Manny is coming off his best season ever, bringing with him a freshly inked 250-million-dollar-plus contract. After a chance meeting, Charisma sees an opportunity to start anew, and she and Manny attempt to build a relationship. The sex might be good, but will their omissions and the deeds of their past come back to haunt them?
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Nothing Will Go Wrong
Baltimore, December 29 ...
"If you don't care whether you live or die, then just g'on ahead and shoot yourself, already. Just g'on ahead and get it over with." She shrugged her shoulders just to add insult to her rebuke of Uncle Vess's bluff.
Charisma didn't mean to speak so harshly to her uncle, but the man just wouldn't listen to any kind of reasoning. He'd been her legal guardian since she was eight years old, eighteen birthdays ago. Hands down, he was the strongest man she knew, and by far, he was also the most stubborn.
Uncle Vess was smack-dab in the middle of a knock-down, dragout bout with the flu and was confined to his bed. If the battle were a prizefight, the flu would have raised the belt about three or four rounds ago. He was barking louder than a dog and looked a hot mess. His pecan complexion was looking kind of green, and something slimy kept coming from his nose. And he couldn't get a good sentence out, because a couple of sneezes always beat him to it.
The last time Charisma checked Uncle Vess's temperature, the digital thermometer had read 101 degrees. Their family doctor had made Charisma promise that if her uncle's temperature rose more than another two or three degrees, she would get him to the emergency room immediately, whether he wanted to go or not.
Good luck with that, she thought. She'd have a better chance at success if she tried to get a Sunni Muslim to chow down on a honey-glazed ham sandwich. Uncle Vess hated hospitals, and he didn't trust doctors. So the likelihood of getting him to an emergency room was slim to none. And Slim was out for lunch.
"Don't be so dramatic. ... I'm fine," he croaked.
His voice was so hoarse, it sounded like his vocal cords were made of worn leather. And sweat oozed from his pores like beer from a leaky tap, although Uncle Vess hadn't touched as much as a drop of alcohol in more than twenty years.
"Sure you're fine, Uncle. That's why your skin is such a healthy shade of green and as clammy as a bowl of Boston chowder," she said.
"Fine or not, there's no way —" More coughing. It sounded like at any moment he might spit up a lung. "In hell I'm going to let a little cold ..." Cough! Cough! "Stop me from taking care of my business." After catching his breath, he went on. "If I don't get this shipment of liquor from my dude, we may not be able to keep the doors of Legacies open much longer."
Legacies Bar & Grill — a trendy bar and eatery in downtown Baltimore — was Uncle Vess's life. The establishment had been opened in 1923 by his great-grandfather Latimar, but it hadn't become legal until ten years later — post-Prohibition. Latimar was one of the first black men in the city of Baltimore to own a legit tavern. At one time or another, hustlers from up and down I-95 had paid homage to Legacies back in the day. Big Latimar had lived to be seventy-three. And before he passed, he'd gifted Legacies to his eldest grandson, Lewis. And before Lewis passed, he'd gifted the family business to his oldest boy, Sylvester.
Three generations in all.
But recently, Legacies had fallen on really hard times. The trouble had first surfaced when Uncle Vess's wife, Sandra, woke up one morning feeling funny. Sluggish and depleted of energy. Aunt Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer after one visit with a specialist. Uncle Vess did everything in his power to keep her alive. When the hospital bills ballooned and got out of control, he took a second mortgage out on the bar to help foot the tab. And with the help of a team of the best doctors and medications money could buy, Aunt Sandra fought the ugly disease for seven years, before dying in her sleep. That was four summers ago.
The loss devastated Uncle Vess. And he never fully recuperated from either the loss of his wife or the financial quicksand he'd fallen into.
"I booked Fabiola ... Chaka Khan, and a top band to perform on New Year's Eve," he said, then broke into a fit of coughing. Then, as suddenly as it began, the coughing stopped.
"I know, Uncle Vess." Charisma had spoken to both of the artists' managers and had booked hotel suites that were of their liking.
"Then you know we just don't have the money to pay retail for all the liquor we need." He shook his head in shame. "And, sadly, if we don't have the alcohol to sell, we won't make enough money to even keep the lights on. And the light bill will be the least of our problems, baby girl ... because if the mortgage isn't made, the bank is going to padlock the door. Permanently!" Uncle Vess tried to push up from the bed. When he got to his feet, his legs shook, then went limp like two wet noodles just before he collapsed back onto the mattress. "Shit!" Charisma tried to console him. "Maybe you'll feel better tomorrow. The party isn't for another two days."
