Book excerpt

Always Unique

Unique

Nikki Turner

St. Martin's Press

THE FOOT DRAGON

 
Unique tried not to rack her brain to figure out the why, where, and who of the mysterious note. She hadn’t the foggiest idea who had put it there or why. Besides Kennard, she barely knew anyone in New York. As big as the apple was, why in the hell did someone have to try to take a bite out of her?
After thinking long and hard, Unique could only come up with a few logical explanations for the letter.
Could someone have mistaken my car for someone else’s? I mean, there are a bunch of Mercedes driving around New York City. Maybe the note could be meant for Kennard? He does drive this car a lot. And, I know his business tactics are mostly on the up-and-up, but nevertheless, just like me, he’s had his share of the streets some years ago. Or, wait a minute! What the hell am I thinking? It could be one of Kennard’s ex-bitches trying to start some shit. I wish a bitch would try to come between me and Kennard. These NY chicks don’t want to get me started! They don’t know me and got me fucked up! Sorry bitches—you snooze, you lose. Your loss, my gain. Bitches kill me … old news, I’m the new news! Fuck outta here!
Unique was getting too worked up about the letter. To keep herself from going crazy, she made a conscious decision to not let it rent any more room in her head. She had too many positive things going on.
Since she had the day off from school, she decided to spend the afternoon hunting for the perfect pair of shoes to go with a teal dress that she’d bought last week. Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and a couple of boutiques later, she fell in love with a pair of must-have Christian Louboutin designs. Three shoe-gasms later, and a visit to the spa for her biweekly wax as well as a hot stone massage to relax her muscles. She knew that later that night at home, she was destined to finish what she started at Kennard’s office. It was close to 8 P.M.—7:59 to be exact—when she was done, and just like clockwork, her phone rang.
Good-looking, rich, and punctual, she thought. How often does a man like that come along? And how lucky can one girl be?
“Hello, my love!” she answered, with all smiles.
“Excuse me, I must have the wrong number.”
“Oh, you got jokes?” she said. Even if the caller ID hadn’t done its job, Unique would have known Kennard’s brisk, sexy, thick New York accent anywhere.
“I hope you’re on the way to Jersey now, making your way home.”
Unique checked the side mirror and then changed lanes. “Twenty minutes. I’m in the car now.”
“Good,” he said.
“That’s it? Only good? I got a better welcome by the waiter at lunch,” she teased.
“Now you’re the one with jokes.” If there was one chink in Kennard’s confident exterior, it was his jealous streak. “We missed the ESPN piece. It aired late last night. I’ve been getting calls about it all day.”
ESPN conducted an in-depth interview with Kennard, focusing on his success in and out of work. It was filmed at three locations: his office, his boxing gym, and his home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where lighting had been set up in the great room that showcased his opulent furniture and lifestyle.
During the interview, the reporter asked what Kennard did in his spare time, and without hesitation, he said, “I try to spend as much of it as possible with this lady here.” The cameraman got a close-up of Unique, who was sitting off to the side, admiring her man. Kennard continued, “We enjoy our life together and the fruits of my hard work.”
“OMG! OMG! OMG! Babe, that’s so great!” Unique knew how much he’d been looking forward to it. “How come no one told you when it was airing? That’s crazy that we missed it, but even crazier that we didn’t even know it was coming on.”
“They put it on a few days earlier than planned. One of the producers at the network tried to contact me but he couldn’t get through.”
“And he didn’t leave a message?”
“Actually, he did try,” Kennard said sheepishly, “but you know”—he paused—“my voice mailbox was full.”
Unique had chastised Kennard for months about clearing out his voice mail. “Kennard…”
“I know,” he said, before she could beat him up about it. “I need a better assistant.”
That wasn’t what she was thinking at all. His assistant, Roger, couldn’t reach him half the time and neither could the receptionist, Sandra. But she knew how busy Kennard was. In all actuality, even though Unique knew that Sandra wasn’t in her fan club, she still felt sorry for the woman because Kennard not only did exactly what he wanted to do but he was all over the place. Her job was impossible, and the poor woman was always busy, but she would have to admit he juggled everything the best he could.
“You know how it is, though,” Kennard continued. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s why I made a promise to myself to clean out my messages every day from now on.”
“Sounds like a great idea,” she said sarcastically. “An idea that I’ve been trying to make a reality for like nine months now.”
“I’m full of good ideas, baby. That’s why I’m with you.”
“That’s not all you are full of, either,” she said.
“You’re making reference to the bulge in my pockets or the one in my pants?” he teased.
“Neither.”
“What?” He sounded shocked and offended.
“Okay. You’re definitely packing where it counts, but…”
There was a click on the line; someone else was trying to get through to him.
“I hafta take this call, babe. See you when you get here. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
After hanging up, Unique turned the music up. The words “I love you” soothed every muscle in her body. Her jam, “Motivation,” was on the radio and she began singing out loud. She’d butchered the first three verses of Kelly Rowland’s song when she noticed a car behind hers. It was a dark-colored, late-model Honda. And now that she thought about it, she was almost certain that she had seen that same car when she left the spa.
