fter a few ups and downs, Alec and Anne have found a rhythm they can both groove to, and they’ve made a steamy love connection. But just when they think they can finally settle down and tie the knot, their past comes back to haunt them in ways they never imagined. Alec has secrets that he wishes he had never kept; Anne discovers them and sets out to show her man that a woman scorned is no one to mess with; and Isaiah...well, Isaiah finds himself in the kind of trouble that sends smoke signals up into the air. When the smoke finally clears, truths will have to be told and Anne will have to accept the fact that she and Smoke are more alike than she cares to admit.
Listen to the invite that I created especially for you and then check out an excerpt from Where There's Smoke 2: When the Smoke Clears.
For a brief moment I imagined that the black Nissan with even blacker windows that was riding my bumper right about now was bringing static along with it and then I remembered that I was living a static-free life and had been for something like twenty years. So I did a roll call. License and insurance? Check. Registration and certificate of sale? Check. Was my house in order? Check. Was my house really
in order? Check.
I made a quick, unexpected right turn and shook my head. The black Nissan was right behind me and pissing me off a little more every time it inched up on the bumper of my new truck. For the past twenty minutes it had been doing that, barely stopping in time enough to avoid rear-ending me and following me so closely that it could’ve been riding in the bed of my truck. I took it on a circular tour through a neighborhood I did not live in, led it across a busy discount store parking lot and made it wait for me while I filled my gas tank and went inside the station to get a soda. Then I came back outside, hopped up in my truck and started the parade all over again.
When I passed the grocery store I was supposed to be going to for the third time I grabbed my cell phone from the passenger seat and dialed like a maniac. The phone rang three times on the other end before someone finally picked up.
“What are you doing?” I said straight out of the gate. I did not have time for this today.
Truth be told, I wasn’t a stranger to the black Nissan. This was about the fiftieth time I had caught it following me, but never for this long and never like this. If I didn’t know better I would swear it was planning on going home with me and really starting some confusion, the likes of which I didn’t need and could ill afford. I could’ve kicked my own ass for allowing the situation to go on for as long as it had been going on.
I thought about a saying that my father used to say before he got a wild hair up his butt and decided to croak when I was thirteen. He used to say: “Son, never shit where you lay your head.” Young buck that I was, the lesson in what he said didn’t quite sink in until I started looking twice at women and contemplating the possibilities, and even then it had taken me a minute or two to fully understand the value of keeping my homefront peaceful.
Here I was, forty years old and telling my own son the same thing, thinking I was passing down pearls of wisdom, father to son and all that, and shit personified was following me around the city in a black Nissan every other day. And shit in a skirt, on top of that. Apparently, I hadn’t learned the lesson that I thought I’d learned.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Diana Daniels purred in my ear. “How are you, baby?”
“Dee…” I took a breath for patience and had to chuckle at myself. “This crap you’re doing, you know it has to stop, right?”
“You make me do this, Alec. This is the only way I get to see you anymore. You stopped coming to me, so I have to come to you.”
“I stopped coming to you for a reason.” I tucked the phone between my head and shoulder and busted a wide, spur of the moment U-turn. Damned if she didn’t bust one too, and speed up. A police cruiser passed me on my left and I debated catching the chump’s attention, so he could pull my Glenn Close wanna-be over and give me time to get the hell out of dodge. It figured that Mr. Officer was too busy yakking on his cell phone to notice a tax-paying citizen needing some assistance.
“Because you have Anne now?”
“Something like that, yeah.” I stopped for a red light and felt a bump from behind. Wrong answer. “You’ve got problems, you know that?”
“No, baby, I think you’re the one with problems.” Diana tapped her horn and then waved to me through her open sunroof. With her middle finger. “I wonder what Anne would say if she knew where you were two weeks ago, Alec? Wonder what she’d say if she knew…”
“You know what?”
“That you had your pants down around your ankles and your…”
“You need to chill out, Dee.”
“…in my mouth,” she finished, laughing. “Don’t tell me you’re scared of that bitch?”
“I’m starting to think I need to be scared of you.”
“Oh, so I’m crazy now?”
“It’s been four years,” I reminded her in case she had forgotten. “I’m where I want to be. I think I told you that. And stop bumping my fucking truck.”
“It’s been two months since your dick was where it wanted to be, Alec. You know you need to quit deluding yourself and admit you made a mistake when you dumped me for that whore you call a housewife.”
“I’ve made some mistakes, but getting with Anne wasn’t one of them, Dee. Stop following me.”
“Stop fucking me, Alec, and I might think about it.”
I turned into the grocery store parking lot and slowed my roll, with her right on my bumper. She was really taking it to the extreme today. Usually, she trailed me just long enough for me to notice her and then she turned off somewhere and disappeared. Today she was trying the hell out of my patience and making me wonder just how twisted in the head she really was. Obviously more twisted than I had given her credit for.
She was right though, I had fucked her. A grand total of two times since me and Anne had hooked up and both times were stick and runs. She caught me tripping one night when I ran out to rent a couple of movies and talked me into following her behind the video store to talk. At least that’s what she said. But she wasn’t wearing panties and I ended up having a conversation with the wrong lips, and using the wrong head. The second time, she showed up at the junior high school where I taught Honors Algebra classes and bent over my desk. Her panties were missing in action then, too. I hadn’t touched her since then, not that that made what I had done any less wrong, but there it was.