Uncle Vess scowled. Charisma wasn't sure if the expression was from the pain he felt or from what she'd just said.
She went on. "I know it's cutting it close, but still —" "If the deal doesn't go down tonight ..." Cough! "It's a wrap. The connect will sell the liquor to someone else. I talked him down from thirty thousand to twenty thousand for a hundred thousand worth of top-shelf booze. He'd be a fool to sit on it for an hour longer than he needs to, let alone another whole day." Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze. "I'm fucked."
Charisma had never heard her uncle sound so defeated, and it was making her sad. If she was feeling awful about hearing it, she could only imagine how he was feeling, given that he had actually given voice to what was truly a reality. She had to do something.
Charisma got a bright idea. "I'll do the transaction," she said.
She'd worked at the bar since she was fourteen. Even when she'd gone off to college, she'd come home and worked the bar during the summers and on holidays. She'd met her uncle's bootleg connect on many occasions as he came into the bar all the time. He was a tall older fella with a clean-shaven head. Her uncle and a few regulars at the bar called him Shampoo. Charisma thought back. Hadn't her uncle once told her that back in the day he and Shampoo went to Lake Clifton High School together?
"It's not going to happen," Uncle Vess said firmly between coughs as he picked up an open bottle of Tylenol cold medicine from his night table. "If it was a legal transaction," he said after downing what was left of the bottle, "that'd be one thing. But I'm not about to send my favorite niece, or any niece of mine, for that matter, to do not a damn thing illegal."
Charisma tried to reason with him. "It's either that or we lose the bar. You said it yourself. What's the alternative? And who else can we get to do this?"
Cough! Cough! "No!" Cough. Cough. Cough. "Hell no."
"Look, we can't just quit and lose the one major family heirloom we have. Grandpa Latimer worked his tail off for this and entrusted it to us. Sometimes a girl gotta do what a girl's gotta do."
She could tell that he was thinking deeply about the solution she'd offered, so she made it easier for him to agree. "I can get Chucky to ride with me," she said. "He's been calling me to come pick up my Christmas gift, anyway. And he has a Denali truck."
"If anything were to go wrong, I would never be able to forgive myself."
"Nothing will go wrong."
"Do you have the money?"
Charisma didn't recognize the voice on the other end of the line, but she was sure that it didn't belong to Shampoo.
"Whom am I speaking to?" At that moment she hated herself for talking so proper. The man would probably think that she was a square.
But she didn't think he would accuse her of being Five-O.
"No." She sucked her teeth. "I'm not the police. Why would you even ask that?" she said to the stranger on the phone, starting to feel majorly uncomfortable. She was sitting in the front passenger seat of Chucky's truck, which was parked behind an old warehouse on the west side of Baltimore. Twenty thousand dollars neatly stacked inside two bank envelopes rested on her lap. Maybe this wasn't the best of ideas, she thought.
"Because I don't know you," said the guy on the other end. "That's why. I was supposed to be meeting with the ole head nigga, Vess, and some chick calls my phone, talking all proper and shit. What da fuck!"
He was just as nervous as she was.
"Well," she calmly explained, "I'm not the police. We can be clear on that." She paused for a moment. "And," she reminded him, "I don't know you, either. I was supposed to be calling Shampoo's phone to take care of some business for my uncle Vess, who is at home, sick with pneumonia. And you answered. So it seems we both are somewhat blind."
"Blind people bump into things."
Chucky asked Charisma, "What's wrong?" He could tell by her expression that something wasn't kosher.
"The booze connect" — she stared at her phone — "like, just hung up on me."
"Maybe we should bounce," Chucky suggested.
"Nah, we can't. I have to make this happen for my family, or we are going to lose everything."
Charisma redialed the number she'd got from her uncle. She had no intentions of quitting because of a little hiccup. She'd convinced her uncle to let her handle the business, and that was what she was going to do. Handle the business. Besides, the life of the bar was on the line. What choice did she have other than exhausting all her options before she even considered giving up?
