Ten years ago: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
“So, I’m your dirty little secret or something?” Lamont was furious that she allowed her parents to drop her off to college, move her into a dorm room that she had no intention of sleeping in, and hadn’t bothered to tell them that she had a boyfriend.
“Please don’t be like that. My dad is old fashioned, and he wouldn’t have let me go here if he knew that I was seeing you.” Issa tried to kiss him to soothe his anger, but he pulled away.
“We’ve been together four years, Issa. Four fuckin’ years, and you haven’t seen fit to tell them about me?”
“Don’t fuckin’ Monty me. You’ve met my entire family! Even my damn extended family. You’ve eaten with us and spent hours over at our house. How could you not tell them? I thought what we had was important, special.”
“It is important and special, Monty. You mean everything to me. Please try to understand.”
“You’re wearing my fuckin’ ring. Or don’t you wear that around them either?”
He sighed heavily, embarrassed that he felt close to tears. This girl was his world. Why didn’t she understand this? “How long will this last, Issa? Are we going to get married and they still won’t know about me?”
“Is that a marriage proposal?” She smiled, trying to lighten the mood.
“Stop making this out like it’s a damn joke! Are you ashamed of me?”
“God, no! Why would you think I’d be ashamed of you?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you fuckin’ tell me?” He slammed the door to her dorm room as he stormed out in bitter fury.
Hours later, it was his brothers who eventually talked him into going back and talking things over with Issa. Unfortunately, Issa had taken their fight hard and wouldn’t come out of her room to see him. When Lamont tried to call her, she refused to answer her phone. He was pissed all over again. He hadn’t seen or spoken to her in two days before he got to see her. And even then, it was in the school cafeteria.
He crossed the cafeteria to where she sat. “Why have you been avoiding me?” He grabbed her arm, pulled her from her chair, and marched her to a quiet corner of the cafeteria.
“Lamont, it was selfish of me to date you when I knew my parents would be so dead set against me dating now. I can’t tell them about us because they would never agree to me dating at seventeen.”
“You’ll be eighteen in a few months. Were you going to tell them then? Or were you never planning on telling them and I was to remain a secret forever?”
“Of course, I will tell them.” She linked her arms around his neck and reached up to kiss him.
Lamont wasn’t having it. “When?” He slouched against the wall, but with her head barely reaching his shoulder, there was no way for her to kiss his lips without his help.
“Monty, I will tell them at Christmas. I promise.”
“I thought you were spending Christmas with us in Dallas this year. Also, you know the team has a few games over the holidays.”
“Oh, right. Yeah. I can tell them in the summer break. I’m sure my dad will be reasonable then.”
“No more games, Issa. If you want to be in my bed, I want you to tell your parents about us.”
“But I thought you said that we’d become lovers when I turned eighteen? Why do we have to wait until I speak with my parents in the summer?”
“When you speak to your parents is up to you. I’m only telling you that if you can’t be honest about what we mean to each other, we’re not doing this.”
“Monty, you have to trust me on this. Let me decide how I tell my father about us. Because if he finds out in the wrong way, he will insist I come home. There’s no way we would have any kind of relationship then. He could even send me to Japan to ensure it.”
“What are you saying, Issa?” He frowned, only now just realizing he hadn’t considered that she was from a traditional Japanese family.
“I’m saying that you should let me deal with my family in my time. Don’t let them control what happens between us. I know I should’ve told you about my father, but please don’t stop loving me because of him.”
Lamont’s emotions spiked again, part in anger that her father was trying to control her life and part because she still didn’t understand what she meant to him. He grabbed her hand and pulled her behind him as he quickly left the cafeteria. She didn’t protest as they approached his car, and she climbed in without being prompted to do so.
He didn’t say a word during the short ten-minute drive to his apartment. However, his anger was somewhat soothed with her holding his hand in her lap, and despite the seatbelt, she kept trying to inch closer to him.
