybe Deion was right. Maybe the one way to kick this funk was to live a little – step outside her menial routine.
Shakira reached into her top drawer and pulled out her iPad before returning downstairs. As promised, Deion had finished her moscato.
“I told you I was going to finish it.”
“Girl, don’t be so down. Let me tell you… This week, I met the finest woman at the salon! I could tell she was on the fence about me but she had to be gay. She just had to be. I saw that wedding ring and everything but I wasn’t fooled, not for a second…”
“And then what?”
“Well she slipped me her number! But you know me… I’m no fool. I researched her and saw that her husband plays for the local minor league baseball team… No way! He looks like he could kill me with one hand. I ripped her number up and threw it in the trash.”
“Yeah… I know that’s not the end of the story,” Shakira said, folding her arms.
“Well she showed up at my place… I don’t know how she found out where I live or nothing and well… let’s just say it was everything I could have hoped for.”
Shakira chuckled. “Thanks for sparing me the gory details this time.”
“I got my pussy ate until the sun came up.” Deion finished.
Shakira knew she couldn’t help herself. She wished she could be as comfortable with her sexuality as Deion was. Shakira just got squeamish hearing about those types of things. A part of it was the fact that she’d never had sex. Shakira planned to save herself for marriage. Of course she’d done “other things” but she was still uncomfortable with the idea of actually making love to someone she didn’t love with all her heart. Call me old fashioned. Shakira would think. Either way, it was something that she knew would never change.
“So… When are you going to say yes to that blind date offer?” Deion pressed.
“Fine. I’ll go.”
“Say it with some feeling!”
“Yes! I’ll go on a blind date.”
“Good! I know you’ll like him. Just trust me.”
“I don’t trust you on this one.”
“I know… But this time, trust me.”
“If you say so.”
“Well you’re going to want to get ready because the date is at 6 p.m. tonight.”
“I thought we were going to Applebees!”
“That was a lie so I could make sure you wouldn’t book that time tonight. Get your ass up and we’ll find you an outfit that screams sex.”
“Deion! I’m not prepared! I have dark circles under my eyes…”
“—So what? Concealer can fix all your problems Shakira. Let’s go.”
Deion got up and grabbed Shakira by the arm, reluctantly dragging her upstairs to her bedroom. Shakira sat on her bed with a dejected look on her face while Deion plucked approved dresses out of her closet.
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“I just don’t think I’m going to meet anyone worthwhile on a blind date. Isn’t it better to do things the old fashioned way?”
“Get married at twelve and have babies until you die in child birth?” Deion scoffed.
“—There’s no old fashioned way to be a woman in this world. Don’t live in a dream land.”
Shakira knew that she was defeated, at least for now.
She didn’t feel like she could think about something like a date right now. Deion’s attempts to distract her were admirable but not necessarily effective. Shakira had too much going on. The salon where she and Deion worked was probably going under. Shakira had heard a rumor from one of the nail techs that was close with the boss. If the salon went under, Shakira had no idea how she would pay rent. Or her student loans. She needed that job.
Shakira was saving up to start her own hair salon in the town where her parents lived. She would never be able to reach her goal if the salon went under. Shakira knew it would be risky anyways to go into business alone but that was all she had.
Deion didn’t seem to be too worried about that but Shakira knew that Deion had clients on the side. Plus, Deion’s brother owned a barbershop and Deion could always get a job there. Shakira was too busy worried about hustling to think about dating. Of course, Deion refused to accept that. She was that one friend who was always meddling…
“How about this one?” Deion suggested, pulling out an emerald green dress.
“Cheer up! If you don’t have a good attitude about this… I’ll find some way to make you pay. What the hell is the problem with having a good time anyways?”
“It just feels fake. Everything could collapse in an instant. How can I spend money on a date?”
“Because… It’s not a crime to have a good time Shakira! No need to be a downer.”
“Are you sure I can’t rain check?”
“Nope. I already promised you were coming.”
“Before I even agreed to anything?”
Shakira got up and snatched the dress from Deion’s hand. She slipped into her bathroom to try the dress on and then emerged into her bedroom. Even Shakira had to admit that putting on the dress changed her entire mood. She didn’t feel quite so sour.
Shakira spun around. The emerald dress hugged her curves and stretched down to just below her knee. Shakira’s breasts were large and perky and created a nice bit of cleavage in the front of the dress. A smile cracked across Shakira’s face for the first time.
“See? You feel better already don’t you.”
“But I’ve got to do something about this face.”
“I’m your girl. You know, I’ve been taking makeup clients on the side. You should get a little more skilled and we’ll see if you can help me out.”
Shakira’s heart warmed to Deion. She knew this was her friend’s attempt at offering to help her out. Deion knew how worried Shakira was about money.
“Thanks Deion… My makeup bag is in the bathroom.”