He picked up. "Listen," the man said, "I'm hanging up. And don't call back."
"Wait!" Charisma shouted before he disconnected again. "I'm not the police. If you ask Shampoo, he'll tell you I'm good people."
A couple of beats went by. It felt like an hour.
"Are you alone?" he asked.
"Except for the driver of the truck I'm in," Charisma said quickly.
"Do you have the money?"
"The amount my uncle and Shampoo agreed upon."
"That's not what I asked you, is it? What's the agreed-upon number?"
Charisma told him, "Twenty."
He must've been cool with what he heard, because he said, "Get your driver to back into the loading dock that is farthest to the left. He stays in the truck. Got it? You get out and walk up to the gray door. Come inside. Once you're inside, I'll count the money and you can inventory the boxes, if you like. Then I'll have the boxes loaded onto the back of your truck. Can you handle that?" She said that she could. The call ended.
"Back the truck in over there," Charisma told Chucky as she pointed to the spot where the man on the phone had told her to park.
Chucky wheeled into the loading dock with one hand and without looking over his shoulder, using the rear-view mirror to navigate instead. He slipped the Denali into park once he was satisfied with his handiwork. "Are you sure you're good? Who's going to pack the boxes in the truck?" he asked.
"The man on the phone said that he would have someone load them for me. He said that it wasn't a problem."
She was about to get out of the truck when Chucky stopped her. He looked around. Most of the buildings in the neighborhood had been abandoned or were in need of renovation. But that was the case for a third of the city. "I don't care about what's a problem for dude," Chucky said. "My concern is with you. How
do you feel?" "I feel fine. But if it makes you feel better, call my uncle if I'm not back in ten minutes."
This time she got out of the truck.
She shut the door, leaned into the open window. "What's up?" Chucky smiled and said, "You're beautiful. Just wanted to say that. That's all."
"Boy, you crazy."
Charisma and Chucky had been friends for a while. But lately, the brother-and-sister feelings they had for one another had started to feel different.
"Fo' sho'," Chucky said. "Crazy about you."
Charisma walked away from the truck without responding. The two envelopes of money were in her purse. She headed to the gray door and was about to knock when she remembered that the man had said to come in. So she tried the knob. When the knob turned, she pushed the door open and stepped inside. She was surprised by what she saw. The warehouse was brightly lit and relatively clean. For some reason, she had expected it to be dim and dirty. She had no idea why she'd imagined it to be that way, but she had.
In one of the corners, crates of liquor were stacked atop other crates. Each tower of booze was at least fifteen feet high. Hennessy, Patrón, Cîroc, 1800. And a forklift. Deeper into the warehouse was a tiny office. The door to the office was open. Inside, a guy sat behind a desk, talking on the phone. The guy behind the desk was slim and wore dark blue jeans and a pair of tan Timberlands. Once he noticed her, he waved her over.
The office was a little less than a city block from where she stood. And by the time she covered the distance, the guy had ended his call. The first thing he said when she entered was, "Where's the money?" No small talk at all, just straight to business.
Charisma fished the two bank envelopes from her Coach purse, laid them on the old wooden desk. Dude scooped up one of the bank envelopes from the desk, opened the flap, and thumbed through the crisp new bills. He seemed pleased.
"By the way," he said, "my name is Joe."
Then Joe went into the desk. And pulled out a gun.
"Now, sit your ass on the floor while I think about what I'm going to do with you."
As she sank to the floor, Charisma remembered how her conversation with Uncle Vess had ended.
If anything were to go wrong, I would never be able to forgive myself.
Nothing will go wrong.
"Shampoo and my uncle went to school together. Lake Clifton. They're friends, like, really good old-time friends," Charisma said.
Joe shoved the money into his jeans pocket. "I wouldn't give a fuck if they'd went to Sunday school together, bitch. Twenty K is twenty fucking K. If it had been your uncle, he'd be dead already. You ... Well, I haven't decided yet. It's a coin flip." Joe spoke as cavalierly as a man trying to decide which fast-food joint he would choose for lunch.
Charisma almost pissed herself, but she tried not to show that she was scared fucking shitless. "What about my friend?" she said. "Just let us go, and you can keep the money."
"Well," Joe said, "thanks for the generosity." He looked at his watch. "But your friend is already dead." He'd sent his partner out the side door to smoke the driver of the truck. He was on the phone with the shooter when the hammer dropped. "And the money is mine, either way."