As soon as the door of the apartment was closed behind them, he pulled her against him and hugged her close. Resting his head on her fragrant hair, he said softly, “How do I get you to understand how much I love you? Do you think that a disagreement between us changes what’s between us?”
“Monty, I love you, and I don’t want to lose you.”
“You’ll never lose me.”
She sighed and turned her face into his chest.
Lamont was shocked that, within seconds, his shirt was soaked with her hot tears. He tried lifting her head away from his chest to see her face. What the hell was this? He didn’t understand what had upset her now.
She shook her head, buried her face harder against him, and tightened her arms around his waist.
He soothed her as best he could and let her cry for as long as she wanted. It broke his heart every second that she continued to cry and tremble against him. It was clear that she was hurting deeply, but he didn’t know exactly what was hurting her. He murmured softly, soothingly in her ear for the endless minutes they stood there as she cried. Moving to one of the sofas that littered his large living room, he sat and pulled her into his lap.
She curled her legs and snuggled into him, refusing to let him go.
“It’s going to be okay, baby. I’ve got you.”
He held her until she fell asleep, and he made the mistake of putting her into his bed. He found that there was nothing more intoxicating than holding her in his arms throughout the night. And despite the havoc it played on his control, he refused to let her return to sleeping in her dorm.
She went along with this arrangement and tried at every turn to get him to change his mind about sex between them.
Lamont shook his head at her attempts. She clearly didn’t realize that he’d sooner cut off his own arm than harm her in any way.
He had thought that having her close would be distracting, but instead, it was the exact opposite. It focused him. To his surprise, feeling responsible for someone else’s wellbeing brought home to him the need for him to get a good education, so he studied harder than he ever had before. Having someone near, who everyone knew was his, made him always want to make her proud of him, so when he was on the basketball court, he was the quickest, most skilled, and most determined player on the court. It wasn’t long before the coaches noticed, and soon, he had the NBA scouting teams, which had already been after him before, even more adamant now.
He ignored them. His career with the NBA would come soon enough, but he had to get his education first.
Lamont planned the day of her birthday to the last minute.
He woke her with breakfast in bed. Living with her, he learned that she didn’t like a heavy breakfast, which was good because his skill in the kitchen was limited. Armed with an assortment of cut fruit—strawberries, melons, oranges, mangoes, and grapes—and varied pastries from the local food store, along with brewed hazelnut coffee she loved from Dunkin’ Donuts, he carried a laden tray to their bedroom.
She giggled at his playful antics. “Thank you for the breakfast, but as happy as I am for a new birthday, I am especially happy about today. Today, I finally become yours.”
Lamont swiped a firm white grape from the tray and popped it into his mouth. “You’ve always belonged to me. Today is only the beginning of us knowing each other more intimately.” He kissed her gently and, as usual, stopped when he felt his control slipping. “I’ll run a bath for you. Afterwards you’ll open my presents to you, and then we’ll drive over to the gym for pre-game preparations.”
Issa smiled. “Sounds good.”
He ran her bath and left a carpet of red and white rose petals on the tiled floor and a new fluffy white bathrobe hanging in the bathroom for her. He grinned with satisfaction when she squealed with joy on entering the bathroom. He left her to it.
After her bath, she came back into the bedroom to find the bed littered with small and large boxes of beautifully wrapped gifts. “Monty! You do this every year! I keep telling you to stop spoiling me. I don’t need half this stuff.”
“How do you know? You haven’t even opened them yet.”
“I don’t have to open them to know that I don’t need them.”
“You say this every year, and the gifts are always needed.” He stood and held his palm out to her. “Come dance with me.”
“What? There’s no music.”
He grinned and pulled her off the bed to stand next to him.
He picked up the remote on the nearby dresser and turned on his iPod speakers. The song “She’s Royal” by Tarrus Riley filled the room.
She smiled up at him as he smoothly moved against her as the reggae sounds swirled around them.
He wanted her to know that she was his queen and he’d always treat her so.
Laughing in unexpected joy, she leaped into his lap and hugged him in gratitude moments later after opening every package on the bed. “You’re impossible, Monty.” She grinned up at him before giving him a passionate kiss.
