CHAPTER 1 Shayla
Shayla Benson opened the glass doors and entered the elegant, brand-new building. She slipped off her sunglasses, stopped briefly to wink at the handsome security guard on duty, then sashayed across the granite lobby floor. Her cobalt-blue clingy dress was tasteful enough for office attire but flirty and attention-grabbing as it swayed with each of her steps. She headed toward the bank of elevators with her clicking stilettos and pretended to push the up button. Today she was riding solo. She’d given her private driver, Tony, the day off.
Suddenly, she faked that she had left something outside, reentered the lobby and walked in the opposite direction toward the rear of the building. Hopefully, no one had noticed. Mondays were usually light at New Visions, her public relations firm, where she spent several days each week. After all, she was the head honcho and could freely be off the clock anytime. Her assistant, Camilla, always managed to be on point. Her eight-employee office in Largo, Maryland was in capable hands.
Shayla exited out the building’s rear doors where a black Town Car was waiting. She gazed to observe her surroundings before opening the car’s back door. She gracefully slipped inside where a gentleman dressed in an all-black Armani suit kissed her lips, then offered her a flute of champagne.
She grasped the glass and the two toasted before they smoothly downed the refreshing Giaconda Chardonnay.
The driver pulled from the parking lot and eased toward the main street.
“Where are we headed?” Shayla inquired, snuggling up to Wilson and offering her best seductive smile.
“I’m not telling. I like surprises.” Wilson placed his arm around her shoulder and pulled her even closer, caressing her tenderly. “You have to wait and see.”
Wilson loved the shock factor. It was their ritual to meet in this fashion twice a month. Their adventures were unpredictable. He wasn’t the bland type of guy and she couldn’t wait to meet up with him whenever that time of month approached.
Shayla closed her eyes and relaxed her mind, eager to find out their destination. Would they be having each other for breakfast? Hmmm. She smiled to herself and then gazed into Wilson’s eyes.
The account executive was precisely what the doctor ordered. Besides his handsome looks, he was suave and cool. However, his charming ways sometimes proved overbearing. Shayla had a nickname for him: “Mr. Class.” It represented his gentlemanly demeanor. He made her feel like she was a reigning queen and he was a servant at her command.
The driver steered onto the main street and then the expressway.
Shayla felt her cell phone vibrate. She opened her purse and pulled out the phone to view the time. It was 9:10. She read the text message: Good morning, my lovely. And how are you feeling? I trust all is well at the office.
Shayla sighed, then her mind started racing on how to respond. Having a great day. Miss you, sweetie. See you tomorrow. Will be wearing your favorite thong.
“What’s all that sexting about?” Wilson asked, guessing the nature of her messages. “You’re with me now. That’s a little rude, don’t you think?”
“What would you be concerned about? I’m with you.” Shayla was defensive, then warmed up. “And, are you kidding? I can’t ignore my hubby.” She reached over and placed her right hand on his waist and snuggled even closer. “Can I?”
“No, I guess not.” He relaxed his body and accepted her comfort. Shayla had Wilson wrapped securely around her pinkie. Spoil me were the words that bonded them. He was a sucker for a wild sexfest, especially mornings and afternoons. Both of them playing hooky from their offices was a stimulant for their sneaky rendezvous. Wilson could easily slip away, claiming he was out on a sales call from his busy downtown D.C. securities firm. Whenever he didn’t want snoopy trails on his own car, he hired a driver. He was willing to risk it all to be in the presence of Shayla, his dream bombshell.
Shayla gazed out of the window, the sun reflecting on her café au lait skin. Her piercing eyes were in deep thought. Her husband, Chad, was the ultimate spoiler who lavished her with expensive gifts and a luxurious lifestyle. Their custom-built, 8,000-square-foot estate with a brick and stone exterior and circular driveway nestled in the woods stated that she had arrived. Her enormous diamond ring had enough bling to be used as a flashlight.
