St. Martin's Press
The elevator doors glided open on the twenty-sixth floor. Dapper, charismatic, handsome Kennard DuVall was dressed as sharp as a tack as he stepped out of the metal box onto the plushy carpeted hallway with his Presidential Suite keycard in hand and an enormous smile on his face. As he strolled down the hallway, he had every right in the world to be high on life: In a few hours, he was about to pull off promoting the biggest boxing match of the decade and it was going down in New York City, his hometown. Madison Square Garden had already sold out months ago, the pay-per-view numbers were record-breaking and like water, the money was pouring in like the floodgates had been broken down. Not to mention the star power and media that had come into town to either cover or witness the bout between Taymar Woodley and Jockney Jang, two of the most controversial boxers of modern days.
All was magnificent in Kennard's world. His money was right, his love life was tight, and in about six months, he was going to be a daddy. His best friend and love of his life, Unique, was expecting their first child. That last thought carved a colossal grin into his face. He felt like a Jack-o'-lantern that had just gotten lit up. In his mind, finding Unique was like finding a needle in a haystack, good karma, or something one of the gods had sent to him. She was everything any man could want. Drop-dead gorgeous, she had a beautiful personality, and was giving, caring, honest, loyal, a freak in the bed, and built like a superhero.
In front of the suite, Kennard paused. He put his ear to the door. It was a habit he'd picked up a long time ago. Though he completely trusted Unique, he never liked surprises. He couldn't remember what time Unique had mentioned that her glam squad would be there to get her all dolled up for the fight. He didn't think she really needed the makeup artist or hairstylist anyway; she was already a doll from the get-go. However, he understood the type of girl she was. She looked like a beauty from a Cover Girl commercial from the moment he met her and had maintained that same image throughout their relationship. He knew that she always wanted to look her absolute best for him and to represent him in the finest way possible, so he just rolled with the punches and bankrolled all the costs. From the other side double doors, all he heard was silence, so he was certain he could get a few minutes of alone time with his girl.
He wasn't known to be a trick-ass dude, and wasn't in the business of taking care of women, but Unique was different. She genuinely strived to make him happy--however, whenever. She always put him first, making him her priority, and for that alone, he was happy to provide her with anything her heart desired.
Down the hall, a woman got off the elevator and gave him a hard, strange look. She probably took him for a jealous husband, a thief, or even worse, a pervert. A little embarrassed, Kennard straightened up and removed his ear from the door before the chick's curiosity drove her to call security, a hassle he didn't need. Hell, he'd booked the majority of the rooms on his floor, plus suites on three other floors in the hotel as comps for boxers, their entourage and families, and his VIPs attending the fight. Kennard shot her a this-is-my-room look, and then sheepishly shoved his keycard down the mouth of the automatic lock. The light turned from red to green.
The Presidential Suite was as opulent as it was huge. A white baby grand piano was the focal point of the room. He smiled, thinking there was something about a baby grand piano that represented class and wondered about the people who had occupied the room before him, who actually played. Baby grands sat in many living rooms of the wealthy and upper class without a single soul in the dwelling even knowing how to play one note of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
A long dining-room table was off to the left and comfortably seated sixteen, and a sofa and loveseat were arranged around a gas fireplace that had a fifty-inch flat-screen TV over it. There were four bedrooms, two on each side, and Kennard headed toward the master bedroom, which was on the far right of the suite.
Once inside, Kennard could hear the shower running in the bathroom. He knew Unique wasn't expecting him. She had been so great about understanding how busy he was this week and not being on his heels, but keeping herself available when he needed her. They were supposed to meet downstairs later for pictures and then head out to the fight, but he knew she'd be delighted that he had found some extra time and decided to spend it with her.
Kennard felt bad about all the time he'd spent away from her over the past few weeks. Prior to this fight, they had spent a lot of quality time together, but he planned to make it up to her after the event was over. He was going to surprise her with a trip to Paris. Just the two of them--no assistants, no glam squad, no work, but plenty of play and monster shopping in the city of love. He'd already bought the plane tickets and had everything planned. He wanted to travel and to give her a good time before her belly started to show. Plus, travel would get harder, the further she was along.
He took off his suit jacket and thought about waiting until she got out of the shower, to surprise her. But then he remembered how long her showers usually were and changed his mind. He also didn't have that long before duty would call. He tossed his Armani jacket onto the chair in front of the bed. If he hurried, he could join her for a quickie shower.
Unique called it Aqua Sex. Sir Nose, a member of the classic group, Parliament, coined it Aqua Boogie. Kennard sang the lyrics to the old song as he turned the knob. "Aqua boogie...under water, doing it just for you-ou."
