Full excerpt


I had some skills in the kitchen so I didn’t mind figuring this out. I started the turkey and used my tried and true Barefoot Contessa recipe. I had also brought over my signature dessert, a snickerdoodle cheesecake. Mark was definitely impressed by my cooking and wondered why I’d been holding out on him. 

I gave him a kiss on the cheek, “Keeps the intrigue alive,” I said with a wink. To be honest, we were just “hanging out” and not dating exclusively so I didn’t feel the need to reveal all my talents at once.

“More where those came from?” he asked hopefully.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” I chuckled smacking his butt.

“Very noncommittal,” he smiled, grabbing me by the waist and flinging me towards him.

“You know me,” I said teasing.

“I do know you,” he agreed. He kissed me sweetly. “You look very pretty, Tabby cat.” He had recently begun calling me that as a term of endearment. At first I didn’t know how I felt about it, but it had grown on me.

“Thank you. So do you,” I replied. Mark was more dressed up than I’d ever seen him. He usually wore jeans but today he was wearing khakis and a nice button up shirt. He had his hair back in a ponytail and had shaved his beard even lower than usual. “You want to make a good impression, I take it.”

“Well as much as I can. My mom hates my long hair and my beard so I tried to make it a bit more palatable for her. I think that’s why I mucked up the turkey; I’ve been preoccupied all week because of her visit. You really are my secret weapon. She’ll be so enamored with you that she may not give me so much grief.”

“Ah, you’re using me,” I smiled.

“For your beauty and charm,” he agreed putting his hand to his heart. “That shouldn’t be held against me.”

“Well when you put it like that….” I grinned. I loved our fun, little banter. “So tell me about your parents. I don’t know that much about them, and they’ll be here any minute.”

Mark shrugged. “I don’t know what’s important to share.”

“What are their occupations? What are their personalities like? What are their thoughts about black people?”

“Oh, gotcha. I would never put you in a crazy situation,” he promised looking me squarely in the face. 

“They’re liberal and open-minded. I’ve never heard them say anything cringe-worthy about people of color so it shouldn’t be uncomfortable – race wise.”

Was the subtext that it might be uncomfortable in other ways? What did that mean? Heaven help me.

“Ok,” I took a deep breath. “That’s good to know. I’m never certain what I may get when interacting with an older white generation. I’ve been around enough White people that it’s not a big deal for me to find common interests and topics but I’m also from the South so sometimes it can get dicey around certain ones.”

“I can only imagine, “Mark said. “I’ve been told some things from White people who thought it was ok to make racist remarks in front of me or to me. It’s made me extremely uncomfortable and it wasn’t even directed at me. So I get what you’re saying.” He reached for me, and I grabbed his hand.

“What did you do?” I asked curiously.

“I just told them that I didn’t think what they said was appropriate or funny and they stopped. They looked at me a little strange after that though.”

“Probably because they couldn’t believe you were a n-word lover,” I said under my breath.

“Well words are powerful things. Didn’t Maya Angelou say something about that?”

I looked at him. This guy never ceased to amaze me. He’s freaking quoting Maya Angelou now? 

“What?” he asked noticing that I was staring at him. “I read.”

“Apparently,” I replied laughing. “You’ve been holding out on me as well.”

“Well I believe someone told me that this ‘Keeps intrigue alive’.”

We laughed. “True. True. Well, Maya Angelou made a statement about words being ‘things’. She said to be careful when using racist pejoratives and sexual pejoratives because there’s power in words and ‘they get on the walls’, in your furniture and finally in you. I’m paraphrasing but anyway, she was right.”

“Is it weird that I’m turned on because you knew exactly what I was talking about?” Mark asked.

“I don’t know. Is it weird that I’m turned on that you even know about that quote?” I asked.

We looked at each other and there was so much tension. My heart was beating faster and my breathing had suddenly sped up. Mark was such a special guy, and I could tell that I was really starting to fall for him. This made me happy but also incredibly nervous.

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Oh right, his parents. I’d almost forgotten all about them.