Chad was a realtor extraordinaire, one of those multimillion-dollar sales folks who only had clients in a high-level tax bracket. His demanding position required him to travel frequently to serve clientele on both coasts. Today he was in Beverly Hills where his college classmate, Pierce Collins—born Dennis Jones—had hooked him up with home sellers that he’d met through his cosmetic surgery practice. It was a viable connection and Chad was reaping the benefits. In fact, so was Dr. Collins, who received a commission for each deal that Chad turned from his patients.
Shayla was aware that Chad was the ideal husband that any young girl would desire. He seemed to literally worship her and live his life to provide a comfortable world for both of them. They had recently celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary and the one missing link was a child. At thirty-three, Shayla felt the second hand quickly moving on the clock, but she was skeptical about being a parent. She was determined to keep her figure and she wasn’t certain about dividing her time. Not that she was selfish but despite the pressure rising from Chad, she didn’t find that now was the right moment. Maybe somewhere down the line, she would realize it was time to succumb and welcome a child into their prestigious world.
The driver steered off the expressway, then proceeded along twists and turns on rural roads before stopping at a private entrance. A “No trespassing” sign awaited them as they crept slowly on the long dirt driveway surrounded by trees. Shayla gasped at the sight of a landmark in the image of a castle. The massive stone façade was jaw-dropping.
“Wow! What in the world?” she asked in disbelief of the storybook setting.
“Now this is what you call a home. Breezy Bend belonged to my great-grandfather who was a successful farmer who amassed a fortune,” Wilson explained as they slowly approached the spectacle. “We’ve kept it in the family for a century. Yes, you could call it a plantation but we razed it to a castle. My grandmother was obsessed with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and all those tales, so she wanted to create her own fantasy.”
“Fantasy isn’t the word.”
The driver parked in front of the awesome palace’s circular driveway. Wilson walked around to open the door for Shayla. She stepped out onto the steps as he led her to the huge ten-foot double doors. Once inside, Shayla truly felt like a queen. She walked through the foyer in amazement, soaking up the classic features in the sprawling replica of a castle. Tall ceilings and candle-lit sconces were throughout.
Wilson clutched her hand and proudly led her up the spiral staircase and into one of seven bedrooms. This one he called the Grapevine, where three bottles of fine wine sat on a table. He motioned to them. “The choice is yours.”
Shayla walked over and picked up each bottle, reading the labels intensely. Which one spoke passion? She was unfamiliar with them and chose a Riesling.
Wilson uncorked and poured the wine in two crystal glasses. He handed her one and they toasted again. “Cheers to the Grapevine.”
“Cheers,” Shayla repeated, then sipped. “Hmm, this is delicious.”
Wilson led her to a corner loveseat opposite a huge window where trees formed a scene from a Southern romance novel.
“This place makes me feel back in the day. It also makes me feel like somewhere in the South, my homeplace, New Orleans. We had a lot of mansions and plantations surrounded by weeping willows. This really takes me back.”
Shayla’s mind drifted to her school nights and weekends helping her dad in his extremely successful restaurant, Chez La Vie, in the French Quarter. She, too, had a background where traditions were full of pride and a valuable property had been handed down. Her dad’s father had opened the popular spot on the tourist map, and its Creole-Soul cuisine was worth waiting in long lines to experience. Shayla knew the family recipes by heart, although since married, she rarely spent time in the kitchen. If it were up to her, Chad might as well have put a sofa in it. However, her private chef, Natalie, was a talent to be reckoned with. Her dinners were prepared fresh with a creative spin, spoiling Shayla to evacuate from her own state-of-the-art kitchen. One day soon she would put her memory to test and show Chad once again that she still possessed her cooking skills.
Shayla was proud of her New Orleans heritage, although depending on her state of mind, her not-so-proud experience would ease its way in and block her thoughts. Shayla was the exemplary honors student at her high school. Even voted as the Most Likely to Excel. She also was the victim of an awful crime.
