Under Covers, page 1
Copyright (c) 2015 by Rhonda Bowen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the written permission of the author.
The characters in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to actual people or events is purely coincidental.
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For the special women I know and those I don’t who have chosen to be free and the people who love them.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Table of Contents
About the Author
Other Books by Rhonda Bowen
The first sign was the milk. The glass bottle hit the ground as soon as she opened the fridge door. It shattered into a thousand pieces. Naomi’s body went still. She watched the white fluid seep through her toes and spread across the floor while the feeling of dread seeped over her stomach.
Her mother always had a thing about milk. She said the milk had been sour the morning Naomi’s grandfather died. The creamer had leaked all over the fridge the day her cousin, Marika, lost her baby. And even Naomi, who was usually the more practical one, couldn’t forget the fly she found floating peacefully in the saucer of white liquid the night before she lost her job at Whisper. Bad milk was a bad sign – especially the week of your wedding.
Naomi shut the bad thoughts out of her mind even as she pushed the fridge door closed and grabbed the paper towels off the kitchen counter to clean up the mess. She was being silly. Nothing would go wrong with the wedding. She and Jordan had been planning this day for the past six months. She had checked everything twice, some things three times. And what she hadn’t caught, her wedding planner/sister-in-law-to-be, Amanda had. So, she was covered. Naomi didn’t believe her family’s silly old wives’ tales anyway.
Still, she took several deep breaths to calm her racing heart. The phone rang and jolted her back to reality.
“Girl, where are you?” Natasha hollered through the phone. She didn’t wait for Naomi to say hello. “Ryan Lue just brought over the proofs from the shoot. I hope you didn’t get all bridezilla and forget about this.”
Naomi heard shuffling and movement in the background and figured that her co-editor was already busy juggling a million tasks at the office even though it was only 9:15am. It would also explain why Naomi was on speakerphone even though Natasha knew she hated it.
“No, I didn’t forget,” Naomi cradled the phone between her ear and her shoulder. She rushed out of the kitchen back to her tiny bedroom to get dressed. Clearly, breakfast would have to be sacrificed. “I’m just getting ready to leave now.”
“Good, cause I don’t have your eye,” Natasha murmured. “I can’t pick these without you.”
“Yes, you can,” Naomi said as she tried to pull on her dress without losing grip of the phone. “I’ve seen you do it myself.”
“Yeah but you were always standing behind me, breathing down my neck,” Natasha said with a laugh.
Naomi stood on her tiptoes in her closet. She reached for one of her Aldo shoe boxes. It almost landed on her head along with several other objects as it came crashing down.
“How about I was standing behind you supporting you?” Naomi picked through the pile for her plum wedges. “Preparing you for the day when I would get married and go on my honeymoon for two weeks, while you held it down at Street Life.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Natasha murmured, not convinced. “Just get your behind over here. I’m drowning.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Naomi tossed the cordless on the bed, wiggled into her shoes and grabbed her purse. She was about to dash out of the room when the cloth covered notebook on the ground near the shoeboxes caught her eye. Apprehension made her pause for a second. She walked over. The scrawl of her handwriting on the open pages drew her eye, but she picked up the notebook and closed it before she could read any of the words. She didn’t need that this morning. Not on top of everything else. She stuffed it in the empty shoe box and chucked the box back on the top shelf of her closet.
Naomi dashed out the bedroom towards the front door. She wasn’t in such a hurry that she didn’t notice the few drops of milk beside the fridge she had missed. First the milk, then the notebook. This was not how she wanted to start her morning.
“Nothing bad is going to happen,” she said out loud, though there was no one else to hear her. All the same, she ran back to the kitchen and grabbed another paper towel. She hoped to the heavens she was right. The kitchen spill had been wiped away, but Naomi couldn’t wipe away the unsettling feeling that things were about to change – and not for the better.
“Okay, okay I’m here,” Naomi announced as the elevator opened on the top floor of the converted brownstone that housed Street Life magazine. “Update me.”
Before she could take two steps, she was surrounded.
“J. Cole’s people have still not gotten back to us about approving the quotes in the article,” David squeezed his ever-present blue stress ball as he walked beside her. “It’s been almost a week.”
“Email Connie and tell her if we don’t hear back from them by lunch, we’re pulling the article and using Drake on the cover instead,” Naomi made her way through the maze of desks that sat in the open floor plan, office space.
