Authors: Roslyn Holcomb
Tags: #bwwm, #interracial romance, #rock star sequel, #multicultural, #anthrax, #terrorism, #smallpox
Published by Roslyn Hardy Holcomb at
Copyright January 2012 Roslyn Hardy
All rights reserved. This copy is intended
for the original purchaser of this e-book only. No part of this
e-book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or
electronic form without prior written permission from Roslyn Hardy
Cover Artist: Whit Holcomb
This e-book is a work of fiction. Though it
might refer to historical events and actual places might be
mentioned, the names, characters, places and incidents are either
made up by the author or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
establishments, or locales is completely coincidental.
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For all my fans who clamored for Tonya’s
story, this one’s for you. And for my husband, Whit, who always has
my back no matter what mad scheme I dream up. I might crash, but I
know you’ll never let me burn.
“I can’t believe she’s bringing that man to
my party,” Tonya said as she flopped down onto one of the spa’s
luxurious manicure chairs.
“Who is bringing who?” asked Callie, her best
“Who is bringing whom,” Tonya corrected with
barely contained impatience. “My mama.”
Callie pursed her lips. “Ah so the him we’re
talking about is Reuben?”
“Of course it’s Reuben. Whom else has she
been living with since we were in high school?”
“Then that’s probably why she’s bringing him.
You need to calm down; this is no time to freak out.” Callie said,
her six months pregnant belly making her movements awkward as she
rose to study the nail polish colors on a shelf behind the manicure
“Who said I was freaking out?”
“You always turn into grammar girl when
you’re upset. Cut it out, it’s annoying,” Callie said.
“I can’t believe you of all people don’t have
a problem with this.”
“What do you mean ‘you of all people’?”
Callie asked with a distracted frown.
“You know what I mean. You’re the nice girl.
I’m so...not nice. The man is married to someone else
he’s the minister of our church.”
“It can hardly be called my church anymore.
Bryan and I hardly ever get back to Maple Fork now --”
Tonya rolled her eyes. “God, I really hate
you when you’re pregnant. You turn into a big placid cow. A
beautiful cow,” she admitted grudgingly, “but a cow
“There’s no need to insult me just because I
won’t call your mama the whore of Babylon over her unconventional
“Unconventional relationship? Is that what
they call living with someone else’s husband nowadays? Clearly
you’ve been in California too long. Here in flyover country we call
“Tonya, it’s been twenty years. I can’t
believe you’re not over this by now,” Callie said.
“You don’t know how it feels. I was picked on
and called a whore even when I was a little girl because of what my
mama did. His kids made my life a living hell. And what was worse?
I couldn’t even be mad about it. If my daddy had left my mama for
some woman I’d take it out on anybody I could.” She took several
deep breaths, trying to maintain her composure. She was not going
to get emotional over this; though she had a hard time believing
her mother didn’t know she’d have exactly this reaction, especially
right now. The stress of the past few weeks had taken its toll on
her equilibrium. She loved writing, but hated pretty much
everything else about the business. More than anything she loathed
doing promotions and publicity. Just thinking about the tour she
was about to embark on was enough to make her queasy. Not for the
first time she wished she could hire some type of body double to
take over that aspect of the job. Maybe she’d pitch the idea of a
stunt writer to Leslie, her agent, the next time she saw her. Yeah
right. Her publisher didn’t even want to pay for regular publicity;
somehow she doubted that even Leslie, whose predatory tendencies
were the stuff of legends, had a shot at getting any more money out
Callie reached out to give her hand a
sympathetic pat. “I know Tonya, I was there. I think every fight I
got into at school was because of someone picking on you, but I’m
not going up against your mama. For one thing, it’s none of my
business. And for another, I’m scared to death of her. I’m pretty
sure she’d whup my butt, and if she didn’t, my mama would.”
Somehow Tonya resisted the urge to scream.
“Everybody’s scared of Mama. That’s part of the problem. Folks let
her do whatever she wants because they’re afraid of her. Who else
could get away with living with someone else’s husband all these
years in a town the size of Maple Fork?”
“Look at you selling wolf tickets like you’re
not terrified, too, but you have got a point. However, I don’t
think this little tantrum has anything to do with your mama
shacking up with Reverend Davis.” Having chosen a polish, Callie
sat down at the manicure station next to Tonya.
It had been mean to call her friend a cow,
especially since Callie had never looked more beautiful. Her rich
sienna-hued skin glowed as though lit from within. Sure she was
absolutely huge, but she looked like a fertility goddess, which was
fitting as she and her husband Bryan were apparently determined to
populate the earth with little entrepreneurs and rock stars. Tonya
couldn’t stop a pang of envy. She loved Callie and adored her
two-year-old twins. That she would love the new baby just as much
was a given, but she longed for a husband and family of her own. At
one time she’d thought -- she shook her head. Going down that path
was pointless. It was best to leave the past in the past.
“So what exactly do you think you know?”
“I think you’re projecting. I mean Mrs.
Stephens has had the man hanging around more than half our lives.
It’s not like you give a damn about what the public thinks of you.
clear on more than one occasion,” Callie
said with a wry twist of her lips.
