Alone by M.J. Kane
(The Butterfly Memoirs Book 5)
When Derrick's brother drives the family business into bankruptcy, Derrick is left without a job and only one choice: start over. With a new job waiting in Atlanta, the only other thing he's looking for is a woman who's willing to fit his no-strings-attached relationship policy. But then he runs into Kelli, a woman with a smart mouth who challenges him in every way. She'd be perfect ... if it weren't for the fact she had kids.
Shortly after giving birth to her son, Kelli's husband announced that he wanted a divorce. Forced to move in with her newlywed sister, Kelli is faced with raising two young children on her own, finding affordable housing, and landing a job that will pay her bills. The last thing she needs or wants is a man in her life. But when her brother-in-law's best friend shows up for dinner, it's impossible to ignore the sexual attraction.
Fate and finances have another plan, though, forcing them into living under the same roof. Despite their differences, Derrick finds himself breaking his own relationship rules. But as his luck would have it, just when he thinks he's ready to make a commitment, tragedy strikes close to home and, with it, issues from his past that force him to risk it all.
Excerpt: Alone by M.J. Kane
"Mr. Derrick, look!" Christina waved a drawing in front of me.
"Leave Mr. Derrick alone, sweetie. I'm sure he doesn't want to-"
"Hold on," I interrupted. "You don't speak for me." I waited for Kelli to get my point, then turned my attention back to the young girl before me. I examined her drawing. "Not bad. You can draw a lot better than I can." I winked; she laughed. I made my way to the washing machine and turned on the water. "What is it?"
"It's a house."
I sat at the table across from her while waiting for the wash tub to fill and looked at the drawing again. "Nice house."
"My daddy draws houses," Christina said with pride. She laid the picture flat on the table and selected another crayon.
"Does he now?" I looked over at Kelli for an explanation.
"He's an architect." Her expression went flat, so did her voice. Her attention went to the pot she was stirring. "Can you draw a house?" Little brown eyes the same shade of brown as her mother's looked up at me.
I chuckled. "Not as good as you, but I can build a house."
"With sticks and rocks and stuff?"
On the other side of the kitchen, Kelli laughed.
"No, I build with wood and blocks and stuff."
"Legos!" Her enthusiasm was infectious.
I laughed. "No, I build real houses, like this one." I held my arms out, pointed to the walls and ceiling of the room we were in for emphasis.
Christina's eyes grew wide as she looked around the kitchen. "Ooo...," then her face scrunched up in thought. "If you can build it, you can draw it, too!"
Words of wisdom from a five-year-old kid.
She slid a blank sheet of paper in front of me. "You can use my crayons if you want."
"Christina...," Kelli shot her daughter a look of warning.
"It's okay." I met Kelli's expression with one that encouraged her not to stop her daughter. "She's right, let me see." I slid the paper in front of me and selected a black crayon, then stared at the paper. My mind went blank.
When was the last time I'd drawn something? Feeling stupid, I scratched my head, then looked over at the little artist. She'd started adding windows and doors.
Christina looked over at me. "What are you waiting for?" She giggled. "It's easy. Mommy can do it. Mommy, draw a house!" She waved a blank sheet of paper in her mother's direction.
Kelli wiped her hands on her pants, then joined us at the table. I looked at her, but she refused to meet my gaze. Within minutes, Kelli had lines on paper that took the shape of a two-story house. The details were proportioned to the point of perfection. This picture seemed to have come from memory and not imagination. I glanced at Christina's paper. It was a crude version of her mother's.
They must have been drawing the house they used to live in.
"See, Mommy's good, too!" Christina got up from the table, walked to her mother, and kissed her cheek. "Mommy, can I watch TV?"
"Sure, baby." She hugged her daughter.
"Mr. Derrick, you and Mommy can use my crayons. I'll get them when you're done, 'k?"
Christina skipped out of the room, leaving us to sit in silence.
I drew a few lines on my sheet of paper. Instead of a house, the blueprints from my current job came to mind. I went with that and decided to see exactly how much I remembered.
Kelli continued her picture. Details such as windows, doors, and landscaping emerged.
Damn, she was good.
"Looks like she gets her artistic skills from you." I leaned forward a bit. "Lots of details. I don't think I could imagine all of that."
"It's easy to do when it used to be reality." She sat her crayon down, stared at the image, then ripped it to shreds. The expression on her face was hard.
I focused on my paper and gave her a moment to move past her dark place. Once the image was confetti, I figured she would be able to talk.
"I'm sorry about earlier." I didn't look at her. "I was tired. It won't happen again." I risked a peek and saw Kelli had stopped moving.
"Thank you for cleaning up." Her eyes stayed on the scraps of paper in her hands.
"No problem. Like I said, I didn't ask you to do anything. I don't expect you to do anything for me either. I know you've been through a lot and being here and not there," I indicated the pile of paper. "Can't be easy. Now I'm here, too. I don't know what you have against me. If I've done something to offend you, I apologize. But I'm not him. Don't take your anger and pain out on me, okay?"
Kelli looked up at me. It was obvious she was trying her best to control her emotions, but I could still see the damp corners of her eyes. "Sorry."
I nodded. "I'll stay out of your way as much as possible, but if you need help with anything around here, let me know. Contrary to what you believe, my mother didn't raise an animal."
Kelli squeezed her eyes shut, put her hands on her face. "Sorry about that, too."
"You get a free pass...this time."
Kelli laughed a little and looked me in the eye.
I found myself staring as she wiped those cat-like slits with her knuckle. Sad eyes, but beautiful just the same.
( Continued... )
© 2016 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, M.J. Kane. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
Alone by M.J. Kane (Book 5 of The Butterfly Memoirs)
Interracial Romance, African-American Women's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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