Authors: Jamila Jasper
The Devoted Winter
by Jamila Jasper
Copyright © 2015 Jamila Jasper
Table of Contents
Nadiyya and Slade had been best friends for years. It hadn’t been easy for her to get established in this podunk Vermont town, but when she met a white guy who actually
it, things became a lot easier. Slade wasn’t like other guys, who were only trying to get into her pants. He wasn’t like other
guys because he actually wanted to get to know her. He didn’t pigeonhole her into the role of ‘sassy black friend’ or use her to get into the pants of her white besties. Slade actually respected Nadiyya and that meant a lot to her, especially in her mid twenties when real friends were getting harder and harder to come by.
The two were both freelancers and artists, with Nadiyya a bit more grounded in practicality than her counterpart. After a year of working closely with each other, Nadiyya and Slade finally decided to join forces and actually start a business together. They wanted it to be big, but they needed the capital first. Nadiyya’s family had always been too poor to help. Her mom was a drug addict and her father had abandoned her mother before Nadiyya was even born.
Nadiyya and Slade were sitting together in the cheap one room ‘office’ they’d rented, trying to brainstorm ways they could pitch their business to venture capitalists and
get the revenue they needed. Vermont was small time and venture capitalists were more interested in eco-friendly businesses destined for failure than big ticket ideas that lacked a humanitarian lean. Two cups of coffee brewed in the background. Nadiyya’s heart was beating fast as she watched Slade on the phone. She smiled. He was so… Nordic in his appearance.
He paced around the room with the timbre and enthusiasm in his voice fluctuating and Nadiyya watched him, waiting for him to finally end the call and give her the verdict. Slade was average height, around five foot eleven. He was relatively thin but toned, with a bright mop of carrot colored hair on his head. Sometimes he wore it short, but in the middle of winter he let it grow out so he could almost put it in a ponytail. He dressed like a native Vermonter, but he was born and bred in Greenwich, estranged from his family for reasons that Nadiyya wasn’t quite certain of.
Occasionally, during moments of silence in his phone call, Slade would look up at Nadiyya and try to express what was happening with his eyes. ‘This guy’s giving me the run around’. ‘This is amazing’. Stuff like that. Nadiyya couldn’t wait for him to get off the call. Slade was getting more and more excited, his voice getting louder as he was clearly nearing the end.
“That sounds great Jason.”
“Just send me the invoice and I’ll get back to you.”
“Alright. You have a great day too.”
He hung up and opened his arms wide for a hug. Nadiyya hugged him and then pulled away excited. “So it’s good news?! We got the money?” she asked.
“Not quite,” Slade replied.
“Well then why are we so excited?” Nadiyya said.
“Jason knows a guy who is interested, but he is going to want to come in to oversee the project. He’s taking a big risk with us…” Slade trailed off.
Nadiyya was still excited. Slade was right. This was the biggest step they’d been able to take in months. Finally, they were going to have all the money they needed to make this work. Nadiyya was pulled out of her head by Slade pulling her in for a hug again. This time, his attitude had changed. It was more sensual. When Nadiyya tried to pull away, Slade planted an awkward kiss on her lips.
Nadiyya pulled away quickly.
“Slade what are you doing? We’ve talked about this. We’re just friends!” Nadiyya said. Although Slade had always been respectful of her boundaries, she could tell working so closely with him was starting to have an effect.
“I’m sorry Nadiyya,” he said. He turned away from her, clearly upset at her rejection, and began to pack his things. It had been the last item on the agenda for the day, so luckily Nadiyya didn’t have to spend the rest of the day skirting around the fact that her best friend had just tried to kiss her.
The two left the building and got into their separate cars. Nadiyya didn’t think anymore of what had just happened. She figured it was a spur of the moment mistake, brought on by the fact that they’d just had a major breakthrough. Slade, on the other hand, wasn’t so capable of letting go. He slammed his hands on the steering wheel as he sat in traffic. He felt rage welling up inside him; his inner monologue reminding him of his failure:
Stupid. You stupid asshole. You should have known she’d reject you. You thought she was different. But you were fucking wrong… She’s the same as all these other whores. Jackass! Idiot! Why do they all think they’re better than you? I’m a decent fucking guy but these girls only want assholes. They’re just put off by my intelligence probably… If only I looked like one of these douche bag alpha males. I’m so fucking ANGRY! I want to hurt her. I love her. I love her… I’m going to have her no matter what.
A near collision in an intersection snapped Slade out of his rage momentarily. But his mind still lingered on his goal to get with Nadiyya. He didn’t
to take no for an answer. Who was she to defy him? Who was she to decide that he wasn’t worthy? He wanted her and he felt as if he’d invested so much in her. He wouldn’t accept rejection, not this time. Slade knew that he could never get Nadiyya without using his ‘masterful intelligence’. He needed to be stealthy, subtle and devious. That was the only way to make a woman yours in the modern world.
The next day in the office was completely normal. There was not a hint of awkwardness between Nadiyya and Slade, which surprised both of them. A part of this was the fact that they were preparing for that venture capitalist to make his appearance. They tidied up their notes, chalkboard and work area in an attempt to appeal to this incredibly wealthy man. Nadiyya was nervous. She had no idea what to expect and she didn’t have the charisma that Slade seemed to have when it came to business. Business men just seemed more comfortable seeing the white male front to the business. Acknowledging and relating to Nadiyya was just way too far out of their comfort zone. Nadiyya just hoped this guy at least wasn’t blatantly racist. Working with him would be much too difficult if that were the case.