Being a standout cheerleader with a coveted, curvy figure had all the jocks craving for her attention. Only one player, tight end Rod Richardson, would be able to woo her as his girlfriend. The six-foot-five athlete at 235 pounds reminded her of a bodyguard who would protect her to no end. Girls often proved jealous and gritted on her for being the center of attention. Sometimes she was threatened and accused of trying to steal their boyfriends, or their so-called boyfriends. Shayla ignored their behavior and always held her head high with the utmost confidence. It wasn’t that she was snooty, but she had to emit a hard exterior to avoid physical attack. The verbal assaults were devastating, but she never could show that her knees could buckle.
During her senior year, following a football team victory, Rod suggested they meet in their favorite spot, an abandoned house near the wooded area of the field. Shayla agreed and wrapped up in her light fall jacket. While waiting for Rod, she attempted to make herself warm during the cool evening temps. After fifteen minutes, Rod finally entered and closed the door in the bedroom where a few blankets were piled on the floor. They both undressed and as he stripped off his last piece of clothing, suddenly, they were barraged by five of his teammates. Shayla felt so ashamed as each of the five brutally raped her, one by one, taking turns as they ran a train on her. She was so frozen and shocked at eighteen that she couldn’t get out a scream, only tears and whimpers. Rod, the only one whom she trusted, not only as a boyfriend but a friend, had planned the ultimate setup. She’d never said a word…to anyone.
“Are you okay?” Wilson noticed Shayla’s mental state had changed, and he didn’t think it was the effects of the wine.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she lied, zooming back from her past. Now she wasn’t sure she was in the mood. The sun was bright and peered through the windows, but at this moment, it didn’t provide an uplifting mood. Her mind was in a dark place. But she needed this badly and she zoned out. This time, she led Wilson by the hand and headed toward the four-poster canopy bed. Mr. Class, take me away from darkness. I need a dose of sunshine.
• • •
New Visions was abuzz. It was always the case whenever a celebrity was expected in the office. Word spread like wildfire that a local and hopeful national hip-hop star was due for a 2:00 appointment with Shayla. In fact, whispers on the previous day alerted the staff from the youthful and fashionable to the wannabe cougars to the prudish, seventy-five-year-old Joan who refused to retire. So all had arrived in full force in their pick-me-up outfits, with heels reigning supreme.
When the clock struck 1:50, the ladies started to emerge and place themselves strategically along the burnt-orange and olive-green sofas. Some stood in the hallway or pretended to cross back and forth between offices. Shayla’s male staff members were cool and visibly smirked at how this visitor brought out the wolves. All were aware that Shayla had a tendency to arrive barely before her scheduled appointments. Today was also a Wednesday when she often was late.
Shayla stopped in the ladies room on the first level and freshened up. She smoothed on her lipstick and straightened her hair to ensure each strand was in place. Satisfied, she left and walked to the elevator. When she entered her office suite, everyone quickly maneuvered to get in their respective places. Little did she know that it had been a chatfest before she’d arrived.
“Good morning…sorry, good afternoon. I’m still confirmed for my two o’clock, right?” she asked Camilla.
“Yes, ma’am,” Camilla responded, smiling about the prior scene, direct from a beauty pageant lineup.
“What did I tell you about calling me ‘ma’am’?”
“Mrs. Benson,” she corrected. “How’s your day so far?”
Shayla looked to see who was present. “It’s been wonderful.” She smiled. Yes, Class made sure of that. He keeps me satisfied. Pleasure comes before business. Despite her scheduled appointment, Shayla had ensured that her hump day started with a taste of Class.
“I’ll be in my office when Mr. Harrison arrives. You can bring him back.” Shayla strutted toward her office.
• • •
“Wow, you got a lotta pretty ladies up in here.” Blaze looked over at his bodyguard who nodded in agreement and then continued to peruse a magazine. “I wouldn’t get any work done.”