Deion got up and searched Shakira’s bathroom for her makeup. Shakira walked to her mirror again and spun around. The dress made her look like she’d walked off a runway. Shakira wasn’t exactly a petite woman – she stood at a towering 5’10”. Because of this people often perceived her as masculine or butch. In a dress like this, there was no mistaking how feminine she was. Shakira knew that she still had it. Her parents constantly downed her for being in her thirties and unmarried but they didn’t understand what the dating game was like any more. It was hard to find someone real.
Deion emerged from the bathroom and gestured for Shakira to sit herself down on the bed.
She pulled out her tools and got to work on Shakira’s face. Deion’s skin was a sweet russet tone and she loved changing her hair; nearly every time Shakira saw her she had a different wig on or a different style altogether. Today she was wearing a long dark red wig. Deion pulled her hair into a ponytail and pursed her lips as she brushed foundations and powders over Shakira’s face.
Shakira closed her eyes and focused on the sensations of the soft bristles as Deion worked her magic. After a few minutes, Deion whispered, “Open your eyes.”
Shakira’s eyelashes fluttered open and before she’d even looked at herself, she felt spectacular. Deion shoved a hand mirror in front of Shakira’s face and she saw someone she barely recognized in the mirror.
“Deion!” Shakira exclaimed.
Shakira had no idea how Deion had executed such artistry. Shakira’s dark circles were gone. Her skin had regained life and her eyes possessed a sultry, seductive power.
“Did you forget?”
“Forget that you’re beautiful.”
Shakira looked up at Deion gratefully.
“Now don’t cry. You’ll mess it up,” Deion teased.
“I guess I’ve got to leave soon right?”
“Sure but not before you have a glass of wine right?” Deion suggested.
Shakira nodded and they walked downstairs together. Shakira wondered what on earth she’d done to deserve a friend who was as loyal as Deion was. Deion dipped into Shakira’s cupboard and poured them both glasses of wine.
“Thanks,” Shakira muttered as the smooth taste warmed her throat.
“So you won’t tell me anything about this date?”
“Deion shook her head.”
“What about a name?”
“Fine… His name is Charles.”
“I never said that.”
Shakira shot a sideways glance at Deion.
“You’ll have a good time, I promise,” Deion suggested.
Shakira finished off her wine.
“I hope so.”
“You’re meeting him at Serenade by the way.”
“What’s wrong with Serenade?”
“Well it’s a bit fancy don’t you think?”
“Of course it’s fancy. Why do you think I wanted you to go?”
“Listen, just stop wigging out. You need to live a little Shakira. No one wants to be around a wet blanket.”
“Are you saying…”
“—Nuh uh. I’m not playing this game with you right now. I meant exactly what I said and I’m done throwing you pity parties. You can’t stop living just because of what happened with Lionel…”
“I don’t want to hear his name.”
“Fine. And you also can’t stop living because of what happened with Danny.”
Shakira felt a sharp pang in her chest. The wounds from Danny were still too fresh; Shakira didn’t appreciate Deion throwing that pain in her face. She had thought Danny was the love of her life. He seemed sweet and caring and promised that he understood her commitment to not having sex until marriage. One night, things turned sour and Danny had tried to force himself on her. Shakira had dumped him right then and there.
“Fine. I’m going on the date okay? I’m giving it a shot.”
“Good for you,” Deion said.
“Are you staying over here tonight?” Shakira asked.
“If you don’t mind. I want to be here when you come back so I can hear all the juicy details.”
“Well there will be no juicy details. I don’t sleep with people on the first date.”
Deion raised her eyebrows.
“I’m serious,” Shakira replied.
Deion shrugged. “Do what you have to.”
“How do I look?”
“You know how you look…”
“How do you feel?” Deion asked.
“Like a million bucks.”
Deion and Shakira looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“I’ve never used that phrase before.”
“And I hope you never use it again.”
They laughed again.
“I have leftovers in the fridge you can eat for dinner,” Shakira said as she picked up a light jacket and her car keys.
Deion nodded. She had no problem raiding Shakira’s fridge for a snack or two here or there.
Shakira burst out into the chilly spring evening. The days were starting to get longer again and the air smelled fresher and fresher.
I’ll be fine. This will all be fine.
Shakira drove herself to the restaurant and even if she tried to take her time, she arrived fifteen minutes early. She was the type of woman who was punctual to a fault. Most of her friends and coworkers teased her for missing the memo on “colored people time.” Shakira knew there was a reservation for North and the hostess led her to a private table near the back of the restaurant. Interesting seating choice. Serenade was remarkably empty for a weekday. Shakira relaxed back into her seat and ordered a glass of water.