When Kennard saw Unique sprawled out on the floor, he thought she had fallen and bumped her head "Baby!" he called out, rushing over to her. But as he bent down to try to help her up, the blood and the bruises on her body quickly dispelled that belief.
The shower water had overflowed and mixed with Unique's blood, creating a crimson river all across the floor.
Kennard fell to his knees by Unique's side. "God, no." If she was breathing at all, he couldn't tell. He didn't want to acknowledge that judging from the circumstances, Unique's odds of living wasn't good but the thing he did know was that Unique was used to beating the odds. He prayed that she at least had enough strength still left inside of her to fight now.
"Baby, just hang in there for me. Please, baby." He prayed that she heard him. "I'm here, baby." He got no response from her.
"Who did this to you, baby?" His words echoed off the walls. He felt her neck for a pulse but there was none. He wanted her to answer him because it went without saying that whoever did this was going to pay. That wasn't a threat. It was a promise on everything he loved.
Kennard felt like he was having an out-of-body experience. The room started spinning slowly at first, then picked up speed. He felt a pain in his chest, like his breast plate had been cut open with the jagged edges of a broken Hennessey bottle by a blind surgeon who had had way too much to drink. He could feel a hand squeezing his heart until it was unable to pump the needed blood to other parts of his body. He felt numb, confused, sad, and angry all at the same time. His emotions were running wild.
He gave himself a mental pimp slap across the face and ordered himself to tighten the fuck up. This was not the time to lose it. He had seen blood before and had even inflicted wounds on men that produced more blood than this, so this wasn't new to him.
Kennard inhaled deeply, the way he used to calm himself down when he was in the boxing ring. More often than not, the technique usually helped him regain his composure. This time was a little different--it helped some but not so much.
Kennard knew that he had to get her immediate medical attention, but he didn't want to leave Unique's side. It was like a lightbulb went off in his head when he remembered that his cell phone was in his pocket and dialed for help.
"Nine-one-one, what's your emergency?" the operator said.
The woman's voice sounded jaded. As if she would have rather been somewhere else, doing anything besides what she was doing. That made three of them; he was sure that Unique didn't want to be there in this condition, either. At least the operator was getting paid, was conscious, and didn't have the unconscious love of her life in her arms.
He said. "My fiancée has been...," then paused, realizing that he had no idea what had happened to her. "I found her in the bathroom unconscious. Blood is everywhere. She has bruises all over her body like someone attacked her. Send help."
"Sir..." the operator asked after a brief pause that felt like an eternity, "can you tell me where you are calling from?"
He told the operator where he was.
Nonchalantly, she said, "A paramedic is on the way. If you like, you can stay on the line."
Kennard didn't even recall pushing the End button, and disconnecting the line. He grabbed the hotel phone that had been placed in the hotel's bathroom and called down to the front desk, where Sheila, the woman on duty, answered, and he briefly explained the situation. Unlike the emergency operator, Sheila wasn't inured to day-to-day fatal crises. Kennard had spoken to her the past couple of days about deliveries, VIP guests, and their wants or needs. His name warranted her attention, but his situation evoked panic in her voice.
"Oh my God!" she exclaimed. "I'm calling EMT right now, Mr. DuVall, as well as sending help up." She mentioned that the hotel had a house doctor--her inflection indicating that she wasn't sure if he would be much help but she said she'd already rung his phone.
Kennard thanked her and hung up, then clung on to Unique's hand and prayed to the Almighty for help.
Looking into Unique's slack face he thought, This can't be happening again. The thought wouldn't stop echoing inside his head.
This whole scenario was like someone had pressed the previous scene button on the DVD of his life. His mind flashed back nine years to when his former pregnant girlfriend, Kyra, had been kidnapped and murdered. He never wanted to experience that hollow feeling again, like his insides were being sucked out of his body, when he had to identify Kyra's body at the morgue. Her body had been mutilated by bullet wounds. The loss was immeasurable and he never thought he would recover.
Now, it was happening all over again, to him, his girl, and their unborn child. This couldn't be his life. He had been living the right way. He wasn't in the streets conducting illegal business anymore. This couldn't be his destiny.
But as sad as it was unfolding, it was!...
UNIQUE II Copyright © 2012 by Nikki Turner
NIKKI TURNER is the author of The New York Times bestseller Black Widow, the #1 Essence bestseller Forever a Hustler’s Wife, and the Essence bestsellers A Hustler’s Wife, The Glamorous Life, and Riding Dirty on I-95.