“It’s not that I don’t care. I just refuse to
live my life based on it. I learned that lesson early on.”
“See, there? Some good did come out of your
Tonya rolled her eyes at her friend. “Yeah,
right. I doubt there will be a scandal about it, if that’s what you
mean, but I’m still not looking forward to it. This night is
important to me. I’ve worked hard for it. I just hate to think of
anything going wrong, and I can’t imagine anything wronger than
“Hey, we’re not in the locker room anymore.
Nobody’s going to jump you, and if they do, well, I’ve got your
Tonya pursed her lips, looking dubiously at
her friend’s enormous belly. “I’m thinking you might need to phone
that one in.” Callie laughed and Tonya joined in. Then the
always-diplomatic Callie changed the subject.
“So what do you think of this salon?” she
asked casually. Too casually.
Tonya looked around the stylishly appointed
spa. The soft shades of taupe and cream stood out against exotic
hardwoods. The aestheticians wore coordinating smocks. The place
was cleaner than a surgery theatre, yet somehow managed to maintain
a warmth that belied the rather antiseptic colors. She could only
imagine that the lush plants that were strategically placed
throughout the building helped add coziness to the atmosphere. She
wasn’t sure, but she sensed there was feng shui involved. The
furniture was also quite fabulous. Unlike most modern furniture, it
was actually made for sitting. She shifted around on the buttery
soft leather seat. She’d been thinking about getting some new
pieces for her place and knew good leather when she sat on it.
These chairs were covered in top grade stuff.
“I think it’s great. Let me guess, you want
to buy it.”
Callie shook her head as though exasperated.
“We already have. You really need to start paying more attention. I
told you about this six months ago. I swear girl, if I wanted to, I
could rob you blind.
Tonya pursed her lips. She should’ve guessed.
Callie maintained a schedule that only an avowed Type A personality
could love. She rarely took time to pamper herself, typically
reserving that treat for when she wanted to investigate a company
for acquisition. This was the third one they’d looked at; deals had
fallen through on the other two. “If you were the type to rob me
pay more attention. I ate glue with you in
kindergarten. You taught me how to eat pickles with Now or Laters
in them. I know who you are.”
Callie suddenly made a face. “Please. Just
the thought of that makes me queasy.”
“Everything makes you queasy here lately.
It’s strange. You weren’t that way with the twins.”
“Each pregnancy is different.” Callie sighed
and rubbed her belly. “Are you ready for the party tomorrow night?
It’s going to be so cool. My best friend is a
New York Times
best selling author. I can’t believe your IHOP books have made it
Tonya gritted her teeth reminding herself
that her friend was pregnant and not firing on all cylinders. “It’s
not IHOP, it’s Waffle House. And the books are not about Waffle
Houses. The lead character just works in one.” At that moment,
their manicurists joined them at their respective stations. After
inquiring about their preferences the ladies began to work. Tonya
felt somewhat guilty about the state of her hands and she didn’t
even want to think about her feet, which were next on the agenda.
She’d been in deadline hell for months and hadn’t bothered with
either. She continued the conversation. “I’m very excited, too. I
never thought I’d have a big glamorous New York party in my honor.
I just wish Mama was coming without her boyfriend.”
“The gallery is the perfect venue for the
party. They have everything ready. Very professional and efficient.
I love the place,” Callie said.
“I can’t believe the way you’ve taken to big
city living and the celebrity lifestyle. You were so afraid of
having to deal with the paparazzi when you and Bryan first got
together,” Tonya said.
Callie shrugged. “What could I do? Bryan’s a
celebrity -- ”
“And you are too. How many reality shows have
they offered you? With and without Bryan. Once all that tabloid
mess went down, you were a genuine star.”
“Bryan would rather have his fingernails
removed than cater to that kind of foolishness. Can you imagine us
on a reality show?” she asked with a delicate snort. “Bryan would
kill all the producers the first day. Anyway, he’s a genuine star,
and he’s the man I love. Besides you and I both have lived in a
fishpond all our lives. Small towns are like that. This is the same
except on a larger scale. Bryan and I manage to have our privacy
when we really need it.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks so much for putting
this together for me. I’d rather have a daily Brazilian wax than
socialize,” Tonya said.
“What a hermit,” Callie chided. “Your
appreciation is duly noted, but I didn’t do much. It was mainly
“Amazing as she is, my publicist could not
get this many celebrities to come to a book release party. I don’t
want to think about the favors you must have called in.”
Callie shrugged again. “Trust me; I’ve had to
do worse. How are you liking your rooms at the hotel? Is your mama
staying in your suite, or is she going to want something
“For God’s sake Callie, the suite has three
bedrooms. No point in letting them go empty. I think Roshonda’s
“Oh, I didn’t think she was coming,” Callie
“She changed her mind, or rather, I changed
it for her. She’s been moping over that thug life ex-boyfriend of
hers for too damned long. Bright lights and big city is just what
she needs to cheer her up.” She made a dismissive gesture with the
hand the technician wasn’t working on. “Anyway, I’ve got a meeting
with my publicist and then I’m off on tour the next day and won’t
see Mama again for a few weeks. So I thought it would be a good
idea to have her in my suite. You know how she gets when I don’t
come around for a while.”