For a while, Shakira just watched the people in the restaurant. There were only three other tables occupied. One table was a blonde woman sitting by herself. She was weeping into her grilled salmon and looking at her phone. Shakira wondered what her deal was. Then there was an elderly black couple sitting in the center of the restaurant. They stared into each other’s eyes like they were on their first date all over again. Shakira couldn’t help but smile. They reminded her of her parents. Shakira hadn’t spoken to them in a while but in some ways, she missed them and the way they looked so tender and in love with each other.
The third table was an Asian family. The husband looked warm and friendly as he fed their adorable chubby baby some of the mashed potatoes from his plate. His wife looked exhausted, but there was the faintest smile on her face that told Shakira she was still happy.
Smooth jazz filled the restaurant, giving it a soft romantic ambience that surely played a role in improving the mood of all the evening’s diners. Shakira pulled out her phone in an attempt to seem occupied. Considering the only other person sitting alone in the restaurant was crying into her fish… Shakira didn’t want to be seen as lonely by association. She figured that she would just check out this “Charles North” online before he arrived.
Suspicious. Shakira found Charles’ profile but she could barely see what was on it. What she did see didn’t look good. The figure in the picture looked odd. Shakira didn’t like to judge other people’s looks too much but she would also have been offended if Deion didn’t think she could do better than this. Shakira hoped that the grimy, blurred person she was seeing in the picture looked better in person.
Were they standing on a farm? Shakira also noticed that the social media profile didn’t appear very active. Strange. Was there anyone in this day and age that didn’t update the world on every minute happening in their life?
Shakira wondered if her suspicions were aroused solely because she would have found any excuse not to look forward to the date. Could she really be that petty? Shakira sighed and waited. It was exactly 6 p.m. and her date had yet to walk through the door. She ordered another glass of water and continued to wait patiently.
At five minutes past six, the door to Serenade swung open. Shakira nearly spat out her water. This had to be her blind date – the restaurant was empty enough that no other options made sense. But this couldn’t be?! This couldn’t be the same person Shakira had seen in the online profile. Sure, the picture had been small and blurry but this just didn’t add up.
The man sat down across from Shakira with a giant smile plastered across his face. “Shakira?”
Once Shakira heard the man’s voice, memories flooded back into her head. He sounded a bit different now but still familiar. Shakira thought she was about to faint. No… This couldn’t be him. It was impossible. Charles North. Deion said that she’d set her up with someone called Charles North…
“Chuck?” Shakira choked out.
Charles smiled. “I used to be Chuck. I don’t go by that name anymore.”
Shakira couldn’t believe who the man sitting in front of her was.
“But what about your last name? North?” Shakira asked. She was getting frantic and she could see that Charles still didn’t recognize her.
“My father… Let’s just say we have a bad history. When I turned eighteen I took my mother’s last name.”
“Shakira… How do I know you? You obviously know me and well, the name rings a bell.”
Shakira couldn’t believe that Chuck Thompson didn’t remember her. After all the shit she’d gone through with that guy? It was downright unbelievable.
“You really don’t remember?”
Charles shook his head.
“I can’t believe Deion set me up on a blind date with you.”
“Please… Remind me of how we know each other?” Charles asked.
Shakira was interrupted from revealing how they knew each other when the waitress popped back and took their order. That was Shakira’s out. If she didn’t want to go through with the date a simple “just drinks” would suffice. But Shakira had put too much effort into getting ready and she was driven by her curiosity to see how things would play out with Charles. Charles. Shakira had to get used to saying the name. She didn’t know if it was really possible to truly adjust.
They both ordered sirloin steaks and red wine.
“Camp Omega. 1994.”
Charles’ eyes bulged open.
“Holy shit. Shakira Jean Baptiste.”
Shakira nodded. Her lips curled up into a smile when she saw how uncomfortable Charles was with his realization. Of course he was uncomfortable.
Imagine how I felt. Shakira thought.
“That was over twenty years ago,” Charles muttered.
He took a huge swig of his wine, leaving just a few drops left in the glass. Yes, Shakira supposed that she looked different now than she did then – especially with a full face of makeup on. Charles looked different too.
First of all, back then “Chuck” had long blonde hair that swooped over his eyes and covered his head like a helmet. Now his hair had changed into a deep chestnut color and it was cropped far shorter more in line with the modern styles men wore. Hisattitude seemed different too. Chuck had been the King of the Hill at Camp Omega. Now, he was mellowed out. Calm. He seemed war hardened in some ways – Shakira couldn’t exactly figure out why.
Of course his body was different too. Back then, boys and girls had all looked the same except for the few who had experienced early puberty. Charles looked different. He wasn’t skinny or shrimpy. His body was sculpted as if he’d put in a few hundred hours at the gym since Camp. He looked strong. He was wearing black jeans with an expensive looking white shirt. He looked sexy, like he’d walked out of a fantasy. Charles oozed wealth and his mannerisms were suave and sexy. He was no longer a hyperactive kid. He was a grown man through and through. But were good looks enough to make up for their history?