“Wait, I thought we were still in development with the piece on Drake?” the young features writer asked confused.
“We are, but she doesn’t know that,” Naomi winked. “Next?”
An assistant shoved a pen and a couple sheets of paper with fluorescent arrow stickers on them into Naomi’s hands. “We need you to sign off on the deposit for the Hilton Ballroom in November,” the wiry young woman kept pace with Naomi.
“How are the plans for the new online platform launch going?” Naomi asked as she flipped through the documents. She scribbled her signature.
“Venue and catering are booked. Gina’s people are
“Nice,” Naomi handed back the documents. “Keep me updated via email while I’m gone.”
“Oh and someone from Ilana Baranoski’s office called again,” Hannah added. She handed Naomi a sticky note with the details.
“Thanks.” Naomi took the note. She crushed it in her hand without looking at it. “Brock, what do you have for me?”
The crowd had begun to thin as she collected reports and signed off on more documents.
“Urban Decor wants four full pages near the center to showcase their new Nicki Minaj line.”
Naomi let out a laugh. “Nicki Minaj designs home furnishings now?”
“Apparently,” Brock pursed his lips. “They say its urban style meets New York living.”
“I’ll bet,” Naomi paused at the bottom of the stairs that would take her up to the second level. “They can have one center page and half a page near the back.”
“They’re willing to sign a six month advertising contract for that amount of space every month,” Andre said. “That’s a lot of guaranteed revenue.”
“Yeah and next month they’ll be pushing Lil Kim’s nursery decor. They can forget it. This is an urban culture magazine, not a hip hop shopping catalog.” Naomi turned to head up the exposed steel, winding staircase.
Brock chuckled. “You’re the boss.”
She shook her head as she entered Natasha’s office at the top of the stairs. With the open layout of the two-level office building, she had been able to see her second-in-charge. Natasha had taken up residence at the railing and waited impatiently for her the minute Naomi stepped off the elevator.
“Did you hear about this Nicki Minaj home decor thing?” Naomi asked as she dropped her purse and documents in the chair near the door.
“No, but I am sure it will be over by the time our next issue goes to print,” Natasha responded absently as she shuffled around glossies on the ten foot glass layout table near the center of the office. “Come look at these. We need to submit by noon and we haven’t done the captions yet.”
Naomi slipped her sunset orange frames on her face to take a better look. The images would be perfect for the magazine. Ryan Lue had done a great job. She was glad they had hired him to go out to North Carolina and do the shoot with J. Cole instead of using submitted press shots from his representatives. If they played their cards right, they could even get some revenue off the images, particularly the shots from inside his new home, which up until recently had not been seen by the public.
“So I was thinking these six for the inside and this one for the cover,” Natasha tagged several photos with stickies.
Naomi bit her lip as she scanned the options before her. “Yes, yes, yes, no and yes,” she confirmed most of Natasha’s choices.
“You were thinking of this shot for the inside page beside the article right?” Naomi tapped a photo with the artist sitting on the edge of a rusted subway car with snow covering the edges of the scene.
“Yeah,” Natasha said. “Reminds me of 1996 hip-hop. You know, back when it was good. It kind of fits the article.”
Naomi nodded. “Switch it with the one you chose for the cover and use this instead. Put the dumpster fire shot on the inside.”
Natasha nodded. “You know, I thought that at first. Then I switched it.”
Naomi headed back to the chair to retrieve her things. “Stop doubting your gut, Natasha. You’re good at this. You need me for anything else?”
“No,” Natasha murmured, as she retagged the photos. “Not while your man is waiting for you in your office.”
Naomi backed towards the door. “He’s here?”
“Yes,” Natasha’s lips cracked into a smile as she heard the delight in her boss and friend’s voice. “For about twenty minutes now. So you better not keep him waiting any longer.”
Naomi heard that.
She slipped out of the office and down the corridor to her own space. Jordan must have heard her voice. He leaned lazily against the door frame, looking better in a collared shirt and jeans than the photo-shopped image of a bare-chested J. Cole that she had seen just moments earlier. Naomi felt the heat begin at her toes and travel all the way through her as their eyes locked.
How had she gotten this lucky?
“Good morning, Red.” His eyes devoured her as the distance closed between them.
He pulled her into his arms. Naomi sank into him willingly as he parted her smiling lips with his.