Two weeks ago, she showed up at my school again, wanting a repeat and I showed her the door. Then I came out of the school a little while later and found my rear license plate missing and a note from her in its place. I had to go to her place to get my plate and she gave me a blowjob for my trouble. She wasn’t in too big of a hurry to let me forget what we’d done, either. Like I really needed help remembering. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror I remembered what I’d done and asked myself what I could’ve been thinking. I knew what I had been thinking with, but what I’d been thinking about was anybody’s guess. I couldn’t even claim to be a greedy man, because greed hadn’t factored into any of what happened. It wasn’t like Anne was selfish with her loving, so what the hell?
That’s what I asked Diana. “What the hell?”
“That’s what I want to know,” she said. “What the hell are you with her for if you can’t keep it zipped up?”
As much as I wanted to have an answer to that question, I didn’t and she knew it, so I didn’t even try to come up with one. I pulled into a parking space, threw my truck into park and tried to think about the situation objectively.
Four years ago, I was dating Diana when I ran up on Anne, hiding out in Illinois with my sixteen-year-old son. Wait, scratch that. Anne ran up on me with my son in tow and seriously rocked my world. She hadn’t wanted anything from me except help straightening out my son and, once I got over the shock of having a son in the first place, I signed on to help her as much as I could. I wasn’t expecting Anne and me to start rolling around in bed together and falling in love, but we did.
For a minute, I was dealing with both Anne and Diana and then Anne put the smack down on a brotha and I made a decision. What else could I do? It was either Anne or Diana and damned if I could see myself being without Anne. The problem was, Diana couldn’t seem to see herself being without me. So, for the past four years I’d had a stalker that I couldn’t shake for nothing.
“Damn,” I said out loud without meaning to. Anne was not the type of woman to put up with even a tad bit of shit. I knew that going in and in case I didn’t, she hurried up and told me what the deal was. If she found out about Diana my house would be so out of order that Hurricane Katrina would look like a spread worthy of Good Housekeeping in comparison. Anne was nobody’s joke and how I managed to forget that, I didn’t have the foggiest.
Dirty Diana was breathing in my ear like Girl 6. I turned my head and looked at her car, shook my head again. “You don’t love her,” she whispered in my ear.
“I don’t love you,” I told her and meant it. “And you know it.”
“Well, you had better start figuring out where to find some love for me, Alec, because I’ve got something over here that belongs to you. Something you can’t deny even if you wanted to.”
“Go home Dee, okay? Stop following me and go home.” As far as I was concerned the conversation was over. I snapped my cell shut and dropped it in my pocket.
I got out of my truck and circled around to the passenger side back door. Diana’s Nissan hadn’t moved, so I decided to pretend it wasn’t there. I opened the door, reached in and picked up my daughter like she was precious cargo. Even in sleep she knew her daddy’s touch, knew she could wipe her nose on my cheek and finish drooling down the side of my neck and nobody would say a damn thing to her, least of all me. This was the stuff I lived for.
I was smelling the curve of my baby’s neck when I heard Diana’s car easing up behind me. Something told me to look over my shoulder and I did, and then I jumped ten feet to the left to avoid being run over by the crazy bitch. She burned rubber flying past me and turned a corner on two wheels. An oncoming car almost rammed her from the side as she merged into traffic illegally and flew out of sight.
A few seconds later my cell phone rang and I didn’t have to look at the caller ID to know who it was. I snatched it out of my pocket and put it to my ear, so motherfucking mad I couldn’t see straight. I didn’t give her a chance to say anything. “If you had hurt my daughter I would’ve blown your fucking brains out and gladly gone back to jail.” She was quiet and I was too angry to take a second and think about what the silence might mean. “You hear me, Dee?”
More silence. Then, “Smoke?”
My head snapped back on my neck so hard I heard bones popping. I stopped right where I was standing in the middle of the grocery store parking lot and counted to ten. “Anne.”
“Dee as in Diana?”
“Yeah, baby, she…”
“Where are you and where is my daughter?”
“Iris is right here and I’m at the store, where I’m supposed to be.”
“Okaaaay….” I could hear the wheels in Anne’s head spinning. “And how does Diana factor into that?”
“Ran into her,” I lied. A smiling door greeter had a cart waiting for me just inside the automatic doors and I took it with a forced smile in return. It wasn’t his fault I was on the hot seat. I pushed it off to the side and took the phone away from my ear to check the call-waiting caller ID. I had an incoming call.
“Hold on a second, baby, okay?”
“Hold on,” I said and pushed a button to take me to the incoming call. “What the fuck is your problem? You could’ve…”
She cut me off at the throat and at the knees. “I think I’m pregnant, Alec.”
I’m glad somebody had the foresight to snatch my daughter from my arms before I started sinking to the floor. I caught myself before I would’ve landed on my ass and fell against the wall behind me. Then I reached out and stopped the complete stranger who was holding my baby from moving out of my sight, working my cell with my free hand. I switched back over to Anne. “Anne?” Nothing but dead air. “Anne?”
She had hung up.