“Thank you and I’m sure you are used to pretty women wherever you go.” Shayla smiled at the tall glass of chocolate who was displaying his muscular physique in a form-fitting, black T-shirt.
“You know it. That’s one of the best things about performing. They follow me and my entourage,” he admitted, nodding toward Tory, who resembled a henchman. “But sometimes you can get tired of the groupies and wanna settle down, nah what I’m sayin’?”
“True, I understand.” Shayla unconsciously rubbed her ring finger. Marriage was a blessing, but sometimes you wanted a fling—except in her case, it was always. She cleared her throat. “How may I assist you, Mr. Harrison?” she asked, putting on her A-game.
“Please, call me Blaze.”
“Mr. Blaze,” she corrected.
He explained how he had become an Internet sensation, a popular D.C. artist whose style was a mix of homegrown go-go and hip-hop. The younger staff already had informed her of his crowd-pleasing antics. He incorporated gymnastics in his act. He was eager to move on to the national scene with live performances and expand his career. He didn’t want to become a one-hit wonder like so many of those who had inspired him. A makeover could assist in turning his world around. He needed sponsors and distribution.
Blaze, aka Robert Harrison, had grown up in Northwest D.C. where drug dealers attempted to recruit him to no avail. His mother had put the fear in him at a young age after her older son had been gunned down in the streets. She was overprotective of Blaze and encouraged him to pursue a natural talent. At sixteen, Blaze hooked up with neighborhood kids and formed a band. He was the lead singer and they performed regular gigs throughout the city. Now he was on his own and ready to continue the ride.
New Visions and Shayla Benson had a reputation for not only salvaging images but creating positive ones. As he shared his life story with her, he was uplifted by her vibe—smooth and assuring. Shayla jotted notes and promised she would come up with ideas for a future discussion.
• • •
“Ooo, baby, baby! Aw, right there. Yes, baby.” Shayla bit her tongue to keep from being a screaming fire alarm, waking up the hotel’s residents. Blaze continued to pound her as she was positioned on the wet bar of his lavish suite at the Marriott. His thrusts penetrated deeply as she gripped his back and pulled him toward her with a vengeance. She tossed her hair from side to side as sweat dripped from her forehead. She didn’t want to end up looking like a scarecrow and would be reluctant to see her fresh do gone limp. Oh, well, I can make another trip to the salon, but I can’t always get this kind of young loving.
Blaze was ten years her junior and it was rare for her to connect with a younger man, especially one with a taste of thug. She mostly hooked up with mature, established men whom she encountered in her upscale world. But it was something about Blaze that was raw and real and she loved it. She had a penchant for creating nicknames for her side jobs and decided she would call Blaze “Raw.” After their initial meeting, they had decided to meet at his hotel suite two days later. Shayla was about her PR business, but she also was on a mission for a sexual adventure. Why not mix business and pleasure?
“Ooh, I like it rough…keep going, baby…” Shayla was almost breathless while Blaze was quietly being fulfilled. Blaze was like a determined quarter horse in a race to the finish line. He banged her intensely and was all about satisfaction. Finally, they both exploded and she collapsed onto his shoulders.
The Trophy Wives
Shayla, Kyle, and Amber have a lot in common: stunning good looks, college educations, rich husbands, and—despite their affluent lifestyles— dissatisfaction with their lives. Each feels there is a void and seeks fulfillment beyond the routine of a trophy wife.
The three often draw support from each other, but despite their close-knit relationship, each has her own secret she’s not willing to share. So when another woman, Terra, befriends the trio, it isn’t certain whether she’s sincere or whether she has her own special agenda…
As the skeletons in their closets start to come out, Shayla, Kyle, and Amber discover that glamorous looks and coveted worlds cannot shield them from the realities of life. Discover what happens when scandal meets suspense among these smart, rich—yet vulnerable—women.