The waitress brought them their food. Shakira started eating as slowly as possible savoring the medium rare steak in front of her. Charles had ordered his steak the same way except he was anxiously picking at his food almost as if there was too much on his mind for him to focus on eating.
“So Shakira… What have you been up to these days?”
“I work at a salon over in Riversdale.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve been working with my mother on a new business venture. We’ve started a programming academy for teens. I’ve been sort of retired from serious money making for a bit.”
“I guess so.”
“I’m sorry… I’m just having a hard time really believing what’s going on right now.”
“Why is that?”
“I would have never guessed…”
“I’ve changed haven’t I?” Charles continued.
“So have you.”
Shakira didn’t know what to think about this.
“Since when are you… you know…Dating black women” Shakira mumbled.
“Oh come on Shakira. Do you really think so little of me? How could you ask that.”
Shakira just couldn’t believe it. How could this be the same Charles? It was impossible.
“I guess I’m just looking for an explanation.”
“I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
Shakira perked up. She wasn’t sure what life story could have led Charles down this path but she would have been lying if she said that she wasn’t curious. Shakira felt like she needed to know.
“God… It all feels so long ago. Well at seventeen my father kicked me out of my home. That was a trip. It was around then that I started having people call me Charles. I guess I used to love going by Chuck because I wanted nothing more than to be a like my father back then. Everyone used to call him Chuck. But I could never fill big ole Chuck Thompson’s boots. Anyways… I lived on the streets for a while. I don’t really want to talk about the sorts of things that happened there –.”
Charles paused and chewed up a piece of his steak. Shakira could see that he was reserved. He was confident enough to tell his story but he still seemed worried – as if he was concerned about what Shakira would think. This whole experience was stranger than fiction. She never thought that she would come face to face with Chuck Thompson again. Although this may have been a different man entirely. He certainly behaved differently and his name was different too.
Charles continued, “So then I waited until I was eighteen. Then… I came into my trust fund. And I finished high school. And I changed my name. Chuck became Charles. Thompson became North. Well my grandparents weren’t thrilled so they refused to pay my college tuition. I had to work my ass off for three years to save up. I lived with my mother’s sister for a while. Then I managed to get a couple scholarships plus my dad was a legacy so I ended up at Princeton. Lucky me. It was a shit place. No one understood me… The people I fit in with weren’t like me at all… And I was starting to realize what type of person I was and that didn’t really fit in either.”
“It was a wreck. I nearly flunked out twice. I was majoring in computer science and it was a total pain. I had no money and my mother refused to help. My precious father still had her under his thumb. But I graduated. Barely. And ever since then I’ve been working for different companies… More on my own schedule than anything. Recently my mother just divorced my father and well, we’ve started working together since then. She was always really smart. I’m glad she got away from that fucker.”
“Wow. You’ve had… Quite a life.”
“Yes… And going into computers was the smartest thing I did. I cashed in big time during the dot com boom.”
“I feel like a dinosaur.”
“I know. The nineties… were so long ago. So much of it is still a blur to me.”
“Well they’re still crystal clear to me,” Shakira added. She realized that she could have cut back on the smugness but she couldn’t help it. Shakira couldn’t pretend that this was all okay.
She wondered what on earth Charles meant about them all being a blur? The way he spoke, Shakira was certain that something had happened to him. What could have turned him into someone so different from the person he was back then?
“I’ve hurt a lot of people Shakira, not just you.”
Shakira was shocked at how direct Charles was.
“Don’t lie. I saw the way you looked at me when I walked in here, like you’d seen a ghost.”
“It’s fine. I’ve just… I’ve just had a shit deal.”
“A lot of people have.”
“Well not like I have. Most people have a lot of petty shit going on Shakira. My life has been escaping out of one black hole after another,” Charles snapped.
“I didn’t mean to suggest…”
“Of course you didn’t,” Charles interrupted.
Shakira was desperate to change the subject.
“Why did you agree to this blind date? How do you know Deion?”
Charles’ facial expression softened considerably.
“Deion and I go way back.”
“How far back?”
“I’ve known her since I was eighteen.”
“But we’ve never so much as come across each other…”
“I try to stay out of the limelight. I’ve been busy working and taking care of other things.”
Shakira nodded. She wondered what other things he was referring to but she didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask.
Charles continued, “If I’m going to be honest, my friends have been getting on my case. They think I need to find someone fast or I’m going to die a miserable old man.”
Shakira let out a laugh. “Well you wouldn’t believe… That’s exactly what my friends have been telling me.”
“I guess we can’t disappoint them.”
Charles smiled. Shakira was still disturbed by how comfortable Charles seemed with this whole affair. Maybe it was normal to let bygones just be. Shakira didn’t consider herself someone who had trouble letting go of the past. It’s just that some things were difficult to let go of.
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