He had given her boots, jeans, sweaters, gloves, and scarves. The largest box had a full-length camel winter coat, and she loved it. Coming from the island, where it was always sunny, she didn’t have any items in her closet to deal with the upcoming winter months.
“Damn, if I’d known that’s the response I’d get for a few boots and sweaters, I would’ve bought you that stuff long ago.”
“You know that you don’t have to buy me anything to get my kisses.”
“Yeah, I know, and if we don’t get movin’, I’ll be late to the gym. I’m gonna kick those boys from Duke ass today. Get dressed. We leave in ten minutes.”
Lamont grinned hours later when he executed a slam-dunk over the head of four Duke defenders and the NC student body went wild, with the loudest being Issa, who hadn’t sat down the entire game. She’d been on her feet screaming her head off every minute of the game. She was usually an enthusiastic fan, but today she seemed extra hyped. Whooping and hollering with every shot or block he made.
He loved it!
They returned to the apartment late that night after his team had annihilated the Blue Devils. It was one of the best games of his life with three triple doubles, twelve rebounds, twelve assists, and thirty-two points. He knew the NBA was going the ramp up the interest in him entering the draft this year. He wasn’t worried. His dad, a former NBA player, would deal with all their asses.
He stepped under the shower and groaned, as every muscle in his body seemed to want to protest in pain. Even after taking a shower in the gym, he never felt clean until he was able to use his own soap and shower. He was barely in the shower two minutes before Issa slipped in under the spray with him.
“What the hell?” Her boldness stunned him, and he fought to not let his gaze move from her face. “What’re you doing?”
“What does it look like? I’ve had a long sweaty day. Cheering my man to victory ain’t no joke, ya know.” She smirked and turned her back to him. “Can you wash my back please?”
“No, Monty. I’m tired of waiting. I’m not going to let you treat me like a kid anymore. I’m through letting anyone make decisions for me. I want this. I want you.”
She turned back to face him, wound her arms around his neck, climbed his body better than any pole dancer he’d ever seen, and captured his lips with hers.
The feel of her naked soft flesh against his and the taste of her on his tongue sent shockwaves of need searing throughout every nerve ending in his body. However, he was determined to not be so weak as to take her for the first time so carelessly. They had waited four years, and he wasn’t about to take her in a shower.
With that thought, he calmed his beast and took over the kiss, soothing her while stoking her desire as well. He gentled their kiss, showing her in every touch how much he loved her. He soaped his palms and roamed them over her body, caressing, molding, and loving every inch of her body. His touches alternated between tenderly soothing and passionately erotic.
She writhed against him with mindless passion with each kiss, each glide of his fingers over her most intimate and sensitive flesh.
He deepened the kiss and didn’t relent in his attack on her senses. Up until now, he’d never touched her so intimately, but now he wanted it all. He wanted to see her fall apart in his arms, to give him all her responses, and to come for him without restraint. Damping down his own aching need to claim her, he ruthlessly increased the slide of his finger in and out of her heat.
She moaned long and loud into their fused lips as she splintered in ecstasy.
She was still trembling in the aftermath when he spread her on their bed. Holding her hands above her head and pinned to the bed, he licked the water from her body, sucking and biting every peak and valley he traversed.
She cried out with raw need when he pushed her thighs apart and gave her dewy center a long lick. She bucked under him wildly.
Ignoring her impatient pleas, he continued his sensual assault and only reached into the side drawer for protection after she’d climaxed again under his lips.
Languid and lethargic, she had her eyes closed half-mast as he protected them both.
Kissing her in aching tenderness, he gently and slowly claimed her.
She grimaced slightly as he slid deep inside of her heat, but then she was soon rolling her hips sensually and boldly meeting his thrusts.