Unique eased her foot off the accelerator, giving the car the opportunity to go around her, but it didn’t pass. The driver of the Honda also slowed down, scaling back at least two car lengths behind.
She gazed into the mirror. What the hell? I know this car ain’t following me! Still, she thought about the letter and decided that it might be smart to take precautions in case they were related.
Unique was nearly home. She could keep driving, but if someone was following her, she didn’t want to lead them to where she and Kennard laid their heads. Kennard always warned her to be vigilant of the stickup and carjack mob. Because she was from the South, Kennard—like most New Yorkers—thought that meant she was a little naïve. And like most New Yorkers, he definitely let the area code, the zip code, and the accent fool him, because when it came to Unique, he couldn’t have been more wrong. Unique had definitely been around the block a few times and knew more than what Kennard credited her for.
Unique was trying to figure out what she was going to do, when it hit her that there was a large grocery store about two miles ahead on the right. The parking lot was well lit and normally filled with customers coming and going. If the Honda was still behind her when she reached the store, she decided she would turn in and see what would happen from there. Only a fool or a bold bastard would try something stupid in a brightly lit area in front of a bunch of witnesses.
Two miles later, she glanced in the mirror and the Honda was still there. Ain’t this a beyatch!
Unique hit her turn signal and busted a right into the parking lot. Navigating the Benz through the well-populated area, she didn’t stop until she was in front of the store.
The driver of the Honda came right in behind her. Unless the driver coincidently needed to stop for bread, milk, and eggs, it was now official that the Honda was following her.
And for the first time tonight, Unique started to get a little nervous when the fool drove past, turned around, and then parked directly behind her. She tried to get a look at the driver but the windows on the Honda were tinted.
Unique sat there in the busy parking lot, watching the Honda and then watching the clock as seconds turned into minutes. The Honda hadn’t budged. There was a Mexican standoff going on between her and the driver of the Honda.
Unique was getting pissed. Fuck this shit. First the letter, now this shit. Emboldened by the lights and crowd, Unique stepped out of her car. She was done with the games.
She knew now that it probably wasn’t a carjack mob or any stickup kids because if it was, they would already have been over at her car, pulling her out or putting her in the trunk of the Honda.
This shit is crazy!
Unique thought she had it figured it out: It had to be one of Kennard’s old foot dragons. That’s what she called a jilted lover or a bed warmer who didn’t know how to accept rejection. A clinger. When the person hears it’s over, he or she drops to their knees and grabs you by the foot, begging you not to leave as their pathetic asses are dragged across the floor. Unique knew better than to let her emotions override her intellect and she was more of a lover than a fighter, but this scenario was getting out of control. She felt that she had to take matters in her own hands and had no choice but to straighten out the low-self-esteem bitch and then go home to her man. This broad was becoming a major distraction and a waste of time.
I have to nip this nonsense in the bud! she told herself when she opened up the door and stomped her way toward the Honda, prepared to kick a little ass if she had to, heels or no heels. She was halfway to the car, close enough to hear the engine idling. Then it struck her that the engine was idling too loud, and she saw the car jerk a bit as if the driver was putting it in gear. But before her body could react to what her ears were hearing, her eyes were seeing the tires spinning out before the Honda lurched forward.
Unique wanted to stand firm so she could come eye to eye with this dragon, but she was no fool; she needed to haul it back to her car because the chicken head was trying to run her over. Or scare the living life out of her.
While she was momentarily frozen, she had good reflexes. Her stilettos were in the asphalt like a carpenter’s nail in a piece of plywood but this was no horror movie; she took off like a track star and ran to her car.
Unique wasn’t about to get run over by a raggedy Honda in the middle of a supermarket parking lot. She could feel the heat coming from the engine as it got closer. Inches before colliding with her, it swerved, barely missing her.
“Bitch ass!” she said out loud, no longer nervous. Now she was just flat-out mad. Unique ran back to the Benz, jumped behind the wheel, and took off after the runaway Honda.
She caught up easily. Motherfucking bitches wanna follow me, I’m going to show this motherfucker about fucking with me.
Unique was on the Honda’s bumper, where the license plate was conveniently concealed behind a patch of mud. The driver got the message and knew Unique wasn’t to be fucked with. The Honda made it known that it wanted out of this cat-and-mouse game, mashing the pedal to the metal, but it was no competition for Unique and her V12 engine. Unique was right on the Honda’s bumper, and she was thinking about ramming the Honda in the rear end. She knew she had the Honda exactly where she wanted it and could make it stop.
But enough was enough. She had somewhere she needed to be. As she contemplated bringing this whole mess to an end with an accident, she hesitated too long, giving the driver a chance to veer onto the George Washington Bridge. Unique screamed at the Honda as if it could hear her, “That’s right, keep booking, beyatch!!!!”

 
Copyright © 2014 by Nikki Turner

NIKKI TURNER is the author of The New York Times bestsellers Black Widow and Heartbreak of a Hustler’s Wife, the USA Today bestseller Forever a Hustler’s Wife, and the Essence bestsellers A Hustler’s Wife, The Glamorous Life, and Riding Dirty on I-95. Turner lives in Florida.