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Authors: Nicole Bradshaw

Champagne Life

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Dear Reader:

How far would you go if your marriage was in financial decline? Well, find out how one couple deals with their growing debt in
Champagne Life.

Naomi and DeShaun are living the high life, like the title suggests. Their satisfying marriage and job security allow them happiness…until their employment takes a downward spiral and they face money woes.

The couple takes a plunge by sacrificing their morals in hopes of rescuing their situation. DeShaun, a waiter for a high-end restaurant, constantly attracts attention. When a wealthy couple, particularly the wife, adores his service, he falls for extravagant gifts. With Naomi's blessing, he provides companionship and all's well until he actually falls for the wife, Jenn.

Sometimes no matter how clever one sets up a plot to use or abuse a situation, it often backfires. Such is the case with this desperate couple.

You can check out how Nicole Bradshaw sets up the novel with its ebook prequel,
Caviar Dreams.

As always, thanks for supporting the authors of Strebor Books. We try our best to bring you the future in great literature today. We appreciate the love. You can find me on Facebook
@AuthorZane
and on Twitter
@planetzane
.

Blessings,

Publisher

Strebor Books

www.simonandschuster.com

This is dedicated to the Whitaker family. I think about us every single day.

Acknowledgments

As always, I'd like to thank the Lord for giving me a gift that I try to work on each day.

Thank you to Zane for allowing me to continue to do what I love to do (and get paid for it.) Many of you don't know, being a writer puts you out there for the world to see, so be kind to a writer this month. Thanks to Charmaine and Strebor for combing through my books to correct all my errors. (I try to keep them at a minimum, sorry. LOL!)

Thanks to my family and friends who “like” and comment on all my posts, even when they don't feel like it, especially Steve, my little/big brother. Thanks to Pops for hooking me up by sending out all those manuscripts when I wasn't able to—and not one complaint either. Don't think I don't appreciate it. Thanks to Dawn for talking my ear off about all those reality shows. Okay, I actually enjoy our talk/gossip for hours at time. They give me great story ideas. Thanks to Sharon for passing around all my information to potential readers. You probably don't know this but I do look to you for spiritual inspiration. Thanks to all those people in my life, good or bad, who have influenced me one way or another. The funny thing is, you probably don't even know it.

Most importantly, thank you to my family. Neal, Savannah, Brandon and Dylan, I love, love, love you guys so much—yes,
even when I'm frustrated. Thank you so much for putting up with me. I know I can be a teenie bit difficult sometimes.

Finally, thanks to my mother who helped raise some great kids. I know you're looking down on us, proud of who we have all become.

Seven Months Earlier

H
e scrunched up his face and narrowed his eyes. The tiny, protruding purple vein in his forehead began pounding. Slowly, he balled up his fists. “Nah, man,” he said between clenched teeth. “I don't believe I heard you properly.”

“Stop it,” I begged, but it was too late. He didn't even glance in my direction. His eyes were fixated on his mortal enemy, the man who had just told him that I was having his baby. “Did I hear you correctly? Did you say my wife was having your baby?”

I grabbed his arm, but he snatched it away, never once looking in my direction. “Please, let me explain!” I yelled.

The pulsating vein on his forehead was joined by another in his right temple. His breathing was heavy, like a wild beast on the hunt. I had never seen him like this before.

He took another step toward his enemy. The two men were standing toe-to-toe. Neither was ready to back down.

A gust of wind swooshed the front door open and the unseasonably warm winter rain landed in tiny droplets onto the foyer marble floor. The booming thunder was no match for the bedlam taking place inside our refurbished contemporary Philadelphia home. I would have given anything to be standing outside in the rain right now, to be anyplace but here.

I lowered my voice, attempting to calm him down. “Just go.” All he had to do was turn and head for the door; that was it, but it was
too late. With his left hand, my husband, who stood over six feet two inches tall, snatched up the much smaller guy, by the collar of his white shirt. He balled up his hand and, with his massive fist, struck the guy in the jaw. There was a cracking noise as blood gushed from the corner of the guy's mouth. He crumpled to the ground and landed with a hard thud. The fight was practically over before it began.

“Oh, God, please!” I screamed. “Stop it! You're going to kill him.”

My husband raised his fist again and down it went, crashing against the side of the guy's face, his eye already starting to swell.