When he’d first kissed her, he’d marveled at the perfection of their kiss, and now he was overwhelmed by the pure bliss of their joining. He wanted the euphoric pleasure of being encased in her heat to never end. It was as though he was not just physically joined with her but they were also spiritually and mentally connected. He held out as long as he could, but too soon the intensity of sensation throughout his body, pleasure searing to the bone, obliterated his control, and there was nothing he could do to stop the avalanche of his release deep inside of her.
He was stunned when he realized that he must have passed out, because he woke moments later with his full weight crushing her. He’d known that being with her was going to be earth shattering, but he’d not expected his complete decimation. She’d wrecked him.
She grinned, or was that a grimace, up at him.
“Sorry, baby.” He gingerly rolled off her.
“It’s okay. I can’t move anyway.” She smiled softly.
“Are you okay? I didn’t plan to attack you like that.”
“I’m fine.” She snuggled into him. “More than fine,” she purred blissfully.
“I’d planned a romantic setting with candles, flowers, dessert, the works, but your spoiled behind couldn’t wait,” he teased.
“You’re the one who spoiled me.”
He snorted. “Yeah, and you know why?”
“Because you love little ol’ me?”
“No. I love you sure. But I spoil your ass because I want you to realize that no one’s gonna love you as well or as much as I do.” He kissed her gently.
“Mission accomplished,” she murmured in contentment.
The school year ended with them more together than ever. They’d become inseparable with the only dark cloud being her reluctance to tell her parents about him. In fact, her parents surprised her by coming up to take her away for spring break holiday. They were fortunate that he was traveling on away games and she’d temporarily moved back into the dorm while he was gone. The neighborhood where his apartment was located wasn’t a bad area, but it wasn’t 100 percent safe either. He felt better with her being in the dorm when he traveled, and she was never so glad for his dictatorial attitude.
He asked her about her parents’ visit, but she didn’t want to talk about it. He slept on the sofa for two nights before she seduced him back into their bed. He hated his inability to stay angry with her. And when it was time for her to go home for the summer break, he was devastated that he couldn’t follow her immediately because he had to help in his dad’s basketball training camp in Dallas before they went on their usual summer holiday in Barbados. He was only able to visit Barbados for three weeks that year because he had to return to school early for training camp.
However, when she returned to school, again her parents came with her and visited with her for a week before he was able to see her. And even then, their privacy was challenged because his brother Jared enrolled in UNC and had joined the basketball team as well. Since his parents had no idea that Issa had been living with him, they expected Jared to share a two-bedroom apartment with him. There was no way he could tell his parents that his brother couldn’t live with him because he was shacking up with his young girlfriend.
Since it was his senior year and he’d already lost so much time with her, he offered his brother most of his allowance to not tell their parents what he was really up to. Jared, being the fun-loving, carefree, and youngest brother, told him to keep his money because he’d need it, but just remember that he had to keep Jared’s secrets as well.
If Lamont had known the extent of Jared’s hellbent lifestyle, he would’ve asked for half of Jared’s allowance to remain silent instead. The guy was a complete dominant, into some very kinky sex practices that even made Lamont blush. Jared had an eclectic variety of women parading in and out of his bedroom at all hours of the day and night. What amazed Lamont most was that his younger brother didn’t seem to miss a beat on the basketball court, despite his harem-style sex life. And although the women seemed well aware of his activities, they still came in droves.
While Jared added a complication to their time together, Lamont couldn’t help but notice that Issa seemed to be distancing herself from him more and more. The sex between them was still off the charts, and he marveled that it seemed to get better and better between them each time.
She told him some shit about trying to wean herself so that she could better deal with it when he was no longer on campus.
What she didn’t know was that he had every intention of proposing to her once he was drafted into the NBA. He knew he’d never convince her to appear on camera with him at the draft event, so he contented himself in knowing that she’d be at their apartment waiting for him on his return. He was the number one draft pick, and he couldn’t wait to share this with Issa, despite his parents and siblings being present.
However, when he and Jared returned to the apartment, she wasn’t there. He made several frustrating unanswered calls to her phone before calling the police. A call to the business office the next day told him the extent of her defection. She’d dropped out of the university.