“Babe, the whole office can see us,” she murmured against his delicious mouth.
“Good.” He kissed her again. “Let them see what Black love looks like.”
She heard a hoot and a few whistles from the level below.
“Yeah, but I don’t like to share.”
He chuckled as she pulled him into her office and tipped the door closed behind them. She kissed him one last time, and then buried herself in his embrace. She inhaled his scent of sandalwood and urban man as she pressed her face against his chest and mentally counted down the days until she could wake up wrapped in that scent every morning. A girl could hardly keep her clothes on at the thought.
“Missed me, did you?” he asked softly into her hair.
“Like the breeze on a hot day.” She tilted her head back to look at him. “You are never allowed to go away for that long again.”
Jordan stroked her cheeks with his thumbs as he cupped her face. “Two weeks is a long time. At least next time it’s that long, you’ll be with me.”
“Next time, and the rest of our lives.” Naomi gazed into his eyes.
“And the rest of our lives,” he echoed. They looked at each other for a long time. After four years, it felt like they could read each other’s thoughts.
Naomi untangled herself from his embrace and eased him into her high back leather chair. “How was the meeting? You sounded so down when I spoke to you before you left. I didn’t know if it was just fatigue or something else.”
As a buyer for hotels, Jordan’s job took him all over North America and occasionally to different parts of the world to negotiate the wholesale purchase of furniture and decor for new resorts and hotels or for older chains looking to remodel or renovate. He had recently travelled to China to negotiate the purchase and shipping of items for a new Ramada hotel opening just outside New York City.
“It turned out pretty well in the end,” he said as he pulled her onto his lap. “It was a lot of travelling but we were able to hammer down a good deal with the supplier. I think I am going to like working with this manufacturer. They have good quality products and the workers at their factories seem to be treated pretty well.”
Naomi raised an eyebrow. “Does that mean I get to go to China?”
He grinned. “Maybe. How’s your Mandarin?”
“Rusty,” she said. “As in virtually useless.”
Jordan chuckled and dropped a kiss on her cheek. “Have lunch with me later.”
She pouted. “Can’t. The girls have this whole afternoon planned. Lunch, then the spa, then some last minute wedding stuff.”
He rolled his eyes. “This sounds like an Amanda kind of plan.”
Naomi laughed. “It is, but don’t hate on her. She’s probably more excited about this wedding than both of us. You know your sister can’t wait for you to get married.”
“You know why right?” he asked. “So mom will have one more person to bug about giving her grandkids.”
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that,” Naomi wiggled her eyebrows.
His smile widened. She couldn’t help but laugh. Even though Jordan tried to act cool, she knew he was dying to have kids.
She felt her shoulder vibrate and slipped her fingers into his shirt pocket to pull out his phone. Naomi glanced at the screen then handed it to him.
He answered the call
He ended the call, rested his head back and closed his eyes.
“Mhmm,” he murmured, his eyes still closed.
Naomi rested her head on his shoulder. “Think our lives will let us leave for the two weeks of our honeymoon?”
“I’m not sure,” he said.
She sat up. “Maybe we could stage a kidnapping.”
“Ramada would pay the ransom and deduct it from my fee.”
Naomi snorted. “You’re probably right. You should go then.”
She gave him room to stand and followed him to the door.
Naomi leaned against the door jam. “Squeeze me in for dinner? I’ll find a way to dodge your sister if I have to.”
“It’s a deal.” Jordan stole a kiss then slipped away. She watched as he walked his fine self down the stairs and towards the elevator. She noticed a lot of her female staff watched too, including Natasha.
“What you looking at?” she called down the corridor.
“Girl, you know what I’m looking at.” Natasha gave Naomi a pointed look. She shook her head. “You sure he doesn’t have any brothers?”
Naomi laughed and waved to Jordan as he got into the elevator. When the doors closed she glanced down at the action below. The bees were busy working. They were a small hive but a productive one. When Street Life first started out as an online publication, it had just been Naomi, Natasha and a rolodex of old journalism contacts, freelancers and photographers whom they could pull in on an as needed basis. Now, six years later, the magazine was going strong on all social media platforms. It also enjoyed a strong circulation in most of the major North American markets. That meant that their team of two had become a team of twelve.
Other author's books:
- Someone to Call Home (A Short Story)Hitting the Right NoteMan Enough For MeTwo For the Show
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