I reached for my husband's arm, but he yanked it away before I could grab hold. “You have to go! Now!”

The scene may have been chaotic, but for a brief second, he looked up at me and our eyes connected. His eyes glassed over, almost as if an evil force had taken over. We had been together for several years, first as friends and then as lovers, but today, at this moment, it was as if I had never seen this person standing before me.

I thought the fight was over when my husband stumbled backward, but he still had the guy's collar in his grasp, causing the guy to fall back with him. They tousled on the floor for several minutes. The tables had turned; my husband was now the one on the bottom, his face being pummeled with fists of fury.

I grabbed the guy by his shoulders and tried pulling him off. “Stop it!” It was no use. A sharp, burning sensation traveled up my right side. I had been accidentally elbowed in the midst of the chaos. Seconds later, a stinging sensation moved down my left cheek and I realized I had been struck in the face. The blow didn't quite knock me out, but disoriented, I fell back. I reached up and held on to the wall to steady myself. Through blurred vision, I glanced over in the direction of the two men, who were still wrestling
about on the floor. This time my husband was back on top and pounding the guy with his fists. Blood was everywhere.

I scrambled over to my purse and rifled through it, looking for my cell. When I looked up again, I could only make out the silhouette of two bodies rolling about on the tiled floor of the hallway.

I located my cell and immediately tried to dial, but my vision was so blurred, I couldn't make out the numbers.

Clumsily, I punched in 9-1-1.

“This is nine-one-one emergency,” the operator said. “What is your emergency?”

“I need help.” My hoarse voice came out in a whisper.
“Please.
They're going to kill each other.”

“Please, ma'am, slow down. I can't understand what you're saying.”

“I need help.”

The guy stood over my husband while holding a round, light-colored object in his hand. There was a huge crash and pieces of my opaque wedding vase scattered everywhere.

Disoriented and with blood oozing from every orifice on his face, the guy on the floor grabbed a long, sharp sliver of the broken vase. He extended his arm and held out the jagged edge like a sword in a bullfight.

Like a bull, my husband stood up and charged, right toward the sharpened edge. There was a scuffle and the guy fell to the floor, a deep crimson liquid swelling from under his body

My legs buckled from underneath me and I fell to the ground. The faint sound of approaching sirens was the last thing I heard before everything went black.

Naomi and DeShaun
One Year Earlier

S
unday afternoons were my time of solace. At the age of twenty-eight, before getting married, I lived in a sexy, single apartment in downtown Philadelphia. I said sexy because the place always reeked of sex; not in the overpowering, recently finished getting down and dirty way; more like in an artsy way. More specifically, I took pleasure in displaying the sensual nude paintings on my walls of black men and women alone and as a couple. Back then, I liked to walk around naked when I was at home, especially in the sweltering summer months. It was my apartment and I did as I pleased. My single Sunday afternoons consisted of sticking in a Paulinho Moska CD and doing a little baking. It was something I enjoyed. Now, at thirty-two, things were definitely different. I was married and didn't hang out much with girlfriends because my husband had become my best friend. I had an older sister, but to say we weren't close was an understatement.

Back then, I never invited guys over much. I preferred to keep my space just that; my space. DeShaun and I dated a year before I even brought him over to my spot. I didn't want him becoming like the guy before him, who took all of two weeks to move out of his momma's place and into mine—without paying rent, a power bill or even a measly cable bill. That definitely wasn't going to happen again. DeShaun had his own spot and I had mine. My
momma didn't raise no two-time fool. You got one mess up; twice was not an option.

“Move a little closer to the cage,” DeShaun said. “That way I can get the full shot of your sexy body.”

I inched myself closer to the edge of the birdcage. It was in the middle of the summer and we were in the midst of a heat wave, the second one of the season. My peach-colored sleeveless summer dress stuck to my thighs as tiny droplets of sweat rolled down my back and settled inside the tip of my crack.

“I feel disgusting,” I complained.

DeShaun narrowed his big, doe-like gray eyes and scanned my body up and down as if he wanted to take more than the picture. He rubbed the tiny, coarse stubbles of hair on his chin and licked his thick, juicy lips. “I like sweat. That's why I married you.”

I stared him up and down, almost in disbelief that he was my husband. I never ever thought I would get married, especially to a man that was six years younger than me. Add the fact that he was born and raised in the Bahamas and this four-year marriage was damn near mission impossible.

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