Right then, Charisma's heart dropped. She had got Chucky killed and had lost the bar on a bad play. She might as well be dead herself.
As if he could read her mind, Joe pointed the silver revolver at her head.
"I'll give you a choice," he said. "Because you're a pretty bitch. I can give you one last fuck before I kill you — who knows how long it may last? — or I can just pull the trigger now. It's your choice."
The choice was easy. "I'd rather die than watch you put your stinking dick inside of me," she said.
"Like I said, it's your choice."
He dropped the hammer.
The damage from the hollow-point .357 was catastrophic. Shattered bone and brain matter splattered all over the wall, creating a chilling portrait of violence. Death was instantaneous.
"Are you okay?" said a male voice.
Charisma was confused, until Chucky helped her up from the floor.
"I — I thought you were dead," she said, in shock.
Chucky looked her over, making sure that she wasn't hurt. "I thought the same about you," he admitted before giving Charisma another inspection. "Are you sure that you're good?" "As good as one can be after coming within a millisecond of death's door. But the guy, Joe — if that's even his real name — said that you were dead."
"I'm from South Baltimore. We don't go without a fight. I didn't feel right from the jump. So I got my strap from the glove box as soon as you went inside."
"Where did you get a gun?"
"That's not important. It's a good thing that I had it. Dude thought that he'd caught me slipping. I played like I didn't see him creeping. He was talking to someone through a Bluetooth. That may have distracted him. I don't know. But when he got to the side of the truck and tried to swing in my direction, the surprise was on him. I dumped on him."
Charisma thought that she was going to be sick. "You killed him?"
"It was either him or me," Chucky told her. "Under the circumstances, it was an easy decision."
"I guess you're right." The boy she'd gone to school with had killed two people in one night and had saved her life in the process. "Thank you," she said.
"That's what friends are for," he said. Then he asked, "Where's the money?"
"He put it in his pocket."
Chucky walked over to the dead man, bent down, and took the envelopes out of the man's pocket. "Think I seen a forklift back there. I'm going to load some of this here booze for your uncle. It'll only take a minute. The buildings on either side of this warehouse aren't occupied, so no one would've heard the shots. I don't think, anyway."
Excerpted from "Charisma: Baller's Wife"
Copyright © 2017 Nikki Turner.
Excerpted by permission of Urban Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Nothing Will Go Wrong,
Chapter 2 - Life Is Good,
Chapter 3 - F*#k That,
Chapter 4 - Red Flags,
Chapter 5 - Bye, Bitch,
Chapter 6 - Not on My Watch,
Chapter 7 - Be Careful What You Ask For,
Chapter 8 - Good-bye,
Chapter 9 - The Shining $tar,
Chapter 10 - Early Pregnancy Test,
Chapter 11 - Pour Out a Drink,
Chapter 12 - Served,
Chapter 13 - Dinner for One,
Chapter 14 - Fresh Start,
Chapter 15 - Reality Check,
Chapter 16 - Good Morning, Beautiful,
Chapter 17 - Flowers & More Flowers,
Chapter 18 - Please ... Not the Fiat,
Chapter 19 - Tricking Off,
Chapter 20 - Cat's Out of the Bag?,
Chapter 21 - Check Please,
Chapter 22 - $h#tt* Mess,
Chapter 23 - Stalker,
Chapter 24 - Easy Money,
Chapter 25 - Background Check,
Chapter 26 - Breathe,
Chapter 27 - Who da F#ck Are U?,
Chapter 28 - Homework,
Chapter 29 - Chiraq,
Chapter 30 - Maryland State Prison,
Chapter 31 - New Home Away from Home,
Chapter 32 - Checkmate,
Chapter 33 - Leaving ...,
Chapter 34 - Get This Money,
Chapter 35 - The Hustle Is On. ...,
Chapter 36 - The Jam,
Chapter 37 - The Birthday Girl ...,
Chapter 38 - Club Shine,
Chapter 39 - In the Wee Hours,
Chapter 40 - Now Scram. ...,
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Nikki Turner never disappoints her readers!!! Loved this book.
Read it in a few hours!!
I love this book. Couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait for the part 2
The book was amazing!!! I hope part 2 is released very soon.