A knock on the office door sent chills down Nadia’s spine as she anticipated the arrival of the venture capitalist who had dared to take a chance on them. Slade got the door and let in the mysterious investor who held the key to their hopes and dreams.
“Good afternoon. I’m Lucian Wynter,” he said coolly.
The first thing Nadiyya noticed about Lucian was his confidence. It didn’t take her long to take in and ‘notice’ his good looks too. Lucian was around six foot two with a light tropical tan. His hair was dark brown and cut short. His eyes were an icy blue color that seemed to match the snowy wasteland outside. He stomped his boots on their office’s doormat and took his coat off as if he had just entered his own home and not an unfamiliar office.
“Good afternoon Mr. Wynter,” Slade said as he hastily hung up the man’s jacket and moved to shake his hand. It was obvious that Lucian was accustomed to receiving respect whether or not he’d done anything to earn it. Slade and Nadiyya hastily introduced themselves and bustled around trying to make sure that he was comfortable in their office. They didn’t have to do much. Lucian felt instantly at home. He pulled up at the main table in the office and sat down. “Well, pitch me your idea,” he said. He spread his legs and leaned back as if this were all a joke to him. Nadiyya felt instantly annoyed but she knew better than to bite the hand that was about to feed her.
Their sales pitch lasted less than ten minutes. Slade and Nadiyya were in sync to the point where they’d perfected their selling. They both eyed Lucian Wynter expectantly, waiting for his face to betray some notion of what he thought about their idea. “It’s good. I’m in,” he said, keeping his nearly goofy smile plastered all over his face. Nadiyya couldn’t help but worry that he thought they were just a big joke.
Something entirely different was going through Lucian’s mind. He hadn’t really heard a single word of their sales pitch. Damn. He hated when he got like this… But he couldn’t help it. That girl, Nadiyya Jefferson, was too beautiful for him to bother paying attention to a single word that came out of her mouth. He didn’t care what her business idea was as long as he got to work with her. Something about her was just intriguing.
And hell, he had the money anyways. Lucian found their bustling around him quite entertaining. During their entire pitch he watched them move around like anxious little bees. If only they knew where he’d come from and what he’d had to do to turn his family’s millions into billions. Maybe they wouldn’t have such blind respect and awe for him then.
When Nadiyya ended her pitch and clasped her hands respectfully in front of her, Lucian decided he’d seen enough. He simply had to get close to this anomalous woman. Yes, it would cost him and yes there were plenty of options out there but there was something about her that magnetically attracted Lucian. It was more than her appearance too. He didn’t come across many black women in his line of work and in fact he never had come across one who was so effortlessly beautiful and clearly uninterested in pursuing him. He also felt fascinated that this young would choose to work
in bumfuck nowhere, as an entrepreneur no less. It took some balls.
When Lucian leaned forward and verbally expressed his interest in working with them, he saw a genuine smile break out across Nadiyya’s face for the first time and realized he was hooked. Lucian figured it wouldn’t be hard to impress her. She was a young pup of an entrepreneur and he’d excelled in the world she desperately wanted to be a part of. Lucian was already envisioning how he would seduce her with his infinite knowledge and charm. Unfortunately, things weren’t going to be quite so simple.
Nadiyya absolutely despised working with Lucian. It hadn’t taken long for her to realize that the guy was a total pig. She figured she should have known from the first time he’d walked into their office as if he’d owned the place. Nadiyya tried her hardest not to let Lucian know how repugnant she found him. After all, he was their bread and butter. She just wished he would have given them the money and disappeared.
venture capitalists were satisfied with weekly check ins. But no, Lucian had to be right there, hovering over their project the entire way. Nadiyya felt sick of him within a few days and she wasn’t sure she could hide it for much longer.
The worst part of all of it was how Slade and Lucian seemed to disagree about everything. Slade had one vision, but Lucian insisted on turning his ideas over immediately. Nadiyya tried to support Slade and take his side but two against one had absolutely no effect on Lucian. He was always convinced that he was right. Lucian’s ideas seemed so out of this world impractical to Nadiyya too, but she couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he was right.
Eventually, she stopped wondering and decided firmly: Lucian was an asshole.
They were all sitting around with cups of black coffee discussing marketing strategies. Nadiyya had piped up with an idea that she thought was worth bringing up. Lucian seemed to barely consider her idea. His brow was furrowed. He was looking off into the distance staring profusely at some point on the wall. “That won’t work at all. We need something better,” Lucian said. Nadiyya was instantly turned off by how quickly he’d dismissed her idea without giving it a moment of consideration. Nadiyya was annoyed, but not foolish. She knew they needed the money.
Slade on the other hand was getting sick of Lucian too. His male pride had been bruised too many times by Lucian’s casually dismissive ways. On a lunch break, Lucian went out to make some calls and ‘try the local cuisine’ (as he’d told them in a mocking voice). Slade and Nadiyya huddled up alone together at the first opportunity they’d had in days. They were both equally infuriated by the way Lucian had hijacked their entire venture.
“I want out. Fuck this guy! He doesn’t get to make the choices around here!”
“He kind of does, Slade,” Nadiyya said calmly. She always tried to balance out Slade’s emotions when they started to run amok.
“Well I don’t like his attitude,” Slade replied.
“Neither do I but we have to deal with it.”
“He’s always staring at you, too,” Slade said, unable to hide his jealousy.
“What does that have to do with it?” Nadiyya probed.
“Nothing I suppose. I just don’t like it. He’s skeevy,” Slade mumbled.